Mountain West falls in Week 3
Just when we were about to launch the Mountain West Conference's campaign for BCS membership, two of the league's best teams laid big, fat eggs in Week 3.
BYU looked completely overmatched in its 26-point loss to Florida State (which was even worse than the final score indicated), and Utah saw its 16-game winning streak end with a 31-24 loss at Oregon.
As a result, the Mountain West moves back down the conference rankings and the Big Ten and Big East are moving up.
Four of the top seven teams in the Associated Press Top 25 poll are from the SEC: No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Ole Miss and No. 7 LSU. Georgia is No. 21, and it might be argued that Auburn deserves to be ranked after its 3-0 start. The SEC had a couple of nice nonconference victories in Week 3, with Auburn beating West Virginia 41-30 and Kentucky beating rival Louisville 31-27. The SEC will have another chance at a quality nonconference win when Arizona State visits Georgia on Saturday night (ESPNU, 7 ET). Unlike last season, when the SEC's tradition of "3 yards and a cloud of dust" still seemed to rule, the league's offenses are scoring in bunches in 2009. Four of the league's teams are ranked in the top nine nationally in total offense, and five are in the top 11 in scoring.
2. Big 12
Five Big 12 teams are in the Top 25, but No. 2 Texas and No. 10 Oklahoma again seem to be the cream of the crop. The Sooners have played well since losing Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford to a shoulder injury, with the OU defense posting back-to-back shutouts. It wasn't a great week for the Big 12 overall as three of its teams lost important nonconference games. No. 25 Nebraska blew a late lead in its 16-15 loss at Virginia Tech, and Connecticut beat Baylor 30-22 in Waco, Texas. Kansas State continued to struggle, losing to UCLA 23-9. Big 12 teams can regain some respect by winning a trio of nonconference games this weekend. Texas Tech plays at No. 17 Houston (ESPN2, 9:15 p.m. ET); Missouri plays at Nevada on Friday night (ESPN, 9 ET); and Kansas hosts upstart Southern Miss.
It was a mixed bag of results for the Pac-10 in Week 3. The league probably lost one of its best chances at winning a BCS national championship when USC lost at Washington 16-13. No. 6 California, which beat Minnesota 35-21 on the road, looks to be the team to beat in the Pac-10. Oregon continues to rebound from its season-opening 19-8 loss at Boise State, upsetting then-No. 18 Utah 31-24 in Eugene, Ore. UCLA is off to a surprising 3-0 start after its victory over Kansas State, and Arizona State takes a 2-0 record into Saturday night's game at Georgia (ESPNU, 7 ET). But two Pac-10 teams lost important nonconference games, with Iowa beating Arizona 27-17 and Cincinnati defeating Oregon State 28-18.
Perhaps no league gained as much respect this past week as the ACC, which needed a shot in the arm more than most. Virginia Tech beat Nebraska on quarterback Tyrod Taylor's touchdown pass in the final minute, and Florida State blasted then-No. 7 BYU 54-28 on the road. North Carolina also was impressive in its 31-17 victory over East Carolina. The ACC is pretty good at the top -- Florida State, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech all seem capable of winning the league. Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are above-average teams, but the bottom of the ACC is pretty bad. Virginia is 0-3 after blowing a huge lead in a 37-34 loss at Southern Miss, and Maryland is 1-2 after losing to Middle Tennessee State 32-31. Clemson could really improve the ACC's stock by upsetting No. 15 TCU at Death Valley on Saturday (ESPN360, 3:30 p.m. ET).
5. Big Ten
The Big Ten suffered another lousy week by and large, with Michigan State losing at Notre Dame, Northwestern falling at Syracuse and Purdue getting beat at home by Northern Illinois. Iowa scored a big victory for the league with its win over Arizona, though, and Ohio State bounced back from its loss to USC by routing Toledo 38-0. No. 5 Penn State still seems to be the Big Ten team to beat, with No. 13 Ohio State and No. 23 Michigan right behind the Nittany Lions. Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin are each 3-0, but it's hard to imagine those teams keeping pace. Michigan State is a disappointing 1-2, and Minnesota fell to 2-1 with its hard-fought loss to California.
6. Big East
The Big East still seems to have three underrated teams: No. 14 Cincinnati, Connecticut and Pittsburgh. The Bearcats were impressive again in their victory at Oregon State, and Pittsburgh is 3-0 after beating Navy 27-14. South Florida is also 3-0, but the Bulls lost senior quarterback Matt Grothe, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. West Virginia missed a chance to pick up a big road victory, losing 41-30 at Auburn. The Big East could help itself by beating three ACC teams Saturday: South Florida plays at No. 18 Florida State (ESPNU, noon ET); Pitt plays at NC State (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. ET); and Rutgers plays at Maryland (ESPN360.com, 3:30 p.m. ET).
7. Mountain West
The Mountain West missed a golden opportunity for national respect this past week when BYU was torched by Florida State and Utah lost at Oregon. TCU now seems like the MWC's best chance to play in a BCS bowl game, but the No. 15 Horned Frogs will have to beat Clemson on the road Saturday to have a chance. The MWC is relatively deep -- Colorado State is 3-0 and Air Force 2-1 -- but it doesn't help a league's cause when its best teams can't beat comparable counterparts from BCS conferences.
8. Conference USA
Conference USA has a couple of chances to grab some headlines this weekend. Houston hosts Texas Tech on Saturday and can really prove its worth as a potential BCS buster. Southern Miss plays at No. 20 Kansas, and the Golden Eagles seem capable of scoring points against anyone. It wasn't a great performance by C-USA teams this past week. ECU fell to 1-2 with its loss to North Carolina, and Tulsa was shut out in an ugly loss at Oklahoma. SMU also lost for the first time, falling 30-27 in overtime at Washington State.
Another week, another big victory for a MAC team. Northern Illinois beat Purdue 28-21 on the road, which was the Huskies' first victory over a Big Ten foe since 1988. In the first three weeks of the season, MAC teams also beat Colorado and Michigan State (and nearly defeated Indiana, Missouri and Northwestern). Which team from a BCS conference is in danger of becoming the MAC's next victim? Ohio plays at Tennessee. Also, Boise State plays at Bowling Green and Ball State plays at Auburn. Now those would be upsets.
Other than No. 8 Boise State's impressive 3-0 start, the WAC hasn't had much to be excited about. Six of the nine WAC teams have losing records, and Hawaii and Idaho, which are both 2-1, weren't expected to be two of the league's best teams. Nevada has struggled to get untracked with an 0-2 record after losing at Colorado State 35-20 this past week. The Wolf Pack can regain momentum by beating Missouri at home Friday night. Fresno State also could help the WAC's cause by upsetting Cincinnati on the road (ESPN360.com, 3:30 p.m. ET).
11. Sun Belt
The Sun Belt scored a big upset when Middle Tennessee won 32-31 at Maryland. Troy also beat UAB 27-14, and Florida International was surprisingly competitive in its 23-15 loss at Rutgers. But four Sun Belt teams were walloped by teams from BCS conferences. Alabama beat North Texas 53-7. LSU routed Louisiana-Lafayette 31-3. Arizona State beat Louisiana-Monroe 38-14. South Carolina defeated Florida Atlantic 38-16. Ouch.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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