After questioning its strength all season, I must now admit that the SEC truly does reign supreme.
And defending its honor all season, I now must admit that the Big Ten is truly becoming indefensible.
With the 2008 college football season now over, the time has come to take one last look at the About.com Conference Power Rankings—my ranking of the nation’s power conferences, from best to worst.
As always, let me know where you think I’m right, where you think I’m wrong, and how you would re-shuffle the rankings.
(Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Pretty much all year, my stance on the SEC was as follows: Two great teams (Alabama, Florida) and a bunch of good-to-mediocre ones. I questioned the quality of those SEC offenses (see: Auburn, Tennessee). I pretty much thought the league was overrated. Then bowl season arrived and the SEC proved once more that it has quite simply distanced itself from the rest of the college football world. Florida’s defense shut down the previously high-powered Oklahoma offense. Ole Miss stunned Texas Tech. LSU humbled Georgia Tech. Georgia outmusculed Michigan State. The only disappointment? Alabama getting blown out by Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
The Big 12’s fate rested in the hands of its supposed power teams: Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State. And only Texas came out with a win, squeaking by Ohio State in a very hard-fought Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma State couldn’t keep up with Oregon. Texas Tech folded against Ole Miss. And we all know what happened to Oklahoma. The problem with this league right now is precisely the problem that SEC backers had been pointing to all year: Not enough defense.
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Quite a late-season surge for the once-maligned Pac-10. Leading the way, of course, were the USC Trojans, who blitzed past Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Oregon came through against Oklahoma State. Oregon State won one of the ugliest bowl games in history, getting by Pitt, 3-0. Even schizophrenic Arizona stepped up, blasting BYU. A great bowl season for the Pac-10.
What I had been saying about this league all year held true in the bowl season: There’s not any great teams in the ACC. But there are some good ones. And a couple of them looked pretty good in their bowl matchups. Maryland overcame tough odds (and a brutal trip) to pick up a bowl win on the blue turf in Boise. Florida State destroyed Wisconsin. And Virginia Tech finally got that long-sought BCS bowl win, knocking off Big East champ Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl.
5. Mountain West Conference
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Utah led the MWC charge all season and that didn’t change one bit in the bowl season. The Utes stunned the college football world by heading deep into SEC country and not only beating Nick Saban and Alabama, but dominating them. Please, SEC fans, don’t use the excuse that “Alabama didn’t want to be there.” And don’t ever pretend that Utah doesn’t have “SEC speed.” As good as Utah’s win was, however, BYU’s loss to Arizona was a real downer—especially after the MWC had enjoyed so much success against the Pac-10 during the regular season.
(Ronald Martinez, Getty Images)
Yes, the Big Ten only went 1-6 in its bowl games. Yes, another Big Ten rep (Penn State) got the USC treatment in the Rose Bowl. And yes, Wisconsin and Minnesota were blown out in games that were supposed to be somewhat competitive. Only Iowa managed a bowl win, blowing by South Carolina behind the running of the now-NFL-bound Shonn Greene, while Northwestern fell in overtime to Mizzou. So how can I justify putting the Big Ten ahead of the Big East? Simple: I don’t think there’s a team in the Big East that could have beaten Penn State or Ohio State.
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Though Cincinnati’s Big East championship was a great thing for Brian Kelly’s up-and-coming program, it probably wasn’t a good thing for the Big East. Nationally, Cincinnati has almost no reputation, and that hasn’t changed after a lackluster performance against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The future of the Big East essentially lies in the hands of its traditional powers. If Pitt can finally put a full season together, if West Virginia can survive post-Pat White, and If Syracuse can finally turn things around, then this league will have a future. Without these programs stepping up, though, I don’t ever see the Big East getting out of the basement.