The Conference Power Rankings will take a different form over the next few weeks due to the lack of defining nonconference games on the docket. This past weekend there were only six games involving BCS teams from different conferences and only two head-to-head matchups (North Carolina topped UConn and Notre Dame held off Stanford). Next week, it will be more of the same, as all the must-see showdowns are conference games.
So this week, rather than rank 'em, we'll take stock of each conference to see who’s stood out and who's bombed through the season’s first six weeks.
Surprise team: Georgia Tech. A three-point loss at Virginia Tech is the only blemish on the Jackets’ 4-1 mark. They’ve grasped Paul Johnson's triple-option attack quickly and are fifth in the nation in rushing.
Disappointment: Clemson. The ACC preseason favorites haven’t dominated anyone but FCS teams. Alabama pounded them, and while the Tigers gutted out a lethargic win over conference rival NC State, they lost to inconsistent Maryland. Despite an abundance of talent, there will be no ACC title for the Tigers this year.
Keep an eye on: North Carolina. The Heels were off to a quick start with a big win at Rutgers, but when quarterback Tyler Yates went down in a three-point loss to Virginia Tech, it appeared UNC was not going to take advantage of its early momentum. But backup Cameron Sexton has directed two more solid wins over Miami and UConn and the now-ranked Heels are ahead of schedule in Butch Davis' second year.
Surprise team: UConn. There were fairly modest expectations for the Huskies, but after six games UConn sits just one win from bowl eligibility. The Huskies pulled out close wins against Louisville, Temple and Baylor and obliterated Rutgers. They’ll challenge for the league title.
Disappointment: Rutgers. Only one word can describe this Rutgers campaign: miserable. The Scarlet Knights are 0-4 against FBS foes and have a quarterback who punched a teammate. Where have you gone, Ray Rice?
Keep an eye on: Pittsburgh. The Panthers were left for dead after an opening week stumble against Bowling Green, but Pittsburgh quietly put together three-straight wins before staging a very loud upset at No. 10 South Florida on Thursday. Running back LeSean McCoy is starting to hit his stride.
Surprise team: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are 5-0 and have scored at least 55 points in four-straight games. The Cowboys have not taken on the stiffest competition, but they’re no longer only known for having a coach who is 40 and is a man, either.
Disappointment: Texas A&M. Expectations weren't exactly through the roof for Mike Sherman's first team, but the Aggies did win 15 games in Dennis Franchione's last two years. The 2-3 Aggies may be underdogs in their final seven games.
Keep an eye on: Texas. Oklahoma is getting all the headlines with its deserved No. 1 ranking and potential Heisman quarterback, but the Longhorns have a chance to change all that this week in Dallas and become the team the college football world is talking about.
Surprise team: Penn State. A 6-0 start is not a major shock with its schedule, but Penn State is exceeding expectations with its play. The Lions are in the top 10 in both scoring offense and defense, with an average victory margin of 26.1 points.
Disappointment: Michigan. Again, speed bumps were expected, but not to this degree. Getting to a bowl game is going to be a challenge with the nation's 109th ranked offense.
Keep an eye on: Illinois. Quarterback Juice Williams is hitting his stride. The Illini have two losses, but both teams are in the top six (Missouri, Penn State). The Illini could run the table from here.
Surprise team: California. It was a challenge to find a Pac-10 team that has exceeded expectations. Cal's opening win over Michigan State was impressive, and the Bears are 4-1, with the lone blemish a no-show performance at Maryland.
Disappointment: Arizona St. Picked second in the Pac-10 by some, the Devils are in the midst of a three-game losing streak with a trip to USC on deck. The offense has dropped from No. 37 in scoring last year to No. 82 this year, despite having Rudy Carpenter back at the controls.
Keep an eye on: USC. The Trojans will fly under the national radar for a while with Texas-Oklahoma, LSU-Florida, Texas-Missouri, LSU-Georgia, Penn State-Ohio State and Florida-Georgia all dueling in October, but USC should be favored every game from here on out. It won’t be a surprise if the Trojans get right back into the national-title race.
Surprise team: Vanderbilt. Easy choice. The Commodores lost 13 starters from a 5-7 team, yet have gone 5-0 and earned a No. 13 ranking. They lead the nation in turnover margin and have come from behind in every game. The best part for Vandy fans? The ‘Dores started just four seniors against Auburn.
Disappointment: Tennessee. The Vols are a mess on offense. They’re searching for a quarterback and rank 107th in scoring. Saturday's 13-9 win over Northern Illinois was the latest disappointing performance for the Vols.
Keep an eye on: LSU. Now that Jarrett Lee has solidified the quarterback position, the Tigers are in position to battle for the SEC crown again. And remember, their game against Alabama is at Tiger Stadium.