Updated Conference Rankings...
Updated Conference Rankings
Monday, September 15, 2008
Posted by Bruce Feldman
Time for an update on the list with a look at where we have been and where we might be headed in the great debate for conference supremacy:
Preseason: 1 -- Back-to-back national titles and a stable of contenders established a powerful brand.
Early Returns: Alabama's back (perhaps); Tennessee flopped against a UCLA team that lost by 59 its next time out; and a 3-2 win for Auburn shows the Tigers' new spread isn't all cranked up yet. Still, how can you not be impressed when half the AP Top 10 is made up of SEC teams?
Prediction: Even a big upset at ASU for Georgia and Auburn going down at West Virginia couldn't shake the SEC out of the top spot.
2. Big 12
Preseason: 2 -- A ridiculously deep stash of standout QBs had the league with visions of closing on the SEC.
Early Returns: Those QBs, especially Mizzou's Chase Daniel, OU's Sam Bradford and K-State's Josh Freeman, have been even better than advertised.
Prediction: Expect some of the Big 12 defenses to improve and get closer to the No. 1 spot rather than backslide toward No. 3.
3. Big Ten
Preseason: 4 -- In many pundits' eyes, Ohio State was due.
Early Returns: The Buckeyes fizzled again -- big-time against USC -- and Michigan has been mistake-prone, but at least Penn State's offense looks sharp and Wisconsin survived a visit to Fresno.
Prediction: The Wolverines should be a lot better by the end of the season and so should OSU, assuming the Buckeyes flip the keys to the offense to Terrelle Pryor.
Preseason: 3 -- USC was the one sure thing the league had even if the Trojans had to replace four O-linemen, find a go-to receiver and see if their new QB was ready for the big stage.
Early Returns: The Trojans look great and that unproven QB Mark Sanchez has been superb. Good thing because the rest of the league is coming off a disastrous weekend, going 0-4 against the Mountain West while also seeing Cal get ambushed by a Maryland team that had just lost to Middle Tennessee.
Prediction: With the league's other top teams having to come to the Coliseum, USC should have a very smooth path to the BCS title game. If Oregon can get healthy the Ducks could emerge as a respectable second banana, which might be enough to leapfrog the Big Ten.
Preseason: 6 -- Clemson and its stacked backfield were a trendy flag bearer for a league desperate for a heavyweight.
Early Returns: Wake Forest has been solid, UNC is coming off an impressive romp at Rutgers, and Miami and FSU have flashed signs of contending for the ACC title thanks to a lot of young talent.
Prediction: The Florida schools aren't ready for the top 10 yet, but they're on the way up as is UNC to elevate the league, finally.
Preseason: 7 -- BYU and Utah were trendy picks to be the cute BCS busters, but the bottom half of the conference felt Sun Beltish.
Early Returns: Scratch that Sun Belt crack. Utah's win at Michigan was a good start, but the real headline stuff was a 4-0 head-to-head takedown of the Pac-10 that not only saw BYU thump UCLA 59-0, but also featured middle-tier MWC schools UNLV and New Mexico beating ASU and Arizona.
Prediction: There could actually be three possible BCS-buster threats if -- and this is a huge if -- TCU can again stun Oklahoma in Norman. But don't count on it.
7. Big East:
Preseason: 5 -- A Thursday night home game appeared to be the springboard West Virginia would use to bound into the top five and a possible BCS title shot.
Early Returns: If it weren't for USF rallying to beat Kansas, the league would be completely irrelevant after Pitt got upset at home by Bowling Green, WVU got pounded by ECU and the second-tier teams have come up flat on offense.
Prediction: Even if the Bulls keep winning, they're going to need a few of their league brothers to climb into the top 25 to boost the Bulls' competition stock.
8. Conference USA
Preseason: 9 -- Lots of potent offenses, suspect defenses and no apparent top-20 program.
Early Returns: ECU has the best pair of wins (VT and WVU) in the country and might be a top-10 team and Tulsa might not be far behind.
Prediction: The talk of where ECU coach Skip Holtz is heading to next will get a lot of attention over the next three months.
Preseason: 8 -- Fresno seemed intriguing and Boise has respect, but how far would Hawaii fall?
Early Returns: Fresno fell to Wisconsin, but still looks like a top-25 team. Meanwhile Hawaii might've dropped further than any team in the country since last year.
Prediction: With all of the talk about ECU and the MWC schools, people are overlooking Boise State. They shouldn't.
Preseason: 10 -- Same story as C-USA: Good O, shaky D and no elite teams.
Early Returns: Ball State has been exciting; CMU's defense still gives up a ton of points; and Buffalo is worth getting excited about.
Prediction: Ball State will scare Indiana and Buffalo coach Turner Gill will get a long look from Syracuse as the Orange seek a new direction.
11. Sun Belt
Preseason: 11 -- FAU and Troy had at least distanced themselves from the Bottom 11.
Early Returns: FAU hasn't backed up its big talk against Texas or Michigan State, but Arkansas State did beat Texas A&M and almost knocked off Southern Miss while Middle Tennessee's win over Maryland looks a lot more impressive after the Terps went out and beat Cal.
Prediction: This league is moving closer to the other non-BCS guys but needs to upset a heavyweight BCS school, not just a middle-of-the-pack squad. How about this weekend Troy taking down Ohio State … Nah.