Week 4 College Football Conference Power Rankings
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The college football season is now three weeks old, and some of the conferences have begun to separate themselves from the pack after some unexpected upsets and wild finishes.
Some conferences are much better than expected, while others have fallen significantly compared to previous seasons.
Will the Southeastern Conference reign supreme once again in this week's conference power rankings? Click on to find out if any of the conferences managed to dislodge the SEC from the No. 1 spot.
No. 11: Conference USA
The struggles of Conference USA continued again over the weekend.
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Just when it appeared things could not get any worse for the members of Conference USA, another college football Saturday arrived. Several teams were beaten soundly by their opponents, and the conference posted a 3-6 record in non-conference matchups over the weekend.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes beat the Nicholls State Colonels, 66-16; the Central Florida Golden Knights bested the Florida International Golden Panthers, 33-20; and the UTEP Miners handled the New Mexico State Aggies, 41-28, for the conference's only wins in Week 3.
Five teams in the conference have yet to win a game this season, and there are four others with just one win to their name.
Things are not looking good for Conference USA this season.
No. 10: Mountain West Conference
Fresno State was one of the lone bright spots for the Mountain West Conference in Week 3.
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The Mountain West Conference has fallen a long way over the past couple of weeks, and some of the better teams in the league were just a few plays away from suffering crippling losses.
The San Diego State Aztecs barely hung on to beat the North Dakota Fighting Sioux of the Football Championship Subdivision, and the Nevada Wolf Pack got more of a game than it would have liked against their FCS foe Northwestern State University.
The Boise State Broncos and Fresno State Bulldogs picked up the conference's only other victories in Week 3 against the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks and Colorado Buffaloes, respectively.
The UNLV Rebels dropped to 0-3 as the Washington State Cougars' backup quarterback tossed four touchdowns against their defense in a 35-27 loss, and the Wyoming Cowboys remained winless as they fell to the Cal Poly Mustangs of the FCS.
Boise State and Fresno State will likely be battling for the conference title and may be able to stack up against the top dogs of the conferences ranked ahead of the Mountain West. However, the rest of the league looks atrocious.
No. 9: Western Athletic Conference
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs held up their end of the bargain for the Western Athletic Conference in Week 3.
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The Western Athletic Conference slipped back a bit in this week's rankings because the conference has failed to beat anyone of relevance through the first three weeks of the college football season.
The Texas San Antonio Roadrunners sit atop the conference at 3-0, but their only wins are against a Football Bowl Subdivision newcomer, a Division II squad and a mediocre FCS foe. None of those games were very convincing wins for the Roadrunners either.
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and San Jose State Spartans beat up on average teams from the two previously discussed conferences in this slideshow; the New Mexico Lobos got thumped by the UTEP Miners; and the Idaho Vandals might as well have stayed home to avoid the whooping they took on the road against the No. 3 LSU Tigers.
Although the Utah State Aggies could not finish off the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall over the weekend, they still look to be the best team in the league and sport the best win of the year for the WAC, which was an upset of their in-state rival, the Utah Utes.
The WAC teams are just waiting for conference play to begin so they can finally beat some teams of equal skill level.
No. 8: Mid-American Conference
The Ball State Cardinals won their second game of the season against the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday.
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The Mid-American Conference members may not win a lot of games in the non-conference schedule, but at least they are going out and challenging some of the teams from college football's marquee conferences.
The Western Michigan Broncos took Minnesota Golden Gophers starting quarterback MarQuise Gray out of the game, but they came up short in the second half and lost, 28-23. Western Michigan's only two losses this year came against the Golden Gophers and Illinois Fighting Illini.
The Eastern Michigan Eagles and UMass Minutemen were thumped by the Purdue Boilermakers and Michigan Wolverines, while the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks made the trek west to play the Boise State Broncos on their famous blue turf, only to be defeated, 39-12.
