PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

College football’s conferences began breaking up into divisions 25 years ago when Arkansas and South Carolina joined the SEC…and soon others would follow to the point where only the Big 12 (which only has ten schools) and the Sun Belt (which wears suspenders instead of a belt) Conference don’t have divisions.  Depending on the league, inter-divisional play varies but one quality is consistent nationwide:  each conference has its designated “crappy division”.  As in a coach in the SEC West tries to keep his job by saying how many wins they’d have if they got to play Kentucky and Vanderbilt every year…or a fan of an ACC school looks up the standings at Clemson, Florida State and Louisville and wishes they were a little more Coastal than Atlantic.

Sometimes reputation clouds reality…so we broke down the numbers, taking a look at each division’s composite conference record (the fuzzy math of adding up the league wins and losses of a division’s teams) and noting how many of their teams were bowl eligible after this past weekend to show overall depth (so the Pac 12 South can’t simply say “the North is just Washington and five nobodies”).  I prefer bowl-eligible with three weeks to play because the good teams for the most part are already at six wins…as opposed to those schools that scrape their way to the Pinstripe Bowl by “surging” to 6-6.

SEC- the gold standard for division inadequacy…not helped by Alabama running roughshod over everyone, regardless of division or conference.  Also not helped by Georgia underperforming in the first year under Kirby Smart and Florida still finding its feet in Jim McElwain’s second season.  Helped even less by the 0-5 league mark of Missouri (which after extensive research is revealed to be located west of the Mississippi River).  Can’t you nudge Auburn over?

West: 23-15 with four schools bowl-eligible and in the top 20.

East: 17-25 with two schools bowl eligible and none in the top 20 of the writer’s rankings (Florida is #16 in the coaches poll).

 

Big Ten- the East boasts three schools with five conference wins and two teams with six league losses…while the West has five teams within one game of the division lead and a fifth (Illinois) still technically on the cusp of contention despite a 2-4 mark.  Feast or famine? True medium?  Either way, it’s a draw with three weeks to play.

East: 21-21 with three bowl eligible schools (and two ranked in the top ten).

West: 21-21 with three schools bowl-eligible.

 

ACC- the elite remain in the Atlantic while the Coastal has more downtrodden teams (including Duke which is the only school still winless in league play).  This might mean the least-anticipated Conference Championship Game since Wake Forest played Georgia Tech in 2006.

Atlantic: 22-18 with four schools bowl-eligible and two ranked in the top ten.

Coastal: 17-21 with two schools bowl-eligible.

 

Pac 12- there was much debate about how they would break up the league with the California schools wanting to continue to play each other regularly;  just imagine if Colorado and Utah had been thrown into the North with the Arizona and California schools cobbled together for the south.

North: 20-17 with three bowl-eligible schools and Washington ranked in the top five…

South: 17-20 with three bowl-eligible schools;  Utah and Colorado are both ranked in the lower half of the top 20.

 

For giggles I took a look at the other FBS conferences to see if there were major disparities:

Mountain West: Mountain is 19-12 while the West is 13-20.  #24 Boise State is in the Mountain and might not even win its division.

Mid-American Conference:  East is 15-18 while the West is 17-14.  West Division-leading #14 Western Michigan is 8-0 and is vying to become this year’s Boise State.

American Athletic Conference (of America):  East is also 15-18 while the West is 17-14.  Did they copy off the MAC’s paper or vice versa?  Navy leads the West, a division with four bowl-eligible schools out of six.

Conference USA:  East is 20-17 while the West is 15-18.  Can’t they go back to the “Red” and “White” Divisions they had years ago as a top-flight basketball league?

 

Alma Mater Update- that was 54-0…right?  That’s what you get when you go into Clemson and take on the #3 Tigers.  Losing your quarterback to injury is never ideal when he leads the ACC in passing yardage…and the defense allowing only 54 points could almost be viewed as a victory.  The road to Yankee Stadium and a possible Pinstripe Bowl banner gets a little narrower, but we knew they’d have to beat NC State and Pitt once they fell at Wake Forest.   The bright side?  The Wolfpack have lost four straight and the Panthers coughed up 51 points last weekend to Miami.

