There is no more intense regional American sport than college football. Along the same lines, no other sport makes a team division or conference an essential part of its identity. If you walk into an Atlanta Falcons game, you’ll never hear fans cheering for the NFC South. but you are will Sometimes you hear SEC football team fans chant “SEC! SEC! SEC!” because college sports She is, well, just weird like that.
The 2021 season is about two months away, which means that the unofficial pre-season has already begun. It’s never too early to start planning who to watch and encourage. To help with that, I have ranked 10 conferences in the Football Bowl Division by how healthy they are interesting They are. It’s not necessarily an assessment of who is the best, although number 1 will be the same on both lists. Instead, I evaluated college football conferences based on competitiveness and how exciting the matches were. Here’s what to watch this year.
Most Exciting College Football Conferences
1. The Supreme Education Council
The best conference in the country is generally not as fun as SEC fans insist. It goes like this: everyone pretends that Alabama won’t win, but then Alabama wins. And from time to time, Bama No Winning, and those same hikers seize the opportunity to say, “Look! College football isn’t so predictable after all!”
However, the SEC is actually open more widely than it has been in years. Bama is the eternal favourite, but Crimson Tide lost six First round draft picks, including QB Mac Jones and all of his deadliest skilled teammates. It’s at least Maybe The tides will have a relative low per year.
Meanwhile, other teams are preparing for a tour. Georgia is loaded and finally has its own QB elite in JT Daniels. Texas A&M finished fourth in the rankings last year and has enough players in defense to contend for the national title. Auburn has a new coach: longtime Boise state president Brian Harsin. LSU, Break free from anchor and have Bo Bellini as defensive coordinatorYou’re trying to get some of the mojo back from the 2019 championship season. It will be fun to watch.
The Sun Belt had the most fun convention of the 2020 pandemic season. Coastal Carolina had a regular undefeated season thanks to an innovative offense Defenses never discoveredLouisiana has emerged as one of the most watched college football teams in the country. Coastal and Louisiana have held nearly all of their major contributors since 2020, so they should be great again.
It’s tempting to assume they’ll meet for a conference championship game in December, but Appalachian State is always a threat, and Georgia State showed some signs of life last year. South Alabama has a new coach — former Indiana State defensive coordinator Kane Womack — and his progress will be well worth following. Plus, this year marks the debut of a new strategy in Texas, the first-ever college football team not to sign a single high school recruit heading into a new season. Instead, Bobcats will Rely on remittances to supplement their list.
3. The Big Ten
Ohio State quarterback replaces Justin Fields, likely with freshman five-star CJ Stroud. Since Stroud hasn’t played yet, we can all pretend the Buckeyes might not win the Big Ten for the fifth year in a row. But even as Ohio State runs away with the league, the Big Ten has quite a bit of intrigue this fall: Will Penn State’s James Franklin and Penn State’s Jim Harbaugh turn on training periods that seem to have moved in the wrong direction? Will Mike Locksley’s attempt to rebuild Maryland finally pay off?
The Western Conference will also be playing football this fall – but don’t expect it to be exciting.
4. Buck 12
There will be some fun things to watch here. Will USC get a little closer to being the old USC, after encouraging (but brief) success in 2020? If not, will the Trojans shoot Clay Hilton or leave him hanging around forever? Will Oregon end the four-year college football dry playoff period? Will Chip Kelly’s UCLA take the biggest step forward yet, perhaps buoyed by LSU’s early turmoil? And with new convention commissioner George Klyavkov at the helm, will we get any hints about what the league will do when TV contracts with ESPN and Fox run out in 2024? In a roundabout way, this TV mode may be The most important factor in defining the future of Pac-12 football.
5. The American Athlete
AAC is home to last year’s best Group E team, Cincinnati. The Bearcats will retain most of the key talent from a team that nearly beat Georgia in the Peach Bowl, including QB Desmond Ridder and most stellar defense. Keeping track of UCSD’s bid to win the conference again is sure to be entertaining.
The other AAC teams have good stories, too. It would be great to see how UCF behaves with former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn at the helm, especially because Knights QB Dillon Gabriel, while great, doesn’t fit the classic mold of Malzahn running behind the middle. Elsewhere, the Navy will try to reclaim its position after a lousy 2020 year. We’ll see if Houston coach Dan Holgorsen turns things around or if The most expensive trainer in the G5 is falling.
6. Big 12
The Big 12 probably won’t have much drama this year. Oklahoma has won the conference for six straight years, and there’s little reason to believe the rushers won’t be seven years late starting the QB Spencer Rattler.
However, there are some items that are worth watching. Iowa arguably had its best season ever in 2020 and looks like the only serious threat to the OU. Texans are preparing for another new coach, Steve Sarkissian, following the sacking of Tom Hermann last year. As an offensive coordinator for Alabama, Sarkissian had the best talent in college football. He wouldn’t have the same advantage in Austin, so how fast can things speed up?
7. Western Mountain
Three big questions will make up the bulk of the season at Mountain West. First: How will Boise State perform in its first year under new coach Andy Avalos, a former Boise player and coach who was most recently the defensive coordinator in Oregon? Avalos replaces the highly successful Brian Harsin, who has left for Auburn. Will Boyz remain the best program in the league?
Second, will San Jose State, a historically moribund program that won the conference out of nowhere in 2020, stay near the top of the league or begin to slide? And third, will Nevada play so well that coach Jay Norville is leaving as Pac 12 coach in 2021?
MAC often struggles for national relevance, so much so that it has scheduled a batch of games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights to appeal to an ESPN TV audience you wouldn’t otherwise get. The struggle will likely continue this fall, but the league has some good things to do. It will be particularly interesting to see Kent State perform in its fourth season under head coach Sean Lewis. Golden flashes are one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but they are really bad on defense. Their non-conference schedule includes Texas A&M, Iowa, and Maryland – all potential annoyances.
Looking elsewhere, MAC took a big hit late in the season when Buffalo coach Lance Leibold, who was in charge of the conference’s top program, left to take over the miserable program in Kansas.
9. USA Conference
C-USA has a few quality teams. Marshall, UAB and Florida Atlantic have all shown good improvement over the past few years. Plus, UTSA, North Texas, and Charlotte are all fun programs to watch – they’re located in recruiting grounds that give them access to a lot of talented players. (UTSA in particular has shown significant progress in 2020.)
But maybe there is no file A wonderful A team is in this conference, so we’re limited to focusing on how new Marshall coach Charles Huff performs in his first season, whether UTSA continues to build something good under head coach Jeff Traylor, and whether the UAB puts together a solid season in its first year at a new stadium.
Notre Dame was suspended for one year at the ACC due to pandemic scheduling oddities. This year, the Irish are back in action as a freelancer, giving the Clemson Tigers a clear path to the conference championship. Don’t expect any fireworks here.
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