Every 2018 college football standings race, ranked by DRAMA FACTOR

Alabama in the SEC West, Georgia in the SEC East. Ohio State in the Big Ten East, Wisconsin in the Big Ten West. Washington in the Pac-12 North. Clemson in the ACC Atlantic.

It feels like an abnormally large number of college football division races have already been settled, doesn’t it? We’re only entering Week 7, but it seems as if we can make pretty comfortable predictions about the title games we will end up seeing on the first weekend in December.

Fear not! There are … well … a few interesting races to follow, even if you have to scrounge around a little bit.

We’ll call it the DRAMA FACTOR. Screaming&Pandemonium+, if you will. I will look at both the potential tightness of the race and the general quality involved (as in, if a lot of teams have a chance at 7-1 or 6-2, you get more credit than if it’s a potential 5-3 logjam).

You can find every team’s projected win totals — conference and overall — along with a lot of other goodies in this year’s college football stat profiles.

2018 SEC West projections

SEC West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
SEC West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Alabama 3-0 7.28 46% 98%
Texas A&M 2-1 4.76 0% 25%
LSU 2-1 4.23 0% 11%
Mississippi State 1-2 3.61 0% 2%
Auburn 1-2 3.26 0% 1%
Ole Miss 0-2 3.06 0% 1%
Arkansas 0-3 1.55 0% 0%

This is a different Alabama this year, so destructive offensively that it’s almost leaving its defense out to dry. Still, they have been as dominant as ever, and with Auburn’s and Mississippi State’s somewhat unexpected offensive issues, the path is clear.

The closest team to the Tide, in terms of projected wins, is an A&M team Alabama has already beaten. For things to get weird, you need LSU and either MSU or Auburn to pull upsets, and while Bama does have to go to Baton Rouge, MSU and Auburn come to Tuscaloosa.

Most interesting remaining games: Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3). If LSU doesn’t win, this one’s over. It’s probably over anyway.

2018 Pac-12 North projections

Pac-12 North Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Pac-12 North Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Washington 3-0 7.55 18% 85%
Stanford 2-1 5.41 0% 16%
Washington State 2-1 5.33 0% 16%
Oregon 1-1 5.24 0% 15%
California 0-2 3.42 0% 0%
Oregon State 0-3 0.74 0% 0%

Washington’s defense-heavy, tempo-low style could leave the door ajar for an upset or two. Hell, the Huskies only beat UCLA by seven this past weekend.

Still, with Stanford’s loss to Utah, Wazzu’s loss to USC, and Oregon’s loss to Stanford, the Huskies are already a game up on the field, and if they get past Oregon this weekend in Eugene, they’re likely set.

Most interesting remaining games: Washington at Oregon (Oct. 13), Stanford at Washington (Nov. 3), Washington at Washington State (Nov. 23). UW will have to probably drop two of three for someone else to take advantage, but it’s on the table.

2018 MWC Mountain projections

MWC Mountain Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
MWC Mountain Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Utah State 1-0 6.69 21% 89%
Boise State 1-1 5.16 0% 39%
New Mexico 1-0 3.91 0% 9%
Wyoming 0-2 2.80 0% 0%
Colorado State 1-1 2.49 0% 0%
Air Force 0-2 2.37 0% 0%

Boise State lost its mojo on a trip to Oklahoma State, then tripped up at home against SDSU. That opened the door in the Mountain Division, and Utah State stormed through. The Aggies are now in the S&P+ top 25 following a romp over BYU, and they now look like a clear favorite.

Of course, USU has to keep it up. The Aggies’ biggest foe could be complacency. If they continue at their current level, then the fact that BSU has to play Fresno State (another S&P+ top-25 team) and USU doesn’t should give them a healthy advantage. But if they get caught up in the back-patting, they’ll cede this thing right back to the Broncos.

Most interesting remaining games: Fresno State at Boise State (Nov. 9), Utah State at Boise State (Nov. 24). And also, Utah State vs. itself (weekly).

