CONFERENCE BELTS: Week 6 (late) Primer

Missed a week and nearly missed this week.  But, we are on it.  And, some changes occurred.  Northern Illinois lost another belt, dropping the Unified MAC Belt to Central Michigan.  The Huskies now lost both of its titles that it carried coming into the season.  Meanwhile, Mississippi lost to Florida, dropping its title as the Undisputed SEC Champion [holder of both the Unified and Battle belts].  The Gators defend the Battle Belt this weekend versus Missouri, which has yet to qualify for the Unified Belt.

Let’s look at this week’s slate, which is pretty full.

Week 6 Unified Conference Belt Defenses:

  • ACC: Miami (FL) at Florida State (c) [14th defense of their tenth reign]
  • Big 12: TCU (c) at Kansas State [fourth defense of their first reign]
  • Conference USA: Southern Miss at Marshall (c) [second defense of their first reign]
    • Marshall defeated Southern Miss on Friday 9 October
  • MAC: Central Michigan (c) at Western Michigan [first defense of their 13th reign]
  • Mountain West: Boise State (c) at Colorado State [fourth defense of their second reign]
  • Pac 12: Washington State at Oregon (c) [sixth defense of their 16th reign]

Week 6 Battle Belt Defenses:

  • ACC: Miami (FL) at Florida State (c) [21st defense of fifth reign]
  • American: Tulane at Temple (c) [fourth defense of first reign]
  • Big Ten: Maryland at Ohio State (c) [sixth defense of 19th reign]
  • SEC: Florida (c) at Missouri [first defense of 12th reign]

Week 6 Middleweight Belt Defense:

  • Sun Belt: Appalachian State (c) at Georgia State [fifth defense of first reign]

Week 4 Results

  • Unified Big 12 Belt: TCU successfully defended against Texas Tech
  • Big Ten Battle Belt: Ohio State successfully defended against Western Michigan
  • MAC Battle Belt: Ohio State successfully defended against Western Michigan
  • Undisputed SEC Championship [Unified and Battle Belts]: Mississippi successfully defended against Vanderbilt
  • Southern Heritage Belt: Duke successfully defended against Georgia Tech
  • Southwest Heritage Belt: Texas A&M successfully defended against Arkansas
  • Sun Belt Middleweight Belt: Appalachian State successfully defended against Old Dominion

Week 5 Results

  • Undisputed ACC Championship [Unified and Battle Belts]: Florida State successfully defended against Wake Forest
  • American Battle Belt: Temple successfully defended against Charlotte
  • Big 8 Heritage Belt: Kansas State lost to Oklahoma State
  • Unified Big 12 Belt: TCU successfully defended against Texas
  • Undisputed Big Ten Championship [Unified and Battle Belts]: Ohio State successfully defended against Indiana
  • Unified MAC Belt: Northern Illinois lost to Central Michigan
  • Undisputed SEC Championship [Unified and Battle Belts]: Mississippi lost to Florida
  • Sun Belt Middleweight Belt: Appalachian State successfully defended against Wyoming
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CONFERENCE BELTS: Week 4 Primer

The first defense of a Unified Conference belt this season saw it change hands, while the first champion-versus-champion game was a close game before the Big Ten Battle Belt holder took the MAC Battle Belt.  Week 3 was not without its moments.

Week 4 is action packed as Ohio State turns around to defend its newly-acquired MAC Battle Belt against Western Michigan; this will be the MAC’s last scheduled chance this year.  At least the MAC will have a chance next year as the Battle Belt of the Sun Belt was defended by Oregon do not have a scheduled game against a Sun Belt team over the next couple of seasons.

Mississippi will defend both the Unified Conference belt as well as the SEC Battle Belt when it hosts Vanderbilt; Vandy only held the Unified Belt twice and has not done so since 1983!  Meanwhile, TCU will defend the Unified Big 12 belt when the Horned Frogs visit Texas Tech.  There are also two Heritage Belt defenses [Southern and Southwest], as well as a Middleweight defense of the Sun Belt.  Week 4 will be busy.

Week 4 Unified Conference Belt Defenses:

  • Big 12: TCU (c) at Texas Tech [second defense of their first reign]
  • SEC: Vanderbilt at Mississippi (c) [first defense of their fifth reign]

Week 4 Battle Belt Defenses:

  • Big Ten: Western Michigan at Ohio State (c) [fourth defense of 19th reign]
  • MAC: Western Michigan at Ohio State (c) [first defense of second reign]
  • SEC: Vanderbilt at Mississippi (c) [first defense of eighth reign]

Week 4 Middleweight Belt Defense:

  • Sun Belt: Appalachian State (c) at Old Dominion [second defense of first reign]

Week 4 Heritage Belt Defenses:

  • Southern: Georgia Tech at Duke (c) [second defense of second reign]
  • Southwest: Texas A&M (c) at Arkansas [seventh defense of seventh reign]

Week 3 Results

  • ACC Battle Belt: Florida State successfully defended against Boston College
  • American Battle Belt: Temple successfully defended against Massachusetts
  • Big Ten Battle Belt: Ohio State successfully defended against Northern Illinois
  • MAC Battle Belt: Northern Illinois lost to Ohio State
  • Unified SEC Belt: Alabama lost to Mississippi
  • SEC Battle Belt: Alabama lost to Mississippi
  • Battle Belt of the Sun Belt: Oregon successfully defended against Georgia State

CONFERENCE BELTS – Week 3 Primer

Another week, another title changed hands.  This time it was BYU pulling another miraculous late-game victory and taking the Mountain West Middleweight Belt from Boise State.  Originally, we overlooked BYU and did not note that as a title defense for the Broncos.  It was and it ended up being costly.  BYU will defend the title this season when they take on San Jose State in November.