 

Maryland (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) didn’t need long to learn that it was vastly overmatched by #2 Michigan.  The Wolverines tallied touchdowns on each of their first half drives-and routed the Terps 59-3.  When does Rutgers come to College Park?

Terrapin Triumphs:  Caleb Rowe threw for 203 yards off the bench in his first extended action of the season after Perry Hills left with injury.  Alvin Hill made nine tackles while Jermaine Carter, Jr. added 7 stops.  Wade Lees averaged 42 yards per punt.

Terrapin Troubles: Michigan did not need to punt, scoring eight touchdowns on ten possessions (settling for one field goal and losing the ball on downs).  For the second straight Saturday the defense allowed over 600 yards.  Meanwhile, the running game was bottled up as Terp running backs gained 82 yards on 29 carries.  Two penalties blew up a 1st and goal from the Michigan 10…with Maryland eventually missing a 29-yard field goal.

Next: 3:30 p.m. Saturday vs #6 Ohio State (8-1, 5-1).  Thanks to Daylight Saving time ending, it may get even later earlier…

 

#18 Virginia Tech (7-2, 5-1 ACC) narrowly avoided upset against snakebitten Duke, holding off a Blue Devils fourth quarter rally 24-21.  Even though the game was technically played at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, the stadium was filled with Maroon and Orange fans.

Hokie Highlights:  Jerod Evans killed Duke with his feet: 83 yards rushing and a touchdown.  The offense played keep-away when they needed to, controlling the ball for the final 4:06 minutes with a 3-point lead.  Terrell Edmunds paced the defense with 14 tackles.    Adonis Alexander returned Greg Stroman’s blocked field goal attempt back 75 yards for a touchdown.  Even though he’s retired, I still want to say BEAMER BALL!

Hokie Humblings: the defense allowed 5 yards a carry to a Blue Devils ground game that ranked in the bottom half of the ACC.  Edmunds may have led the team in tackles…but also led the defense in targeting penalties, getting ejected (he’ll miss the first half of their next game).  Beating Pitt by a field goal on the road is one thing, but squeaking past a rebuilding Duke team is another.

Next: 3:30 p.m. Saturday vs Georgia Tech (5-4, 2-4).

 

Virginia (2-7, 1-4) was in position to steal a victory in Winston-Salem…only to see a fourth quarter fold deliver a 27-20 win to Wake Forest.  The second consecutive one-possession loss sends Bronco Mendenhall’s into the final quarter of the regular season facing three schools with a combined 17-10 record.

Cavalier Congrats: Taquan Mizzell remains the dual threat running back most schools would die for, rushing for 80 yards while adding 6 receptions and a touchdown.  Micah Kiser tallied his customary 11 tackles with a sack.  Nicholas Conte averaged 45.8 yards per punt, dropping four of his six kicks inside the 20-yard line.

Cavalier Concerns:  Kurt Benkert threw interceptions on consecutive fourth quarter possessions;  Wake turned the first into a game-tying field goal and returned the second for a go-ahead touchdown that would stand. Virginia converted just 2-of-12 third downs and was sacked five times.

Next: 2 p.m. Saturday vs Miami (5-4, 2-3).

 

Navy (6-2, 4-1 AAC) one week after tumbling in Tampa to South Florida, bounced back to beat Notre Dame 28-27.  That’s four wins for the Mids against the Fighting Irish over the last ten years, which after losing 40+ years in this rivalry that’s saying something.

Midshipmen Medals:  Will Worth ran for 175 yards and two touchdowns…while the offense converted 8-of-13 third downs and 4-of-5 fourth downs (effectively maintaining possession in 12 of 13 situations).  They held the ball for over 10 minutes in the fourth quarter and over 20 minutes in the second half.  Freshman safety Aloha Gilman tallied 12 tackles.

Midshipmen Miscues: the defense did allow the Fighting Irish to complete over 70% of their passes while averaging 5.1 yards per carry, and…what am I saying?  The Mids beat Notre Dame!  Everybody gets a helmet sticker!

Next: Noon Saturday vs Tulsa (7-2, 4-1) for the West Division lead.

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