1. Big 12
There is only one team in the Big 12 that isn't very good and that's Kansas. The rest of the conference looks solid. What we have in the Big 12 are seven teams with winning records and of those seven teams, three are undefeated. Sure that will change as the season wears on, but the bottom line is that even a 3-3 Missouri will upset a Big 12 team. So may Iowa State.
Oklahoma has one win over a currently ranked team while Oklahoma State has two. Kansas State has zero wins over a currently ranked team, but they are a strong running team with good defense and special teams. They're not sexy, but they are fundamentally sound. Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas are all good teams that could be bowling this year. In fact, Texas seems to be much improved from the beginning of the season even though they got walloped by Oklahoma over a week ago. I've been critical of Oklahoma in the past five years because I had thought the Sooners had been a tad overrated. This year, I think they look like world-beaters. There is a lot of good football being played in flyover country right now.
SEC fans will resent seeing the SEC in second place, but right now the league has two very good teams (LSU and Alabama), one good team (Arkansas) and two teams that are question marks (Auburn and South Carolina). Only one team from the SEC East is ranked and that same team -- the Gamecocks -- don't have one currently ranked team in its win column. Auburn has one win over a ranked opponen -- South Carolina. All this adds up to pollsters giving credit to some SEC teams based solely on the reputation of the conference, which usually is very strong, but this year doesn't look as strong from top to bottom.
Georgia is making a huge comeback with four straight conference wins, but who were those four teams they beat? Vanderbilt (3-3), Tennessee (3-3), Mississippi State (3-4) and Ole Miss (2-4). That's a combined overall record of 11-12 and their combined conference record is even worse at 1-13. We expect that in some conferences but not in the SEC.
Does this second-place ranking mean the SEC's champ isn't the best team in the country? Absolutely not. Either LSU or Alabama may be the best team in the country, but that doesn't mean the conference as a whole is the strongest because of that. Look at it this way: if Boise State won the BCS Championship, does that mean the Mountain West is the best conference? Just something for you to think about.
3. Pac-12 & Big Ten (tie)
The Big Ten was looking pretty good entering Week 7, but Michigan lost fairly convincingly to Michigan State 28-14 despite the Spartans racking up 124 yards of penalties. That's an impressive obstacle to overcome. Wisconsin looks absolutely dominant, but who have they played besides Nebraska? The Badgers don't have a great resume but they do look like a world-beater. The hype over Illinois faded fast after Ohio State beat the Illini and Penn State won again, this time beating Purdue. The Nittany Lions' defense looks spectacular while their offense does not, and yet here they sit atop the Leaders division board sporting a 3-0 conference record with wins over Indiana, Iowa and Purdue. Penn State is winning, but it's hard to get excited about them just yet.
Nebraska is interesting in that they have two quality wins over Washington and Ohio State but they are missing a lock-down defense. Yes, the defensive performances haven't been what Cornhusker fans expected this year but the bottom line is that they are winning -- their one loss was to a Wisconsin team that has made everyone look silly thus far. Overall, the Big Ten has one great team (Wisconsin) and several good-to-very-good teams in Nebraska, Michigan State and Penn State, but those last two teams are still question marks.
The Pac-12 didn't have a lot of surprises this week as the haves and the have nots are starting to distance themselves from each other. Oregon (5-1) and Stanford (6-0) are the conference's headliners and both teams had superb performances over the weekend. The Cardinal are still not getting a lot of respect from the pollsters (No. 8 in the BCS), but maybe that's because they haven't beaten one team that currently holds a winning record -- both Duke and Washington State had winning records prior to this last Saturday's contests but now are .500 teams.
The Ducks beat a very good Arizona State team 41-27 despite playing without LaMichael James (elbow) and quarterback Darron Thomas, who left the game early in the second half with a leg injury. The Washington Huskies are 5-1 and 3-0 in conference play and, like the Big Ten's Penn State, are hanging around not getting a lot of attention yet. The Huskies play at Stanford this Saturday. USC had a bye and travels to South Bend this weekend. If they beat the Irish, they'll put a lid on Notre Dame's hopes for a BCS Bowl berth. While USC can't play in postseason, playing the role of the spoiler might give them extra incentive. Overall, the Pac-12 has two very good teams in Stanford and Oregon, two to three good teams (Arizona State, Washington and USC) and a few spoilers (Washington State, UCLA and Utah) lurking around.
All eyes are on Clemson. The Tigers are 7-0, ranked No. 7 and stand alone at the top of the Atlantic division. Wake Forest is the only team left in the Atlantic with a winning record. In fact, the ACC has six teams with winning records. But it's the teams that don't have those winning records in the ACC that are concerning, including Boston College, Miami and Florida State.
Some may argue that it's just conference parity playing out, but North Carolina is a perfect example of downgrading the credibility of a conference when looking at it under a microscope. The Tar Heels are 5-2 with wins over James Madison, Rutgers, Virginia, East Carolina and Louisville -- the combined record of their FBS opponents is 13-11 -- and two losses against Georgia Tech and Miami. In a nutshell, the Tar Heels aren't a dominating team and aren't a bad team, they're just average, which pretty much describes most of the conference.
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are the teams to beat in the Coastal. The Hokies' one loss was to Clemson, the same team that Georgia Tech plays on Oct. 29. Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech square off on Thursday, Nov. 10 in a contest that will most likely decide the Coastal champion. At this point in the season, the ACC has one great team that has beaten the conference's perennial big boy (Virginia Tech) and thus, the ACC stays behind the Pac-12 and Big Ten.
5. Big East
Rutgers, Cincinnati and West Virginia are all undefeated in conference play and have 5-1 records. It sounds good, doesn't it? Here are the teams West Virginia has beaten: Marshall, Norfolk State, Maryland, Bowling Green and UConn. Cincinnati posted wins over Austin Peay, Akron, NC State, Miami(OH) and Louisville. Rutgers has the most impressive resume with victories over North Carolina Central, Ohio, Syracuse, Pitt and Navy.
The problem for the Big East is obvious. Because they have to schedule five non-conference games a season, one of those games has to be against another BCS conference team to give some semblance of credibility to the conference. But the Big East's record this year against non-conference BCS teams is 5-10 and for that reason alone, the conference simply doesn't have enough of the right stuff to climb up in the BCS conference rankings.
*all noted rankings are based on the BCS poll
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