As for this week, every in-play Battle Belt is up for grabs this week while the first Unified Conference Belt title defense of 2015 will take place in Tuscaloosa.  There will be a champion versus champion game in Columbus when Northern Illinois visits Ohio State.

Week 3 Battle Belt Defenses:

  • ACC: Florida State (c) at Boston College [22nd defense of current reign]
  • American: Temple (c) at Massachusetts [second defense of current reign]
  • Big Ten: Northern Illinois at Ohio State (c) [third defense of current reign]
  • MAC: Northern Illinois (c) at Ohio State [third defense of current reign]
  • SEC: Mississippi at Alabama (c) [fifth defense of current reign]
  • Sun Belt: Georgia State at Oregon (c) [first defense of current reign]

Week 3 Unified Conference Belt Defenses:

  • SEC: Mississippi at Alabama (c) [second defense of current reign]

Week 2 Results

  • ACC Battle Belt: Florida State successfully defended against South Florida
  • American Battle Belt: Temple successfully defended against Cincinnati
  • Big Ten Battle Belt: Ohio State successfully defended against Hawai’i
  • Mountain West Middleweight Belt: Boise State lost to BYU
  • SEC Battle Belt: Alabama successfully defended against Middle Tennessee State

Conference Belts – Week 2 Primer

Week 2 continues with Battle Belt match-ups including a new champion defending its title for the first time.  There is only one Middleweight Belt up for grabs this week.  The first Unified Conference Belt will be defended next week.

Week 2 Battle Belt Defenses:

  • ACC: South Florida at Florida State (c) [21st defense in current reign]
  • American: Temple (c) at Cincinnati [first defense in current reign]
  • Big Ten: Hawai’i at Ohio State (c) [second defense in current reign]
  • SEC: Middle Tennessee State at Alabama (c) [fourth defense in current reign]

Week 2 Middleweight Battle Belt Defenses:

  • Mountain West: Boise State (c) at BYU [7th defense in current reign]

Week 1 Results

  • Battle Belt of ACC: Florida State successfully defended against Texas State
  • Battle Belt of American: Penn State lost to Temple
  • Battle Belt of Big Ten: Ohio State successfully defended against Virginia Tech
  • Battle Belt of MAC: Northern Illinois successfully defended against UNLV
  • Battle Belt of SEC: Alabama successfully defended against Wisconsin
  • Southern Heritage Belt: Duke successfully defended against Tulane

CONFERENCE BELTS: Reigning Champions for 2015

With the resurrection of the Conference Belts, it is time to set a primer for the upcoming season.  Well, the season technically already started, but still.  Here is the list of the current belt holders and their upcoming matchups, if at all.  Displayed is each title holder and, in brackets, is the next scheduled opponent and date of defense.  If there are no scheduled title defenses then it will be marked so [this will only be the case for Battle Belts, Middleweight Belts, and Heritage Belts].

UNIFIED CONFERENCE BELTS

  • ACC: Florida State [versus Wake Forest on 3 October]
  • American: Cincinnati [versus UConn on 24 October]
  • Big 12: TCU [versus Texas Tech on 26 September]
  • Big Ten: Ohio State [versus Indiana on 3 October]
  • Conference USA: Marshall [versus Southern Miss on 9 October]
  • MAC: Northern Illinois [versus Central Michigan on 3 October]
  • Mountain West: Boise State [versus Colorado State on 10 October]
  • Pac 12: Oregon [versus Washington State on 10 October]
  • SECAlabama [versus Mississippi on 19 September]
  • Sun Belt: UL-Lafayette [versus Arkansas State on 20 October]

CONFERENCE BATTLE BELTS

  • ACC: Florida State [versus Texas State on 5 September]
  • American: Penn State* [versus Temple on 5 September]
  • Big 12: Arizona [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • Big Ten: Ohio State [versus Virginia Tech on & September]
  • Conference USA: Oklahoma* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • MAC: Northern Illinois [versus UNLV on 5 September]
  • Mountain West: Oregon* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • Pac 12: Boston College* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • SECAlabama [versus Wisconsin on 5 September]
  • Sun Belt: Oregon* [versus Georgia State on 19 September]

* – title held by non-conference team

CONFERENCE MIDDLEWEIGHT BELTS

  • Conference USA: Boise State* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • MAC: Central Florida* [no scheduled defense in 2015]
  • Mountain West: Boise State [versus BYU on 12 September]
  • Sun Belt: Appalachian State [versus Old Dominion on 26 September]

* – title held by non-conference team

HERITAGE BELTS

  • Big 8: Kansas State [versus Oklahoma State on 3 October]
  • Big West: Boise State [versus Utah State on 16 October]
  • Southern: Duke [versus Georgia Tech on 26 September]
    • NOTE: Duke defeated Tulane on 3 September to retain the title
  • Southwest: Texas A&M [versus Arkansas on 26 September]
  • WAC: Boise State [versus Hawai’i on 3 October]

