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Conference Power Rankings

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Conference Power Rankings


1. SEC

Last week: 1

The skinny: The gap is narrowing, but the SEC is still on top. LSU's overwhelming performance against what might be the eventual ACC champion was evidence that the best team in the land may live in the best conference. LSU appears to have no weaknesses at this point and could leap USC in a week or two if the Trojans don't put together some impressive performances. The league did lose two nonconference games over the weekend, with Auburn falling to South Florida in overtime and Ole Miss losing to Missouri. The SEC also boasts just a 3-3 BCS record at this point. But South Carolina's win at Georgia showed the scary depth of the SEC East, and there are nine teams ranked in SI's top 40.

Key game this weekend: Louisville at Kentucky

If Kentucky wins this game, the SEC East could boast five AP Top 25 teams come Monday. The Wildcats will be hosting a top-10 team that is lacking a defense at the moment. Louisville is favored to win its fifth straight in this series, but Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson and Co. could torch Louisville's defense and win a shootout. Whatever you do, take the over.

2. Pac-10

Last week: 2

The skinny: After a disastrous start to the weekend (Oregon State getting undressed by Cincinnati on Thursday night), the Pac-10 rebounded in a big way. With big dog USC taking the week off, the league racked up a 6-0 mark on Saturday against I-A competition and recorded wins over Boise State, Michigan, BYU and Colorado. Half the league is now in SI's top 25 and Arizona State is knocking on the door. The league is not USC and nine other teams. The Pac-10 has nine nonconference games this weekend and it will be favored in eight of them.

Key game this weekend: Ohio State at Washington.

This is the one matchup that is not expected to go the Pac-10's way, but after last weekend, would you be shocked if it did? Washington has looked good in beating Syracuse and Boise State to start the year, while Ohio State has looked ordinary. The defense has been there for the Buckeyes, but things have not clicked on the other side of the ball. With freshman quarterback Jake Locker, Washington has a chance in any game.

3. Big East

Last week: 4

The skinny: The Big Three from the Big East are already well known, but what jumps the Big East into the No. 3 slot this week are what the fourth- and fifth-best teams in the league pulled off (and remember, there are only eight teams in the conference). Cincinnati, under first-year coach Brian Kelly, whipped Oregon State in every phase of the game in a 34-3 win, while South Florida won at Auburn in overtime, despite missing four second-half field goals. West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers were not overwhelming in their victories, but that is more of a factor of newfound expectations than anything else. They all won by a minimum of 16 points. Syracuse is dragging the league down, but the Big East discovered some strength in the middle last weekend.

Key game this weekend: Pittsburgh at Michigan State

Michigan State manhandled Pittsburgh last season in the second half of a 38-23 win. The Panthers are banged up and will have a tough time winning against an inspired Spartan squad led by first-year coach Mark Dantonio. If the Panthers can pull off the upset, the Big East can claim even more depth.

4. Big 12

Last week: 3

The skinny: After taking two on the chin to the SEC in Week 1, the Big 12 swept a pair of ACC matchups last week. Oklahoma looks like a machine at this point after crushing Miami 51-13, and Nebraska gutted out a 20-17 win at ACC champ Wake Forest. Texas answered TCU's challenge by blowing out the Horned Frogs in the second half, giving the Big 12 another quality win. Missouri beat Ole Miss as well, and Texas A&M hung on for dear life against Fresno State. Colorado's loss to Arizona State was the conference's only loss in a 9-1 week against I-A competition. Of course, don't forget Iowa State, which lost to I-AA Northern Iowa and currently sits at No. 106 in SI's 26-119 rankings.

Key game this weekend: USC at Nebraska

Oklahoma and Texas are top 10 teams. Here is Nebraska's chance to give the Big 12 a third team in that elite category. USC has had two weeks to prepare after grinding out a 38-10 win over Idaho in Week 1. The Huskers looked a little sloppy in winning at Wake, but they have experience against USC from last year and shouldn't be intimidated. Even new quarterback Sam Keller has faced the Trojans, back when he was at Arizona State. The atmosphere should be electric for the first visit to Lincoln by an opposing team ranked No. 1 in 29 years. Of course, USC is ranked No. 1 for a reason.

5. Big Ten

Last week: 5

The skinny: Michigan? Not good. Ohio State? Iffy. Wisconsin? Unimpressive. That leaves Penn State. The Nittany Lions' defense is yielding virtually nothing and showing some spark on offense. Penn State has given up 258 yards in two games after Saturday's 31-10 wipeout of Notre Dame, and with Buffalo next, that number doesn't figure to rise much. The Big Ten was actually a respectable 8-1 vs. I-A competition last week (with the one being another debacle in Ann Arbor), but Northwestern had to pull one out late against Nevada, Minnesota went to overtime with Miami-Ohio and we had the aforementioned lackluster performances by Ohio State and Wisconsin. The league has six BCS games this weekend, so we'll know much more by Sunday.

