Week 7 College Football Conference Power Rankings
Welcome to Bleacher Report's weekly college football State of the Union address, where we stack up each conference and break down where the power lies in the sport.
There is little surprise at which two conference are at the top: the SEC and the Pac-12. The SEC has four teams ranked the Top 11, while the Pac-12 has three, including two in the Top Five.
If all plays out as expected, the nation's two best conferences could be squaring off for the BCS title in January.
The ACC isn't far behind with Clemson and Florida State both looking like legitimate contenders. There is a bit of a drop-off after that, though, as the Big 12 and Big Ten haven't looked as strong as expected.
Check out those five conferences, as well as all the "little guys" in this week's conference power rankings.
11. Sun Belt (Last Week: 10)
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 14-21
Title Favorite: Louisiana-Lafayette
Pleasant Surprise: Louisiana-Lafayette
Biggest Disappointment: Louisiana-Monroe
Louisiana-Lafayette has been the biggest surprise, and because of that, it is in the driver's seat to win the Sun Belt title.
Western Kentucky owns the biggest nonconference win with its decisive victory over Kentucky but regressed majorly in losses to Tennessee and South Alabama. If it weren't for the loss to USA, the Hilltoppers might be the conference favorite. Even with the loss, they still have a chance to turn things around.
The Ragin Cajuns were competitive in losses to Arkansas and Kansas State and are 1-0 in league play after dismantling Texas State.
Louisiana-Monroe stands as the biggest disappointment. The Warhawks were one of the small-conference darlings last year when they beat Arkansas and nearly upset Baylor and Auburn as well. However, they have been a serious disappointment this year, standing at 2-4 with three straight losses.
Title favorite No. 2 is Arkansas State, who won each of the last two Sun Belt titles.
10. Conference USA (Last Week: 11)
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 17-34
Title Favorite: East Carolina
Pleasant Surprise: Tulane
Biggest Disappointment: Tulsa
East Carolina has carried the banner for Conference-USA thus far and has been excellent in doing so.
The Pirates have by far the biggest out-of-conference win, a decisive defeat of the ACC's North Carolina in Chapel Hill. ECU stands at 4-1 with its only loss a good one: a 15-10 defeat to another ACC foe, Virginia Tech.
ECU will be tested this week by Tulane, which has been surprisingly strong this season. The Green Wave lost to South Alabama and Syracuse but notched a solid nonconference win over Louisiana-Monroe, which helps to push C-USA ahead of the Sun Belt.
Tulsa had numerous chances to push the league even higher but couldn't take down Big 12 foes Oklahoma or Iowa State. The Golden Hurricane have a decent win over Colorado State, but that was negated by a loss to MAC opponent Bowling Green.
After falling to Rice in its league opener, Tulsa will have to turn things around quick to make a bowl.
9. Independent (Last Week: 8)
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 17-22
Best Team: Notre Dame
Pleasant Surprise: Navy
Biggest Disappointment: Notre Dame
Only Notre Dame could be considered the best team in a given group but still be a disappointment.
The Fighting Irish posted a crucial win last week over Arizona State but still haven't met expectations after reaching the BCS title game last year. ND lost its two biggest games to Michigan and Oklahoma and clearly isn't nearly the team it was last year.
Going forward, the Irish will see their schedule flatten out a bit, as they won't see another ranked foe until Stanford on Nov. 30.
Navy currently holds one of the biggest wins for the Independents, a 41-35 shootout victory over Indiana. The Midshipmen, as always, have a bruising running game that many teams have a difficult time stopping. They'll have another great shot at a win over a BCS conference foe, Duke, this week.
BYU has been about as good as expected. The Cougars have faced a relatively difficult early schedule and do have a great win over Texas. They'll be shooting for another one this week at home against a reeling Georgia Tech squad.
8. Mountain West (Last Week: 7)
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Nonconference Record: 25-29
Title Favorite: Fresno State
Pleasant Surprise: Wyoming
Biggest Disappointment: San Jose State
Fresno State has BCS aspirations and looks poised to run the table in the Mountain West.
Fresno's passing game looks incredible and is one of the nation's best with Derek Carr at the helm, who is on pace to break the 5,000-yard passing plateau.
The Bulldogs notched a big win over Boise State and will likely have to go through the Broncos again in order to win the MWC title game.
They'll also be challenged by San Jose State, San Diego State, Nevada and a sneaky Wyoming team. The Cowboys nearly topped Nebraska in their season opener.
The "biggest disappointment" title could be given to SJSU, SDSU or Nevada, as none have looked quite up to par thus far. With time and a target on Fresno's back, any of the three could right the ship and challenge for the conference title.
7. Mid-American (Last Week: 9)
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 25-29
Title Favorite: Northern Illinois
Pleasant Surprise: Ball State
Biggest Disappointment: Kent State
Northern Illinois not only has MAC title aspirations, but the Huskies are looking to run the table and make their second BCS bowl as well.
However, the MAC isn't just a one-trick pony like many other small conferences. NIU, which has two wins over Big Ten foes, will have been given a run for its money by several competitors, including Ball State.
The MAC is sure to provide an exciting title race this year, as the league's four best teams currently have just three losses between them.
The biggest letdown has come from Kent State, which was expected to be up near the top of the league title race. Now, thanks to the early injury to speedster Dri Archer, the Golden Flashes might not even make a bowl.