Quick Hitters

  • Boise State is currently carrying five belts, winning the WAC belt after defeating Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl last season.  Oregon is next with three belts
  • Boise State will have two belts on the line when it faces Hawai’i on 10 October — the Battle Belt of the Mountain West and the WAC Heritage Belt
  • Oregon defends the Battle Belt of the Sun Belt for the first time since winning it from Arkansas State in 2012.  Had Oregon not defended it this season, the Ducks would need to vacate the title.
  • this is the second straight season that neither the Conference USA Middleweight Belt nor the MAC Middleweight Belt were defended.  unless Boise State [with the C-USA Middleweight Belt] or UCF [with the MAC Middleweight Belt] defend it in a bowl game, they will end up vacating the belts after next season; neither are scheduled to play a qualified team in 2016.
  • a couple of teams have a chance to become eligible for their conference’s Unified belt — UCF [versus Cincinnati]; Iowa State [versus Oklahoma]; Kansas [versus Texas]; West Virginia [Oklahoma and Kansas State]; Buffalo [versus Northern Illinois]; Utah State [Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada, and San Diego State]; Utah [Arizona State, Oregon, and Washington]; and South Alabama [versus Arkansas State].
  • In some cases, teams need a certain opponent to meet them in their conference title game.  Boston College can should they face North Carolina in the ACC title game, as can Nebraska should they face Indiana in the Big Ten championship game.  If Arkansas wins the SEC West, they could qualify should Florida win the East.  Likewise, South Carolina can qualify by winning the SEC East and facing off against Auburn.
  • Other teams need to win scheduled games AND win their conference championship game against a particular opponent.  Memphis has an opportunity should they defeat Houston and face UCF in the American title game.  Middle Tennessee would need to defeat four teams — Louisiana Tech, North Texas, UT-San Antonio, and then draw Rice in the C-USA title game.
  • Colorado can qualify for the Pac 12 Unified Title, but it’ll take work.  The Buffaloes need to defeat Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Southern California, Stanford, and UCLA before possible facing Washington for the Pac 12 crown.
  • The Mountain West COULD see either Hawai’i or San Jose State qualify…but not both.  Hawai’i would need to defeat Air Force, Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, and then hopefully face off against Colorado State in the Mountain West title game.  San Jose State needs to beat Air Force, Boise State, Nevada, New Mexico, and San Diego State followed by a MWC title game against Utah State.  Since Hawai’i and San Jose State are in the same division, only one could possibly qualify this season.

Resurrection of the Conference Belts

Back in 2013, we here at Uncle Popov came up with “Conference Belts,” a concept rooted in the awesome College Football Belt project that (apparently) began in the mid-1980s.  The idea behind the latter was to have some sort of title that could be actually won on the field within the parameters of the scheduled season; a title that is perpetual and rolls over with each season.  Currently, TCU is the College Football Belt holder [and three-time champion] and will defend that belt tonight against Minnesota, itself a former belt holder (1981…for one game).

The concept makes sense.  We can come up with our own point systems and ideas of promotion and relegation, but we have no way to truly implement that system and directly alter the college football landscape.  The belt concept allows for the declaration of champions within the framework already established.  And so, in 2013, we expanded upon the College Football Belt concept and applied it to conferences.

However, while the belt was placed on initial holders and current holders were noted, the system was not an easy one to order.  For one, the history was painstakingly pieced together manually and left room for possible omissions [say, overlooking a time when the champ actually lost, or counting tie as a loss].  Furthermore, there was no way to easily update the defense of the belts and the various stats involved.  And so, the concept died shortly after birth.

But alas, there is still air in those lungs!  And the conference belts are being resurrected!  After coming up with a way to pull information and games using various Excel formulas, we were able to create a seemingly more reliable method to chart the history.  And, by extension, we are now able to input current games and see how defenses go.  SO, as long as we do not get bored with it or overwhelmed with other projects, the conference belts should continue to live on here at Uncle Popov.

Now, before we revisit the criteria for the four different types of belts, a note.  The system and formulas used to get to this point are by no means perfect.  The historic scores and results are derived from College Football Reference and we are operating under the believe that their data is accurate.  We attempted to use media guides for teams, but two issues.  FIRST, it is a tedious process to do so.  And SECOND, guides differ in how they record year-by-year results.  Some have scores on either side of the opponent [e.g.,  55 Auburn 44]; some had scores separated by a dash and appearing after the opponent’s name [e.g., Auburn 55-44]; some used “at” or “@” to show the game is on the road [e.g. at Alabama 44-55], while others capitalized when it was a home game and used lower case for road games [e.g. AUBURN 55-44].  There were various ways to display the date of the game while in a couple of cases there were no dates at all!  There were even cases of score discrepancies for the same game between two different teams’ media guides!  Thus, having it all organized in on location like College Football Reference was better overall, even if there were occasionally a mistake in score.

Another issue was the MAC.  College Football Reference did not classify the MAC as a “major conference” until 1962, despite the fact that the conference began playing football in 1948.  Thus, it was necessary to dig through media guides and piece together the historical scores.  This was further complicated by the fact that Western Reserve would eventually merge with Case University to form Case Western, which while does still play football does NOT have the history of Western Reserve prior to the merger.  So, Western Reserve’s schedule needed to be “triangulated” using the media guides of other MAC schools, as well as any university that might have played Western Reserve during that time.

It is hoped that the lineage of all belts are as accurate as possible.  The full history of games used here stretch back to 1896, when the antecedents of the Big Ten Conference were created.  Below are the criteria for each of the four conference belts — Unified Conference; Conference Battle; Middleweight; and Heritage.