There were several bright spots in Week 3 for the MAC though. The Akron Zips handled their business in blowout fashion against the Morgan State Bears, the Ball State Cardinals beat the Indiana Hoosiers with a late field goal, and the Northern Illinois Huskies held on to beat the Army Black Knights.
Additionally, the Ohio Bobcats improved to 3-0 with a dramatic 27-24 victory over the Marshall Thundering Herd.
The Bobcats and Huskies will likely meet in the MAC Championship for a second straight season.
No. 7: Sun Belt Conference
The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks proved their victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks was no fluke.
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One of the biggest upsets in college football history came in Week 2 courtesy of the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, who topped the Arkansas Razorbacks, 34-31, in overtime. Starting quarterback Kolton Browning nearly notched a second straight victory for the Sun Belt Conference against the SEC.
The Warhawks came back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter against the Auburn Tigers to send the game to overtime, but a missed field goal in the extra session was too much to overcome. The Tigers escaped with a 31-28 victory.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders were the only two Sun Belt teams to win over the weekend. However, all of the conference's teams were playing against foes well above their talent level.
Even still, the Troy Trojans only lost by six to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, the North Texas Mean Green hung tough with the No. 15 Kansas State Wildcats for the first three quarters of play, and even lowly Florida Atlantic did not look completely inept against the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs.
The only two teams in the league who did not play an AQ conference opponent were Middle Tennessee State and the Florida International Golden Panthers, who were defeated 33-20 by the Central Florida Golden Knights.
The Sun Belt continues to make great strides as a conference and are no longer at the bottom of the food chain in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
No. 6: Big East Conference
The Lousiville Cardinals barely hung on to beat the North Carolina Tar Heels in Week 3.
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The Big East Conference proved they can compete with at least one of the other AQ conferences in Week 3 as their teams went 3-0 against members of the ACC.
The Pittsburgh Panthers finally started playing big boy football and pulled off the upset of the week by handily beating the No. 13 Virginia Tech Hokies, 35-17. Meanwhile, the Connecticut Huskies held off the Maryland Terrapins, 24-21; and the No. 19 Louisville Cardinals topped the North Carolina Tar Heels, 39-34.
It was not all fine and dandy for the Big East in Week 3, though. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights and South Florida Bulls played one of the sloppiest games of the entire college football season, in addition to the Syracuse Orange and Cincinnati Bearcats failing to turn in blowout wins against mediocre Football Championship Subdivision squads.
For this reason, the Big East remains the weakest of the AQ conferences through the opening three weeks of the 2012 college football season.
No. 5: Atlantic Coast Conference
The Florida State Seminoles look to be headed for a monumental conference tilt with the Clemson Tigers.
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None of the power six conferences can go 0-3 in one weekend against the Big East and expect to maintain their same spot in the latest edition of the conference power rankings.
As mentioned in the previous slide, three ACC teams failed to beat their Big East counterparts, but the conference still gets the No. 5 spot because of the separation between the Florida State Seminoles and the Louisville Cardinals, which appear to be the top two teams in their respective conferences.
Throw the Clemson Tigers into the picture, and the ACC is still head and shoulders above the Big East despite the losses from their middle-tier teams in Week 3.
The North Carolina State Wolfpack, Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes and Duke Blue Devils easily dispatched of their much weaker foes, while the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets carved up the Virginia Cavaliers' defense in a conference tilt.
The Boston College Eagles fell to the Northwestern Wildcats, 22-13, to round out the ACC's slate of games from last Saturday.
Look for the ACC to move back up next week if the conference ahead of it has some of its top dogs struggle in upcoming games.
No. 4: Big Ten Conference
After having one of the worst weekends in recent memory, the Big Ten Conference bounced back in Week 3.
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No conference in college football had a more embarrassing performance in Week 2, but the Big Ten bounced back against several cupcake opponents in Week 3.
The Big Ten did not really help itself with blowout victories from the Purdue Boilermakers, Michigan Wolverines, Penn State Nittany Lions, Illinois Fighting Illini and Nebraska Cornhuskers; however, the ACC's struggles over the weekend allowed the league to move up this week by default.
