Originally Published: October 25, 2010

Sizing up unlikely conference races

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Baylor leads the Big 12 South.

Missouri leads the Big 12 North.

Michigan State controls its fate in the Big Ten race, and South Carolina is in control of the SEC East.

Entering the final month of the 2010 college football season, upstarts have trumped tradition. Traditional powerhouses such as Florida and Texas are in danger of becoming also-rans, and even Ohio State needs help if it's going to win its conference.

How will the conference races play out between now and season's end? Here's a look at how the BCS conference races stack up:

ACC

Atlantic Division
Leader: Florida State (6-1, 4-0)
Who wins: Florida State

The Seminoles have a one-game lead over Maryland and NC State in the loss column of the Atlantic Division standings and have been winning because of their defense. The No. 16 Seminoles are allowing only 16.1 points per game, which is 13th-best in the country, and they lead FBS teams with 30 sacks. FSU plays at NC State on Thursday night, followed by back-to-back home games against North Carolina and Clemson and a road game at Maryland.

Coastal Division
Leader: Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-0)
Who wins: Virginia Tech

The Hokies, who opened the season by losing two games in six days, have won six in a row after blasting Duke 44-7 on Saturday. The Hokies have a one-game lead over Miami and a two-game lead over Georgia Tech and North Carolina in the loss column of the Coastal Division standings. The Hokies play each of those teams in their next three games: home against Georgia Tech on Nov. 4, at North Carolina on Nov. 13 and at Miami on Nov. 20.

ACC champion: Virginia Tech

Big 12

North Division
Leader: Missouri (7-0, 3-0)
Who wins: Nebraska

The No. 6 Tigers are coming off a 36-27 upset of then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday and now have to play the No. 14 Cornhuskers on the road. Nebraska, which is one game back in the loss column, will be looking for a boatload of revenge after losing to Missouri 52-17 at Memorial Stadium in 2008. It was the Tigers' first victory in Lincoln, Neb., since 1978, and their 52 points are the most Mizzou has scored on the Huskers since 1943.

South Division
Leader: Baylor (6-2, 3-1)
Who wins: Oklahoma

The Bears, who already have won six games and are eligible for a bowl game after not playing in one since the 1994 season, probably will have only a temporary stay at the top of the division. The Bears still play at Texas and Oklahoma State and host Texas A&M and Oklahoma. The Sooners, a game back in the win column, play at Baylor and at Oklahoma State in the Bedlam game. The Cowboys, who are also one game behind the Bears in the win column, play at Kansas State and Texas before hosting the Sooners.

Big 12 champion: Nebraska

Big East

Leader: Pittsburgh (4-3, 2-0)
Who wins: Pittsburgh

Talk about mediocrity. Every Big East team has lost at least two games, and six of its eight teams are 4-3 or 3-4. Pittsburgh, which lost two of its first three games, is playing the best football in the league, having won three of its past four games. The Panthers beat Syracuse 45-14 on the road on Oct. 16. The league championship might not be decided until Pitt hosts West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl on Nov. 26.

Big Ten

Leader: Michigan State (8-0, 4-0)
Who wins: Michigan State

The No. 5 Spartans have a one-game lead over Wisconsin and Ohio State in the Big Ten standings, but they're not out of the woods yet. The Badgers have looked like the league's best team the past two weeks, beating then-No. 1 Ohio State 31-18 at home and Iowa 31-30 on the road. But the Spartans would have to lose two games for the Badgers to win the league's BCS berth; Michigan State beat Wisconsin 34-24 in East Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 2. The Buckeyes don't play the Spartans in the regular season, but might move ahead of them if Michigan State loses and if Ohio State has a higher ranking in the final BCS standings.

Pac-10

Leader: Oregon (7-0, 4-0)
Who wins: Oregon

The No. 2 Ducks have a one-game lead over Arizona and Stanford in the Pac-10 standings, but don't write off the Cardinal just yet. Oregon still plays three difficult road games -- at Southern California on Saturday, at California and at rival Oregon State in the Civil War -- along with a home game against surging Arizona. The No. 13 Cardinal, which lost at Oregon 52-31 on Oct. 2, hosts No. 15 Arizona in what might be a Pac-10 elimination game on Nov. 6.