2018 AAC West projections

AAC West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
AAC West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Houston 1-0 5.95 7% 67%
Memphis 1-2 4.47 0% 12%
Tulane 1-1 3.96 0% 7%
SMU 1-1 3.00 0% 1%
Tulsa 0-2 2.89 0% 0%
Navy 1-1 2.66 0% 0%

Houston and Memphis are nearly tied in S&P+ ratings, but since Memphis has suffered not one, but two upset losses — to Navy and Tulane — and has to play UCF this week (UH misses the Knights), it’s obvious who’s in control. Houston has appeared vulnerable and could suffer the upset or two, which could make this race weird.

Most interesting remaining games: UCF at Memphis (Oct. 13), Tulane at Houston (Nov. 15), Houston at Memphis (Nov. 23). For all Tulane’s struggles, the Green Wave’s upset of Memphis put them in position to become a dark horse if they can also win at Houston in what could be a look-ahead game for the Coogs.

2018 SEC East projections

SEC East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
SEC East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Georgia 4-0 6.95 30% 94%
Florida 3-1 5.41 0% 48%
Kentucky 3-1 5.18 0% 36%
South Carolina 2-2 3.67 0% 2%
Missouri 0-2 3.41 0% 1%
Tennessee 0-2 1.85 0% 0%
Vanderbilt 0-2 1.78 0% 0%

This at least doesn’t look as certain as it did a few weeks ago, when the Dawgs romped over the team that was supposed to be their biggest challenger, South Carolina. The fact that they have to face their two biggest East challengers, Florida and Kentucky, away from home — and those two coming in the middle of four consecutive S&P+ top-25 opponents — means this could become an interesting race.

Most interesting remaining games: Georgia at LSU (Oct. 13), Florida vs. Georgia (Oct. 27), Florida at Kentucky (Nov. 3). UGA will probably have to drop two for things to get weird.

2018 MAC East projections

MAC East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
MAC East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Buffalo 2-0 6.44 14% 83%
Miami-OH 2-1 4.98 0% 31%
Ohio 1-0 4.87 1% 30%
Akron 0-1 2.7 0% 1%
Kent State 0-2 2 0% 0%
Bowling Green 0-2 1.26 0% 0%

Lance Leipold’s Buffalo Bulls are 2-0 in conference play and have easily been the most impressive team in the East. But they have to go to Toledo in two weeks, which could leave them with one loss and mean they might need to sweep Miami (Ohio) at home and Ohio on the road.

Most interesting remaining games: Buffalo at Toledo (Oct. 20), Miami (Ohio) at Buffalo (Oct. 30), Ohio at Miami (Ohio) (Nov. 7), Buffalo at Ohio (Nov. 14). It’s a damn shame that the most MACtion-worthy game of 2018 (Buffalo-Toledo) isn’t on a weeknight in November.

2018 Sun Belt West projections

Sun Belt West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Sun Belt West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Arkansas State 0-1 4.49 0% 18%
UL-Lafayette 1-1 3.75 0% 4%
South Alabama 1-2 2.87 0% 1%
UL-Monroe 0-2 1.93 0% 0%
Texas State 0-2 1.31 0% 0%

Arkansas State has been a little disappointing and ranks 81st in S&P+, 18 spots below their projected finish. The Red Wolves have started slowly before and then caught fire, but you hate to rely on that.

Lucky for them, the rest of the division stinks. Even at 0-1 in conference play after a loss to Georgia Southern (with another potential loss on deck in this weekend’s visit from Appalachian State), they are pretty comfortable favorites.

Most interesting remaining games: Arkansas State at UL Lafayette (Oct. 27), South Alabama at Arkansas State (Nov. 3). The game in Lafayette is a relative tossup, but if ASU wins, the Red Wolves likely roll to the title game, even though they might be the fifth-best team in the conference. Five-team divisions are dumb.