The Ohio State Buckeyes looked vulnerable against the California Golden Bears in a 35-28 win at home, and the Iowa Hawkeyes once again struggled to move the ball on offense in a lackluster 27-16 victory over in-state Football Championship Subdivision rival Northern Iowa.
The Wisconsin Badgers have been the most disappointing team in the Big Ten this season and needed the Utah State Aggies to miss a field goal late in order to eke out a 16-14 win at Camp Randall.
The conference was also dealt a bit of a blow when the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans were clubbed, 20-3, by the No. 20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Spartan Stadium.
Overall, the Big Ten looks even less top-heavy than it did a week ago, but most of the teams in the league took care of business as expected last Saturday.
No. 3: Big 12 Conference
Geno Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers were dominant in their Week 3 contest against James Madison.
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Much like the Big Ten Conference, the Big 12 Conference did not have to face the stiffest competition in Week 3 of the college football season, but the league members went out and handled their weaker foes.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Tech Red Raiders, West Virginia Mountaineers, Iowa State Cyclones and Texas Longhorns all won their games by at least 30 points.
Meanwhile, the Baylor Bears struggled in the first half against arguably the top team in the Football Championship Subdivision, the Sam Houston State Bearkats. The Bears rallied in the second half with 38 points to knock off the upset-minded Bearkats.
The No. 16 TCU Horned Frogs knocked off the Kansas Jayhawks, 20-6, on the road in their Big 12 debut. The No. 15 Kansas State Wildcats pulled away from the North Texas Mean Green in the fourth quarter en route to a 35-21 non-conference win.
The Big 12 sports eight undefeated teams, which is the most out of any conference.
No. 2: Pac-12 Conference
The Stanford Cardinal bolstered the Pac-12 Conference's ranking with their upset of No. 2 Southern California.
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One of the Pac-12 Conference's heavyweights may have fallen over the weekend, but almost all of the other teams in the league managed to bolster their current ranking with impressive victories.
The Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, Washington Huskies and UCLA Bruins all took advantage of their contests against much weaker opponents and stuffed the stat sheets at home.
Even the Washington State Cougars found a way to improve to 2-1, as backup quarterback Connor Halliday tossed four touchdowns in a 35-27 victory over the UNLV Rebels. Additionally, the Utah Utes knocked off the No. 25 BYU Cougars, 24-21, and the California Golden Bears may have topped the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes on the road had it not been for three missed field goals.
Two of the Pac-12's top teams, the No. 21 Stanford Cardinal and No. 2 USC Trojans, battled into the West Coast sunset. The Cardinal topped the Trojans for a fourth straight year and established Stanford as a legitimate contender to win the Pac-12 this season.
The Pac-12 has been impressive so far this year; however, the final conference in this slideshow still holds the top spot this week.
No. 1: Southeastern Conference
The Alabama Crimson Tide looked as dominant as ever in their rout of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
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Only the Southeastern Conference's bottom feeders fell in non-conference play over the weekend, and the Alabama Crimson Tide and Florida Gators stood out in some of the league's early conference matchups.
The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide shut out the Arkansas Razorbacks, 52-0, while the Gators pulled away from their rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers, in the fourth quarter to emerge from Rocky Top with a 37-20 victory.
The Texas A&M Aggies, South Carolina Gamecocks, LSU Tigers, Vanderbilt Commodores and Georgia Bulldogs all won their games in convincing fashion, while the Mississippi State Bulldogs barely staved off a feisty Troy Trojans squad out of the Sun Belt Conference.
The Ole Miss Rebels were blown out by the No. 14 Texas Longhorns, and the Kentucky Wildcats fell to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in overtime for the SEC's only losses of Week 3.
With the Tigers and Crimson Tide still cruising through their respective schedules, the SEC looks as though it will remain on top of the conference power rankings until one of them falters.