Sunday, November 9, 2014

2014 Weekly Postseason Projection: Volume One

As we currently await our PRS Rankings numbers to be completed in California, I am in Las Vega looking at conference standings, and gauging out who is still alive in the various conference races across the country, specifically for Power Five FBS races first, followed by Group of Five races after. In another article, I will look at FCS conference races as they apply to the upcoming FCS playoffs, where the NCAA actually has a clue as to how to run a playoff. To their defense, the megalomaniacs at ESPN don't really tell the FCS folks what to do, so that explains everything.
Here are the conference races as they sit today, the day after closing out week 11.

Power Five

Bowl Eligible: Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami

Atlantic Division
Florida State has already beaten Clemson, so the Seminoles control their own destiny at this point. Everyone else in the division has lost three games in ACC play, so FSU is a lock to win the division short of a two game collapse and Clemson winning out. Not going to happen.
Projection: Florida State wins division

Coastal Division
This mess is a bit more murky. Duke has three games left to play, all in conference. They have one ACC loss, and currently are holding a narrow lead with all they can muster. Georgia Tech and Miami are the only teams that realistically can catch the Blue Devils currently. Duke's toughest challenge will likely come this Thursday against Virginia Tech in Durham, but Duke does finish their last three games all at home, and none of those teams currently has a winning record.
Georgia Tech, in second, needs some help. They have only one more ACC game left (home versus Clemson) before a bye week and a trip to Georgia. Miami has beaten Duke, but they need Duke to lose, and win out themselves against a slate including home games with Florida State and Pitt, with a road trip sandwiched in to Virginia. Remember, Georgia Tech already has beaten Miami, so the Canes need a Tech loss to Clemson to win the division.
Projection: Duke wins Coastal Division

Projected ACC Championship Game: Florida State vs. Duke (I pick Florida State)

Big 12
Bowl Eligible: Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, West Virginia, Oklahoma
And then there were three. The Big 12 is the last conference in the Power Five not to play in divisions, so there is no title game. This is the way I like it.
Baylor, TCU, and Kansas State all have one conference loss right now, but it is Baylor that holds the most control heading into the final weeks of the season, having already beaten TCU, who handled Kansas State. Baylor finishes out the 2014 slate at home with games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and a finale on 12/6 against Kansas State. Obviously, if Baylor and Kansas State win out, and someone knocks off TCU, this would be a defacto Big 12 title game. TCU, other than their loss to Baylor weeks ago, is actually getting stronger, and shows no sign of slowing down. The Frogs have won four straight since falling to Baylor, and they hammered K State this weekend. TCU should cruise through road games at Texas and Kansas, while they should easily handle Iowa State at home to close out the season. Without someone upsetting Baylor, TCU is screwed.
Kansas State put themselves in a horrible spot by falling to TCU hard this weekend, and now needs severe help, and has to help themselves by beating Baylor in the season finale, hence winning out, while they need to lean on a bunch of losers to get just one of them to knock of TCU. In my book, Kansas State is out of the running.
Projection: Baylor wins Big 12

Big 10
Bowl Eligible: Ohio State, Michigan State, Maryland, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin

East Division
Ohio State put themselves in the driver's seat to the Big 10 title game by beating Michigan State 49-37 this weekend in East Lansing. OSU has their toughest remaining test coming up this weekend on the road against a hungry Minnesota team in an early Saturday game. After that, it's on cruise control with games against Indiana and Michigan to close out.
Obviously, Michigan State needs help, and two losses by Ohio State now. That seems highly unlikely.
Projection: Ohio State wins East Division