2018 ACC Atlantic projections

ACC Atlantic Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
ACC Atlantic Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Clemson 3-0 7.47 57% 99%
NC State 2-0 6.21 6% 79%
Boston College 1-1 3.95 0% 8%
Syracuse 1-2 3.80 0% 4%
Florida State 1-3 2.33 0% 0%
Wake Forest 0-2 1.99 0% 0%
Louisville 0-3 1.18 0% 0%

Clemson survived an awkward test against Syracuse, losing its starting quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) to injury the same week the second-string QB (Kelly Bryant) left the team. But the Tigers are poised to glide to another division title … as long as they take care of business against unbeaten NC State.

Most interesting remaining games: NC State at Clemson (Oct. 20). Winner take all, probably.

2018 Big Ten West projections

Big Ten West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Big Ten West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Wisconsin 2-0 6.65 3% 57%
Iowa 1-1 5.55 0% 21%
Northwestern 2-1 5.20 0% 11%
Purdue 1-1 3.99 0% 2%
Minnesota 0-2 3.08 0% 0%
Illinois 1-1 2.79 0% 0%
Nebraska 0-3 2.08 0% 0%

Wisconsin has looked like the same old Wisconsin for the most part, but the strange upset to BYU in non-conference made them look vulnerable. They’ve already knocked off their biggest division threat (Iowa) on the road, but if they lose at Penn State and Michigan, this could get interesting.

Most interesting remaining games: Wisconsin at Michigan (Oct. 13), Wisconsin at Northwestern (Oct. 27), Northwestern at Iowa (Nov. 10), Wisconsin at Penn State (Nov. 10). The Badgers have a projected one-game advantage despite projected losses to UM and PSU. But I’d recommend not losing in Evanston.

2018 Sun Belt East projections

Sun Belt East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Sun Belt East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Appalachian State 1-0 7.3 47% 98%
Troy 3-0 5.96 3% 71%
Georgia Southern 2-0 5.84 4% 64%
Coastal Carolina 1-1 3.8 0% 6%
Georgia State 1-1 2.75 0% 0%

OK, Appalachian State could run away with this. The Mountaineers are up to 12th in S&P+, and not even Troy can compete with them if they’re playing their A game. But Troy is 3-0, and Georgia Southern is 2-0, which could assure that the standings are packed until Troy’s late-season trip to Boone.

Most interesting remaining games: Appalachian State at Georgia Southern (Oct. 25), Troy at Appalachian State (Nov. 24). It’ll take an upset for this to get interesting.

2018 ACC Coastal projections

ACC Coastal Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
ACC Coastal Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Miami-FL 2-0 6.12 10% 72%
Virginia Tech 2-0 5.36 3% 46%
Virginia 1-1 4.34 0% 16%
Duke 0-1 3.77 0% 6%
Pittsburgh 2-1 3.73 0% 4%
Georgia Tech 1-2 3.34 0% 2%
North Carolina 1-1 2.42 0% 0%

Miami has spent most of 2018 looking the part of a runaway division favorite, but the Canes self-destructed against LSU and for about a half against Florida State. They are 16th in S&P+, just barely off of their No. 12 projections, but they’ve shown just enough vulnerability to make you wonder. And they have to play their top two threats (per S&P+), Virginia and Virginia Tech, on the road. Hmm.

Most interesting remaining games: Miami at Virginia (Oct. 13), Duke at Miami (Nov. 3), Miami at Virginia Tech (Nov. 17), Virginia at Virginia Tech (Nov. 23). Our annual dream of a seven-way 4-4 Coastal tie isn’t going to happen, but this could get very messy.

2018 MWC West projections

MWC West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
MWC West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Fresno State 1-0 6.72 22% 89%
San Diego State 1-0 5.76 4% 61%
Hawaii 3-0 4.78 0% 22%
Nevada 1-1 4.04 0% 10%
UNLV 0-1 2.3 0% 0%
San Jose State 0-2 0.97 0% 0%

S&P+ doesn’t trust Hawaii, but the Warriors have raced to 3-0 in conference play; go 3-2 the rest of the way, and they’re just one or two surprise results from contention.

