cfb-teamsIt’s almost fall which can only mean one thing: college football is nearly here! It’s the return of tailgating on Saturdays, Heisman talk, Lee Corso’s GameDay predictions and Brent Musberger creeping on attractive women in the stands. In years past, this preview series has looked at each individual conference and their teams. This year, it’s being changed up and instead of going by conference, each article will be by theme where each conference will get its own section. The first one? Contenders, as in the most likely to win their conference. So let’s get right to it.

American Athletic
The conference formerly known as the Big (L)East is still in flux with teams leaving and others set to join in the next few years. Louisville is seen as the favorite with Heisman contender Teddy Bridgewater and an absurd amount of talent at the skill positions. Cincinnati will rely on a underrated offense while the defense trys to plug holes in the line and secondary. Rutgers has never had a consistently productive offense, but has an incredibly stingy defense that produces NFL talent.

Wasn’t it just last year that there were rumors that top teams would get poached by other conferences? That’s all in the past as Clemson and Florida State will battle it out for conference supremacy. They’ve both in the same division and whomever emerges will be the heavy favorite in the conference title game. Clemson has an up-tempo offense led by QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins along with an improving defense, while the Noles have much hyped QB Jameis Winston and a trio of capable runners on offense and a plethora of talent on defense.

Big Ten
The B1G might seem like Ohio State’s to lose, but Wisconsin and its signature tough defense will have soemthing to say in the Leaders division. Or is it Legends? Over in whatever the other one is called, Michigan’s improving D and productive offense will battle it out against Nebraska’s potent ground game and Michigan State’s tough defense.

Big 12
This might be one of the more wide open conference races this season. Texas, who has been ‘back’ the last few years, has weapons on both offense and defense while their Red River rivals Oklahoma have the offensive firepower and The Stoops to keep them in contention. Oklahoma State keeps putting up big offensive numbers no what who plays and even Baylor and Kansas State could have a say if they can get their defenses in order.

Conference USA
As one of the weaker conferences, C-USA will always be a poaching ground for others. In the East division, Marshall and East Carolina will ride their potent offenses to contention, while in the West this could be the year that Rice finally has a big breakout season if it can fend off Louisian Tech and Tulsa.

Not really a conference, but it deserves mentioning. Notre Dame, who is sorta-kinda-unofficially-officially  in the ACC, will obviously be the top Indy squad, but Army and Navy will do what they do while BYU will have a very good defense.

The BCS finally got taste of some MACtion last year. Northern Illinois will ride QB Jordan Lynch back to conference title game if it can fend off the productive offense of Toledo in the West division. Ohio is a perennial favorite in the East, but Bowling Green has the conference’s best defense and an improving offense.

Mountain West
The somewhat new look MW has solidified its membership and has divisions for the first time. Boise State will be Boise State even without any real competition for the Mountain division. Over in the West, Fresno State and Derek Carr seem to be the favorite, but San Diego State, Nevada and San Jose State all have the offensive firepower to compete.

Much like the ACC, the Pac-12 has two heavyweights in a single division. Washington might give them trouble, but the North will be contested by Oregon and Stanford. Down in the South, Arizona and Arizona State could each surprise, but the division will be contested between UCLA and USC if the Trojans don’t collapse like last year.

Alabama. There’s no reeason to think the Tide won’t repeat. LSU and Texas A&M might make noise in the West while Georgia, South Carolina and Florida battle it out in the East, but in the end Saban’s Boys are too talented.

Sun Belt
The Sun Belt will always have to deal with being a feeder school for other conferences, but it should always have teams that are just moving up to FBS to take their places. Western Kentucky has a chance to go undefeated in conference play, but will have to deal with Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Oh wait…