The first month of the college football season has concluded. A few early overrated teams (Virginia Tech, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech) have already been exposed and eliminated from the polls. Likewise, underappreciated teams left out of the pre-season polls (Nevada, Arizona, Michigan State, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Michigan and Stanford) have been belatedly included. Several high-profile inter-conference games have already helped solidify the polls by reinforcing the lofty rankings of Alabama, Ohio State, Boise State, Texas Christian, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Oregon.
With the exception of the Southeastern Conference, too few intra-conference matches have been occurred so far to distinguish the likely contenders for championships. No one in the Big East or Big Ten has played a conference game yet. No team in the Big Twelve, Pacific Ten or Western Athletic Conference has played more than one conference contest so far. Based solely on non-conference games, West Virginia appears as the favorite to win the Big East while the Big Ten race has four teams, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Ohio State, in serious contention for the title. This Saturday’s game between Oregon and Stanford will weigh heavily in determining the Pacific Ten championship.
Only the Southeastern Conference has played a significant number of conference matches to start to filter out the pretenders from the contenders. Nine of twelve teams in the SEC have played at least two conference games; Georgia and Mississippi State have played three already. In the Western Division, Auburn and Louisiana State have raced out ahead of the pack with two wins in their first two conference games. The two teams from the Magnolia State are already positioning themselves in the basement of the SEC West as many pundits forecasted. On the other side of the conference, Florida grabbed the early lead but South Carolina remains within striking distance. Georgia is realistically eliminated from winning the SEC East.
The Atlantic Coast Conference appears to be destined to have a conference championship game featuring two unranked divisional champions. The top two teams in the Coastal Division each have unforgiveable non-conference losses to an FCS member and to a team that lost to an FCS member respectively. In the Atlantic Division, North Carolina State is the sole undefeated team left in the ACC. If Florida State’s coaching changes can end the malaise of the past several years, the Seminoles still have a great shot at winning the ACC. Miami has the talent to contend but has not tested the waters yet in conference. It appears that the fans of the Atlantic Coast Conference have to wait once again for basketball season to restore their pride.
The question in the Big Twelve revolves around Nebraska’s and Colorado’s impending defections. Will the other four weaklings on the Northern Division manage to upset the perceived traitors? Otherwise, the task of salvaging conference pride will fall to Texas or Oklahoma to continue the Big Twelve South’s domination of the other half of the conference. One must wonder if either traditional power is up to the task. Oklahoma narrowly escaped with home wins over Air Force and Utah State. Unranked UCLA embarrassed Texas in its own stadium. The passion of the undeclared blood feud of the remaining Big Twelve teams versus the departing members may not suffice to prevent one of those two from taking the conference title on their way out of the door.
For college football fans, many questions remain to be answered. Will Alabama navigate unscathed in the SEC once again on its way to repeating as national champions? Can Ohio State remain at least second in the polls in order to have another shot at winning the BCS title and possibly end its winless post-season streak versus the SEC in the process? Will enough BCS conference members lose games to allow Boise State or Texas Christian to land in the BCS title game, assuming either will finish undefeated? Will the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conferences manage to convince the BCS overlords that their champions still deserve automatic bids for their champions? Will the Mountain West and Western Athletic Conferences continue to make their cases to receive automatic BCS bids for their champions? Many more games need to be played, all of which will provide more fodder for debates and controversies.
COPYRIGHT BY CHARLES KASTRIOT SEPTEMBER 2010