Key game this weekend: Notre Dame at Michigan

The Ohio State-Washington and Pitt-Michigan State games are discussed above, and how jazzed can you get about Duke-Northwestern? The Train Wreck Special will be on ABC, and ratings figure to be good because how often do you get to see either Notre Dame or Michigan fall to 0-3? Michigan will be without starting quarterback Chad Henne, leaving freshman Ryan Mallett to take on Notre Dame freshman Jimmy Clausen. This is Michigan's chance to redeem a scrap of respect nationally, albeit against a very suspect Irish squad that hasn't scored an offensive touchdown this season.

6. ACC

Last week: 6

The skinny: The league is holding off the Mountain West for now, but it's light years from the Big Ten. What can you say after your flagship squad (Virginia Tech) loses 48-7, your defending league champ (Wake Forest) loses at home to the third-best team in the Big 12 and one of your signature programs thought to be on the rise (Miami) falls 51-13? A 1-4 record vs. BCS competition this season is a strong indictment. The league's highest-rated team -- Boston College -- is lower than all the other BCS conferences' top teams, and the league's lowest-rated team -- Duke -- is also lower than all the other BCS conferences' bottom teams. Hoops practice is a month away, boys.

Key game this weekend: Florida State at Colorado

This ain't intramurals, brother. It's the ACC! Florida State trailed UAB by two touchdowns before posting a 10-point win on Saturday. Colorado had a two-touchdown lead on Arizona State before things fell apart in a 33-14 home loss. The ACC is desperate for some good news. The 'Noles are slight favorites. Another loss here would probably drop the conference's BCS record to 1-7 on the season (if Maryland falls to West Virginia and Duke falls to Northwestern as expected).

7. Mountain West

Last week: 7

The skinny: The league lost a big chance to make a splash last week when TCU saw its halftime lead on Texas evaporate and BYU failed to come all the way back against UCLA. The conference still has three BCS wins to its credit and a 3-0 record against the WAC. Utah has been a disappointment to date.

Key game this weekend: Hawaii at UNLV

The Rebels nearly scored a huge win last week against Wisconsin, surrendering the winning touchdown in the final two minutes. Now they get a chance against Hawaii glamour boy Colt Brennan and the Warriors, who will have been off campus for 12 days once the game kicks off (classes, anyone?). Hawaii buried UNLV 42-13 last season, but the Islanders usually play quite differently away from paradise.

8. Conference USA

Last week: 8

The skinny: The league picked up its second BCS win of the season when East Carolina followed up its strong performance at Virginia Tech with a last-second win against North Carolina. UAB and Southern Miss put up a fight against Florida State and Tennessee, respectively, but there were no other nonconference wins for C-USA.

Key game this weekend: BYU at Tulsa

While this is not a BCS opponent, it would still register as a quality win for the league if Tulsa can upset BYU. The Cougars split their first two games against Pac-10 foes and will be in the upper half of the Mountain West all season. New Tulsa coach Todd Graham has had two weeks to prepare his team after an opening-week win over Louisiana-Monroe.

9. MAC

Last week: 9

The skinny: Things pretty much went as expected last weekend for the MAC. It went 0-6 against its BCS opponents (including 0-4 vs. the Big Ten) and 1-0 vs. the Sun Belt when Ohio beat Louisiana-Lafayette. There were some notable performances, however, as Miami (Ohio) took Minnesota to overtime, Bowling Green played Michigan State pretty much even for three quarters in East Lansing and Akron trailed Ohio State just 3-2 at halftime.

Key game this weekend: Akron at Indiana

One of three Big Ten-MAC matchups this week, bringing the season total to 10. The MAC has claimed one victory, with Bowling Green edging Minnesota in Week 1. Here is a chance for another. Akron showed it was not scared of Ohio State last week and beat N.C. State on the road last season.

10. WAC

Last week: 10

The skinny: There hasn't been a heck of a lot of good news to date. The league is still looking for its first I-A win after 10 games. Nevada had a victory at Northwestern in hand, but yielded an 80-yard drive in the final minute that allowed the Wildcats to escape. And Fresno State appeared to have Texas A&M beat in overtime before Marlon Moore fumbled at the one-yard line while trying to reach the ball over the goal line. Had Moore not fumbled, Fresno State would have had first-and-goal at the one trailing by three points and would likely have come away with the win.

Key game this weekend: Wyoming at Boise State

The Broncos will be looking to bounce back from their first loss since falling to Boston College in the Humanitarian Bowl at the end of the 2005 season. Fear not, Broncos fans. Boise State hasn't lost a regular season home game since 2001. Wyoming has been impressive with wins over Virginia and Utah State. This game is critical for the WAC to loosen the Mountain West's hold of the conference rivalry at this point.

11. Sun Belt

Last week: 11

The skinny: MTSU represented the conference very well in front of a national audience at Louisville. The Blue Raiders shredded Louisville's defense for 554 yards and six touchdowns in a 58-42 loss. That was the best performance of the weekend and fortunately gave the league some nice exposure.

Key game this weekend: Florida International at Miami

There will be plenty of attention paid to this game because of last year's brawl and the fact that Miami coach Randy Shannon's son, Xavier, starts for Florida International. A strong performance will give the fledgling program some nice exposure and help take away the images of last season's melee

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