- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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The debate rages. Who is No. 2?
We know who the real No. 2 is, but we're just looking at college football (and yes, I realize that is the second Austin Powers reference of the day).
If you believe Phil Steele, then it's the Big 12. If you believe the majority of the folks who leave their comments below, it's the Pac-12.
Any argument that doesn't have the SEC No. 1 simply isn't valid. For all the ribbing and schadenfreude that occurs on this blog in regards to the SEC, it is still the elite conference in college football until proven otherwise.
Steele has the Pac-12 at No. 3 behind the SEC and Big 12 in his preseason conference rankings. Do you concur?
Here are his thoughts on the league:
"The Pac-12 was the only conference last year to have two teams win a BCS bowl in Stanford and Oregon, and both programs have made a BCS bowl in each of the past three years. The Ducks and Cardinals figure to be in the preseason AP top 10, and I have both in my top 15 this year. The surprise in this league could be USC, which I have rated at No. 6, giving the conference three legitimate national title contenders. Arizona State, Oregon State, Washington and UCLA all made my top 40. The only thing holding the Pac-12 down in my rankings is its nonconference record, which was only 17-11 last year (61 percent) after removing wins over Football Championship Subdivision teams."
When you think of the Pac-12 vs. the Big 12, do you think of UCLA getting pushed around by Baylor? Oregon State coughing it up against Texas? Or Oregon running crazy around Kansas State? That's probably a measuring stick for how you will vote.
Of course, that was last year. And as a reminder, here's the final conference power rankings from last season.
As Ted noted earlier this month, the upgraded Alamo Bowl will certainly provide a little more kindling to the argument in years to come.
Most agree the Pac-12 is more top heavy -- as evidenced by both Stanford and Oregon winning their BCS bowl games and the fact that both will start the year highly ranked. And looking ahead to 2013, Washington, Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon State should get some preseason love as well. And, as Steele notes, it's never a good idea to sleep on USC. If Washington beats Boise State -- they'll for sure be ranked and if ASU can make some noise in the early part of the season against some difficult foes, they too will be ranked favorably.
So, if we're able to put the 2012 season in the rear view mirror and look solely at 2013, which is the No. 2 conference behind the SEC? We'll include the Big Ten, which some are predicting to enjoy a resurgence this year, and the ACC since Steele has them tied with the Big Ten. (And yes, a vote for the Pac-12 counts as a vote for Oregon).