When we talk about college football betting virtually all of our attention is directed towards the BCS conferences. That’s where most of the glamour is, and for fans who aren’t hardcore there is more than enough to keep them interested. There is a lot of good football being played every week in the other five conference in the FBS, and I’m not just talking about Boise State and Utah, either. Here’s a look at how those five conferences stack up from best to worst from a college football betting perspective as we get ready for the start of this season:
1. Mountain West – This conference has two teams with a very legitimate shot at a BCS at-large bid. There are a couple of BCS conferences that can’t claim that. TCU has proven themselves as a national presence in recent years, and they haven’t taken a step back this year. Andy Dalton is a very good quarterback, and he’s surrounded by a loaded and experienced team – there are 27 seniors on the roster. They have a schedule that sets up well, and the sky is the limit. Utah, in their last year in the conference, is almost as good. Jordan Wynn is another exceptional quarterback, and he’s only a sophomore. They are playing Pitt and Notre Dame this year, and wins in both games would be a major statement. BYU isn’t quite as god as the top two, and they have to replace very good QB Max Hall and several others, but they have a pile of talent – albeit unproven – at quarter back, and if that position can stabilize quickly then they are going to be dangerous. Add in a pretty good Air Force squad, and improving squads from Wyoming and San Diego State and you have a very deep, tough, and exciting conference. I’d watch the Mountain West over the Big east every day. Or most of the ACC for that matter.
2. WAC – Boise State, in their last year in the WAC before heading to the Mountain West to replace Utah, is the obvious headline form this conference. They are a very legitimate top five team in the country, and they have a good shot at going all the way to the BCS Championship game this year. they are by far the best team in the conference, but they aren’t the only one worth noting. Nevada has some very nice talent, and will have learned a lot from disappointing in the face of big expectations last year. Fresno State is again a tough and talent team like it always is under Pat Hill. Louisiana Tech is on the rise, and has a schedule that will help them succeed. Hawaii and Idaho could surprise. This is a nice conference – at least until the Broncos leave.
3. CUSA – Houston is the marquee squad here. Their offense is like something out of a video game, and it should be even better this year than last year – unless it stumbles over a potentially tricky schedule. Central Florida looms as their biggest challenge, and the Knights should have some interesting wrinkles of their own offensively. Southern Miss has the schedule to allow them to jump out of the gate quickly, and could be in the championship game. Tulsa had a lot of bad luck and late failures last year, and should be much better this year. East Carolina is going through a coaching change but is in good hands. SMU is on the fast track under the very competent June Jones. This is a deep, tough, entertaining conference.
4. MAC – I love MAC football. It’s tough and gritty, and the quarterback play is almost always better than it probably should be. This is going to be a great year, too, because the league is wide open. Ohio hasn’t won the MAC since 1968, but could do so this year. Temple has been rising form the ashes in remarkable fashion, and should be as good as they have ever been this year. Kent State is poised to make their first bowl game in 38 years. In the West, Northern Illinois needs a QB to emerge from the crowd, but if one does this team could be very tough. Western Michigan is young but well coached and on a good path. Central Michigan has to adjust to life without Dan LeFevour, but the defense should be very good. Beyond those six teams you could make a case for a couple of other teams to contend in the conference as well. This is the definition of wide open.
5. Sun Belt – I love the other four non-BCS conferences, but I admit that it’s harder to get excited about the Sun Belt. Middle Tennessee has to reload, but still is the best team in the conference. Even still, they aren’t even remotely relevant nationally. Troy loses flashy QB Levi Brown and much of their defense, so their success depends on the quality of the replacements. UL-Lafayette is not a team that captures the imagination – they have been bowl eligible four times in the last five years, but have never been picked to play in a bowl game. Their talent seems to be slightly improved, but their schedule is horrifying. I could go deeper into the conference, but there wouldn’t be anything more interesting than what we have already discussed. The Sun Belt is unquestionably the poor cousin of the FBS.