SEC, ACC are deepest. But who has best conference?

We just completed our next-to-last weekend before the season starts. So what did we learn?

1.  SEC, ACC are the deepest conferences: We can argue all day about who has the best conference in college football. Is it the SEC with six teams in the Top 25 and two in the Top 10? Or is it the Big 12 with three teams in the Top 10 but with nobody else ranked? There is no winner in that argument.

What I like to do is use the polls (in this case the AP poll) to break down the conferences by depth. How many teams were ranked plus how many teams actually got votes?

SEC (8): Six ranked (Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, Georgia). Two more got votes (South Carolina, Ole Miss.)

ACC (7): Five ranked (Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, UNC, FSU). Two more got votes (Clemson, BC).

Big 12 (7): Three ranked (Texas, OU, Nebraska). Four more got votes (Missouri, Texas Tech, Texas A&M), Oklahoma State).

Pac-10 (6): Three ranked (Oregon, USC, Oregon State). Three more got votes (Stanford, Arizona, Washington).

Big Ten (4): Four ranked (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State). No others got votes.

Big East (4): Two ranked (Pittsburgh, West Virginia). Two others go votes (Cincinnati, Connecticut).

2. Tennessee really had no choice on UNC game: Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton is getting hammered by his fans for trying to buy out a two-game series with North Carolina in 2011 and 2012 and replacing the Tar Heels with Buffalo. It’s easy to understand why the fans are mad. Such a decision makes it look like the Vols are ducking North Carolina (which they are) and it gives opponents, like Steve Spurrier, a free shot (which he gleefully took).

But when your program is down–and Tennessee’s is way down thanks to 14 months under the Boy Wonder–you have to make some tough, unpopular decisions. You can pretend that nothing is wrong and still keep the same schedule. Or you can swallow your pride and modify the non-conference schedule in the short term to give Derek Dooley a chance to rebuild the program.

And let’s face it. Hamilton is fighting for his professional life as well. He needs for Dooley to have some success sooner rather than later. It was a tough decision but the right decision. And the right decisions are not always popular.

3. The WAC is in trouble as a Division I football conference: I spoke to WAC Commissioner Karl Benson on Thursday. He is not having a good summer. Back in June Boise State, the flagship football program of the WAC, announced it was headed to the Mountain West Conference in 2011. On Thursday the Mountain West took two more of Benson’s schools, Fresno State and Nevada. And this was right after he met with the presidents of the league, who all agreed to the idea that each school must pay $5 million penalty to leave the conference. Then the MWC picked up the phone when BYU threatened to leave. Nevada and Fresno will pay the $5 million. They want to go in 2011. Benson will fight to keep them until 2012.

Bottom line: The WAC had better hope that Boise State has another magical run this season. Because its long-term future as a football conference at this level does not look good.

Just asking: If you’re WAC member Louisiana Tech, shouldn’t you be on the phone begging to get into Conference USA or the Sun Belt?

4. I hope Scott Stricklin has an extra $130,000 in the bank: Stricklin is Mississippi State’s new athletics director and back in the spring helped forge a compromise that will allow Bulldog fans to bring their beloved cowbells to home games in Starkville. But there is one stipulation: Fans cannot ring the bells at inappropriate times like, for example, when the visiting team is trying to run a play. Strickland and his staff have launched an education program hoping to get their fans to buy in and follow the rules of when to ring–and more importantly–when not to ring.

If they don’t, the conference rules that apply to artificial or electronically generated sound kick in: The first violation is a $5,000 fine. The second is $25,000. Every violation after that costs a cool $50,000.

Four SEC home games in Starkville. You do the math. Stricklin will probably have to write a check or have $130,000 deducted from Mississippi State’s revenue check next spring. Fans can’t help it. That is why they are fans. And that’s why we love them.

5. The NCAA Clearinghouse is broken: I understand that the NCAA Academic Clearinghouse is understaffed and overworked. I also understand that these situations are always more complicated than they appear. But there is something fundamentally wrong about a freshman who has gone through training camp being told in mid-to-late August that he is not academically eligible to play. Such was the case late last week when Alfy Hill, an Alabama signee from Shallotte, N.C., was suddenly declared ineligible.  The Clearinghouse ruled that a couple of online courses Hill took would not be counted towards his eligibility. So suddenly the kid is ripped out of Tuscaloosa and will apparently enroll at East Carolina instead. He’ll have to sit out this year and cannot be on scholarship.

