Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ranking the Conferences

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ranking the Conferences

Article excerpt

Determining which conference is best comes down to the criteria. Is it the league with the most national-title contenders? Is it the one with the fewest soft touches at the bottom? Or is it the conference with the greatest depth, solid from top to bottom? Of course, the answer is a little of each. Associated Press college football writer Ralph D. Russo ranks the Division I-A conferences:

1. SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

It's hard to touch the top group, with Auburn, Florida, LSU and Georgia all players on the national scene. Then throw in Tennessee (primed for a rebound), Alabama (10 wins last season) and South Carolina (with that Spurrier guy). But the Mississippi schools recently have been easy outs.

2. BIG TEN CONFERENCE

Ohio State is a national-championship contender, but Iowa, Michigan and Penn State also could emerge as upper-echelon teams. Wisconsin always seems to overachieve, and Minnesota, Purdue, Northwestern and Michigan State make for imposing middle-of-the-pack teams.

3. ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE

If Miami and Florida State become national-title contenders again, the ACC could challenge the SEC. Virginia Tech is a given to win about 10 games. Clemson, Boston College, Maryland and Georgia Tech provide excellent depth and balance in a league that features few easy rides.

4. PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE

USC has been so good that the rest of the conference has taken a bit of a bad rap. Defense often seems optional in the Pac-10, but don't downplay the offenses at Oregon, Arizona State and California. Arizona is on the upswing, and a rebirth at Washington would help the Pac-10's prestige.

5. BIG 12 CONFERENCE

Texas and Oklahoma gives the conference two top-10 fixtures. Texas Tech has become the league's No. 3 team, and Texas A&M is in line to rebound. Will the North rise again? Much depends on whether Nebraska is ready for a return to glory, because the rest of the teams look so-so. …

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