Commentary

Hits keep coming for Big 12

Originally Published: October 30, 2009
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

The Pac-10 stays ahead of the Big 12 in the conference standings for the second week in a row. All eyes this week will be on Saturday's Pac-10 showdown between No. 5 USC and No. 10 Oregon at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

There also was movement near the bottom of the conference standings, with the WAC moving ahead of Conference USA.

SEC 1. SEC
The top two teams in the BCS standings still reside in the SEC: No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama. The Gators might be tested in Saturday's game against Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Crimson Tide get an extra week to prepare for a Nov. 7 home game against No. 9 LSU.

Two other SEC teams are ranked in the BCS Top 25: No. 22 South Carolina and No. 25 Ole Miss. The Rebels are coming on pretty strong, but Auburn has collapsed with three straight losses after starting coach Gene Chizik's first season with a 5-0 mark.

Pac-10 2. Pac-10
The Pac-10 stays ahead of the Big 12 because the West Coast league still seems a little deeper overall, especially in the upper half of the conference. No. 5 USC and No. 10 Oregon will go a long way in deciding the Pac-10 championship Saturday at Autzen Stadium. The Trojans lost in their last trip to Oregon in 2007, but they've dominated the Ducks overall in the series, winning three of the past four.

No. 24 Cal, which has won two games in a row after losing two straight, gets another shot at redemption when it plays a potentially dangerous road game at Arizona State on Saturday. UCLA goes for its first Pac-10 win when it plays at Oregon State on Saturday.

Big 12 3. Big 12
There was little debate the Big 12 was the country's second-best (or even best?) conference in 2008. But the Big 12's stock continues to take some hits this season. Last week, Texas Tech lost to Texas A&M and Nebraska lost to Iowa State at home.

No. 3 Texas is easily the class of the conference, but the Longhorns might get a test at No. 14 Oklahoma State on Saturday night. Kansas State will try to keep its unlikely place at the top of the Big 12 North when the Wildcats play at Oklahoma on Saturday night.

Big Ten 4. Big Ten
I was tempted to move the Big Ten ahead of the Big 12 this week, but I will wait another week before making the move. The Big Ten still has three BCS bowl contenders: No. 4 Iowa, No. 12 Penn State and No. 17 Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions might encounter some resistance at Northwestern on Saturday, but Iowa shouldn't have much trouble with Indiana. Ohio State should wallop New Mexico State at home.

ACC 5. ACC
The league will probably once again go without a second team in a BCS bowl game. Miami probably spoiled that chance last week, when the No. 19 Hurricanes lost to Clemson 40-37 in overtime. No. 13 Virginia Tech is probably out of the BCS discussion now, too, after losing to North Carolina 20-17 at Lane Stadium on Thursday night.

No. 11 Georgia Tech is now in the driver's seat in the Coastal Division, and Clemson is making a move in the Atlantic Division.

The poor play of two North Carolina schools -- NC State and Wake Forest -- and teams such as Maryland really hurts the league's stock.

Big East 6. Big East
I'm not sure the Big East isn't better than the ACC at this point, especially with the way No. 8 Cincinnati is playing, even without quarterback Tony Pike. No. 15 Pittsburgh and No. 21 West Virginia are playing awfully well at this point in the season, too.

The Mountaineers face a stiff test at South Florida on Friday night.

Mountain West 7. Mountain West
The MWC race is basically down to No. 6 TCU and No. 16 Utah after the Horned Frogs blasted BYU 38-7 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, last week.

TCU hosts UNLV on Saturday, and Utah plays host to Wyoming. The Horned Frogs, who still look like the best bet at crashing the BCS party at season's end, will play the Utes in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 14.

WAC 8. WAC
The WAC jumps Conference USA in this week's rankings, based on the recent strong play of teams such as Nevada and Fresno State.

Nevada's coming off an impressive 70-45 rout of Idaho, its fourth straight victory. The Wolf Pack host Hawaii on Saturday.

No. 7 Boise State dropped a couple of spots in the BCS standings, but the Broncos might get a bump in schedule strength if the aforementioned WAC teams continue to play better. The Broncos shouldn't have much trouble with San Jose State in Boise on Saturday.

C-USA 9. Conference USA
No. 18 Houston faces a key conference game Saturday when it hosts Southern Miss. The Cougars are among four C-USA West teams with 2-1 records in conference play.

East Carolina, which was a 38-19 winner at Memphis on Tuesday night, leads the East Division with a 4-1 record in league play. Marshall will try to stay in the C-USA East hunt when it plays at Central Florida on Sunday night.

MAC 10. MAC
MAC West leader Central Michigan can do a lot for the conference's reputation by winning at Boston College on Saturday. The Chippewas already have a 29-27 upset of Michigan State on their belts and are riding a seven-game winning streak.

MAC East leader Temple also plays an important nonconference game, at Navy on Saturday. Kent State, which is tied for second place in the MAC East standings, plays a tough conference game at home against Western Michigan.

Sun Belt 11. Sun Belt
The top two teams in the Sun Belt standings -- Troy and Louisiana-Monroe -- play Saturday in Troy, Ala.

Three other teams are one game back in the Sun Belt standings, and two of them square off Saturday. Middle Tennessee State plays at surging Florida Atlantic, which is coming off an impressive 51-29 win at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Arkansas State has a chance to help the Sun Belt's reputation when it plays a winnable game at Louisville on Saturday.

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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