The least interesting conversation in sports right now is the ranking of college football conferences and divisions. If you don't have ACC Fan in one ear telling you about the recruiting rankings in the Coastal, you have B1G Fan in the other talking about the Buckeyes' playoff run and Harbaugh's love for competition. PAC12 Fan will tell you that you need to stay up later, or at least DVR the Utah game, and SEC Fan, well, you know SEC Fan.
The sense of conference pride and regional association is fine. It gives fans something to root for on a national stage long after their team has been housed by TCU or upset in the Swamp.
But the debate over what division or conference is the "best" division or conference needs to end. You don't win anything for being runner up in the SEC East because the SEC East is ranked ahead of the PAC12 North. Jesse Palmer and Danny Kanell debating the order of the conferences doesn't serve you, the fan, any either.
Instead, I propose we approach these conferences and divisions the way baseball analysts approach their 6 divisions. We need to redefine what we mean by "best." From now on, let's say the "best" division is the division that best serves you, the fan. As a fan myself, I know what you want. You want drama. You want a clash of styles, competing villains and heroes, and games that matter. You also want points. Lots and lots of points.
Now, finding the "best" division can be challenging. There is a ton of football being thrown at you on Saturday, and a fan can only consume so much. Wouldn't it make sense to invest in the games that will consistently produce the biggest return on investment?
Sure, you could stick to your CBS time slot from 3:30 to 7:00 each Saturday, that's fine. But you'll ultimately end up with a bunch of this. However, if you're interested in consuming the best college football has to offer, I give you the division with the highest ROI. The American West.
The American Athletic Conference's West division is putting together a season that rivals the SEC West's glory days of old. The division boasts three teams, all undefeated with monumental games on the horizon, playing unique and aesthetically pleasing football in their own way. Major non-conference match ups loom large in the coming weekends, followed by a round robin for the division crown. Should an undefeated champion emerge, a BCS bowl bid should be awarded. If you're still searching to find this year's Boise State -- the team poised to upset the apple cart -- look no further.
The Villain: Memphis Tigers (5-0)
After Memphis survived Cincinnati at home in a nationally televised Thursday night showdown, the Tigers became an emerged on the national consciousness. They score points. They're unruly. Memphis has no problem drawing a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct after Paxton Lynch hits Anthony Miller on an 82-yard 9-route. Their home stadium, the Liberty Bowl, is full of stray dogs and tetanus.
They play the game exactly like you want a team from Memphis to play. I love Memphis just as much as your grandfather hates them. And here's the thing -- after the Tigers upset a wobbly Ole Miss next Saturday, experts are going to be yelling at you through the TV that Memphis is "for real" and that this wasn't much of an upset. They'll be right.
The Hero: Navy Midshipmen (4-0)
Ah Navy. College football's enduring constant. Navy is our Captain America. Everything your grandfather hates about Memphis, he loves about Navy. On the field, the Middies are the same team you've been watching almost beat Notre Dame for the past 20 years, just better. They've beaten "pretty goods" East Carolina and Air Force handedly. Navy's rushing offense is right where you'd expect it to be at 3rd in the nation, but the defense is playing well too.
Because Navy has long been independent, they have had little to "play for" beyond their rivalries with Air Force, Army, and Notre Dame. Even with a loss to the Irish Saturday, Navy appears to have a team that will hold your attention long into November. Navy's ceiling has long been the San Diego Credit Union Bowl. We'll find out shortly if this Navy team i capable of playing for conference championships and New Year's Day bids.
The Favorite: Houston Cougars (4-0)
Houston took care of its toughest non-conference opponent, Louisville, in Week 2, 34-31. They don't play AAC-East heavyweight Temple in the regular season, and should be undefeated heading into a nightmare November of Cincinnati, Navy and Memphis. But all three of these games are at home, and only Navy has shown that they have some semblance of a defense capable of slowing the Cougars down.
Greg Ward Jr. is the best player in the country not in the Heisman race. Considering the Coogs have had only 4 games in Tom Herman's offense, the fact that they may not have hit their stride is downright scary. Houston's offense is on par with the fireworks you see in the BIGXII, nationally ranked 4th in total yards, and 7th in points scored. If you're a betting man, your money should be on the Cougars.
How to watch the American West shake out over the next 2 months:
Navy @ Notre Dame 10/10 3:30 NBC
Memphis @ Ole Miss 10/17 12:00 ABC
Memphis @ Tulsa 10/23 8:00 ESPN
Houston @ Vanderbilt 10/31
Navy @ Memphis 11/7
Memphis @ Houston 11/14
Navy @ Houston 11/21