2011 Conference Predictions

Today I am revealing full conference predictions for the 2011 college football season.  The summary of projected champions or championship game participants is listed first.  I labeled each pick according to the 2011 preseason consensus available at preseason.stassen.com:

Favorite (F): Team is predicted #1 or tied for #1 in the Stassen preseason poll

Contender (C): Team is predicted #1 by at least one contributor to the preseason poll, or team is predicted to finish in the top two

Darkhorse (D): Team is not predicted in the top two, nor is predicted #1 by anyone in the preseason poll

Following the summary results, I included my full chart of every FBS team.  Beside the projected order of finish, I included a graphical bar that represents predicted winning percentage in conference games only.  The bar would span the entire width of the column if the winning percentage was 100%. 

Essentially, this is a visualization of my own confidence in the results.  For example, in the MAC East I project Temple with a strong grip on the #1 spot, but the battle for #2 is closely contested.  The Big 12 has a clear top 5 and a clear bottom 5.  The PAC12 North looks like a two-way battle between Oregon and Stanford, with everyone else lagging far behind.

EDIT:  I added a column labeled Champion %, which is an estimated probability of that team winning its division or conference.

ACC Championship:  Florida State (F) vs. Virginia Tech (F)

Florida State commands the Atlantic Division and is a national title favorite.  Virginia Tech has to hold off stiff competition from the Hurricanes and possible darkhorse North Carolina.

Big 12:  Texas A&M (C)

The Big 12 is five teams deep without a great deal of separation.  Oklahoma is a national title favorite but comes in a close second to A&M in my rankings.

Big East:  Cincinnati (D)

I wrote my thoughts about Cincinnati’s resurgence in a previous post.  They are in a virtual dead heat with Pitt, while West Virginia is not far behind.

Big Ten Championship:  Penn State (D) vs. Nebraska (F)

Ohio State’s trouble and Wisconsin’s heavy personnel losses vault Penn State ahead of them in a division that could be won by as many as four different teams.  Nebraska has the edge over Michigan State and Michigan.

CUSA Championship:  UCF (F) vs. Houston (F)

Southern Miss could give UCF’s run to the title game some trouble.  Houston is in a more precarious position, projecting almost even with both Tulsa and SMU.

MAC Championship:  Temple (C) vs. Northern Illinois (C)

Both these teams lost coaches to BCS schools (Temple’s Golden to Miami; NIU’s Kill to Minnesota), which is likely why they are not the favorites in their divisions.  Regardless, I like both returning offensive profiles enough that I list each team as a heavy favorite in its respective division.

MWC:  Boise State (F)

The obvious competitor for Boise in their first season is TCU, who leaves for the Big East in 2012.  However, TCU loses far more critical personnel than the Broncos and will struggle to keep pace.

PAC 12 Championship:  Oregon (F) vs. Arizona State (F)

Oregon only has to get by the Cardinal, who return star QB Andrew Luck but lost Coach Harbaugh to the NFL.  The South is a tighter race, but I give trendy pick ASU the edge over upstart UCLA and the first-year Utes.  I pick USC, the PAC 12 South co-favorite, to finish in the bottom half.

SBC:  Arkansas State (D)

Arkansas State isn’t picked higher than 3rd in the Stassen Poll, but I give them a very slight edge over favorite Troy and contender FIU.  Arkansas St. getting Troy at home to finish the year could be the difference.

SEC Championship:  South Carolina (F) vs. Alabama (F)

Co-favorite South Carolina enters the season significantly ahead of closest competitors Florida and Georgia.  Alabama has the lead over LSU and Arkansas in the SEC West, which is, by far, the strongest division in college football.

WAC:  Nevada (C)

Nevada, Fresno St. and Hawaii all received first place votes in the Stassen Poll.  Perhaps most surprising is my expectation that Hawaii drops into the bottom half of the conference in 2011.

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