For years now the SEC has unanimously been regarded as college football’s premiere and most competitive league, and with the last two BCS national champions residing from the conference, it’s hard to argue this point. And with more depth than ever, as perennial cellar-dwellers begin to make major strides, the SEC seems poised to further cement itself at the top of college football’s elite conferences.
The nation’s most prolific offensive conference is not quite up to par with the SEC, but with bottom-feeders slowly progressing and mid-levelers preparing to assert themselves, the Big 12 is positioning itself to become a force to reckon with on a grand stage for years to come. Defense will be at a premium this season as nearly every team returns noteworthy names at quarterback.
The Big Ten was once a symbol of power perched atop the college football conference hierarchy. However, in recent years, the league that is best characterized by the phrase “three yards and a cloud of dust” has failed to buy into the wide-open offensive philosophy that has so captured the rest of the nation, and in doing so, it has relinquished its title as the nation’s premiere conference.
How many superlatives can you use in reference to a conference that has been dominated by one team for the better part of a decade? The answer is none. For all the teams that have posed a challenge to Southern California over the past six seasons, not one has found the magic formula needed to dethrone the Trojans and interrupt their unprecedented string of six consecutive conference championships. And the streak appears alive and well for at least one more year.
Due to poor showings by a number of teams, including perennial powerhouses Florida State and Miami, the Atlantic Coast Conference has recently slid further and further down the BCS conference pecking order, with some believing it is now less prestigious than the Big East. This is all very ironic considering Boston College, Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech were spoon-fed loads of cash for agreeing to transition from the Big East to the ACC prior to the 2004 season. The ACC will get its chance to reassert itself as a major player with several interesting non-conference battles, including Clemson’s matchup with Alabama on opening weekend.
Once an afterthought when compared to the more traditionally elite conferences, even when perennial powers Miami and Virginia Tech were members, the Big East it seems has flourished from addition by subtraction. Four years ago, when much ado was made over conference giants moving to the ACC, many thought it meant the beginning of the end. Little did we know that the trio of South Florida, Cincinnati and Louisville would serve as an ample substitute, quickly experience significant success and, in the process, immediately turn the Big East into a major player in the struggle for supreme national recognition.
Will the Fighting Irish recover from one of the worst seasons in program history? Which school will emerge as this season’s spoiler capable of toppling a perennial power and landing a spot in a BCS bowl game? Can new SMU coach June Jones resurrect the Mustangs without the magical powers of his infamous lei? These are just a few of the questions surrounding those conferences who often find themselves crashing the party after being told to stand outside and look in.