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2002 Preseason Conference Rankings

Here are the 2002 preseason conference rankings from 1-11 of each Division I conference along with a brief summary of each conference. Included is each conference’s “Top Dawgs”, the teams that will contend on a national level (as in make a run at the BCS), the “Mid-Level Teams”, as in teams that will be at or above the .500 mark but will not make a run at any large prizes this year, and the “Lower Level Teams”, which are teams that will almost surely have losing records this year.

Top Dawgs: Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas
Mid-Level Teams: Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
Lower Level Teams: Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor
The Big XII is probably not as deep from 1-12 as the SEC but definitely has the most elite teams. Colorado and Nebraska, from the Big XII North, as well as Oklahoma and Texas, from the Big XII South, all have chances to claim a BCS berth. Colorado and Nebraska were the conference’s representatives last year in the BCS (Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl and Nebraska fell short of national champ Miami in the Rose Bowl). Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech should all take winning seasons this year. Any of these teams could step up and make a run at the Big XII title, but the top four teams will be hard to overcome. Oklahoma State is borderline between a mid-level team and lower level team. The Cowboys have the potential to step up to .500 but have not proven they can over the past few seasons. Missouri, Kansas, and Baylor are without a doubt the bottom three teams in the Big XII.

Top Dawgs: Two of these four: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee
Mid-Level Teams: Two of these four: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee plus Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, and Miss. State
Lower Level Teams: Kentucky, Vanderbilt
After being the leader among conferences in college football the past few years, the SEC seems to have at least temporarily taken second place behind the Big XII. The margain is not huge, but it is there. Whereas the Big XII has four teams that will be legitimate contenders for BCS berths, four of the SEC’s five best teams are in the SEC East in my opinion. This would likely limit the number of legitimate BCS contenders in the SEC to two. Whichever two do not step up and make BCS-type noise will join all six members of the SEC West (AL, AR, AU, LSU, UM, and MSU) as mid-level teams in the SEC. Kentucky and Vanderbilt are the obvious low points of the conference this year. The SEC has a legitmate shot at having ten bowl eligible teams this fall.

PAC 10
Top Dawgs: Two of these three: Washington State, Washington, Oregon
Mid-Level Teams: One of these three: Washington St, Washington, Oregon plus USC, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon State
Lower Level Teams: Stanford, Arizona State, California
I expect two teams to be in fierce battle for the PAC 10 title this season while the next four or five teams are packed tightly just above the .500 mark overall. I think WSU is certain to be one of the two teams contending while either Washington or Oregon will be the second. Which ever one falls into the mid-level category will join USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Oregon State. The teams who look as if they won’t have winning seasons in ‘02 are Stanford, Arizona State, and Cal. Stanford and Arizona could possibly change positions, but I think the Wildcats have a chance to be successful this season. Even though this is a strong conference, I think it’s too competitive to have a team appear in the Fiesta Bowl this season. Like the SEC, these teams will beat up on each other too much.

Big Ten
Top Dawgs: Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State
Mid-Level Teams: Illinois, Penn State, Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin
Lower Level Teams: Northwestern, Minnesota, Indiana
Giving the Big Ten three top-tier teams is very generous as I don’t think all three of these teams can legtimately compete at the top level this season. One will likely fall into the mid-level category by season’s end. The mid-level category is impressive in the Big Ten. One member, Illinois, actually won the conference last season. Penn State, Iowa, Purdue, and Wisconsin should have winning seasons this year though I’ve predicted Wisconsin to have a disappointing season this fall. Northwestern, after being picked by some to win the conference last year, falls into the lower-level as do Minnesota and Indiana.

Big East
Top Dawgs: Miami, Virginia Tech
Mid-Level Teams: Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Lower Level Teams: West Virginia, Rutgers, Temple
In the ratings of the teams above, I was generous to the Big East by giving them two teams in the “Top Dawgs” category and including Syracuse in the mid-level teams. Most people are picking ‘Cuse to have success this season, but I feel they’re going to fall off significantly from last season’s record. Miami is an obvious choice for the top spot in the conference. The ‘Canes will again contend for the national title. Boston College and Pittsburgh, as well as Virginia Tech, should have very good seasons this fall. West Virginia could approach .500, but Rutgers and Temple will make up the bottom two spots of the conference.

Top Dawgs: Florida State
Mid-Level Teams: NC State, Maryland, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest
Lower Level Teams: Virginia, North Carolina, Duke
Florida State is the obvious choice for the top spot in the ACC this year. NC State and Maryland are solid choices for the mid-level category. Duke will again be the cellar-dweller of the ACC. But that’s where the sure-choices end. I think that three of the remaining five teams (Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia, and North Carolina) will have good seasons while the other two will fall below .500. As of right now, I’d have to say the UNC and UVA appear to be the odd ones out. Wake Forest could easily slide back down though, but I think they could be a surprise in the ACC this fall.

Top Dawgs: Louisville
Mid-Level Teams: Cincinnati, Southern Miss, Memphis, TCU, East Carolina
Lower Level Teams: UAB, Tulane, Houston, Army
Louisville has a chance to shine this fall and possibly make a run at the BCS behind QB Dave Ragone. Cincinnati, Southern Miss, Memphis, TCU, and East Carolina should all be right around or above the break-even mark this fall. The bad spot of this conference is that there are four teams that are going to struggle this season. UAB, Tulane, Houston, and Army averaged only three wins each last year, and that number may not be much better this season.

Mountain West
Top Dawgs: -----
Mid-Level Teams: Utah, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, BYU
Lower Level Teams: Air Force, Wyoming, San Diego State
While Utah and Colorado State are the class of the MWC in my opinion, I don’t think either of these teams can be seriously considered a contender for the BCS. New Mexico, in my opinion, will surprise some people this fall. UNLV and BYU will also put quality, .500 teams on the field this year. Air Force, Wyoming, and San Diego State are the bottom three in the Mountain West.

Top Dawgs: -----
Mid-Level Teams: Louisiana Tech, Boise State, Hawaii, Fresno State
Lower Level Teams: UTEP, Rice, Nevada, Tulsa, SMU, San Jose State
Even if a team from the WAC was to go undefeated, it’s not entirely guaranteed that they would be represented in the BCS. I don’t think it will happen anyway though. LA Tech, Boise State, Hawaii, and Fresno State will make the most serious runs at the conference title this fall while the rest of the conference will try to contend for possibly one more .500 record.

Top Dawgs: Marshall
Mid-Level Teams: UCF, Miami (OH), Kent St, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois, Ball St, Toledo
Lower Level Teams: Akron, Ohio, Buffalo, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan
Marshall is the obvious choice for the top spot in the MAC behind QB and Heisman Trophy candidate Byron Leftwich. The rest of the spots are wide open. The teams that won’t contend this fall are Akron, Ohio, Buffalo, Central Michigan, and Eastern Michigan. Including Kent State and Ball State in the mid-level teams was generous while not including Western Michigan was rather harsh. WMU may move up by season’s end, but at this point, I’m not sure they’ll finish .500.

Sun Belt
Top Dawgs: -----
Mid-Level Teams: North Texas, Middle Tennessee
Lower Level Teams: Idaho, New Mexico St, LA-Monroe, Arkansas St, LA-Lafayette
The conference with the fewest teams also happens to be the weakest. Middle Tennessee and North Texas will battle it out for the Sun Belt crown (again), but past that, there are no good teams. The rest of the conference will continue to struggle as the Mean Green and Blue Raiders are in charge.

Conference Rankings by Jonathan.
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