The East looks very average right now. Georgia is on a roll, but look who they've rolled: Coastal Carolina, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee. Meh. The three SEC teams they've beaten have a combined record of 8-8 while the two teams they have lost to have a combined 10-1 record.
Tennessee is going to struggle for the next six weeks after quarterback Tyler Bray broke his thumb and Florida has been spanked for two straight weeks by Alabama and LSU. So it looks like Georgia and South Carolina are the strengths of the East with Georgia having the easier path but on the wrong end of the tie-breaker if they end up with the same conference record.
Arkansas took care of Auburn, Alabama shut out Vanderbilt and LSU embarrassed Florida. This is life in the West. Alabama and LSU can control their own destinies but LSU has a much more difficult path—expect this to be a bone of contention for Tigers head coach Les Miles if the Tigers and the Crimson Tide both have a loss but only one can represent the West in the SEC Championship.
2. Big 12
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State are all for real. Granted, they haven't had a lot of competition but they're still getting love—and deservedly so— from the pollsters and most everyone else outside the South. Kansas State is the real surprise, especially since their offense's productivity is suspect—the Wildcats can run the ball very well but if they fall behind, it's going to be difficult to play catch-up with their No. 117 ranked passing offense. Still, a run-oriented offense with a great defense sounds very championship-like and we need to keep an eye on them.
Two teams that look unstoppable are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Bedlam Series between these two teams has been very lopsided in favor of Oklahoma, but this year's game may be another nail-biter like last year's game. Baylor and Texas Tech both look very good, but Tech has played only one decent team (Texas A&M) and that resulted in a loss. The same can be said about 4-1 Baylor. They too have only had one test (Kansas State) and the Bears lost.
While the Big 12 appears to be stronger than the SEC on paper, the SEC has more difficult games under its belt and thus, the SEC remains one notch ahead of the very strong Big 12. Barely.
3. Big Ten
Ohio State won't be challenging for a Big Ten title this year—the Buckeyes are 0-2 in the conference after Nebraska overcame a 21-point deficit and beat the Buckeyes 34-27. Wisconsin is the class of the conference with both Michigan and Illinois still not completely selling me on their 6-0 records. The Illini did beat a very good Arizona State team but beating Indiana, Northwestern, Arkansas State, South Dakota State and Western Michigan certainly inflates that 6-0 record. Michigan is in a similar situation—lots of cupcakes in their pantry—but they still have Michigan State, Illinois, Nebraska and a ho-hum Ohio State left on their schedule.
So it looks like Wisconsin and a sleeper Illinois will fight for the Leaders division crown. The Legends division is a bit of a mess — Nebraska looks very suspect and Michigan State played a downtrodden Ohio State as one of its marquee games (their loss to Notre Dame being the other). Iowa could only muster three points against a Penn State team whose offense has no pulse and Michigan doesn't look like a complete team yet.
We can probably count on the Big Ten for five to six bowl teams which makes them a step ahead of the Pac-12.
Stanford and Oregon continue to be the strength of the conference, but unfortunately, they're both in the North division. Oregon has one non-conference loss but like the two big boys in the SEC (Alabama and LSU), Oregon will have to beat the best team in its division (Stanford) just to get to the conference championship. Washington State lost to UCLA so that puts things back in perspective for the inhabitants of Pullman, Wash. The Washington Huskies are undefeated in conference play beating both Cal and Utah—they get a 1-5 Colorado team next week—but their schedule gets tougher after Colorado with Stanford, Oregon, and USC on the slate.
The South looks pretty clear with Arizona State leading the pack but UCLA continues to be the mouse that roared—the Bruins have the same conference record (2-1) as the USC Trojans but a much easier schedule. USC has Notre Dame, Stanford, Washington, Oregon and UCLA as their road blocks while the Bruins only have Arizona State and USC. I'm not sold on UCLA as a contender but when you have a team's coach fighting for his job, it's the cornered dog syndrome — that dog can bite hard.
With five probable bowl teams (USC is forbidden by the NCAA to participate in any extra games this year), the Pac-12 stays a tad behind the Big Ten.
The ACC has one team that looks like a player with one other perennial contender a step behind. Clemson is the darling of the ACC and unless they stumble against North Carolina, Georgia Tech or Wake Forest, they look like a lock to win the Atlantic. Wake Forest is a surprise in the Atlantic with a 3-0 conference record but two of the teams they beat—Boston College and NC State — probably won't sniff a bowl berth this year. Because the Eagles have one win against UMass and the Wolfpack have three wins over two FCS schools and Central Michigan, I'm not on the Wake Forest bandwagon.
Georgia Tech is 6-0 (3-0 in ACC) but there are some issues. The Yellow Jackets can't seem to play four quarters of football and with Virginia Tech and Clemson still on their schedule, their lack of fourth quarter fortitude may come back to haunt them. Florida State looks like toast due to too many key personnel injuries and we have two basketball schools still in contention for the Coastal division—North Carolina and Duke.
Before we get alarmed, the reason why they are where they are is because Miami and Virginia Tech each have a loss (as well as North Carolina). But North Carolina still has Clemson, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Duke on their schedule, so I don't see them hanging around for long. Duke also hasn't played the meat of their schedule with Florida State, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Miami, Virginia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina still remaining.
Bottom line is that most of the teams will beat each other up in a conference with a lot of parity and three teams look like the contenders; Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
6. Big East
The Big East continues to dwell in mediocrity. It looks like West Virginia is the king and everybody else is fighting to keep their heads above water. The Mountaineers walloped UConn in the second half of the game winning 43-16 and remain undefeated in conference play. Rutgers, who took down one of the conference's perennial contenders, Pitt, is also undefeated in conference play and leading the Big East at 2-0.
Right now, it's a mixed bag in the Big East—both Louisville and Cincinnati have yet to play a conference game—with most of the teams having a shot at winning the crown. If you have to go strictly on a team passing the eyeball test, Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia should be fighting it out until the bitter end. The problem for South Florida is that they travel to Rutgers in November and the Bulls have been known to let cold weather affect their level of play. West Virginia still looks like the best the Big East has to offer.
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