UNIFIED CONFERENCE BELTS

RULES:

  1. to qualify, a team must be a current member of the conference and have defeated all other teams of the conference that were members at the time they joined the conference.  first team to complete this task becomes the initial belt holder
  2. title defenses can only take place between two eligible members, with one obviously being the belt holder
  3. both regular season games AND bowl games count in title defenses, as do conference championship games and the College Football Playoff
  4. a title can change hands only due to a loss that occurs on the field
    1. games forfeited by the NCAA after the fact will still be judged based on the on-the-field result
    2. ties are judged as “split decisions” and the title holder retains possession
  5. teams that leave the conference lose access to the unified belt; if they leave with the belt, the team will relinquish the belt and the next two qualified teams will compete for the vacated title

DEEPER EXPLANATION: The Unified Belts are belts that only teams in that particular conference can win.  To qualify, a team must be a member of that particular conference and have beaten all teams that were members of the conference at the time that they joined.  So, for example, the Big Ten (formerly the Western Conference) started with Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin.  For Illinois to become eligible for the Unified Big Ten Belt, they would have to log a victory against each of the other six members.  Once new members joined, say Ohio State, Illinois would NOT be required to beat the Buckeyes in order to become eligible.  Ohio State, however, would have to defeat all members of the conference at the time of admission, which for them also included Indiana and Iowa, but NOT Michigan [more on that in a second].

But, what about if a team leaves a conference before a remaining member has defeated that team?  Well, that departing team is taken off of the list of teams needed to conquer before eligibility.  For example, when Arizona State left the WAC, New Mexico had yet to beat the Sun Devils.  But, because ASU was no longer a WAC member, the Lobos gained “forgiveness” for that team.  It was also the last team they needed to defeat, therefore making New Mexico eligible for the Unified WAC Belt at the beginning of the 1979 season.

Ah, but what about Michigan?  The Wolverines left the Western Conference only to rejoin later.  If a team leaves and rejoins a conference, they must then beat any additional teams that joined (and remained) during their absence.  This was the case with Marshall and Northern Illinois in the MAC, as well as Temple with the Big East/American.  However, in the case of the latter three, none became eligible during their initial run.  Michigan did become eligible before they departed.  For the Wolverines, they still needed to become eligible once again.

Now, what decides which team first gains the Unified Belt?  Simple — the first team to defeat all conference foes becomes the initial belt holder.  So, for the Unified Big Ten Belt, the first title holder was Chicago University.  The Maroons then needed to wait for other teams to become eligible in order to defend their title.  It took three years before Michigan became eligible and won the Unified Belt in their first match-up.  From there, the more teams that become eligible, the more opportunities for defenses.

What happens if a team leaves a conference with the belt?  It is “vacated” and then the belt is put up for grabs in the next matchup of two qualified teams.  When Louisville left the American Athletic Conference, they held the Unified American Belt.  So, it was vacated and awarded to the winner of South Florida versus Connecticut.  The Bulls defeated the Huskies and thus South Florida took control of the vacated title.  This was the most logical way to resolve this dilemma.

Finally, should a conference fold or cease to support football, the Unified Belt is converted into a “Heritage Belt” (explained below).  This was the case with the WAC after it ceased football operations beginning with the 2013 season.

CONFERENCE BATTLE BELTS

RULES:

  1. the initial belt holder is determined by the first outright champion of that particular conference
  2. title defenses occur anytime the game has both (A) the title holder; and (B) at least one member of that particular belt’s conference.
    1. if the title holder is a conference member, then they defend it at all times.
    2. if the title holder is NOT a conference member, then they defend it any time they face an actual member of the belt’s conference
  3. for actual conference members, titles are defended ONLY during the regular season.  for non-members, it is defended during both the regular season and bowl games.
  4. titles can only change possession due to a loss
    1. games forfeited by the NCAA after the fact will still be judged based on the on-the-field results
    2. ties are considered “split decisions” and the title holder retains possession
  5. games against lower tier opponents are non-title matches
  6. if a team drops football or goes down to a lower tier while holding a Battle Belt, the belt is “vacated” and will be awarded to the next outright conference champion
  7. if a non-conference belt holder is inactive in defense of the belt for three consecutive full seasons, they will vacate the belt to the next outright conference champion

DEEPER EXPLANATION: The Battle Belt is one that is defended more as a “any time; anywhere” type of title.  While it initially starts off in a conference — given to the first outright champion in the conference’s history — it can actually be held by non-members.

The team in possession of a Battle Belt must defend the belt any time there is at least one conference member playing in that game.  Since a conference member that holds the title meets that qualification, every game that they play while in possession of the Battle Belt is a title defense.  So, when Alabama gained control of the Battle Belt after the 1933 season, they initially defended against SEC foe Sewanee.  But later, they also defended it against a non-SEC team — Clemson.  They held onto it until the Tide lost to Mississippi State in 1935.

However, since non-members can win a conference Battle Belt, the belt can actually leave the conference.  In 1944, Notre Dame defeated Georgia Tech and took possession of the SEC Battle Belt, thus causing it to leave the conference.  While Notre Dame did successfully defend it a few times, they did not defend it in 195, 1955, and 1956  Thus, the Fighting Irish vacated the belt and it was claimed by the 1956 SEC winner — Tennessee.

There are stipulations about when the belt can be defended, depending on the title holder.  Conference members do not defend the title during bowl games, unless the bowl game is against another conference member.  This is to keep the title from drifting out to a team that rarely plays members from that conference.  However, non-members must defend during bowl games against conference members.  This is to help increase the chances for the belt to re-enter the conference, as was the case when UCLA won back the Pac-12 Battle Belt from Georgia in the 1978 Bluebonnet Bowl.

If a conference folds operations or ceases to support football, the Battle Belt is officially retired and no longer up for competition.

CONFERENCE MIDDLEWEIGHT BATTLE BELTS

While the Battle Belts are great, especially for the big conferences (i.e. BCS conferences), it is not so great for other conferences.  The Sun Belt Battle Belt has never been successfully defended by a Sun Belt team as initial belt holder North Texas lost in their only title defense versus Oklahoma in 2003.  Though the Sooners did vacate it (after one successful defense), Arkansas State was bestowed the battle belt only to promptly lose it to Oregon.  Oregon is entering its third season holding the belt, but has been inactive over the past two seasons [the Ducks will defend the belt against Georgia State this season].

