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Monday, October 29, 2012
SEC pulling away in conference rankings

By Sharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information

The SEC takes its largest lead of the season in the ESPN Stats & Info Conference Power Rankings after multiple top teams in other conferences fell on Saturday.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma and Texas Tech lost to higher-ranked opponents, resulting in every team but Kansas State having at least two losses this season. In comparison, five of the SEC’s 14 teams have fewer than two losses.

In recent weeks the top of the Big 12 has shown weaknesses as Texas nearly lost to two teams that are a combined 0-9 in conference games, and West Virginia showed significant defensive weaknesses in its two losses.

Similarly, the top of the Pac-12 struggled this weekend with its second and third best teams entering the weekend losing on the road. As a result, USC and Oregon State dropped eight and six points in the AP Poll, respectively, with USC’s fall being the largest of any team.

As a results of these losses, SEC teams continued to rise in the AP Poll. The three largest rises in the poll this week were by SEC teams as Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M all rose at least five poll positions, more than compensating for a five-spot drop by Florida.

The Big East lost the most points in the conference power rankings this week after Kent State beat Rutgers on Saturday. It’s the second straight week that a team from the MAC has defeated a previously undefeated Big East opponent. Last week Toledo beat Cincinnati 29-23 at home.

Two weeks ago the Big East was ranked as the fourth best conference in college football. Losses by two of its top three teams the last two weeks hurt the conference as both teams fell out of the AP Top 25 and the conference fell to sixth in these rankings.

As mentioned above, the MAC has two victories over previously unbeaten Big East opponents. Four teams in the MAC received votes in the AP Poll this week. That is as many teams as the other four non-BCS conferences combined.

The MAC has four teams with fewer than two losses, which ranks second to the SEC. Yet, the MAC remains ninth in the conference power rankings because four of its 13 teams have seven or more losses, the most of any conference. The MAC is a prime example of how the conference rankings account for relative strength of a conference from top to bottom.

Next week is full of conference matchups, highlighted by Alabama at LSU and Oregon at USC. Last week five unbeaten teams lost, and many other favored teams faltered against conference opponents. Look for similar unpredictability next weekend that could impact the AP Poll and conference power rankings.