Not so in 2007.
Just ask the Buffalo Bulls, who are leading the MAC-East. Better yet, ask the UConn Huskies, who lead the Big East.
(If you saw either one of those coming, please email me. I have two tickets to Las Vegas, and I'll buy you lunch on the way.)
The story in the Sun Belt is no different. Here we are in Week Nine, waiting for the December 1st matchup between Troy and Florida Atlantic...and Louisiana-Monroe crashes the party.
The Troy Trojans come into the week with a slim edge on their challengers , leading by only one game in the standings with at least two conference games remaining for each team.
Last week, Florida Atlantic fell into a tie with Middle Tennessee State, who inexplicably won by 20 despite being outgained in total yardage.
It was yet another loopy week, in other words, and that makes for another shakeup in the power rankings....
1. Troy Trojans (6-2)
Last Week: Won at Arkansas State, 27-0
Troy went into Arkansas State having lost their last three games with the Indians—and emerged as the undisputed leader of the conference.
In a game which featured two very good offenses, Troy's defense was at the forefront. That's very good news for the Trojans.
The game was quite a statement for this team, and should make for an interesting push into this week's contest.
This week: at Georgia
2. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (4-5)
Last Week: Won vs. North Texas, 48-28
MTSU came out of last week's game with a three-game winning streak and high spirits.
The Blue Raiders somehow managed to score 48 points—including two safeties—while gaining only 338 yards, and having 86 of those taken away on penalties.
Worth noting, however, is the fact that they held the ball for 14:00 longer than North Texas. That will win a lot of games.
This week: at Louisiana-Monroe
3. Florida Atlantic Owls (4-4)
Last Week: Lost (in 3OT) vs. Louisiana-Monroe 33-30
The Owls were hosting a 2-5 Warhawk team that had lost to North Texas two weeks prior.
They were ready to go 4-0 in the conference, with games against ASU and FIU left before the showdown in Troy.
Then they gave up a 31-yard run to Calvin Dawson on 2nd-and-16 in the third overtime, after holding him to only 83 yards through four quarters and two OTs.
Think the Owls will regret that later?
This week: BYE
4. Louisiana-Monroe Warharks (3-5)
Last Week: Won (3OT) vs. Florida Atlantic 33-30
Louisiana-Monroe needed a spark. They got one in the end zone that houses the FAU student section.
The trip to Boca Raton looked grim for the Warhawks. A loss to the Sun Belt co-leaders would have put them at 2-6 with only four games remaining, including a visit to Alabama.
However, with their win Saturday night, Monroe's bid to become bowl eligible is still (barely) alive.
Calvin Dawson showed up at the right time, but if this team wants six wins, he'll have to start from the first snap, not the third OT.
This Week: vs. MTSU
5. Arkansas State Indians (3-5)
Last Week: Lost vs. Troy 27-0
Arkansas State slips beneath Louisiana-Monroe for one main reason: Their season has been falling apart week-by-week.
After an impressive showing against Texas in the season opener left the entire conference wide-eyed, the Indians have declined as a team—and now are desperate for answers. ASU hadn't been shut out at home since 1992 until their beating at the hands of Troy on Saturday.
The Indians have to get back on track quickly, or else the season is only going to get worse.
This Week: vs. Florida International
6. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (1-6)
Last Week: BYE
Why does Lafayette get the nod over North Texas? Head-to-head, for starters.
(Head-to-head means something in deciding placement in the Sun Belt?! Yes, folks, it does here.)
Second, the Cajuns played a good Florida Atlantic team into OT—a growing trend in the state of Louisiana. Finally, they possess an odd creature they call a "quarterback" in Michael Desormeaux.
Aside from Temple QB Walter Washington, Desormeaux is the only other quarterback in the NCAA to run AND pass for 150 yards in a single game.
This week: at Tennessee
7. North Texas Mean Green (1-7)
Last Week: Lost at MTSU 48-28
North Texas has four things going for them right now.
First, they're not FIU.
Second, they have a fantastic future in quarterback Giovanni Vizza. With some work on accuracy, this kid could start for three years. That's stability this program needs.
Third, they haven't lost to a I-AA team this year *cough* MTSU and La-La *cough*.
Finally, they won't lose this week.
This Week: BYE
8. Florida International Golden Panthers (0-8)
Last Week: Lost at Arkansas, 58-10
If a program ever needed a victory more than FIU right now, it wasn't during my lifetime.
The Panthers come away from Arkansas having scored 10 legitimate points in the first half, which could be a turning point for the team. After scoring 28 points in their first five games, they've come up with 40 in the last three.
This week they face a down-and-out ASU team in Jonesboro—and could make a statement. Even if they don't win, points on the board could be a springboard for the following two weeks at home.
This Week: at Arkansas State