Thus, to compensate for this, the four of the “Group of Five” conferences [other than the American] were bestowed Middleweight Belts.  These belts, which reigns begin with the first outright conference champion, are defended similarly to the Battle Belts with one exception — Power Five schools are ineligible.  So, while in 1997 CUSA Middleweight Belt holder Southern Miss lost to Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State and Texas A&M, those losses did not count since those teams are not classified as “Middleweight” teams.

This helps keep at least keep a form of the Battle Belt within range of these smaller conferences.  As of now, the American Athletic Conference will not be granted a Middleweight belt as their demotion from the “Power Five” has not adversely affected the conference…yet.

HERITAGE BELT

RULES:

  1. the initial belt holder is determined by the first outright champion of that particular conference
  2. rules follow those on the unified conference belts until the conference ceases operation or no longer supports football at the FBS tier.
  3. last team possessing the conference unified belt becomes the first to carry the heritage belt
  4. any former member of the conference is eligible for the heritage belt regardless of if it was a member at the same time as the current holder
  5. there is no penalty for inactivity

DEEPER EXPLANATION: The Heritage Belt was born out of the demise of the WAC.  When we first began compiling this data, the WAC was still a football-playing conference.  With its demise, it seemed fitting that something be done to carry on the memory of the Western Athletic Conference.  So, it was determined to convert the unified belt into a heritage belt.

But then, it was also determined to do the same for a few other conferences.  This includes conferences that no longer exist [the Big 8 and the Southwest Conference], as well as ones that dropped football [the Big West and WAC].  It also includes the Southern Conference, a conference that was home to teams that eventually formed the SEC and the ACC.  While the Southern Conference continues to support football at the FCS tier, it seems appropriate to give a heritage belt to a conference with such a long and storied pedigree.  It also means that many FCS teams are eligible for the belt.  The start date for the Southern Conference Heritage Belt is 1982, which is when the conference moved down to Division I-AA.

The Heritage Belt is one that is contested between ANY former member of the conference.  This is true even if two teams were not members at the same time.  Boise State defeated Arizona to win the Heritage Belt even though the Broncos were WAC members long after the Sun Devils left the conference.  This also means that teams from the FCS could potentially win the belt.  That is especially the case with the Southern Heritage Belt, where West Virginia defended the belt against William & Mary in 2013.

A decision was made to NOT give the Big East a heritage belt as the American Athletic Conference maintains the history of the conference.

Conference Belt Title Game Results for Week 1

There were seven different title defenses during Week 1, including the new WAC Heritage Belt.  Overall, the  title defenders were 5-2, with one of those losses helping a belt return to its conference.

ACC BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Clemson Tigers defeated Georgia Bulldogs (c)
  • Belt Status: Clemson’s fourth title reign
  • Next Title Defense: Sept. 19 at North Carolina State Wolfpack

C-USA BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Texas State Bobcats (c) defeated Southern Miss Golden Eagles
  • Belt Status: Texas State’s first successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: TBD

MAC BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Ohi State Buckeyes (c) defeated Buffalo Bulls
  • Belt Status: Ohio State’s 21st successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: TBD

MAC MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Result: UCF Knights (c) defeated Akron Zips
  • Belt Status: UCF’s fourth successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: TBD

SEC BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Texas A&M Aggies (c) defeated Rice Owls
  • Belt Status: Texas A&M’s third successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: Sept. 14 versus Alabama Crimson Tide
  • GAME NOTE: this is a unification match; Alabama can unify the two SEC belts with a win; Texas A&M is not eligible for the Unified SEC Belt

SUN BELT BATTLE BELT

  • Result: Oklahoma Sooners (c) defeated UL-Monroe Warhawks
  • Belt Status: Oklahoma’s third successful defense
  • Next Title Defense: TBD

WAC HERITAGE BELT

  • Result: Utah Utes defeated Utah State Aggies (c)
  • Belt Status: Utah’s first title reign
  • Next Title Defense: Sept. 21 at BYU Cougars

 

Current Holders of All Conference Belts

While the histories of each belt date back decades (and in some cases over a century), this post is to serve as a setting point going forward.  Listed are the initial holders of the belt [first team to “win” the belt] and the current holders of each belt including when they won it, who they defeated to obtain it, how many times they have held and defended it, and their next title defense.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE [formerly the Big East]:

UNIFIED AMERICAN BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Miami Hurricanes (November 6, 1993)
  • Current Title Holder: Cincinnati Bearcats [2nd reign]; vacated by Syracuse on 2013
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 at South Florida

AMERICAN BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: West Virginia Mountaineers (1993)
  • Current Title Holder: Kent State Golden Flashes [1st reign]; defeated Rutgers on October 27, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

ACC:

UNIFIED ACC BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Duke Blue Devils (November 16, 1957)
  • Current Title Holder: Florida State Seminoles [10th reign]; defeated Georgia Tech on December 1, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 versus Maryland

ACC BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Duke Blue Devils (1954)
  • Current Title Holder: Georgia Bulldogs [3rd reign]; defeated Georgia Tech on November 28, 2009
  • Current Successful Defenses: 3
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 at Clemson

BIG 12:

UNIFIED BIG 12 BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Kansas State Wildcats (November 11,1998)
  • Current Title Holder: Oklahoma Sooners [5th reign]; defeated Texas on October 13, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 2
  • Next Defense: October 12, 2013 versus Texas