Maybe these online courses raised a red flag. Maybe they should raise a red flag. Maybe this is part of  what seems to be a larger NCAA crackdown on just about everything from agents to living quarters. Whatever. Either the kid is eligible or he’s not. But he shouldn’t find out this late in the game.

Is it any wonder that kids take stuff from agents and others? They know the system is stacked against them. If the school signs too many players, they can get their scholarship yanked two weeks before class begins. Sorry kid. It’s a numbers game.

And what if the Clearinghouse drags its feet or is too understaffed to process the cases in a timely fashion? That’s just too bad for you, young man. Now you have to pack up and go home. I guess it’s tough being you right now.

Bottom line: All Clearinghouse cases involving football players must be resolved by August 1. No exceptions. Hire the staff. Other than rules enforcement and conducting championships, what does the NCAA do that is more important than this?

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440 comments Add your comment

Ash

August 23rd, 2010
8:01 am

I know almost nothing about the NCAA Clearinghouse, but I’m always skeptical when someone says a organization is “broken” when it makes a ONE mistake out of thousands of cases it handles in a year. Honestly, if the AJC only made one mistake a DAY I’d drop dead of shock.

Ash

August 23rd, 2010
8:02 am

I’d also drop dead of shock if I made less than one mistake per comment.

Grantland Rice

August 23rd, 2010
8:04 am

Not sure I agree with you about UT buying out of the UNC series. Replacing them with Buffalo? Another huge embarrassment for the Vols.

Purple Drank

August 23rd, 2010
8:05 am

Four consecutive BCS National Championships. Shut up GT fan…just shut it.

que

August 23rd, 2010
8:06 am

It is too easy to say the whole NCAA should be replaced but that is the case.

T-Bone

August 23rd, 2010
8:10 am

TommyJack

August 23rd, 2010
8:12 am

Good, frank, and unbiased comments on UT/Hamilton. Better days ahead. But not this year. GBO.

Spike

August 23rd, 2010
8:14 am

UT dropping UNC to play Buffalo? That is a joke, right? Come on Big Orange!! HAHAHAHAHAHAH.

TommyJack

August 23rd, 2010
8:19 am

No Spike, no joke. What IS A JOKE, is Bama scheduling Georgia STATE. That’s chilling.

Kool Breeze

August 23rd, 2010
8:20 am

Big 12 will play big in 2010–OU, Texas, Nebraska, Miss, T A&M, one of those teams will be in the Nationla Championship (OU or Nebraska).

Thanks to Georgia, the SEC will be represented this season, because Alabama & Florida will both struggle and go 9-3. LSU, Auburn, & SC will all go 8-5. Georgia however, will fly, and go undefeated in 2010 and win the National Championship. Arkansas will have a big year and win the SEC West, hands down. Georgia will win the SEC East.

G Time

August 23rd, 2010
8:23 am

Derek Dooley’s 17-20 as a head coach. He’ll be fired soon, regardless of who’s on his schedule, the guy just can’t coach.

Football Fan

August 23rd, 2010
8:24 am

1. The SEC East has really dropped off in the last couple of years.
The ACC Coastal has really risen up in the last couple of years.
2. “Tennessee really had no choice” ??? Yes they did. They could honor their commitment and their contract. For 2011 and 2012 whenever anyone tallys up wins and losses of SEC vs. ACC another win should go in the ACC column.
3. The WAC is history.
4. Miss State should be fined. What part of “artificially generated sound” do they not understand?
5. Maybe the kid should have done is work in the classroom and he wouldn’t have had to take any of the bogus online courses.

Beast from the East

August 23rd, 2010
8:26 am

Tony,
1….You’re really trying to stir it up with the conference argument today, aren’t you? Let the games begin, but play nice Dawgs and Techies!
2….As far as UT, I still say they are getting what they deserve. You lie down with dogs and you wake up with fleas. They hired that dirt-bag, Kiffen and are paying the price. How is Hamilton still employed?3….Looks like the WAC is about to get whacked.
4….I hate those %$#* cowbells. They’ll just pay the fine and move on. Do you really think they’ll refrain from using them when the other team has the ball? NOT!
5….Not sure how many of these things go that late into the process but it certainly has to be a major disappointment to the kids that it happens to. One would think there has to be a better way.

Thinking Georgia

August 23rd, 2010
8:27 am

OK, NCAA Clearinghouse, can we just have 1 article where Tony doesn’t tout Alabama and Saban as a victim or victor? Come on, Alabama’s no victim, lots of other school face similar challenges. Saban’s overrated,

Tony should do an article on Saban’s weak Bowl record, his surprisingly low overall winning percentage, Saban’s feeble record against top 25 teams, or why Saban’s moved around 13 times in 36 years.