West Division
It is a four horse race in the west in the closing weeks, so the month of November turns into a western playoff by proxy. Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa all still have a chance, however Iowa likely blew their chance in a 51-14 hammering at Minnesota this weekend. Nebraska has a very difficult road, as they travel to Wisconsin this weekend for an elimination game, followed by games against Minnesota at home, and a finale at Iowa. Nothing will be easy from here on out for the Huskers.
Minnesota is right there with Nebraska, but they have some loaded tests as well. Ohio State comes to Minneapolis this weekend, and they finish with a brutal slate after that including road trips to Nebraska and Wisconsin to close out.
Wisconsin still has to play both Nebraska and Minnesota, but get them both at home, and plays Iowa on the road. After Iowa falling to Minnesota like they did, that doesn't look as daunting.
Iowa needs serious help to pull this out at this point, but at 3-2 is not out of the race just yet. They do, however, have an enormous mountain to climb.
Projection: Wisconsin wins West Division

Big 10 Title Projections: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (I Pick Ohio State)

Bowl Eligible: Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, USC, Arizona, Utah

North Division
This is easy. It is all settled out. Once Oregon put the hammer down on Stanford, they won the division. Nobody will challenge the Ducks moving forward.
Projection: Oregon wins North Division

South Division
This, like most conferences where one division appears settled, is murky at best. This is strongly a four team race heading into the end of the month and season. As of now, Arizona State does control their own fate heading into the close of the season, and that would entail their second consecutive South title. That being said, should the Devils lose, to say Arizona in the finale, and UCLA wins out, the Bruins would claim their third division crown in four seasons, being that the Bruins hammered ASU in Tempe weeks ago.
UCLA has a break here despite what their schedule says. UCLA has two games left with a bye next week. They play both USC and Stanford at home. The Trojans are beatable, and Stanford is not the same Stanford as we've seen in recent years, as I had predicted would be the case this season. If UCLA can win out, and get some help from Arizona, UCLA is in good shape.
USC is in rough shape, but is still in the race. They absolutely need to win out the rest of the conference slate, which includes California at home, and UCLA on the road. Cal is no guaranteed win, and UCLA is playing their best football right now. USC also finishes the year against Notre Dame, which is meaningless at this point.
Arizona is the final wild card, but has already lost to both UCLA and USC (their only losses in PAC-12 play). Arizona is extremely outside looking in right now, but with a break here or there, they could play their way back in, but absolutely need to win out.
Projection: Arizona State wins South

PAC-12 Championship: Oregon vs. Arizona State (I Pick Oregon)

Bowl Eligible: Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama, Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU

East Division
Missouri has three games left on their schedule at this point, and is in control of their own fate right now. Their toughest challenge comes this weekend with a trip to College Station to take on Texas A&M, who could be in a letdown position coming off of a huge win at Auburn. They follow that trip with one to Tennessee, and a hone finale against Arkansas. These are all winnable games, and if the Tigers win out, they win their second consecutive East crown.
Georgia is a game out, and they have a disadvantage with only one conference game left. They beat Mizzou 34-0 already, so if the Tigers trip again, the Bulldogs can steal the division. Georgia's lone conference tilt remaining comes next weekend, but it's a desperate Auburn club coming to town. This is a huge test, and barring a Missouri collapse, Georgia looks to fall short with useless games against Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech to wrap up 2014.
Florida is still technically in the race, but really, they aren't worth looking at too closely.
Projection: Missouri wins the East

West Division
The ride in the west has been a wild one, to say the least, and the drama hasn't played out just yet. Mississippi State controls their own destiny, but they aren't out of the woods yet despite being 9-0 at this point. MSU still has two major hurdles left on the board, and none bigger than next weekend's trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama at Bryant-Denny. To tell you how big this game is, the cheapest ticket online is selling for $225. What should be an easy win comes the following week with Vanderbilt coming to town, followed by another major hurdle in the Egg Bowl with Ole Miss coming in Oxford. That's one hell of a slate to protect an unbeaten record against.
Alabama is right behind MSU, and with a win this week, they would have control over the West, but only for the time being. Bama has already fallen to Ole Miss, and this game won't be easy. That game is followed by a useless tilt with Western Carolina, and then it's the battle with Auburn, which could further turn the tide of the division race.
Auburn and Ole Miss could be in spoiler mode only here, but with a right turn here and there, they could get back into the game. Auburn still takes on Alabama, while Ole Miss hosts MSU in the finale.
Projection: Alabama wins the West

SEC Championship: Alabama vs. Missouri (I Pick Alabama)

Power Five Conference Champions: Florida State, Baylor, Ohio State, Oregon, Alabama

My Playoff Four: Florida State, Baylor, Oregon, Alabama

Group of Five

Bowl Eligible: Memphis, East Carolina
Realistically speaking, Houston eliminated themselves this weekend by falling to Tulane, and that has been my biggest issue with Tony Levine's tenure as Cougar head coach, he can't seem to win when he needs to.
Memphis, East Carolina, Cincinnati, and UCF all hold the keys currently to the conference crown. Memphis has a half game lead heading into the final weeks, and Justin Forte has done an amazing job turning the Tigers around, and it was evident early in the season, even when the Tigers were losing, that they were one of the most improved teams nationally. The Tigers should blow through their remaining slate, which has a road trip at Tulane followed by two home games with USF and U Conn closing it out. This should be Memphis' title to take.
East Carolina is right behind Memphis, but has a decidedly more difficult road with four games left. They visit Cincinnati next week, and close out with UCF at home. Neither one of those games holds a win guarantee, but the sandwich games with Tulane and Tulsa should be easy wins.
Cincinnati is the third team in the race, but can they stay healthy enough to stay in the race as the season closes out? UC has won three straight, and has East Carolina coming to town this week. That is followed by a winnable game against U Conn, with Temple and Houston to close it out. It's a tough test for Cincy.
UCF has four games left, and they have to get on a streak to steal the crown, because this is literally a playoff to finish the season in the AAC. The next three games are all winnable against Tulsa, SMU, and USF. The major challenge comes in the finale, with a road trip to East Carolina. Focus is the key word here, and UCF cannot take anyone lightly, such as when they fell to U Conn last week.
Projection: Memphis wins AAC title

Conference USA
Bowl Eligible: Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Rice

East Division
Marshall is handling their business, and will be ranked number one once again this week in our PRS FBS rankings. They have already beaten their only challenger for the East crown in Middle Tennessee, so Marshall looks like they have the East all but locked up.
Should Marshall stumble, Middle Tennessee would need them to do so twice, based on that 49-24 loss earlier this season. That is unlikely at this point, so Marshall looks like an easy winner.
Projection: Marshall wins the East

West Division
The West seems to belong to Louisiana Tech as we close out the season. With three to play in CUSA play, the Bulldogs are 6-0 in league play, and they should win easily at Old Dominion next week before coming home to play the only team that has a shot to steal the division in Rice.
Rice is 4-1 in conference play, but they need to realistically beat Tech to steal the division. They have a huge problem moving forward, as their schedule does not bode well for hanging in until the season finale. The Owls face Marshall on the road, and UTEP at home before the finale against Tech in Ruston on the 29th.
Projection: Louisiana Tech wins the West

Conference USA Championship: Louisiana Tech vs. Marshall (I pick Marshall)

Bowl Eligible: Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan

East Division
Bowling Green seems to have the East locked down, as the only team competing with them in the standings is Ohio, and the Falcons beat the Bobcats 31-13 back on 10/11. The Falcons are all set here.
Projection: Bowling Green wins the East

Toledo has been flawless in conference play at 5-0, and is control of their own destiny right now. The Rockets, however, have a brutal schedule to close out the season. They take to the road next week against Northern Illinois, and if they fall, the Huskies have stolen the top spot in the division. Bowling Green comes to Toledo the week after, and again, the Rockets will be taken to task. The finale against Eastern Michigan is the only lock for a win here.
Western Michigan has had a huge season for PJ Fleck, a quarterfinalist for our Coach of the Year honor. WMU has already lost to Toledo, so they need two losses from the Rockets to steal here, but the Broncos hardly have an easy road in front of them. Eastern Michigan should be a breeze this week, but then comes the tests at Central Michigan, and home against Northern Illinois in the finale.
Northern Illinois has won three of four, and now has a huge month ahead of them. The Huskies are in prime position to steal the West. This week is huge with a home game against divisional leader Toledo. If NIU pulls an upset, they control the game until a finale showdown with WMU. A trap game at Ohio falls between those two games, so focus will be essential.
Projection: Toledo wins the West

