The SEC championship game will dwarf its ACC counterpart this weekend in hype and quality, and rightly so. Florida and Alabama are two of the best teams in the country, and the Georgia Dome will be ready to explode at kickoff. When No. 18 BC takes on unranked Virginia Tech in Tampa, however, there will be plenty of empty seats.
But I'm here to inform you a championship game does not a conference make, and for the final pre-bowl Conference Power Rankings, the ACC has passed the SEC for No. 2 on the conference food chain.
How? Check the numbers. The ACC went 6-4 against the SEC this year (0-3 against Florida and Alabama, 6-1 against everyone else). The ACC went 15-9 against non-conference BCS opponents, the SEC went 6-9. The ACC has 10 bowl eligible teams. The SEC has eight. Vanderbilt went 4-4 in the SEC and 0-2 vs. the ACC. Wake Forest went 4-4 in the ACC and 2-0 vs. the SEC.
Florida and Alabama are clearly the best teams in either conference, but when you starting going down the line after that, the pendelum swings toward the ACC. Georgia Tech and Georgia are the best teams not playing in either title game, and we know who won that one. Next up is Ole Miss and possibly Wake Forest. The Deacons beat the Rebels. A notch below that? How about South Carolina and Clemson? ACC wins head-to-head again.
There's simply more evidence than the glamour of the SEC can overcome. I love the passion, the
excitement and the whole over-the-top fervor of the SEC. But when it comes to the play between the lines, the SEC is the third best conference right now.
NOTE: The BCS+ notation reflects BCS conference teams, plus other teams ranked in the current AP Top 25.
1. Big 12 (38-10 vs. non-conference opponents, 8-8 vs. BCS+)
The Good: Three of the best teams in the country, plus a legit Oklahoma State team that should scare the bejeebas out of whoever draws it in a bowl game.
The Bad: Only seven bowl eligible teams despite the second easiest non-conference schedule among BCS conferences.
The Verdict: The league is top heavy, but Missouri is no slouch, and Kansas showed some serious moxie winning in Kansas City. It's not a runaway, but this league is tops in the nation.
2. ACC (37-11, 15-9)
The Good: As mentioned above, 10 bowl eligible teams, a stellar BCS+ record and remarkable depth (last-place Duke owns two BCS non-conference wins).
The Bad: No. 15 Georgia Tech is the top ranked team in the league, and it didn't even qualify for the ACC title game.
The Verdict: It is close, but the ACC holds the lead over the SEC heading into bowl season with Music City and Chick-fil-A matchups still to come.
3. SEC (37-11, 6-9)
The Good: Florida should be favored to win the national championship, and Alabama is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. It doesn't get much better than that.
The Bad: Two coaches have been fired/resigned, a third's seat is getting warm (see: Auburn) and a New Year's Day bowl with SEC ties will have to invite a 7-5 team. Yuck.
The Verdict: When you have the fewest BCS games of any major conference, you need to make the most of them, and the SEC certainly did not. A big bowl season could salvage a down year for the conference.
4. Big Ten (32-12, 6-9)
The Good: Four ranked teams, two of whom could earn BCS berths if things fall right for Ohio State.
The Bad: Poor BCS+ mark, four losses to the MAC and a 1-2 record vs. Notre Dame.
The Verdict: The Big Ten's Big Three and the Mountain West's Big Three are very comparable, but the Big Ten has the edge in the rest of the conference.
5. Mountain West (25-11, 9-5)
The Good: Utah returns to another BCS bowl, and BYU and TCU were two of the stronger teams in the nation, which helped the conference to the best BCS+ mark.
The Bad: Six 'bad' losses, which is the most of any conference, plus one-third of the league is
looking for a new coach.
The Verdict: The MWC owned the Pac-10 (6-1) and enjoyed its best season in history.
6. Pac-10 (14-16, 6-13)
The Good: All-powerful USC has a slight chance at the national title and will again end up in the Top 5.
The Bad: Washington and Washington State (2-22) are a good place to start, but there really isn't good news anywhere else. Oregon State blew a chance for the Rose Bowl by giving up 693 yards and two defensive touchdowns, which sent the Beavers to their fourth loss.
The Verdict: Outside of USC, who was really pleased with this season? The Pac-10 likes a challenging schedule, but a 14-16 non-conference record is hard to believe.
7. Big East (28-12, 9-7)
The Good: Matchups with Notre Dame, a winning BCS record and Cincinnati's emergence (the Bearcats will be a sneaky tough BCS bowl opponent).
The Bad: Five 'bad' losses and so-called new 'powers' West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers are all unranked.
The Verdict: The league certainly has potential, but if Brian Kelly leaves Cincinnati, it will mark
the third straight year the league champ lost its coach, which is never a good sign.