Remarkably, we are heading into the second half of the season so what better time to rate the conferences? Here is just one man’s opinion. Please give me yours.
1. SEC: I’ve gotten all kinds of notes telling me how down the SEC is this season. Florida is No. 1 and Alabama is No. 2 and both are winning ugly. Some of that is by design. LSU is 5-1 and ranked No. 9 but could have easily lost to Mississippi State and Georgia. Ole Miss (4-2) has been a disappointment based on preseason expectations. Auburn started 5-0 but has faded with losses to Arkansas and Kentucky. Georgia has all kind of issues. I’ll agree that the SEC is not as strong top to bottom as it was a year ago. But it’s still the toughest conference in the country and has a good chance to post its fourth straight national championship.
2. Big 12: Like the SEC, the Big 12 is not as strong as it was a year ago when Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech, all finished the regular season 11-1 and Oklahoma and Texas finished 2-3 in the final BCS Standings. Still the league is pretty strong. Texas is not as good offensively as Colt McCoy simply hasn’t put up the numbers he did in 2008. Oklahoma’s three losses have been by a total of five points and all have been on the road or on neutral sites. Oklahoma State (5-1) has bounced back nicely from a loss to Houston, but the Cowboys may be without receiver Dez Bryant for the rest of the season. I thought Nebraska (4-2) was making a comeback until the Cornhuskers got whacked by Texas Tech (5-2) last week.
3. ACC: I’ll admit that the Atlantic Division is not very good. Boston College (5-2), which was picked to finish dead last, leads the division while Clemson (3-3) is starting to show a few signs of life. But the ACC gets this rating because of Georgia Tech (5-1), Miami (5-1) and Virginia Tech (5-2), which are all rated in the top 14 of the BCS. And Virginia (3-3, 2-0) is on top of the division and awaits a visit from Georgia Tech on Saturday.
4. Big East: Everybody likes to beat on this league but I think it’s pretty good. Cincinnati (6-0) is ranked No. 5 in the BCS and has a very good chance to run the table if quarterback Tony Pike (arm surgery) is able to play down the stretch. South Florida (5-1) beat Florida State in Tallahassee and the Bulls’ only loss is to Cincinnati. West Virginia’s (5-1) only loss was on the road to Auburn. Pittsburgh (6-1) might be the best team in the league. The Panthers host Cincinnati on Dec. 5. Connecticut (4-2) and Rutgers (4-2) are both very competitive.
5. Big Ten: Here we are at the halfway point and No. 6 Iowa (7-0) is the leader in the clubhouse. The Hawkeyes are pretty good on defense but spotty on offense. They needed to block back-to-back field goals to beat Northern Iowa (17-16) in the opener. They had to rally to get past Arkansas State (24-21). Ohio State (5-2) lost to Purdue. Penn State (6-1) didn’t play anybody early in the season and lost to Iowa at home. There is really nobody special in this league and the winner faces the real possibility of again getting waxed in the Rose Bowl by USC.
6. Pac-10: The problem with this league is that every time one of their teams gets some love, it seems to fall off the face of the Earth. USC (5-1) is No. 7 in the BCS but this is not a vintage Trojan team. But it is good enough to win the Pac-10 again which tells you everything you need to know about the league. Oregon (5-1) deserves a lot of credit for bouncing back from an opening loss to Boise State. The Ducks just might be good enough to beat USC on Oct. 31 in Eugene. But after those two teams this league is two miles of bad road. Arizona (4-2) is No. 22 but California (4-2), Stanford (4-3), and UCLA (3-3) have been disappointments.
7. Mountain West: It was very tempting to put the MWC ahead of the Pac-10 and I still could be talked into it. I really like TCU (6-0), which is No. 8 in the BCS. Quarterback Andy Dalton has 23 career victories, second in school history to the great Sammy Baugh, who had 29. Jerry Hughes could be the best defensive end in the country. The best game of the week is TCU at BYU (6-1), which has beaten Oklahoma and somehow lost to Florida State. Utah (5-1) is not as good as last season but the Utes could still win this league.
8. Conference USA: Houston (5-1) has the nation’s leading passer in Case Keenum (416.83 ypg) and has already posted wins over Big 12 opponents Oklahoma State and Texas Tech plus a win over Mississippi State of the SEC. The Cougars’ only loss was to league foe UTEP (58-41) in a crazy game. Tulsa (4-2) isn’t as good as a year ago, but its only losses have come to Oklahoma and Boise State. SMU (3-3) is average now but, under June Jones, it’s only a matter of time before the Mustangs are com. East Carolina (4-3) is the defending champ and still very much in the conference race.
9. WAC: Boise State (6-0) is a good football team with quarterback Kellen Moore, but trust me when I tell you that the Broncos’ No. 4 ranking in the BCS will not last. Because of a weak schedule, Cincinnati, Iowa, USC, and TCU could all pass Boise before the season is over. The rest of the league is pretty average and the Broncos won’t be pressed too much to go 13-0. They go on the road to face Derek Dooley’s Louisiana Tech team (3-3) on Nov. 6 and then host Idaho (6-1) on Nov. 14.
10. Mid-American: Here is something you probably didn’t know. Ohio and Temple sit atop the standings in the MAC’s East Division. Temple (4-2) has won four straight games for the first time since 1985. Central Michigan (6-1) should win the West Division behind quarterback Dan LeFevour. There are teams on the rise like Bowling Green (3-4), who has Freddie Barnes, who leads the nation in catches (12.1) per game.
11. Sun Belt: My money is on Troy (4-2), which has won four straight games since opening the season with losses to Bowling Green and Florida. The Trojans should win Saturday against North Texas and then they host a big game with Louisiana-Monroe (4-2) on Oct. 31. First place in the conference will probably be at stake.
Please follow me on Twitter: