No. 1 SEC
It wasn't a pretty Saturday for a lot of SEC teams—Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama all struggled in the first half of their games against inferior opponents. But they won, and in the end, that's all that counts.
This week we have a game that will decide who represents the West in the SEC Championship: LSU v Arkansas. All the criticism of whether or not Arkansas deserves to be No. 3 because of a perceived soft schedule will be answered. The Razorbacks will be playing with a heavy heart—tight end Garrett Uekman died Sunday morning at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville after being found unresponsible in his dorm room.
No. 2 Big 12
The Big 12 had a shocking upset on Friday when Iowa State held Oklahoma State's high-flying offense scoreless in the fourth quarter—the Cyclones beat the No. 2 Cowboys 37-31. Baylor also beat No. 5 Oklahoma 45-38, but not a lot of talking heads were shocked—Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III was in NFL beast mode and threw for 479 yards, four touchdowns and the winning touchdown with eight seconds left in the game. The Sooners had a chance to get back in the BCS Championship talks after Oklahoma State lost on Friday, but the Sooners will now have their sights set on the Big 12 Championship instead.
No. 3 Pac-12
USC is back. Yes, they can't play in any bowl, but they're causing havoc in the Pac-12. The Trojans beat the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium 38-35, stunning the Ducks and dropping them down to No. 10 in the BCS poll. USC can now ruin UCLA's shot at representing the South in the Pac-12 Championship by beating them at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Stanford vaulted up to No. 6 in the BCS polls after beating Cal in a low-scoring game, 31-28—the Cradinal's win over USC three weeks ago helped their street cred. Three Pac-12 teams are in the AP top 10, but the BCS doesn't recognize the Trojans in their poll since they are on probation—that doesn't diminish the fact that the Pac-12 still remains strong.
No. 4 Big Ten
Penn State beat Ohio State 20-14 but with a 9-2 record, they're only ranked No. 19 in the BCS poll. The Nittany Lions keep games close with some solid defense but the only two currently ranked teams they have played—Alabama and Nebraska—both beat the Nittany Lions.
Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin all have 9-2 records and if you just look at the records alone, the Big Ten looks like a very strong conference. But after watching those four teams play, none of them look like a top ten team and in fact, the highest ranked Big Ten team in the BCS poll is No. 14 Michigan State.
No. 5 ACC
Technically, Clemson didn't hurt themselves in the ACC after their blow-out loss to NC State—they've alread clinched the Atlantic. But considering that three of the top five BCS teams lost last week, Clemson could have actually gotten into the BCS Championship talks if they had beaten NC State. The Tigers didn't step up and take the next step.
Meanwhile Virginia Tech is now sitting at No. 5 in the BCS poll and has to beat Virginia to play Clemson in the ACC Championship. Do the Hokies look like a No. 5 team? It's hard to say since their schedule has been so soft, but playing for all the marbles against Virginia, a team that has had a remarkable year with a fanatstic coach in Mike London, should give pause to those who think the ACC is a strong conference this year.
6. Big East
Here's a mind-numbing thought: all eight Big East teams could go bowling yet not one of the conference's teams is ranked in the BCS top 25. What that means is that the Big East has the potential to send all of their teams bowling but their performances have been unimpressive and the pollsters have taken notice. It also means that one of these teams gets an automatic berth to a BCS bowl.
Good for the Big East, but to think a team like Alabama, Arkansas or LSU may not get a BCS bowl berth but a Big East team will certainly adds fuel to the playoff proponents' arguments.