Ranking the Conferences

Who's the best?  That is, which football conference is the strongest from top to bottom?  RaiderPower takes a look at how the conferences have fared historically, as well as who has done the best thus far this season.  Come inside to find out where the Big 12 fits in.

First, we will look at the conferences historically.  This will prove difficult due to many conferences having a longer tenure than others, but I'm going to give it my best shot.  I will be considering only how well the conferences have done in their current configuration.  In other words, what a team did before they joined their current conference means nothing.  Anyway, let's get on with it.

1. SEC - It's no secret that they play some serious defense in the SEC.  Recently, they have mostly been knocking each other out of the national championship race, but there is not any shortage of respected programs in the SEC.  Schools like Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Auburn have made their mark on football in the past as well as today.

2. Big Ten - The Big Ten beats out the Big 12 solely due to tenure.  The Big Ten is old-school football, going all the way back to 1896.  (I'm not sure if Joe Paterno was coaching Penn State at the time, but it's possible.)  It's impossible to ignore what Ohio State and Michigan have done over the years, and Penn State, Iowa, and Purdue have all had their years of glory.

3. Big 12 - This is unfortunately changing for the worse recently, but the Big 12 Conference has been strong for most of the years it has been around.  The Big 12 North had some very strong teams in the early years, as Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State were dominant.  The past six years have belonged to the South, though.  Texas and Oklahoma won National Championships, and as Texas A&M began to drop off the map, Texas Tech stepped up in their place.

4. Pac-10 - They have USC, otherwise they wouldn't be anywhere close to fourth best.  Sure, UCLA has had some good teams and Oregon is starting to come on strong recently, but lets face it, they're nothing without SC.  Cal's dynasty in the ‘20s doesn't count because it wasn't the Pac-10 at the time.

5. ACC - Remember, the ACC didn't always have Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College.  It was nothing more than a basketball conference for many, many years.  Still, it has been very impressive recently, and deserves some credit for that.  I expect the ACC to be a powerful conference for quite a while in both football and basketball.

6. Big East - They had some good years when Miami and Virginia Tech were around.  These days, however, Louisville and West Virginia just get to beat on the rest of the patsies in the conference.  Pittsburgh hasn't been good since the Larry Fitzgerald years, and everyone else is pretty damn mediocre.

7. Mountain West Conference - TCU and Utah are good teams, and BYU and New Mexico are decent.  Then there are some capable teams like San Diego State and Air Force.  But let's face it, there aren't any legitimate national championship contenders here.  With the current system, even if one of these teams were to go undefeated, they still might not get their chance.

8. Conference USA - UTEP has done well recently, and the same can be said for Memphis and Southern Mississippi.  SMU seems to be one good season away from turning it around, Houston has put together some good teams, and UAB looks like a team on the rise.

The rest of the conferences are somewhat inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  Plus, I don't want to write about the MAAC, WAC, or Sun Belt any more than you want to read about them.

Now, let's have a look at how the conferences have fared this season.

1. Big Ten - Ohio State is the real deal.  They absolutely dominated Texas last week after the rout of Northern Illinois the week before.  Michigan has gotten the job done, but faces a true test this week against Notre Dame.  Michigan State hasn't faced anyone worthwhile yet, so it's hard to predict where they are at.  Iowa is still my dark horse team, even if they did struggle last week.  They were without star QB Drew Tate against Syracuse, and their defense stepped up enough to give them the win.  What looked like an upstart Penn State team got absolutely shut down against Notre Dame last week.  Their season will be determined by how they can rebound in preparation for Ohio State.  Wisconsin might be a surprise team and pull an upset sometime during the year.  Top to bottom, the Big Ten has looked the best of all the conferences thus far.

2. SEC - LSU and Auburn have both looked like they have what it takes, and they should play a heck of a game against each other this weekend.  Florida hasn't played a tough game yet, but we find out if Chris Leak can finally shake off his underachievement reputation this week at Tennessee.  Georgia is still somewhat unproven as well.  Tennessee is a bit of an unknown.  They dominate a #9 Cal team, and then struggle to beat Air Force.  Alabama hasn't looked as dominant as they should have been in their first two games.  Spurrier and South Carolina are getting it done defensively, but must put together an offense if they expect to improve. Arkansas was supposed to give USC a tough opener, but fell flat.