SEC

SEC East
Leader: South Carolina (5-2, 3-2)
Who wins: South Carolina

The No. 20 Gamecocks have a one-game lead over Georgia, Florida and Vanderbilt in the loss column in the SEC East standings, and the lead over the Bulldogs is essentially a two-game lead. South Carolina defeated Georgia 17-6 at home on Sept. 11. The Gamecocks still play two difficult SEC games: home against Arkansas and at Florida. Georgia has won three games in a row after its dreadful 1-4 start, and Saturday's game against the Gators in Jacksonville, Fla., is an SEC East elimination game. The Gators, who have dropped three straight regular-season games for the first time since 1988, have won 17 of their past 20 games against the Bulldogs.

SEC West
Leader: Auburn (8-0, 5-0)
Who wins: Alabama

The No. 1 Tigers carry a perfect record into Saturday's game at Ole Miss, but still face two potential speed bumps in rivalry games. After playing the Rebels and FCS foe Chattanooga, the Tigers host Georgia on Nov. 13 and play at No. 7 Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 26. The Iron Bowl might decide which team plays in the Dec. 4 SEC championship game in Atlanta's Georgia Dome (and remains in the BCS national title hunt). The Crimson Tide, the defending BCS national champions, still play at No. 12 LSU and host No. 21 Mississippi State.

SEC champion: Alabama

Conference rankings

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Ranking the BCS conferences after eight weeks of the 2010 college football season:

1. SEC
Auburn is No. 1 in the BCS standings and is in position to win the SEC's fifth consecutive BCS national championship. Defending BCS national champion Alabama, which is No. 7 in the BCS standings, is in the best position among one-loss teams and will play the Tigers in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 26. Four other SEC teams -- No. 12 LSU, No. 19 Arkansas, No. 20 South Carolina and No. 21 Mississippi State -- are ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings.

2. Big Ten
No. 5 Michigan State kept alive its BCS national championship hopes by coming back from a 17-0 deficit Saturday to defeat Northwestern 35-27 on the road. No. 10 Wisconsin has a chance to finish 11-1 and possibly play in a lucrative BCS bowl game after defeating No. 18 Iowa 31-30 on the road. No. 11 Ohio State rebounded from its loss at Wisconsin two weeks ago by routing Purdue 49-0 at home.

3. Pac-10
Oregon is No. 2 in the BCS standings and No. 1 in the Harris Interactive Poll and USA Today coaches' poll after routing UCLA 60-13 on Thursday night. The Ducks play at Southern California on Saturday in what might be one of their most difficult remaining hurdles. Two other Pac-10 teams -- No. 13 Stanford and No. 15 Arizona -- are ranked in the BCS Top 25.

4. Big 12
Missouri is the Big 12's last undefeated team after upsetting then-No. 1 Oklahoma 36-27 at home on Saturday night. The No. 6 Tigers play at No. 14 Nebraska on Saturday in a game that will go a long way toward deciding which team wins the Big 12 North. Baylor, of all teams, leads the Big 12 South with a 3-1 record in league action. The Bears are No. 25 in the BCS standings after knocking off Kansas State 47-42 on Saturday.

5. ACC
Florida State and Virginia Tech remain in control of their respective divisions. The No. 16 Seminoles lead the Atlantic Division with a 4-0 record in ACC action and play at NC State on Thursday night. The Hokies won their sixth consecutive game, 44-7 over Duke on Saturday, and are 4-0 in ACC play. Miami is one game back after beating North Carolina 33-10 on Saturday.

6. Big East
There isn't a Big East team ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings after Syracuse upset West Virginia 19-14 in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday. Pittsburgh is 2-0 in league action after beating Rutgers 41-21 on Saturday. The Orange are a half-game back at 5-2.

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