6. American (Last Week:
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Nonconference Record: 18-19
Title Favorite: Louisville
Pleasant Surprise: UCF
Biggest Disappointment: Connecticut
Louisville takes a lot of flak for its weak schedule, but the American Athletic Conference isn't bad as it is perceived.
Having said that, the conference isn't all that strong either. UL is the overwhelming favorite, but the Cardinals will be challenged by Rutgers, UCF and Houston.
South Florida was right next to UConn as the biggest disappointment at 0-4, but the Bulls made it off the chopping block after beating Cincinnati to open league play.
UConn now takes that title outright, as the Huskies went through nonconference play winless, a slide that included losses to Towson and Buffalo, which is a very bad look for the AAC.
5. Big 12 (Last Week: 5)
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 22-8
Title Favorite: Baylor
Pleasant Surprise: Texas Tech
Biggest Disappointment: TCU
The Big 12 as a whole has been quite a disappointment. About half the conference is vehemently vying for the "Biggest Disappointment" title, including TCU, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and West Virginia.
TCU takes the cake right now, though. The Horned Frogs began the season ranked No. 20 but already are 0-2 in conference play. KSU is in an identical situation, but a rebuilding year was expected in Manhattan. Texas took itself out of contention for that title when it began league play at 2-0.
Oklahoma State earned its way into the race for the most disappointing team in the conference after being dropped by West Virginia. Ironically, that game took WVU out of the running for that title.
What's left is an impressive Texas Tech team that is still undefeated and a dark-horse Big 12 title contender. The two favorites are now Oklahoma and Baylor.
However, given the Bears record performance against West Virginia and generally insane offensive production, they stand as the team to beat in the conference.
4. Big Ten (Last Week: 4)
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 36-11
Title Favorite: Ohio State
Pleasant Surprise: Indiana
Biggest Disappointment: Penn State
Ohio State took down two of its biggest conference competitors, Northwestern and Wisconsin, in consecutive weeks to retain its spot atop the Big Ten. The Buckeyes will still need some help to make the BCS title game, but that's a story for a different article.
Indiana has been enigmatic but still surprising. The Hoosiers have an explosive offense, which they used to take down Penn State. However, their suspect defense cost them in losses to Navy and Missouri.
At 0-1 in conference play, PSU is the biggest letdown in the conference so far this year, much thanks to an ugly out-of-conference loss to UCF. Outside of quarterback Christian Hackenberg and receiver Allen Robinson, the Nittany Lions don't have much.
Michigan has already been sent on a roller coaster ride this season but is still undefeated and OSU's biggest threat for the league crown.
3. ACC (Last Week: 3)
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 29-9
Title Favorite: Clemson
Pleasant Surprise: Florida State
Biggest Disappointment: North Carolina
If Clemson is the No. 1 ACC title favorite, then Florida State is at No. 1a, which makes the Seminoles the most pleasant surprise.
While that may sound crazy since they began the season highly ranked, we have seen that scenario before with the Noles, only to see them fall flat. With freshman sensation "Famous" Jameis Winston at the helm, the Noles look legit and very capable of beating the favored Tigers.
Don't count out Virginia Tech or Miami (FL), which have both been finding ways to win this season and look capable of at least playing spoiler as the season rolls along.
The biggest letdown has unquestionably been North Carolina. The Tar Heels are sitting at 1-4 and their lone win is over Middle Tennessee. UNC has some winnable games down the stretch, but a bowl bid is slipping out of their grasp quickly.
2. Pac-12 (Last Week: 2)
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 29-5
Title Favorite: Oregon
Pleasant Surprise: Washington
Biggest Disappointment: USC
Washington proved that it is a legit contender when it came just short of an upset bid on the road against defending Pac-12 champion Stanford.
Stanford, meanwhile, also showed that it is the real deal and still likely has what it takes to take down Oregon. However, given Oregon's utterly eye-popping dominance, the Ducks still are the team to beat out West.
Also don't count out Oregon State or UCLA.
The other team from Los Angeles, USC, can be counted out, however. The Trojans are already 0-2 in conference play and lost to Washington State, which won just one Pac-12 game last year. The midseason firing of Lane Kiffin made the situation even uglier.
Though the Pac-12 has several strong teams, the hype is building for the Nov. 7 battle between Oregon and Stanford.
1. SEC (Last Week: 1)
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Nonconference Record: 33-12
Title Favorite: Alabama
Pleasant Surprise: Auburn
Biggest Disappointment: Mississippi State
Alabama, ranked No. 1 in the land, is the team to beat in all of college football. With a favorable schedule going forward, the Crimson Tide look destined to make it to Atlanta, then perhaps Pasadena for the BCS title afterward.
However, Georgia and LSU still have other plans. The Tigers can derail the Tide's third title defense when the two rivals play Nov. 9.
If LSU can't do the job, UGA will likely have its shot at 'Bama in Atlanta. The Bulldogs might need a healthy Todd Gurley to make it that far, but with quarterback Aaron Murray playing like a senior is supposed to, the Dawgs remain the favorite in the East Division.
Auburn's success has come as a surprise, as new coach Gus Malzahn already has the Tigers on the rise and 2-1 in SEC play.
On the other side of the spectrum, Mississippi State is officially regressing under Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs, which earned three straight bowl bids, are at risk of breaking that streak at 0-2 in SEC play and 2-3 overall.