Still, this appears to be Fresno State’s division. The Bulldogs are to 20th in S&P+, ninth in Def. S&P+, and host both SDSU and Hawaii. Of course, anti-social SDSU just won at Boise and is 13th in Def. S&P+. This one could get fun.

Most interesting remaining games: Hawaii at Fresno State (Oct. 27), SDSU at Fresno State (Nov. 17), Hawaii at SDSU (Nov. 24). Could cranky SDSU coach Rocky Long and cranky young Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich have some more surprises in store?

2018 Pac-12 South projections

Pac-12 South Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Pac-12 South Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
USC 2-1 5.92 0% 31%
Colorado 2-0 5.62 1% 24%
Utah 1-2 4.61 0% 4%
Arizona 2-1 4.17 0% 2%
Arizona State 1-2 3.90 0% 1%
UCLA 0-2 2.10 0% 0%

Somebody has to win each division, no matter how underwhelming it may be.

Colorado’s in the driver’s seat here to a 2-0 start, but USC might be rallying after wins over Washington State and Arizona, and … well … really, no team but UCLA appears out.

Most interesting remaining games: Arizona at Utah (Oct. 12), Colorado at USC (Oct. 13), USC at Utah (Oct. 20), Colorado at Arizona (Nov. 2), Utah at Arizona State (Nov. 3), Utah at Colorado (Nov. 17). Battle royal.

2018 Big Ten East projections

Big Ten East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Big Ten East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Ohio State 3-0 7.92 28% 94%
Michigan 3-0 7.3 11% 80%
Penn State 1-1 6.41 0% 50%
Michigan State 1-1 4.65 0% 5%
Maryland 1-1 3.6 0% 0%
Indiana 1-2 3.3 0% 0%
Rutgers 0-3 0.46 0% 0%

I know, I know. For us to believe the Big Ten East race is a race, we have to believe Michigan is capable of beating Ohio State in Columbus.

But the Wolverines are up to fifth in S&P+, and as long as they at least go 2-1 against Wisconsin and Penn State at home and Michigan State on the road, they’ll head to Ohio for a winner-take-all showdown. It’s possible on paper. And if Ohio State loses to Michigan State, PSU’s right back into the mix, too.

And besides, the last game in Columbus was pretty close, right?

Most interesting remaining games: Wisconsin at Michigan (Oct. 13), Michigan at Michigan State (Oct. 20), Penn State at Michigan (Nov. 3), Ohio State at Michigan State (Nov. 10), Penn State at Wisconsin (Nov. 10), Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24). OSU could remove all drama, but this ain’t over just yet.

2018 MAC West projections

MAC West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
MAC West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Western Michigan 2-0 6.01 8% 69%
Northern Illinois 3-0 5.77 5% 60%
Toledo 1-0 5.21 2% 42%
Eastern Michigan 0-3 3.46 0% 0%
Ball State 1-1 2.99 0% 2%
Central Michigan 0-2 2.31 0% 0%

NIU is 3-0, WMU is 2-0, and Toledo is 1-0. Toledo’s got offense and no defense. NIU’s got defense and no offense. EMU is 0-3 and all but eliminated but is good enough to pull some upsets. And lots of division matchups populate November’s mid-week MACtion slate. That’s very good news.

Most interesting remaining games: Ohio at NIU (Oct. 13), Toledo at EMU (Oct. 13), Toledo at WMU (Oct. 25), Toledo at NIU (Nov. 7), WMU at Ball State (Nov. 13), NIU at WMU (Nov. 20). Plenty of plot twists to come.