Saban’s not a victim, come on.

Try again

August 23rd, 2010
8:28 am

Hey bonehead tony. preseason polls mean nothing. why are you even writing this garbage. half the teams ranked in them won’t be at the end of the season. you really are a lousy journalist. and i laughed so hard while watching your little special on cbs saturday when you shockingly picked uga to be a surprise team. man are you one homer idiot.

I am not going to be the head coach at Alabama. I am the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

August 23rd, 2010
8:30 am

I get the reasoning behind UT dropping UNC, but come on!!! It’s UNC, not Ohio State, or Texas. Regardless, I would be highly upset if I were a Vol, which thankfully, I am not. As far as the UT AD fighting for his job, he should be. He is the one that hired the 14 month moron. As far as Derek, I think he was a great hire for UT.

Best conference, hands down the SEC. No discussion.

The ACC has several ranked teams, but blow it big time when facing out of conference games. They really need wins from UNC vs LSU and VT vs BS.

Every SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 fan needs to get behind VaTech when they play Boise State. If VT whips them, BS and other 2nd tier conference schools will go away for a couple of years. Just like BS did when UGA beat the badly several years ago.

Go dawgs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Beast from the East

August 23rd, 2010
8:32 am

I have to say that I am amazed at the number of UGA fans that are TOTALLY consumed with all things Saban. What gives? They’re not a traditional rival, not on the schedule this year and have absolutely nothing to do with UGA in general. What is with the obsession? Does anyone have a logical explanation for this?

Rip Cord

August 23rd, 2010
8:32 am

Tenn deserves everything they get for hiring LK and giving up on Fulmer. You play too close to the fire, you gonna get burned.

Big Al

August 23rd, 2010
8:33 am

UT how the mighty have fallen—scared, say your scared.

3rdn8

August 23rd, 2010
8:34 am

putting the Alfy Hill case into a bit of perspective…..the NCAA decision hung on two online courses that Hill took as a tenth grader. He took those courses in lieu of a P.E. course becuase he was nursing a broken hand. The NCAA deemed those courses as acedemic irrelevant.

I’m not sure what courses he took online. But judging by my own experience, virtually anything would be as acedemically relevant as P.E.

Also….I think there should be some middle ground in a case like this, that is down to splitting hairs.

Instead of declaring him either elgible, or inelgible, place him on a semester of probation and require an extra course to be taken.

DawginLex

August 23rd, 2010
8:36 am

Spurrier took a shot at UT?
Hasn’t he learned his lesson by now?

Looking at a washed up coach living off of his glory days.
Looking at a smartalec who doesn’t know when to shutup.

Looking at a coach who is 1-4 versus the rival he hates the most.

He plays mind games with his QB and is looking at starting a true freshman behind an offensive line that is truly offensive.

He needs to take his own advice and realize that when you are a 6-6 coach you don’t really need to be saying much.

Alphare

August 23rd, 2010
8:36 am

Well, it seems to me Hamilton realized Dooley is no Kiffin.

I don’t think Vols would drop NC if Kiffin is still the coach.

3rdn8

August 23rd, 2010
8:36 am

this post would be more effective if I could spell academic.

Mark

August 23rd, 2010
8:38 am

You mean tenn wimped out against a middle acc team? I thought the acc was a joke according to the dog fans on here. Oh wait. I guess they are wrong! Now it all makes sense. The reason they try and mock the acc. Cause they are jealous and know it’s going to come back. The acc will appear in the NC game 3 times this decade, winning 2 of them. It goes in cycles. The sec won’t be in the game for a few years.

Joey

August 23rd, 2010
8:39 am

Saban probably would have let him go anyway, because he never has enough scholarships for his recruits. He and Houstin Nutt are the worst offenders of this practice in the SEC.

3rdn8

August 23rd, 2010
8:40 am

the puzzling part of the UT story is….how is Hamilton still on the payroll?

The guy has almost destroyed one of the most tradition rich programs in CFB.

I’m a Bama fan, and love to see my team win in October. But I hate to see a great rival like UT spiraling down the big bowl.

13 Bama Championships

August 23rd, 2010
8:42 am

@ TommyJack: When six SEC schools decide to take the week off before they play Bama, then Bama can have one easy game before they play the War Buzzards.