BIG 12 BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Texas Longhorns (1996)
  • Current Title Holder: Arizona Wildcats [1st reign]; defeated Oklahoma State on September 8, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

BIG TEN:

UNIFIED BIG TEN BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Chicago Maroons (November 5, 1899)
  • Current Title Holder: Northwestern Wildcats [12th reign]; defeated Michigan State on November 17, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 versus Ohio State

BIG TEN BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Wisconsin Badgers (1896)
  • Current Title Holder: Iowa State Cyclones [1st reign]; defeated Iowa on September 10, 2011
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: September 14, 2013 versus Iowa

CONFERENCE USA:

UNIFIED CUSA BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Houston Cougars (October 18, 1997)
  • Current Title Holder: Rice Owls [1st reign]; vacated by SMU in 2013
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 at Tulsa

CUSA BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Southern Miss Golden Eagles (1997)
  • Current Title Holder: Texas State Bobcats [1st reign]; defeated Houston on September 1, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 at Southern Miss

CUSA MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Tulane Green Waves (1998)
  • Current Title Holder: Boise State Broncos [1st reign]; defeated Tulsa on September 24, 2011
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: September 28, 2013 versus Southern Miss

MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE:

UNIFIED MAC BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Miami Redhawks (November 5, 1949)
  • Current Title Holder: Northern Illinois Huskies [9th reign]; defeated Western Michigan on October 15, 2011
  • Current Successful Defenses: 12
  • Next Defense: October 5, 2013 at Kent State

MAC BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Cincinnati Bearcats (1947)
  • Current Title Holder: Ohio State Buckeyes [1st reign]; defeated Bowling Green on September 12, 1992
  • Current Successful Defenses: 20
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 versus Buffalo

MAC MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Marshall Thundering Herd (1998)
  • Current Title Holder: Central Florida Knights [1st reign]; defeated Buffalo on September 9, 2009
  • Current Successful Defenses: 3
  • Next Defense: August 29, 2013 versus Akron

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE:

UNIFIED MOUNTAIN WEST BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Colorado State Rams (November 2, 2000)
  • Current Title Holder: San Diego State Aztecs [2nd reign]; defeated Air Force on November 10, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: October 10, 2013 at Air Force

MOUNTAIN WEST BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Colorado State Rams (2000)
  • Current Title Holder: Florida Gators [1st reign]; defeated Wyoming on September 3, 2005
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

MOUNTAIN WEST MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Colorado State Rams (2000)
  • Current Title Holder: Toledo Rockets [1st reign]; defeated Wyoming on September 8, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

PACIFIC 12:

UNIFIED PAC-12 BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: California Bears (November 23, 1918)
  • Current Title Holder: Stanford Cardinal [18th reign]; defeated Oregon on November 17, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 2
  • Next Defense: September 21, 2013 versus Arizona State

PAC-12 BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Washington Huskies (1916)
  • Current Title Holder: LSU Tigers [1st reign]; defeated Washington on September 21, 1983
  • Current Successful Defenses: 9
  • Next Defense: TBD

SEC:

UNIFIED SEC BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Alabama Crimson Tide (November 27, 1948)
  • Current Title Holder: Alabama Crimson Tide [18th reign]; defeated Georgia on December 1, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: September 28, 2013 versus Mississippi

SEC BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: Alabama Crimson Tide (1933)
  • Current Title Holder: Texas A&M Aggies [1st reign]; defeated Alabama on November 10, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 versus Rice

SUN BELT CONFERENCE:

UNIFIED BELT of the SUN BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: North Texas Eagles (November 2, 2002)
  • Current Title Holder: UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun [5th reign]; defeated UL-Monroe on November 3, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 2
  • Next Defense: October 16, 2013 at Western Kentucky

SUN BELT BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: North Texas Eagles (2002)
  • Current Title Holder: Oklahoma Sooners [1st reign]; defeated North Texas on August 30, 2003
  • Current Successful Defenses: 2
  • Next Defense: August 31, 2013 versus UL-Monroe

SUN BELT MIDDLEWEIGHT BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: North Texas Eagles (2002)
  • Current Title Holder: Air Force Falcons [1st reign]; defeated North Texas on September 13, 2003
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: TBD

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE:

UNIFIED WAC BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: BYU Cougars (November 20, 1965)
  • Current Title Holder: Utah State Aggies [1st reign]; defeated Louisiana Tech on November 17, 2012
  • Current Successful Defenses: 1
  • Next Defense: NONE; converted to Heritage Belt

WAC BATTLE BELT

  • Initial Title Holder: New Mexico Lobos (1962)
  • Current Title Holder: Auburn Tigers [1st reign]; defeated Louisiana Tech on October 9, 2004
  • Current Successful Defenses: 3
  • Next Defense: NONE; retired

WAC HERITAGE BELT

  • Initial and Current Title Holder: Utah State Aggies (2013)
  • Current Successful Defenses: 0
  • Next Defense: August 29, 2013 at Utah

The College Football Conference Belts!

A few years ago, we here at Uncle Popov started our own college football poll.  It was prompted by the seemingly arbitrary nature not only of polls for college athletics, but also due to the seemingly arbitrary nature of FBS college football as a whole.  And, over the course of a few years, it evolved from a “voters” poll to a formula poll and now a points system.  And, this year, the point system will continue complete with promotion and relegation among the tiers.