3. ACC - Florida State had a good win at Miami, and then struggled against the scrappy Troy Trojans.  Boston College has done well, upsetting Clemson last week.  Maryland is simply getting the job done, and faces a real test this weekend at West Virginia.  Georgia Tech is an underrated program, giving Notre Dame all that they could handle last week.  N.C. State is going downhill, and Virginia Tech hasn't proven themselves yet. Miami faces a big game against Louisville this weekend to prove if they can be rebound after the difficult FSU loss.  Duke, North Carolina, and Wake Forest will be basketball schools until they prove something.

4. Big 12 - Colorado is killing me.  First they embarrass the North Division in the Big 12 Championship, and then start out this season with losses to Montana State and Colorado State.  This was supposed to be a resurgent Colorado team.  OU has looked shaky in their two victories, as has Iowa State.  Texas never had a chance against Ohio State, and my beloved Red Raiders struggled at UTEP.  A&M and Oklahoma State are midway through their wimpy non-conference games, so they haven't proven anything yet.  The bright spots are Nebraska, Missouri, and Baylor.  Nebraska looks like a solid team all-around, Missouri is a team on the rise under the great debut of Chase Daniel at QB, and Baylor had a strong showing against TCU.  However, the Big 12 has a tough road week as Nebraska visits USC, Iowa State visits Iowa, Tech visits TCU, and OU visits Oregon.  As much as I want to root for the Big 12, we have not had the strongest start, and face another tough weekend.

5. Big East - Okay, I'll admit that I have been an outspoken opponent of the Big East's automatic BCS bid ever since Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College departed.  However, it looks like I might be proved wrong this year.  Steve Slaton and West Virginia have been nothing short of phenomenal.  Louisville has also been impressive.  I had counted them as sunk after Michael Bush was injured, but then a pair of other running backs stepped up.  They get their true test this weekend against Miami.  Rutgers is a team that is really easy to root for, because those guys are a scrappy bunch that plays their hearts out every week.  Go Scarlet Knights.

6. Pac-10 - As usual, I'm not buying the Pac-10 hype.  The comical title of Pac-1 still seems fairly relevant, as USC again appears far and above the rest of the conference.  Cal proved to be overrated once again, as the media desperately tries to find a good Pac-10 team to hype other than USC.  Oregon had a tough time with Fresno State last week.  Arizona State is doing okay, but is liable to lose a quarterback at any moment with the way their program is going.  UCLA struggled against Rice.  Oregon State got blown out last week at Boise State.  Washington is the pleasant surprise, as they gave OU a scare last weekend.  Arizona, Stanford, and Washington State aren't scaring anyone.

7. Mountain West Conference - TCU, the flagship of the conference, had a heck of a time in their eventual defeat of Baylor.  TCU will have to prove themselves this weekend against Tech to earn my respect and move up in the polls.  Colorado State is the only other undefeated team, but it seems like that they just got the chance to take advantage of a hapless Buffaloes team.  UNLV gave Iowa State some trouble, so give them some credit.  Still, the rest of the conference is littered with losses, with two of them coming to Portland State and Virginia. Ouch.

8. Conference USA - The only undefeated team in this conference beat Rice by one point.  However, UTEP shocked a nation last week by playing a heck of a game against our talented Red Raiders.  Even at 1-1, they are still arguably the best of the conference.  Their game against Houston will likely decide the winner of the conference.  Outside of these two teams, Southern Mississippi and Memphis are likely the only teams with a chance at a bowl appearance.

We will see how the conferences fare this weekend in another great couple of days for college football.  Hopefully our Big 12 Conference steps up with some big wins and puts themselves back in their rightful place in the upper echelon of college football.

-Trent Wycoff

(Questions, comments, praise, and constructive criticism can be directed to Trent within the forums or through email at trent@raiderpower.com

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