@ Thinking Georgia: How is Saban overrated? Two National Championships with two different schools. How many does Mark Richt have? Coach Richt is a great person, but he’s only a good coach. I think the fact that he discarded two-a-day practices for one-a-day practices shows what a nice guy he is. Did he take the Dawgs to Chucky Cheese for their nightly meal?

Boz

August 23rd, 2010
8:44 am

1) If Mike Hamilton wants to know who’s responsible for all his problems, all he has to do is look in the mirror. The re-scheduling decision is being made with no concern for the long-term effect on UT, but as a means of relieving pressure on Mr Hamilton. Which is exactly how he got himself in this position to begin with.
2) Sometimes things don’t go our way. And when they don’t, we all have to decide whether to gut it out or chicken out. We know which choice the University of Tennessee prefers. General Neyland must be spinning in his grave.

lojak777

August 23rd, 2010
8:47 am

TONY, and everyone else regarding Tennessee’s schedule change…What was NOT mentioned in the article is that Tennessee still has Oregon and Cincinnatti on the out of conference schedule. That is pretty stiff and probably tougher than some of you who are bashing. This part of the story always gets left out—and it’s an important part of the story.

Wow

August 23rd, 2010
8:48 am

Wow Tony. Why don’t you just determine which conferences are deepest based on the popularity of their mascots? Using the AP poll? Really? Didn’t some quack give Boise State a number one vote in that poll? Not to mention the media’s love affair with everything SEC. Instead, why don’t you wait until October and use the BCS poll to determine which of these conferences are the deepest?

Fred

August 23rd, 2010
8:49 am

Thinking Georgia,

I think you have Saban envy…thats funny stuff about the coach who’s won 2 national championships in the last 9 years plus set one up for a bafoon. Anyway I think you are tyring to convince yourself since no one with any brains is buying.

Have a good day

JQDogUNC

August 23rd, 2010
8:50 am

UT = SCARED. So much for all that $EC bravado. The sleeping giant, as Bobby Bowden called us, is waking up. The vol$ saw it and backed out. See you L$U tiggers September 4th.

GO HEELS! BEAT L$U! COASTAL DIVISION CHAMPS IN ‘10!

Sarai

August 23rd, 2010
8:51 am

Attention, everyone, especially dawgtards. We will now observe a moment of silence in memory of Saint Jan Kemp, who exposed the shameful practices at UGA that were initiated and carried out by slimeball Vince Dooley. Dooley’s image as a coach and a nice guy were forever shattered during the trial, not to mention the one million dollars that dawgtards had to pay Saint Jan. These practices of recruiting morons and coddling them for four years, them tossing them out like garbage, are still going on, but at least the world knows what’s going on now.

And now, the moment of silence…
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Thank you, you may resume your normal activities now.

And for dawgtards, your local unemployment office is now open, so get on down there.

UNC needs game, any VOLUNTEERS?

August 23rd, 2010
8:51 am

Beast, there is no logical explanation to what you posed. Neither is there a logical explanation to Tide Roll and a significant number of Gators obsessed with UGA, which I submit is much larger than UGA fans talking about Saban.

Gator Mike

August 23rd, 2010
8:52 am

Sad to say it, but I am very disappointed with UT’s position in trying to avoid UNC who is not a national power at this time. If UT does drop UNC, the entire SEC will be embarrassed, and that is not what the loyal VOL fans want to hear about their school. Hamilton is the problem at UT, and the UT President can begin rectifying the problem by getting rid of Hamilton. Fulmer was let go way too soon, and I need not get into the kiffie situation. The current fiasco in Knoxville reminds me of the Johnny Majors – Bill Battle “goat rope”. Battle was a very good coach, but UT wanted Majors because of his success at PITTSBURG. Of course, Majors allegedly did increase the stock value for Jack Daniels.
Hopefully, common sense will prevail in Knoxville for the good of UT and the SEC. UT was recently a respected national power vice a pundit for national jokes – very sad.

Go Gators!

Easy Bama fans

August 23rd, 2010
8:54 am

Before any Bama fans start throwing stones at Tennessee, care to explain why Bama ran scared in 2003 when it postponed its games with Penn State? The two teams were supposed to play in 2004 and 2005. How convenient that NOW they decide to step up and play.

Rick S

August 23rd, 2010
8:55 am

I could better understand Tennessee buying out North Carolina and replacing with Buffalo if it mattered but it’s only one game and the negative press Tennessee is receivng from this move will do greater harm than good for UT and the SEC. Just my opinion.