Many people have come up with their own way for determining “champions” in college football’s top level.  This site tried to crown a champion by how many “titles” it grabs.  Basically, every team has a “title” and when you beat that team, you gain its title.  But, it does not stop there.  If Team A beat Team B, now Team A is carrying two titles — its own and that of Team B.  So, if Team C now defeats Team A, then takes all the titles owned by Team A.  Eventually, there would be one team with all of the titles — or at least the most — and we can have a “champion.”  It is a neat concept, to say the least (though it does not seem like the author carried it forward).

Interesting side note, the same author also has a “Mask of Shame” site that tracks a “mask” that follows the worst team in college football.  Whenever a team loses to the carrier of the mask, that team is shamed into wearing the mask.  There are now, apparently, two masks.

But, perhaps the most interesting and novel concept comes from this site — The College Football Belt.  Beginning with the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers, a belt was placed on them as college football’s undisputed champion.  And, every time that Nebraska took the field, they defended that belt.  Well, they lost their first title defense (against California-Los Angeles), but you get the picture.  The belt was won and lost on the field of play.  AND, it carried over.  The belt has been held by Southern California, Miami (for a record 31 defenses), and Alabama, as well as teams like Air Force, Rice, and Baylor (current holder and winner of the belt three times!).

It is an amazingly simple, yet logical and unique idea.  It is one of those things where you think to yourself, “damn!  I wish I had thought of that.”

And, thought about it I did.  And, I decided to create a belt as well.  But creating one that followed the logic of the College Football Belt would be redundant.  So, I decided to tweak it quite a bit and came up with a different concept — Conference Belts!

Yes, I have decided to create Conference Belts for each of the conferences in the FBS tier.  But, not just one belt; two or even THREE belts.  And, there is a possibility for other belts.  Let me explain the belt concepts, first.

UNIFIED CONFERENCE BELTS

RULES:

  1. to qualify, a team must be a current member of the conference and have defeated all other teams of the conference that were members at the time they joined the conference.  first team to complete this task becomes the initial belt holder
  2. title defenses can only take place between two eligible members, with one obviously being the belt holder
  3. both regular season games AND bowl games count in title defenses
  4. a title can change hands only due to a loss; ties are considered a successful defense
  5. teams that leave the conference lose access to the unified belt; if they leave with the belt, the team will relinquish the belt to that last current member of the conference to whom they lost

DEEPER EXPLANATION: The Unified Belts are belts that only teams in that particular conference can win.  To qualify, a team must be a member of that particular conference and have beaten all teams that were members of the conference at the time that they joined.  So, for example, the Big Ten (formerly the Western Conference) started with Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin.  For Illinois to become eligible for the Unified Big Ten Belt, they would have to log a victory against each of the other six members.  Once new members joined, say Ohio State, Illinois would NOT be required to beat the Buckeyes in order to become eligible.  Ohio State, however, would have to defeat all members of the conference at the time of admission, which for them also included Indiana and Iowa, but NOT Michigan [more on that in a second].

But, what about if a team leaves a conference before a remaining member has defeated that team?  Well, that departing team is taken off of the list of teams needed to conquer before eligibility.  For example, when Arizona State left the WAC, New Mexico had yet to beat the Sun Devils.  But, because ASU was no longer a WAC member, the Lobos gained “forgiveness” for that team.  It was also the last team they needed to defeat, therefore making New Mexico eligible for the Unified WAC Belt at the beginning of the 1979 season.

Ah, but what about Michigan?  The Wolverines left the Western Conference only to rejoin later.  If a team leaves and rejoins a conference, they must then beat any additional teams that joined (and remained) during their absence.  This was the case with Marshall and Northern Illinois in the MAC, as well as Temple with the Big East/American.  However, in the case of the latter three, none became eligible during their initial run.  Michigan did become eligible before they departed.  For the Wolverines, they still needed to become eligible once again.

Now, what decides which team first gains the Unified Belt?  Simple — the first team to defeat all conference foes becomes the initial belt holder.  So, for the Unified Big Ten Belt, the first title holder was Chicago University.  The Maroons then needed to wait for other teams to become eligible in order to defend their title.  It took three years before Michigan became eligible and won the Unified Belt in their first match-up.  From there, the more teams that become eligible, the more opportunities for defenses.

What happens if a team leaves a conference with the belt?  It is “vacated” and then placed on the last (current) conference member to defeat the champion, even though it might not have been a title defense.  When Air Force left the WAC, they held the Unified WAC Belt.  So, it was vacated and awarded to Fresno State — the last team to defeat the Falcons.  Fresno State gained control of the belt from the time of Air Force’s departure and NOT from the time that they actually defeated the Falcons.  This was the most logical way to resolve this dilemma.

Finally, should a conference fold or cease to support football, the Unified Belt is converted into a “Heritage Belt” (explained below).  As of right now, there is only one Heritage Belt — the WAC Heritage Belt — but others are planned for the Big 8, Southwest Conference, and possibly the Southern Conference and Big West.

CONFERENCE BATTLE BELTS

RULES:

  1. the initial belt holder is determined by the first outright champion of that particular conference
  2. title defenses occur anytime the game has both (A) the title holder; and (B) at least one member of that particular belt’s conference.  if the title holder is a conference member, then they defend it at all times.  if the title holder is NOT a conference member, then they defend it any time the face an actual member of the belt’s conference
  3. for actual conference members, titles are defended ONLY during the regular season.  for non-members, it is defended during both the regular season and bowl games.
  4. titles can only change possession due to a loss; ties are considered successful defenses
  5. games against lower tier opponents are non-title matches
  6. if a team drops football or goes down to a lower tier while holding a Battle Belt, the belt is “vacated” and will be awarded to the next outright conference champion

DEEPER EXPLANATION: The Battle Belt is one that is defended more as a “any time; anywhere” type of title.  While it initially starts off in a conference — given to the first outright champion in the conference’s history — it can actually be held by non-members.

