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Who was that masked man who wrote in this space last week that the ACC was better than the Big 12? Someone who was obviously distracted by a) the stock market collapse and subsequent financial crisis; b) the return of The Office; or c) the possibility that his alma mater (Vanderbilt) would be leading the SEC East at the end of September.
Whatever had me in that crazed state a week ago has passed. There are two leagues in America, ladies and gentlemen, and the rest are just filling out the schedule. After a month of college football, even Barack Obama and John McCain would agree on this: The SEC and Big 12 rule the nation.
But of those two, who rules? To many, it is a foregone conclusion that it is the SEC. And I've believed it myself all season. But have you looked at this week's Top 25? Not that the AP pollsters are the beginning and end of all things college football, but these folks do spend a chunk of their time each week following this crazy game. And the Big 12 checks in at No. 1. And 4. And 5. And 7.
Of course, the SEC claims Nos. 2, 3, 11, 12 and 13, which isn't bad, either. The lesser weights have been giving the heavyweights all they can handle and, in the case of Ole Miss-Florida, more, showing the conference is not top-heavy. It is just plain heavy, period.
Both conferences have six teams in the Top 25, two others receiving votes and the top five rated teams in the nation. The NCAA could have an entertaining eight-team playoff and just invite teams from these two leagues.
The edge, for now, stays with the SEC. The top of the conferences are relatively even, but there are too many unproven second-tier Big 12 teams. Baylor and Texas A&M are pretty weak, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State have played absolutely no one and Nebraska, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State lost to their only legitimate September opponents. The lower half of the SEC has shown itself to be stronger.
NOTE: The BCS+ notation reflects BCS conference teams, plus other teams ranked in the current AP Top 25.
1. SEC (25-4 overall, 5-4 vs. BCS+)
Last Rank: 1
The Good: Alabama is firmly in the national elite, rejoining Florida, Georgia, LSU and Auburn. Hard to believe this is just the second season for St. Nick.
The Bad: Arkansas was blown away at Texas, but we sort of knew what Arkansas was made of before this game.
The Verdict: Vanderbilt gets a chance to legitimize its national ranking against Auburn this week while hosting ESPN's GameDay crew.
2. Big 12 (38-10, 7-8 vs. BCS+)
Last Rank: 3
The Good: Oklahoma earned its No. 1 ranking with a solid win over a good TCU team. A narrow win would have allowed the pollsters to promote Alabama, but the Sooners played well again.
The Bad: Umm, 0-2 vs. the ACC, as Nebraska fell to Virginia Tech and Colorado lost to Florida State. Not supposed to do that when you leap ahead of that league in the Conference Power Rankings.
The Verdict: After Texas plays Colorado this week, its next four opponents -- Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech -- are all currently undefeated. That's a tough conference.
3. ACC (26-10, 8-8 vs. BCS+)
Last Rank: 2
The Good: Two great wins over the Big 12. Maybe Virginia Tech can carry the flag for the conference after all.
The Bad: Wake Forest's loss to Navy dropped the Deacons to No. 25, leaving Virginia Tech at No. 20 as the league's highest-ranked team.
The Verdict: Not so strong at the top, but the league has quality depth.
4. Big Ten (31-9, 6-9 vs. BCS+)
Last Rank: 6
The Good: Penn State is playing like a national championship contender and Ohio State looks improved with the Terrell Pryor/Beanie Wells tandem working some magic.
The Bad: Purdue was hammered by a suspect Notre Dame team in the league's last marquee non-conference game of the year.
The Verdict: Jeff Sagarin's computer has the Big Ten second among BCS conferences, so it must be doing something right. And while Michigan can celebrate its big win, Wisconsin's loss hurts the league's overall profile.
5. Mountain West (21-10, 7-4 vs. BCS+)
Last Rank: 4
The Good: Utah stayed undefeated and New Mexico beat rival New Mexico State.
The Bad: The league lost a Top 25 member after TCU fell 35-10 at Oklahoma.
The Verdict: For the good of the league, let's hope Utah and BYU are unbeaten when they meet on Nov. 22. There will be some serious national hype for that game.
6. Pac-10 (11-11, 5-9 vs. BCS+)
Last Rank: 5
The Good: The league got on the board against the Mountain West after six tries as Cal beat Colorado State 42-7 thanks in part to two special teams touchdowns and a defensive touchdown.
The Bad: You mean besides USC possibly losing out on a shot at winning the national title because it lost to a team that lost to Penn State 45-14? And UCLA lost to Fresno State at home. That's not good, either.
The Verdict: There's still time to make up some ground, but this is looking like a down year out West.
7. Big East (20-11, 6-8 vs. BCS+)
Last Rank: 7
The Good: A tidy 4-0 week, highlighted by South Florida's decisive victory over NC State, bringing the Bulls to No. 10 in the AP poll.
The Bad: Cincinnati struggled at Akron, but we'll give it a pass this week.
The Verdict: UConn will have to win at North Carolina on Saturday to stay in the Top 25.