Preseason Rating the Conferences from Top to Bottom


In my opinion, the conferences can be split up into 3 tiers. Below is that rating of each conference, graded on a scale of 1-10, grouped with the other conferences in its tier.

TIER ONE

1) SEC--The SEC will once again send the most teams to bowl games, that being eight, and that may not include one team with a winning record being left out of a bowl game. Florida, Tennessee, LSU, and Mississippi State all have realistic shots at double-digit regular season wins. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina will most likely get about seven wins each. One of the following teams, Auburn, Mississippi, and Vanderbilt, will get a winning record as well. Kentucky will be the only sore spot of the SEC this season. RATING: 9.0

2) BIG XII--The Big XII has two or three legitimate title contenders. Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas all have a good shot at a 10-win regular season. The difference that seperates the SEC and Big XII is depth from top to bottom, where the SEC comes out on top. Colorado and Kansas State will most likely be in the 7-8 win category. Iowa State, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech will struggle for a winning season, and I think that two of these will come through, giving the Big XII 7 bowl-bound teams. Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma State can prepare for the future. RATING: 8.5

3) PAC-10--The PAC-10 is on the rise once again. Since this conference is so well balanced, it will be difficult for a team from here to go to the Rose Bowl this year. Oregon State, Oregon, and UCLA have legitimate shots at 10-win seasons. Stanford and Southern Cal will almost surely get a winning season. Arizona, Arizona State, and Washington will struggle for .500+ years, and I expect only one of those teams to become bowl-eligible, giving the PAC-10 a total of 6 bowl-bound teams. California and Washington State will struggle this year. The PAC-10 is balanced better from top to bottom than the Big XII but falls just short of the Big XII in top 25 teams. RATING: 8.0


TIER TWO

4) Big Ten--The Big Ten will probably not have a national championship team. There just isnít a dominant team, and with the competition as it is in the Big Ten, every team will probably end up with a loss or two. Michigan or Northwestern will likely be the Big Ten champion, and both will have 8 to 10 wins. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Purdue could all finish with a decent 7-win season or could lose as many as 7. My guess is that 4 of those 6 will end up with a winning season, giving the Big Ten 6 bowl eligible teams. Iowa and Minnesota will likely struggle this season, but both will get at least 3 wins. There are too many middle-of-the-pack teams (teams around the .500 mark) for the Big Ten to be considered on of the top 3 conferences this season. RATING: 7.0

5) Big East--Although the Big East has been much improved over the past 3-5 years, it still lacks the depth of the 4 conferences above. The rise of Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech, along with the consistent play of Miami and Syracuse, has given this conference a boost. An occasional good year (i.e.: 2000) can be found in West Virginia. Rutgers and Temple (although they should be imporved in 2001) are the sore spots of the Big East. Miami, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech each have a chance at a 10-win season. I expect only one of these teams to accomplish this feat (probably Miami) and the other two to be around the 8-win mark. Boston College, Syracuse, and Temple will hover around the .500 mark, and I think each of these teams will sneak out a .500+ record. Rutgers and West Virginia will again struggle, probably accumulating less combined wins the Miamiís total. If two teams reached double-digit wins in the Big East and another conference (Big Ten, PAC-10) struggles, the Big East could jump into the top 3, but I believe that is doubtful. RATING: 6.5

6) ACC--The ACC has a chance to be an improved conference this year if Georgia Tech lives up to expectations and Florida State continues their same pattern over the last 5-10 years. Clemson and North Carolina State will again be solid teams, with a chance for one or both to reach the top 25 in 2001. Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia will be around the .500 mark, with only 1 and maybe 2 of these teams becoming bowl eligible. Duke and Wake Forest continue to be the sore spots for the ACC, and they will continue to struggle this year. There are usually 3-4 teams competing each year in the ACC, and this year will be no different. RATING: 6.25

7) Conference USA--Conference USA is the most improved conference over the past few years. The continued consistent play of Southern Miss and East Carolina, along with the rise of Louisville and UAB, will make this conference one of the most competitive of 2001. Cincinnati also has a chance to be in the hunt. Louisville is probably the most likely candidate to capture a 10-win season. UAB, Cincinnati, East Carolina, TCU, and Southern Miss will be above the .500 mark, giving C-USA 6 bowl eligible teams, more than they will likely be able to fill. Army, Houston, Memphis, and Tulane will continue to keep C-USA from being one of the top 4 or 5 conferences in the nation. C-USA is continuously the best non-BCS conference and is finally beginning to get some much-deserved respect. RATING: 6.0


TIER THREE

8) Mountain West--Air Force, BYU, and Colorado State will lead the MWC in 2001. Colorado State has a chance at a 10-win season, though games with Colorado and Louisville will make it a challenge. San Diego State, UNLV, and Utah will hover around .500, with one of these teams likely finishing above .500. New Mexico and Wyoming will struggle once again, even with an 11-0 season, no MWC team can plan on going to Pasadena this year. RATING: 4.75

9) WAC--The 2001 WAC has no front leader, but does have several .500+ teams that will compete for the title. Boise State, Fresno State, San Jose State, and UTEP will compete for the title, and will all finish just above or right at .500. Hawaii, LA Tech, Rice, and Tulsa will likely finish just under .500 for the season. Nevada and SMU will again struggle, giving the WAC 3 likely bowl candidates. RATING: 4.25

10) MAC--Western Michigan, Toledo, and Marshall will again lead the MAC attack. Each will likely finish with 7-9 wins. Akron, Ball State, Northern Illinois, and Ohio will each finish somewhere in the neighborhood of .500. Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Miami (Oh), Eastern Michigan, and Kent State will each finish sub-.500 for 2001. The lack of depth and overall talent keeps the MAC in the lower 1/4 of the conference ratings. RATING: 3.5

11) Sun Belt--Middle Tennessee and Idaho will probably compete for the Sun Beltís first football conference title in 2001. The rest of the conference, Arkansas State, LA-Lafayette, LA-Monroe, New Mexico State, and North Texas, will finish with 2-4 wins. Since only the conference champ goes to a bowl, the runner-up will be left at home. Whoís going bowling? My guess is the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State. RATING: 3.0



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