The team in possession of a Battle Belt must defend the belt any time there is at least one conference member playing in that game.  Since a conference member that holds the title meets that qualification, every game that they play while in possession of the Battle Belt is a title defense.  So, when Alabama gained control of the Battle Belt after the 1933 season, they initially defended against SEC foe Sewanee.  But later, they also defended it against a non-SEC team — Clemson.  They held onto it until the Tide lost to Mississippi State in 1935.

However, since non-members can win a conference Battle Belt, the belt can actually leave the conference.  In 1946, Wake Forest defeat Tennessee and took possession of the SEC Battle Belt, thus causing it to leave the conference.  The Demon Deacons actually had zero title defenses for over ten years before losing it to Florida in 1957.

There are stipulations about when the belt can be defended, depending on the title holder.  Conference members do not defend the title during bowl games, unless the bowl game is against another conference member.  This is to keep the title from drifting out to a team that rarely plays members from that conference.  However, non-members must defend during bowl games against conference members.  This is to help increase the chances for the belt to re-enter the conference, as was the case when Washington won back the Pac-12 Battle Belt from Maryland in the 1982 Aloha Bowl.

There were occasions where finding records of teams playing against conference opponents proved difficult.  This was the case with the Battle Belts for both the Big Ten and the Pac-12, as “Wisconsin Alumni” and “Mather Field” won the respective titles only to either not field teams any more or just the lack of records.  In this case, the title is vacated and awarded to the next outright conference champion.  This also happened with the MAC Battle Belt when Tampa dropped football.

If a conference folds operations or ceases to support football, the Battle Belt is officially retired and no longer up for competition.  The WAC Battle Belt retired on Auburn, which won the belt from Louisiana Tech in 2004.

CONFERENCE MIDDLEWEIGHT BELTS

While the Battle Belts are great, especially for the big conferences (i.e. BCS conferences), it is not so great for other conferences.  The MAC Battle Belt has been on Ohio State since 1992 and does not appear to be going anywhere (the Buckeyes have 20 successful defenses since then).  The Battle Belt of the Sun Belt has never been successfully defended by a Sun Belt team as initial belt holder North Texas lost in their only title defense versus Oklahoma in 2003.  The Sooners are still the title holder with two successful defenses.

Thus, to compensate for this, the non-BCS conferences [other than the no-longer-supporting-football WAC] were bestowed Middleweight Belts.  These belts, which reigns begin with the first outright conference champion since the start of the BCS, are defeated similarly to the Battle Belts with one exception — BCS schools are ineligible.  So, while in 1999 CUSA Middleweight Belt holder Southern Miss lost to Nebraska, Texas A&M and Alabama, those losses did not count since those teams are not classified as “Middleweight” teams.

This helps keep at least keep a form of the Battle Belt within range of these smaller conferences.  Although, it did not help the Sun Belt as Air Force won it in North Texas’s first title defense and has not only held onto it until today…they’ve also never defended it (and won’t again this year).

HERITAGE BELT

I initially started out with the concept of two belts — the Unified Belt and the Battle Belt.  But seeing the woes of non-BCS conferences sparked the idea of the Middleweight Belt.  And now, seeing the WAC disappear from the college football landscape leads me to want to do something to honor that conference.  So, I opted to create the Heritage Belt.

A Heritage Belt appears whenever a conference ceases to exist, or in the case of the WAC stops supporting football.  It functions like a hybrid of the two main belts with more inspiration drawing from the Unified Belt rather than the Battle Belt.

The last holder of the Unified Belt becomes the initial title holder of the Heritage Belt [so, the first WAC Heritage Belt holder is Utah State].  The Aggies will defend the Heritage Belt against ANY former WAC member regardless of if they were a member at the end of the conference.  Also, all former members are eligible even if they did not complete the prerequisites for the Unified Belt.  This means that teams like UNLV, Tulsa, and Texas-San Antonio are all eligible for the Heritage Belt.

Any time the title holder plays a former member, the belt is put on the line.  For Utah State, they have a total of 10 potential title defenses, starting with Pac-12 member Utah.  Should the Utes win the title, they will actually have three potential defenses — BYU, Arizona and Arizona State.

This belt allows the legacy of the “deceased” conference to carry on.  This also encourages me to start Heritage Belts for other conferences, including the Big 8 and Southwest Conference.  I am also considering the Southern Conference, though it is tricky since the conference still exists but only at the FCS tier.  And, I am not sure how far down the line I want to go — the Big West is questionable, but do I really want to do the Skyline Conference??

FINAL POINTS!

This was an exhausting process to compile all of the information.  Everything was done manually which means that I might have missed something along the way — a loss that I did not catch or a win that I should not have counted [against an FCS team or a non-eligible team].  Hopefully if there are mistakes they are very minor and do not distort the current belt holders.  But, if you do spot a potential mistake, let me know.

Also, I am considering slightly altering the rules to the Battle Belt and the Middleweight Belt to allow for a dormancy clause.  If a team does not defend the belt within five full seasons of obtaining that belt, then the belt is vacated and is awarded to the next outright conference champion.  This would help not only the smaller conferences, but also situations like where the Pac-12 Battle Belt has remained on LSU since 1983.

Finally, I am considering other potential belts, such as an Armed Forces Belt, particular state belts (namely, California, Florida, the Carolinas, and Texas), and even Mascot Belts (tigers, bulldogs, etc.).  But not sure what the initial criteria would be in crowning those first title holders.

That’s all!  The posting of the current belt holders will come shortly.