MAC Championship: Bowling Green vs. Toledo (I Pick Toledo)

Mountain West
Bowl Eligible: Nevada, Colorado State, Boise State, Utah State, Air Force

The West has been awful this season, but that has made for a mess at the top of the standings. As of now, Nevada and San Diego State are tied at the top. That being said, Nevada beat San Diego State already, and so has all of the control. Next week's game is difficult, as the Pack travels to Air Force, but the final two games should be wins in Fresno State in Reno, and UNLV in Vegas.
San Diego State needs some help to take Nevada down and regain the lead. The Aztecs have won three of four, but that was after a miserable2-3 start. SDSU visits Boise State next, and then finishes at home with Air Force and San Jose State. SDSU could realistically finish 1-2.
Fresno State and San Jose State have largely been terrible this fall, but because of Nevada and SDSU struggling, they are still hanging around.
Projection: Nevada wins the West

Colorado State has a narrow half game lead as of this moment, but Boise State and Utah State are right there on their heels. The bad news is that the Rams need Boise State to take a loss, as they nearly did against New Mexico. Boise State beat CSU back in September, but haven't lost since. They finish with New Mexico at home, and Air Force on the road. The Rams must win both, and have Boise State lose. Utah State, also a half game back, has already been beaten by CSU.
Boise State is really in control of their destiny right now. The Broncos have already beaten Colorado State, and have a manageable next two weeks at home against San Diego State and at Wyoming. The season finale is the big one for Boise, as Utah State comes to town.
The Aggies are still in the race, but like Colorado State, they need to help themselves and get some help from others. USU lost to Colorado State already, so they need the Rams to lose while winning out themselves, including in the season finale at Boise State. The Aggie should win the next two against New Mexico and San Jose State, and that would set up a showdown against Boise State.
Air Force is in a spoiler role, but still sits a game back in the loss column. The Falcons beat Boise State, so if the Broncos were to lose to someone along the way, Air Force would overtake them in the standings if they could win out. The problem is that the Falcons need Utah State to lose two games, being that they lost to the Aggies weeks ago. Air Force plays Nevada this week, with games at San Diego State and at home with Colorado State to follow. If Air Force can win out, they could be a thorn in things.
Projection: Boise State wins the Mountain

Conference Championship: Nevada vs. Boise State (I pick Boise State)

Sun Belt
Bowl Eligible: Georgia Southern, UL-Lafayette, Arkansas State
There are currently no divisions in the Sun Belt, so it is a straight up conference title. Georgia Southern has had an amazing run in their first season in the conference, and sits currently at 7-0. Willie Fritz has made this team believe in themselves, and the Eagles are now set up to become a force in the conference. They have won seven straight games, and have a manageable finish with games out of conference against Navy, and in conference in the season finale with UL-Monroe. The Eagle should remain unbeaten in conference play, while they stand a solid chance to beat Navy.
UL-Lafayette is also unbeaten in conference play, but the Cajuns do not play Georgia Southern this season, meaning we could have a shared conference championship. ULL has won five straight as we set up for the end of season run. Their last three games are all in conference. The Cajuns go on the road next week to state rival UL-Monroe, return home for Appalachian State, and finish up on the road at Troy, which are all winnable games.
Arkansas State is also still on the bubble in the title race at 4-1. The Red Wolves need to finish strong and need some outside help to share a piece of the title. ASU has won 5 of 6, and finishes with three incredibly winnable games against Appalachian State, Texas State, and New Mexico State, with that Texas State road trip being the toughest test. Either way, look for ASU to go bowling this season.
Projection: Georgia Southern and UL-Lafayette tie for the conference title

Coming Monday Night: FCS Playoffs at a Glance

No comments:

Post a Comment