If you look at the landscape of college football, you’ll see a lot of mediocrity. Even in the College Football Playoff rankings, once you get past the top 12 or so teams, it becomes a jumbled mess of two-and three-loss teams without much separation between them. That reflects in the divisional standings across the country, too, where you see teams like Arizona, Pitt and Northwestern in contention for divisional crowns.
With that said, we’ve decided to look at the worst divisions in college football for this week’s Our Five. Because comparing the quality of a Sun Belt division to the Big Ten would not exactly be fair (we love you, Fun Belt), these are listed in alphabetical order and not ranked.
Previously on Our Five: Surprises from first CFP rankings, best players not to win the Heisman, underrated teams, disappointing teams, coaches on the hot seat, biggest upsets, surprise undefeated teams, turnover celebrations, traditions
Where do we start here? The preseason Coastal favorite, Miami, is a complete mess. The Hurricanes have lost three straight and scored a combined 39 points in the process. Another team expected to compete was Virginia Tech, but the Hokies are a measly 4-4 on the year including a loss to Old Dominion — ODU’s only win of the year. That opened the door for Virginia, but the Cavaliers lost at home to Pitt, which now leads the Coastal at 5-4 overall, but 4-1 in ACC play. If Pitt loses to Virginia Tech this weekend, we could be in for chaos with the Hokies, Virginia and even Georgia Tech still in the mix. Oh, and don’t forget about one-win North Carolina. Yuck.
Big Ten West
Like the Coastal, the Big Ten West is led by a team that hasn’t even clinched bowl eligibility yet. This time, it’s Northwestern. The Wildcats (5-4, 5-1 Big Ten) have the edge in the division over Wisconsin (6-3, 4-2), Purdue (5-4, 4-2) and Iowa (6-3, 3-3) which is still somehow ranked No. 21 in the College Football Playoff rankings. The bottom of the division — Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota — is a combined 4-14 in Big Ten play. And two of those wins came over the floundering Gophers, who recently fired their defensive coordinator after giving up 55 points to Illinois.
Buffalo, now 9-1 (6-0 MAC), is having a triumphant season. But after the Bulls and Frank Solich’s Ohio Bobcats (6-3, 4-1), things go downhill quickly in the MAC East. Miami (Ohio), Akron, Kent State and Bowling Green are a combined 10-26 this season with Bowling Green bringing up the rear at 1-8. The only win for the Falcons, who already fired head coach Mike Jinks, came over FCS Eastern Kentucky by just seven points.
Here’s a division that is mediocre from top to bottom. Utah (6-3, 4-3), tied with USC and Arizona at 4-3 in league play, technically leads the South because it beat both the Trojans (5-4, 4-3) and Wildcats (5-5, 4-3), but a first divisional title for the Utes is no sure thing. Utah just lost starting quarterback Tyler Huntley in a loss to Herm Edwards’ Arizona State Sun Devils (5-4, 3-3), a game that put ASU right in the thick of things. On top of that, Colorado (5-4, 2-4) and UCLA (2-7, 2-4) are not out of the race. Yes, a 2-7 Bruins team can still technically win a share of the division crown. As The Athletic detailed, a six-way tie is actually possible. At least that will provide some excitement — even if the football isn’t great.