August 15, 2010

A look at the best and worst division races

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Five leagues -- the ACC, Big 12, C-USA, MAC and SEC -- are broken into divisions. Which division race should be the tightest? And which one do you see as the easiest?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
The ACC Coastal looks like the tightest division race. Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina all should be good. Virginia Tech would be my pick to win, but the Hokies have to play Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami in consecutive weeks in November, with the last two in the road. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech's November schedule includes Virginia Tech and Miami in consecutive games. Most races aren't settled until November; this one doesn't really start until then. The Big 12 South race among Texas, Oklahoma and maybe Texas A&M this year is intriguing, and the SEC West with Alabama, Arkansas and LSU is, too. But I don't see any race being tighter than the ACC Coastal. As far as the easiest division race, Nebraska looks like the class of the Big 12 North. Missouri is the Huskers' primary threat, but the Mizzou-Nebraska game is in Lincoln. Missouri also faces an overall more difficult conference schedule, with road games against A&M and Texas Tech and a home game against Oklahoma.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
As for the toughest, it's hard to decipher a discernable difference between Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 South. I also think Texas A&M has a chance to make a run at the title, with Texas Tech in the mix with new coach Tommy Tuberville. In the end, I wouldn't be surprised if Oklahoma and Texas tie for the title with the division champ being determined by the winner of the annual Red River Rivalry. The easiest? I think Florida State will run away with the ACC Atlantic Division. Yes, the Seminoles have issues on defense, but there still is talent that will be led by an overhauled defensive staff guided by coordinator Mark Stoops and linebackers coach Greg Hudson. And even if the defense struggles, FSU's offense will be able to overmatch any challengers in the Atlantic, with Clemson and Boston College likely providing the toughest tests.

David Fox's answer:
At one point, I would have said the ACC Coastal would be the toughest division, but the problems at North Carolina have caused me to back off. That's why I'm picking the SEC West as the toughest division. It may have the country's best team in Alabama, but I don't think the Crimson Tide are guaranteed to make it through unscathed. Arkansas and Auburn are on the rise and should be able to poke holes in Alabama's defense. LSU has its problems, but the Tigers are loaded with talent. Mississippi State is coached well enough to take teams by surprise. And Ole Miss just added the top quarterback from the Pac-10 last season. The easiest division is the Big 12 North. Other than Missouri, I don't see any team challenging Nebraska. And the Huskers get that game in Lincoln. I don't even know if the other four teams in the division will be bowl eligible.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
The ACC Coastal race should be epic, with Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina having legitimate title hopes. Remaining healthy always is important, but injuries could play a huge role in the Coastal. The Big 12 South also is worth mentioning; it won't be as interesting as the ACC Coastal because it's "just" a two-team race between Oklahoma and Texas, but unlike in the Coastal, the Big 12 South winner could have a legit shot at playing for the national title. The easiest division path belongs to Alabama. The Tide may have some issues on defense, but the challengers in the SEC West have more questions than the Tide.

Steve Megargee's answer:
The ACC Coastal Division race intrigues me the most because four of the six teams (Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina) have a legitimate shot of winning it. Virginia Tech was a prohibitive pick to win the conference title in the ACC's preseason media poll, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if Miami, Georgia Tech or UNC won it instead. Miami has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and gets to face Virginia Tech and North Carolina at home. North Carolina boasts one of the nation's most talented defenses even if tackle Marvin Austin's agent issues force him to miss significant time. Georgia Tech again should be able to run the ball on just about anyone, and its defense can't be much worse than it was in last year's ACC championship season. I still think the Hokies win the ACC title, but they're going to be in for a battle. The most convincing division favorite in any of the conferences is Alabama in the SEC West. LSU, Arkansas and Auburn are worthy challengers, but each team still has a long way to go to catch up to the defending national champions.




 

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