SEC West still the best, but it's close

Mark Blaudschun

Let's play Division Musical Chairs. Pick the best Division, not League, in college football.

We will use only Power 5 conferences in this game. Our game, our rules.

The contenders: ACC Atlantic: Clemson, Louisville, Florida State.

Big Ten East: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State

Big 12: (one league, no division): Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia

Pac-12 North: Washington, Washington State, California

SEC West: Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The top picks in four of the five conferences are easy, because they are all unbeaten.

Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Washington are also the Top 4 teams in the country in the rankings.

Nebraska remains unbeaten in the Big Ten West, but the Huskers aren't getting much respect because their wins have come against Fresno State, Wyoming, Oregon, Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue, who have a combined record of 19-31.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma has two losses--but they were against a pair of Top 20 teams, Houston and Ohio State. And while West Virginia looms as a contender, Baylor is in the same lack of respect lane as Nebraska.

West Virginia, in fact, could be a wild card contender for a Final Four slot. But the Mountaineers must get past a road game at Oklahoma State this week.

In the Pac-12 North, Washington is the clear cut front runner, but Washington State and California both stumbled early in the season. Utah could be a contender in the South, but the Utes must beat Washington on Saturday to seriously be considered. The game is in Salt Lake City.

With all of those parameters set, it looks like a 3 division battle between the Big Ten East, the SEC West and the ACC Atlantic. And each of those has a flawed contender.

Penn State, despite its upset of Ohio State, has a pair of losses. Auburn, despite its 56-3 destruction of Arkansas, also has two losses and Florida State also has two losses, including a 63-20 pounding by Louisville.

So let's cut the list some more:

Big Ten East: Michigan, Ohio State,

SEC West: Alabama, Texas A&M

ACC Atlantic: Clemson, Louisville.

If you seeded the teams it would probably look like this: 1. Alabama. 2 Michigan 3. Clemson. 4. Louisville, 5. Ohio State 6. Texas A&M.

Breaking it down team by team, with the No. 1 team receiving 6 points and the No. 6 team receiving 1 point, we have a 3 way tie among the SEC, ACC and Big Ten.

So we went to a third place tie breaker. Florida State, Auburn, and Penn State.

Edge: ACC?

Maybe. If you go one team deeper: Wake Forest, Maryland and LSU, it is not even close. Auburn and LSU are a combination that neither the ACC Atlantic nor the Big Ten East can match at this time and maybe in the next few weeks.

So there you have it: an unscientific look at the merits of the major divisions of college football in terms of Who's No. 1.

For now, that still looks like the SEC West--at least in the top tier teams. But it is all a work in progress, with each week eliminating and creating contenders.



Of the contenders in the ACC, one question will be answered this week when Clemson travels to Florida State. In the pre-season, this was the "Game of the Year'' until FSU came stumbling out of the gate with a near loss to Ole Miss, a bad loss to Louisville, and a close loss to North Carolina.

Clemson has not exactly overwhelmed people. The Tigers have beaten some bad teams easily, but struggled almost every week, with a 6 point win over Auburn, a 6 point win over Troy, a 6 point win over Louisville, and a 7 point overtime win over North Carolina State.

Alabama looks like the best team in the country, but now faces challenges against Auburn and LSU, both who have hit their stride and should be regarded as dangerous, especially LSU, which faces the Tide in Baton Rouge in two weeks.[/membership]


Mark Blaudschun