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Missing Miami football? Here's what to watch in the meantime

Disappointment ran high in the Miami community when the Mid-American Conference (MAC) postponed its fall sports season early last month. 

The MAC was the first conference to postpone its fall season. Soon after, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West Conference did the same. The NCAA then decided to cancel all fall sports championships.

Luckily for college football fans, its postseason isn’t governed by the NCAA. Because of this, the remaining Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences decided to play college football in the fall. 

Although there have already been multiple game cancellations so far, the original four conferences who decided to postpone their season have been hastily making plans to resume play in the fall. This includes the MAC, who recently agreed to hold a six-game, conference-only schedule starting Nov. 4.

Here’s a look at each conference’s outlook in 2020. 

CONFERENCES ALREADY PLAYING

The Southeastern Conference (SEC): The SEC is arguably college football’s most competitive conference. With teams like defending national champion LSU and perpetual juggernaut Alabama leading the way, and always competitive (though not quite as dominant) teams like Georgia, Auburn, and Texas A&M filling in behind them, there will be some great football coming out of the SEC this fall. 

The conference’s 10-game season started Saturday. If you’re into comedy, I’d recommend watching LSU’s Oct. 3rd matchup against perennial punching bag Vanderbilt.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC): The ACC is weird. Clemson is arguably the best program in the nation; the Tigers have made the College Football Playoff (a tournament of the nation’s top four teams) five years out of six since the tournament’s inaugural season and have won two national championships in that timeframe. After Clemson, however, the quality of teams in the conference falls steeply. In 2019, only one team in the ACC (North Carolina) managed to lose to Clemson by fewer than 30 points. 

The conference is having an 11-game season, with each team playing ten games against conference foes plus one non-conference opponent. Notre Dame, usually stubbornly independent, has given up its freedom to play football this year, joining the ACC.  If you like blowouts, watch Clemson play, well, anyone. Otherwise, you should be entertained watching the rest of the conference fight between themselves for a very distant second place. 

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The Big 12: Known for its flashy pass-first (defense-last) style of football, the Big 12 is exceptionally fun to watch (but seriously, if you like defense: I’d steer clear). Former powerhouse Texas looks to return to the throne as conference champion this fall, and recently dominant Oklahoma will be its biggest obstacle in doing so.

The Big 12 is playing a 10-game season with only one non-conference game.

The American Athletic Conference (AAC): The AAC is almost universally hailed as the best of the Group of Five conferences. It had more teams (three) in last year’s postseason top 25 poll than the similarly named ACC, which is part of the Power Five. The conference is playing a 10-game season.

The AAC is home to some of the nation’s most exciting teams. Central Florida and Southern Methodist have two of the most electric offenses in college football, and the Naval Academy is always fun to watch with its stiff discipline and ostensibly gimmicky — but nearly always effective — triple-option offense.

Conference USA (CUSA): Conference USA won't be sending a team to the National Championship game any time soon. Florida Atlantic is undoubtedly the conference’s most exciting team; it led the nation in turnovers per game last year. Rarely do NFL prospects come from CUSA, and its teams hardly ever get national media attention. But hey, football is football.

Sun Belt Conference (SBC): The SBC, whose teams are mostly in the southeast part of the U.S., rarely sends players to the NFL or receives much attention from the national media. Appalachian State is the conference’s best team, consistently hovering around top 20 nationally, though many say its ranking is inflated by beating up on the rest of its relatively weak conference.

CONFERENCES STARTING PLAY SOON

Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten is similar to both the ACC and SEC. Although there are a few consistently good teams like Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin, the conference has a clear top dog: the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes have made the College Football Playoff three times in six years and won the whole thing in 2015. The Big Ten starts an eight-game season on Oct. 24.

Pacific-12 Conference: The Pacific-12 Conference, aka the Pac-12, has hit a rough spot the past few seasons. Generally regarded as the worst Power Five conference, it has failed to send a member to the College Football Playoff each of the last three seasons. Gone are the days of programs like USC and Oregon ruling the college football world. The conference will begin a seven-game season on Nov. 6.

Mountain West Conference: The Mountain West is starting an eight-game season on Oct. 24. One of the better Group of Five conferences, the conference’s teams are located on the West Coast and the Rocky Mountains. Its most well-known program is Boise State, which has won many games against top-tier programs in the last 15 years.

Mid-American Conference (MAC): Last, but not least, we have the Mid-American Conference, home of the Miami RedHawks. The MAC isn’t the best conference, but it has its moments. One of its members, the Western Michigan Broncos, had a perfect 12-0 record in 2016. Some teams will even get an occasional win against a Big Ten team.

The RedHawks are coming off an 8-6 season, winning the MAC championship for the first time since 2010. The team is bringing back most of its starters from last year, including cornerback Emmanuel Rugamba and offensive linemen Danny Godlevske and Tommy Doyle, after all three had originally intended to skip the season in preparation for the 2021 NFL Draft.

No schedule has been announced, but the conference starts a six-game season on Nov. 4. There won’t be any fans in attendance, but MACtion will be in full swing this November.

 schmelj2@miamioh.edu

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