It is a debate we have all season long: "Which conference is the best?" Everyone has their own opinions as why their respective conference has the best football around.
As we head into the 2009 season, here are how the BCS conferences rank going into this season:
Once again, the men from the south have the best conference in football. The last three national titles have gone SEC and this year the Florida Gators are the odds on favorite to win their third national title in four years. As always, the SEC leads with defense. In 2006 and 2007, Florida and LSU made Ohio State look like a joke, and last year, Florida allowed only 14 points by the Sooner's top-scoring offense.
This season, the defenses are back in the SEC, as well as some more offense. Florida may be king going into the season, but there are plenty of other top-caliber teams.
Ole Miss is everybody's darling top-ten pick this year, while Alabama and LSU are both top ten teams and quietly hiding behind the Ole Miss press. In the east, Georgia is still strong, South Carolina is solid, and Tennessee will be much improved. The SEC is still king.
2. Big XII
If you like points, then you will love the Big XII. Last year, if a team made one or two defensive stands, they won the game. Oklahoma got to the title game with the top-scoring offense and led the nation in turnover margin. When you give an offense like the Sooners an extra series, you are in trouble.
Texas and Oklahoma will be fighting for the top spot again, while Oklahoma State has the playmakers to try and take down the big boys. If the Cowboys knock off either Texas or Oklahoma, we may have another three-way tie in the south like last season.
However, after those three there is not much on the national radar. Kansas and Nebraska are the top two in the north and can make some noise. Unfortunately, Texas Tech and Missouri are rebuilding and the rest of the conference hasn't been able to keep up.
Can anyone knock the Trojans off their high horse? USC is breaking in a new quarterback and the defense has to replace eight starters. Don't forget that they have to replace both coordinators. So, if a team would like to stand up and challenge the Trojans, this may be the year. This is still USC and as long as Pete Carroll is on the sidelines, the Trojans will be very good.
California returns a talented group of players, including maybe the best running back in the country in Jahvid Best. Oregon has one of the most prolific offenses in the country, but have a new head coach after Mike Bellotti became the athletic director.
As for the rest of the conference, Oregon State remains a thorn in the Trojans' side, Arizona and UCLA may have the best defenses in the conference, and Stanford will only get better under Jim Harbaugh.
4. Big Ten
This season the Big Ten will most likely be decided on November 7, when the two best teams—Ohio State and Penn State—do battle in Happy Valley.
The Buckeyes will be a contender again (they lost a lot of talent on offense), but they have quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor will be expected to carry the load this season and will have to complete more passes while not turning the ball over.
Penn State has playmakers in Clark, Green, and Royster on offense, but only have nine returning starters from last year's team. Their schedule is a breeze so the young players should be ready by the time the Buckeyes come calling.
Michigan State, Illinois, and Iowa are all solid teams, but nowhere near the top of the conference talent-wise.
Last season was a crap shoot in the ACC. There was plenty of young talent in the league, but not much experience. All that talent is now a year older and the ACC will be a much improved league.
Virginia Tech is the only clear national title contender. The Hokies are trying for their third consecutive ACC Title and have the talent to do it. If they win the season opener against Alabama in Atlanta, their schedule is very favorable the rest of the way.
Georgia Tech surprised everyone last year, as the triple option proved effective in the ACC. This season, all the skill players are back so look for the Ramblin' Wreck to be even better. Florida State will be back to their old tricks as a force in the conference, and North Carolina continues to get better under Butch Davis.
6. Big East
The Big East could be the most competitive conference this season. Unfortunately, all the top teams in the Big East are very middle of the road on the national scale.
Only Syracuse and Louisville are easy wins—the other six teams all have a shot at the conference title and a BCS Bowl. Look for Rutgers to come out on top; they have the best defense and Pitt, South Florida, and West Virginia all have to travel to Piscataway.
So there you have it. Let the debate begin. Be ready for updated rankings throughout the season.
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