Who are the conference favorites?

— -- Who will win each conference? Sometimes the numbers don't lie. Other times, it's better to go with a gut feeling from a college football expert to pick a winner.

Between analytics and experts, here's who we think will win each league.


FPI: Washington Huskies, 61 percent chance to win

Sharon Katz:?Washington is the most likely Power 5 team to win its conference, according to our Football Power Index. Yes, the Huskies have a long way to go to prove they are championship worthy, but they have a 61 percent chance to win the Pac-12 for a few key reasons. First, Washington is really good in all three phases of the game; it is the only team in the country that ranks in the top 15 in offensive, defensive and special teams efficiency. Next, after beating Stanford last week, Washington already has a big lead in the Pac-12 North. The FPI gives the Huskies an 84 percent chance to win their division, best of any FBS team, and then would favor them by at least 6.5 points against any team from the Pac-12 South. Before looking ahead to a Pac-12 title game, however, Washington needs to snap its 12-game losing streak against Oregon this weekend.

Mark Schlabach: No argument here. I watched Washington roll over Stanford 44-6 on Friday night and was very impressed. The Huskies should be heavy favorites in their next two games at Oregon and home against Oregon State, but then it gets a little bit tricky. They play road games at No. 24 Utah and Cal in consecutive weeks and then close with three tough games against USC (home), Arizona State (home) and Washington State (road). Stanford's most difficult games are in its rearview mirror, and the Cardinal play only one more game against an opponent that's currently ranked: at home against No. 21 Colorado on Oct. 22. But Washington will have to lose twice in Pac-12 play for Stanford to win the North, and I'm not sure that's going to happen.


FPI: Clemson Tigers, 60 percent chance to win

Katz: Clemson grabbed hold of the ACC Atlantic with its 42-36 win against Louisville (and Florida State's loss to UNC) last week. The Tigers have an 80 percent chance to win their division, which might even be conservative given that they would win a head-to-head tiebreaker over Louisville if it came to that point. North Carolina or Miami could certainly give Clemson problems in the ACC championship game, but the FPI would favor the Tigers by about a touchdown against either of those teams right now. The Tigers are currently the most likely team in the country to finish as a Power 5 conference champion with zero or one loss (55 percent chance), which is almost certainly a ticket to the College Football Playoff.

Schlabach: Clemson is definitely in the driver's seat in the ACC, and the Tigers proved last season that they're more than capable of handling the pressure. I don't think there's any way they lose two games during the regular season. If North Carolina wins the Coastal Division, I could see the Tar Heels' high-octane offense giving the Tigers problems again in the ACC championship game. I still think Miami is a recruiting class or two away from being good enough on defense to contend with Clemson.

Big 12

FPI: Oklahoma Sooners, 56 percent chance to win

Katz: Baylor and West Virginia may be undefeated, but the FPI still favors the two-loss Sooners to win the Big 12. Oklahoma lost two games against good opponents and is still expected to be the strongest team in the Big 12 going forward. The Sooners certainly have holes, but so does every team in the Big 12. They already have a key win at TCU and have the luxury of hosting Baylor and Oklahoma State later in the season. Either way, the Big 12 has an 86 percent chance of having a conference champion with two or more losses and a 55 percent chance of having a champ with three or more.

Schlabach: After watching Baylor's defense against Iowa State, I agree that Oklahoma might be the best team in the Big 12. The Sooners lost difficult nonconference games against Houston and Ohio State, but they're as good as anybody in the Big 12 on offense. OU's defense certainly has its holes, but so does every other Big 12 defense. With Baker Mayfield,? Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, I think OU probably has the most firepower to go unscathed the rest of the way.

Big Ten

FPI: Ohio State Buckeyes, 52 percent chance to win

Katz: Like the rest of the world, the FPI sees the Big Ten as a two-team race between Michigan and Ohio State. Those rivals have a combined 84 percent chance to win the Big Ten, the highest combined winning percentage for the top two teams in any Power 5 conference. In the preseason, FPI favored Michigan because of Ohio State's inexperience (six returning starters), but the Buckeyes have silenced their doubters by winning their first four games by a combined 191 points. Ohio State now sits atop the FPI?with a 52 percent chance to win the Big Ten. One key to their conference projection is that they host Michigan on Nov. 26. The FPI gives them a 2-in-3 chance to win that game and at least an 83 percent chance to beat any team from the Big Ten West in a potential conference championship game.

Schlabach: I picked Michigan to win the Big Ten this summer, so I'm not going to back off that projection now. But Ohio State has certainly surprised me during the first five weeks of the season. I expected the Buckeyes to take a big step back after losing so many juniors to the NFL draft, but Urban Meyer has done a masterful job reloading his team. I'm not very confident in my Michigan pick at this point. The Wolverines lost to a reeling OSU team 42-13 in the Big House in 2015, and they have to play the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe in the regular-season finale.


FPI: Alabama Crimson Tide, 41 percent chance to win

Katz: The most wide-open conference in the eyes of the FPI is the SEC, where Alabama is the favorite (41 percent), but Tennessee (30) and Texas A&M (18) are not far behind. We will know a lot more about the trajectory of this conference after those three teams play each other over the next three weeks. Currently, Alabama is projected to be the strongest team by a decent margin, but it has a much harder path to the SEC championship game than Tennessee, which, thanks to two improbable comebacks against Florida and Georgia, has an 84 percent chance to make it to Atlanta. The only other reason that the defending champs are not running away with the projections is that the FPI still has doubts about Alabama's offense, which ranks 47th in efficiency through five games.

Schlabach: It's the easiest choice to make for me: Alabama is going to win the SEC. The Crimson Tide might lose once, but they're not going to lose twice. I don't see any other team in the SEC West going through the schedule unscathed. I think Ole Miss is probably the second-best team in the West, and Texas A&M might not be far behind the Rebels. Alabama's defense will carry the Tide to another SEC championship.

Best conference

Katz: At ESPN Stats & Information we produce weekly conference power rankings, which equally weigh the FPI (to measure conference depth) and the votes from the AP poll (to measure strength at the top) to determine the strongest and weakest conferences in the country. The SEC began the year atop the rankings, but after a slow start, the Big Ten nearly overtook it in Weeks 3 and 4. Now, the ACC is on the rise, but still trails the SEC by a fairly wide margin.

With five of the top 16 teams in the AP poll, including No. 1 Alabama, the SEC still has the strength at the top. The case can be made that the ACC's top teams rival the SEC's, but they lack the overall depth with Duke, Boston College, Syracuse and Virginia all ranking in the bottom half of the FBS in the FPI (only Kentucky is in the bottom for the SEC). On the other half of the equation, the Pac-12 rivals the SEC's depth, but it lacks the strength at the top with only two teams in the top 16 in the AP poll. The SEC may not be as strong as it was in seasons past, but based on its overall strength, it is still the top conference in the country.

Schlabach: I think you could certainly argue that the ACC is every bit as good -- or even better than the SEC this season. Clemson and Louisville might be two of the best five (or four?) teams in the country, and there's pretty good depth with Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Florida State's defense is a mess, but the Seminoles still have a lot of firepower on offense and might get it turned around on defense.

The SEC is top-heavy again, with Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M carrying the flag. Ole Miss might be the country's best two-loss team, and while Tennessee has been very fortunate in its last two wins, it keeps winning. But the rest of the SEC has plenty of issues. Georgia has serious deficiencies on both lines of scrimmage and is playing a freshman quarterback. Florida's offense looks pretty mediocre (or worse) again, and LSU has already fired its coach.