Commentary

All about the SEC, but Big Ten rising

Originally Published: October 9, 2009
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

It's all about the SEC this weekend, as No. 1 Florida plays at No. 4 LSU and No. 3 Alabama plays at No. 20 Ole Miss.

The SEC and Big 12 each have six of their teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll this week, but the SEC's teams are ranked higher.

And at this point in the season, at least, they look much better.

SEC 1. SEC
SEC teams make up nearly one-quarter of the Associated Press Top 25 poll. There are six SEC teams ranked this week: No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 LSU, No. 17 Auburn, No. 20 Ole Miss and No. 25 South Carolina. Georgia fell out of the Top 25 after losing to LSU 20-13 at home last week.

We'll find out Saturday night which SEC team moves to the top of the BCS national championship race. LSU hosts defending BCS national champion Florida at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., and Alabama travels to Ole Miss in a key SEC West game.

Arkansas helped the SEC's stock by blasting Texas A&M 47-19 in Arlington, Texas last week.

Big 12 2. Big 12
Like the SEC, Big 12 teams make up nearly one-fourth of the AP Top 25 poll. The Big 12 also has a six-pack of its teams ranked this week: No. 2 Texas, No. 15 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Kansas, No. 19 Oklahoma, No. 21 Nebraska and No. 24 Missouri.

But at this point in the season, the Big 12 looks more like SEC Lite. Only Texas looks like a legitimate national championship contender at this point, after Oklahoma lost its second game of the season, 21-20 at Miami.

Three Big 12 North teams are ranked, but they might end up knocking one another off, which would probably keep them out of the BCS title hunt.

Oklahoma State's season seems to be spiraling out of control, after star receiver Dez Bryant was ruled ineligible this week by the NCAA.

Big Ten 3. Big Ten
No. 9 Ohio State remains a fringe contender in the BCS title race, and No. 12 Iowa could really help itself by beating Michigan at home on Saturday.

No. 14 Penn State is the only other Big Ten team that's ranked this week, but undefeated Wisconsin could join the ranks by winning at Ohio State on Saturday. Victories by Iowa and Wisconsin this weekend would set up the Big Ten's biggest game between those teams on Oct. 17 in Madison, Wis.

Pac-10 4. Pac-10
It's No. 7 USC, No. 13 Oregon and … Stanford? California has fallen off the map, and the Cardinal continue to make huge strides under coach Jim Harbaugh. Stanford beat UCLA 24-16 at home last weekend, handing the Bruins their first loss of the season. The Cardinal play at Oregon State on Saturday night, and a trip to Corvallis, Ore., is never easy.

Washington could have really helped the Pac-10's stock by winning at Notre Dame, but the Irish eked out another close win, 37-30 in overtime. The Huskies will try to improve their place in the Pac-10 pecking order when they host 3-1 Arizona on Saturday night.

ACC 5. ACC
The ACC really needed a marquee nonconference victory, and Miami delivered with its one-point victory over the Sooners. No. 5 Virginia Tech still seems to be the ACC team to beat, but the No. 11 Hurricanes and No. 22 Georgia Tech are coming on strong. The Yellow Jackets picked up another solid non-ACC win last week, beating Mississippi State 42-31 on the road.

Last week's results proved the ACC is still pretty balanced, but it doesn't have many very good teams. North Carolina lost to Virginia 16-3. Maryland beat Clemson 24-21. Boston College defeated Florida State 28-21, dropping the Seminoles to 0-2 in ACC play.

We'll see how good surprising Boston College really is after the Eagles play at Virginia Tech on Saturday night.

Big East 6. Big East
No. 8 Cincinnati and No. 23 South Florida look like the Big East's best teams, followed by West Virginia, which beat Colorado 35-24 last week. Pitt was able to get back on track with a 35-10 rout of Louisville on the road.

We'll find out what the rest of the league's order looks like after this week. Connecticut plays at Pittsburgh in a game that could go a long way in determining which of those teams is legit.

Mountain West 7. Mountain West
It was another pretty bad week for the MWC. Nevada walloped in-state rival UNLV 63-28. Air Force lost to Navy 16-13, in a key service academy game. Idaho continued its surprising start with a 31-29 win over Colorado State.

No. 10 TCU remained perhaps the best non-BCS hope, and the Horned Frogs play a potentially difficult road game at Air Force on Saturday. Utah plays at Colorado State.

C-USA 8. Conference USA
C-USA took a couple of big hits last week. Houston, which had visions of being a BCS buster, was routed by UTEP 58-41. Southern Miss, which looked like the league's second-best team, lost to UAB 30-17. It was the Blazers' first-ever victory over the Golden Eagles.

But both those teams can earn a little redemption against teams from BCS conferences this week. Houston plays at Mississippi State, and Southern Miss plays at Louisville.

WAC 9. WAC
WAC teams picked up a couple of big wins last week. Idaho beat Colorado State at home, and Nevada rolled up a staggering total of 773 yards of offense against UNLV.

The WAC race will begin to really take shape this weekend. Improving Louisiana Tech plays at Nevada Friday night, and Idaho tries to move to 2-0 in WAC play when it plays at San Jose State. Fresno State and Hawaii will both try to avoid a 0-2 start in league play when they play on the island late Saturday night.

MAC 10. MAC
It should be an easy weekend for the MAC leaders. Central Michigan hosts winless Eastern Michigan. Temple hosts winless Ball State. Ohio plays at 1-3 Akron. The most competitive game should be played between Western Michigan and Toledo.

Sun Belt 11. Sun Belt
Did you think Troy's 31-7 victory over Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday night was difficult to watch? Try tuning into Saturday's game between 0-4 Florida International and 0-4 Western Kentucky.

Troy struggled during nonconference play, but once again sits at the top of the Sun Belt standings with a 2-0 mark. Surprising Louisiana-Monroe also is 2-0.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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