RxDawg

August 23rd, 2010
8:57 am

Seriously?

Look, here is a comparison. Everyone has Alabama ranked #1 this year. It’s because they won the national championship last year. Well imagine what a team would be ranked if it won the national championship the last 4 years in a row? This isn’t even a question reall…

After the SEC, it’s a mix of who knows. I know who it probaby isn’t, and that is the Big East and ACC. Probably the Pac 10 too. The Big 12 has a couple of really good teams, but a lot of filler. I’d have to give the 2nd place nod to the Big 10, but it will most certainly be a #2 once Nebraska joins the frey.

I am not going to be the head coach at Alabama. I am the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

August 23rd, 2010
8:58 am

Beast from the East —- you are referring to what??

sunny purdue

August 23rd, 2010
8:59 am

“It was a tough decision but the right decision. And the right decisions are not always popular.” What does this mean? Can you please explain why buying a couple of W’s is the right decision? Do W’s over Buffalo make Hamilton and Dooley look like geniuses? Will this decision save their jobs? Will the athletic board sing their praises? Will the fans be ecstatic over the Buffalo win? Will they move up in the polls? Will players flock to Knoxville in order to go up against a lesser opponent? Will the stadium sell out when the Buffalo Bulls play? Will the AJC send an extra reporter to cover the game. Please explain why this is the right move and stop with the shallow analysis.

3rdn8

August 23rd, 2010
9:00 am

sleeping giant….makes for a good argument. IF FSU, and Miami return to their forms of old, the ACC can make a claim as the best conference. So far, that’s still an “IF”.

I believe that these things are cyclical. IF Nebraska keeps improving (and I think they will), the Big 10 will be a much stronger conference.

Somehow out of this writhing, slithering mass, a National Champion will emerge. Go figure.

Dog Power

August 23rd, 2010
9:00 am

Attention everyone. We will now observe a moment of silence in memory of those great Dogs, academic, civic, and athletic, who have gone on, which built UGA into one of the Top 20 Public Universities, a university which elicited rave reviews in Parade Magazines college rankings, and who helped make Athens the premier college town in the nation.

In your moment of silence remember those coaches who have passed on, that built a model athletic program with 132 SEC titles and national championships in 8 sports, the envy of many.

And now the moment of silence.

Thank you. Dogs make resume making the world a better place.

3rdn8

August 23rd, 2010
9:02 am

back to UT for a moment.

UT is having trouble with ticket sales. In some countries a delegation would visit the AD and leave him with one pistol, and one bullet.

Paul in RDU

August 23rd, 2010
9:03 am

Nice column this morning Tony.
It’s really tough for a kid to lose his scholarship at such a late time, but being late on issues sems to be typical for the NCAA. They took forever to rule on Reggie Bush / USC and I fully expect that they won’t have made a ruling on Marvin Austin and Greg Little before the LSU-UNC game. Without a ruling, Davis is going to sit them out (Austin is practicing with the 2nd team).

I think you had the conferences in the correct order – but who knows what will happen on the season. The ACC needs to win most of their big OOC games but I just don’t see it happening against Boise State and theOSU.

Beast from the East

August 23rd, 2010
9:05 am

Try looking at your handle before you ask that question, “I am not going to be the head coach at Alabma”. Also, “Thinking Georgia”. Not to mention the NUMEROUS posts over the weekend on Tony’s blog and Schultz’s blog. It’s insane!

Dawg House

August 23rd, 2010
9:05 am

Duke, Wake Forrest, Boston College, Maryland, Georgia Tech…. Don’t EVER try and convince yourself the ACC is competetive acorss the board.

Fast Eddie

August 23rd, 2010
9:07 am

Kool Breeze @ 8:20: You should change your name to Kool Aid because you obviously have been drinking it or something else to make you hallucinate!

Jim

August 23rd, 2010
9:08 am

How about discussing something more important. Like How stupid it would be to build an int 3 connecting sav and knox. Yeah about 25 people per day make that drive. If you did anything build a int connecting 85 with knox. That’s it.

Will2be

August 23rd, 2010
9:08 am

I thought UT athletics were about making money qne I just don’t get the Buffalo fiasco. I mean both UNC games would be sellouts with national media attention and I don’t understand the logic at all. UT has had a really bad off season this year and there are reports that Simms looks really crappy as the new qb.

I am not going to be the head coach at Alabama. I am the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

August 23rd, 2010
9:09 am

Beast from the East —lighten up, smile a little.