2018 C-USA West projections

C-USA West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
C-USA West Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
UAB 2-0 6.48 15% 84%
North Texas 1-1 5.53 0% 54%
Southern Miss 1-0 5.43 2% 49%
Louisiana Tech 1-1 4.80 0% 25%
UTSA 2-0 2.94 0% 1%
UTEP 0-2 1.49 0% 0%
Rice 0-2 1.04 0% 0%

We thought we had a good idea of how the West would play out — North Texas looked ready to run away with things. Then the Mean Green lost to Louisiana Tech and barely got by UTEP. Into the void stepped UAB; the Blazers are 59th in S&P+ and 2-0 in conference play. They are in the driver’s seat, but they still have to play UNT and Southern Miss and travel to East division leader MTSU. And they have to hope UNT doesn’t regain its form.

Most interesting remaining games: Southern Miss at North Texas (Oct. 13), North Texas at UAB (Oct. 20), Southern Miss at UAB (Nov. 10), FAU at North Texas (Nov. 15), Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss (Nov. 17), UAB at MTSU (Nov. 24). C-USA might lack for quality, but parity can make for fun races.

2018 C-USA East projections

C-USA East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
C-USA East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Middle Tennessee 2-0 5.56 3% 53%
Florida International 1-0 5.49 4% 51%
Marshall 1-1 4.88 0% 29%
Florida Atlantic 1-1 4.86 0% 28%
Western Kentucky 0-1 3.42 0% 4%
Charlotte 1-1 2.04 0% 0%
Old Dominion 0-3 2.04 0% 0%

FAU and Marshall were runaway favorites. They’ve both already lost to Rick Stockstill’s Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who are unbeaten against non-SEC teams and could seize control with a win this Saturday at FIU. Lose, however, and it’s possible that four or five teams could be tied in the loss column by Saturday night.

Four teams are projected within 0.7 wins of the top. This could be an amazing race, even if the quality is … less than amazing.

Most interesting remaining games: MTSU at FIU (Oct. 13), FIU at WKU (Oct. 27), FAU at FIU (Nov. 3), FAU at North Texas (Nov. 15), UAB at MTSU (Nov. 24), Marshall at FIU (Nov. 24). And like 12 other games as long as MTSU loses to FIU.

2018 AAC East projections

AAC East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
AAC East Conf. Record Avg. Proj. Wins Odds of 0 L Odds of 0-2 L
Central Florida 2-0 6.77 23% 91%
Cincinnati 2-0 5.75 3% 61%
South Florida 1-0 5.43 3% 48%
Temple 2-0 5.15 1% 37%
East Carolina 0-2 1.45 0% 0%
Connecticut 0-3 0.52 0% 0%

UCF holds the key. Based on how the Knights play over the next month and a half, a few scenarios could play out:

  1. UCF runs the table, putting the College Football Playoff committee in a very awkward situation. How high would they rank the Knights after two consecutive unbeaten seasons, especially with last year’s Peach Bowl win over Auburn?
  2. UCF loses, bringing chaos to the race for the Group of Five’s NY6 bid. An unbeaten UCF obviously gets the nod. But an AAC champ UCF with a loss at Memphis, Cincinnati, or USF vs. a one-loss Appalachian State (with only an OT loss at Penn State) vs. a one-loss Fresno State or Utah State (both of whom also only lost to Big Ten teams by single scores on the road)? A lot of teams would realistically stake a claim.
  3. UCF loses, bringing chaos to the AAC West race. Cincinnati and USF are still unbeaten too, and Temple is smoking hot after a rough start. UCF could run the table, rendering this race entirely uninteresting, but one little slip could make this absolutely fascinating.

Most interesting remaining games: UCF at Memphis (Oct. 13), Cincinnati at Temple (Oct. 20), USF at Houston (Oct. 27), Temple at UCF (Nov. 1), USF at Cincinnati (Nov. 10), Cincinnati at UCF (Nov. 17), USF at Temple (Nov. 17), UCF at USF (Nov. 23). The AAC East is the current king of DRAMA FACTOR.

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