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National perspective

Eight experts take a crack at ranking BCS conferences

Posted: Wednesday November 7, 2007 3:16PM; Updated: Wednesday November 7, 2007 7:23PM
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Glenn Dorsey
With one true national title contender (LSU) and unparalleled depth, the SEC is an easy choice as the No. 1 conference.
Randy Snyder/Icon SMI
Conference Clout
The combined BCS conference rankings of eight experts
Conference Points
1. SEC (8) 48
2. Pac-10 36
3. Big 12 31
4. ACC 20
5. Big Ten 17
6. Big East 16
** First place votes in parenthesis.
** Six points for each first place vote, five for second, etc.
** The Big 12, Big Ten and ACC were all given 3 points on Gary Danielson's ballot since he had them on the same 'tier'.
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CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson knows a thing or two about conference debates. During last season's SEC championship game, he argued Florida, not Michigan, deserved a spot opposite Ohio State in the BCS title game. His argument was largely on the strength of the SEC vs. the Big Ten, and it created more than a few elevated heart rates in the Midwest.

"When people talk about which conference is best, they are usually just giving opinions and not really much else," Danielson said. "You have to put pencil to paper and really look at it. But you know what? When you do that, it gets even harder. It is really splitting hairs."

After giving my opinion over the first two months of the season on this topic, I decided to let a national panel of experts split the hairs this week, ranking the six BCS conferences. Assembled for this exercise are Danielson and Spencer Tillman (CBS), Mark Schlabach (ESPN), Tom Dienhart (Sporting News), Dan Wetzel (Yahoo! Sports), Mitch Light (Athlon Sports), Pete Fiutak (CollegeFootballNews.com) and Chris Dufresne (Los Angeles Times).

Each submitted a list and explained their thought process, and as you can see in the graphic to the right, the SEC was unanimously named the nation's top conference. Here is every individual ballot and commentary:

Gary Danielson, CBS Sports

First Tier: SEC, Pac-10
Second Tier: Big 12, Big Ten, ACC
Third Tier: Big East

This is not easy to do. I would put the SEC at 1A and the Pac-10 at 1B, because if you look at it in terms of embarrassing losses, the SEC really has none. The Pac-10 has lost to Notre Dame, New Mexico, Cincinnati, Utah. Also, when you play in the SEC, you travel with that 75 years of history to those games. Week after week, that is draining.

The Big Ten is going to have Michigan and Ohio State go undefeated two years in a row. That doesn't say much for the conference. It is like that conference is stuck in the 1970s while everyone else has moved on.

I would say this year, the conference differences are a good tie-breaker, but not a leap-frogger. One team shouldn't leap-frog another just because of conference.

Spencer Tillman, CBS Sports

1. SEC
2. ACC
3. Pac-10
4. Big 12
5. Big Ten
6. Big East

Viewing this with a critical eye, you have to judge a conference's strength from the bottom up. I don't see a conference that measures up to the SEC from the bottom up. The Pac-10 has USC, Cal and Oregon, but it doesn't measure up at the bottom. In the SEC, you have Vanderbilt being competitive, Kentucky was in the national championship hunt, Alabama is supposed to be a fringe Top-25 team and you see what they are doing. From top to bottom, the SEC is the best.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN

1. SEC: Outside of LSU, the SEC's upper crust isn't as good as it has been in the past. But every SEC team except Ole Miss is capable of springing an upset of LSU.

2. Big 12: With Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas in the top 10, it might be argued the Big 12 is stronger than the SEC. Alas, Nebraska weighs the league down too much at the bottom.

3. Pac-10: If Oregon gets to the BCS championship game, the Ducks will have earned it. The Pac-10 is so strong this season USC might only be the third-best team in the league.

4. Big Ten: Ohio State has won a Big Ten-record 20 consecutive conference games and has faced little resistance this season. Only Illinois and Michigan -- the Buckeyes' November punching bag under coach Jim Tressel -- stand in the way of an unbeaten regular season.

5. ACC: Boston College and Virginia Tech are legitimate top-15 teams, and Clemson and Virginia are two of the hottest teams in the country. Florida State finally showed life upsetting B.C.; Miami is still on life support.

6. Big East: The conference has taken a big step back this season, with Louisville, Rutgers and now South Florida struggling. But West Virginia still figures to finish among the top five teams in the country, if the Mountaineers don't slip before the BCS bowls.

Tom Dienhart, Sporting News

1. SEC: Lack of elite-level teams is overcome by quality depth that is 11 schools deep. Sorry, Ole Miss.

2. Big 12: No league features more top-end teams -- Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas.

3. Pac-10: Equal parts good (Oregon, Arizona State, Cal, USC, Oregon State) and bad (Washington, Washington State, Arizona, Stanford, UCLA).

4. Big East: There's one elite team (West Virginia), one surprise (UConn) and lots of mediocrity.

5. Big Ten: There's Ohio State and Michigan. Did I mention Ohio State and Michigan are REALLY good?

6. ACC: Hands down the worst BCS league, with nary a legit national title contender.

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