Bill Trocchi
Wednesday October 17th, 2007

With conference play in full swing, and most actions having equal and opposite reactions within the conference (good win for so-and-so means bad loss for fellow conference member, so-and-so), the Conference Power Rankings scoured the country to find what each conference leads the nation in.

For one week, all conferences can claim to be No. 1 in something, thereby eliminating my angry e-mails. Or maybe limiting my angry e-mails. Slightly reducing my angry e-mails? Actually, probably having no effect on my angry e-mails.

In alphabetical order:

Several defensive ends from the ACC appear on NFL draft prospect lists, and a pair earned SI.com Midseason All-America honors. Chris Long, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long, has seven sacks at Virginia and is arguably the top senior defensive end in the country. North Carolina senior Hilee Taylor has six sacks. Georgia Tech's Darrell Robertson and Wake Forest's Jeremy Thompson also make Mel Kiper's top five senior defensive ends checklist. Miami's Calais Campbell is a can't-miss NFL prospect from the junior class, and Clemson's Philip Merling is also a standout.

Six weeks into the season, there were 11 unbeaten teams, and three of them were relative unknowns from the Big East. One year after Rutgers burst on to the national scene with a historic 9-0 start, UConn, South Florida and Cincinnati navigated through the early part of their season unblemished. UConn and Cincinnati saw their undefeated seasons end last weekend, but both teams have significantly overachieved to date, and South Florida is sitting in the No. 2 slot in the first BCS standings. The Big East lost its big-name football programs when Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College left, but several unknowns have filled the void admirably.

Penn State was the original Linebacker U., but Ohio State is starting to take that moniker away. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is a tackle machine and the defending Nagurski winner. Penn State's Dan Connor will be a high first-round draft pick next year, and J Lehman has been a big part of Illinois' resurgence from his linebacker spot. Michigan's Shawn Crable, a linebacker/defensive end hybrid, leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss and is an All-America candidate. Penn State's Sean Lee is second in the Big Ten in tackles, and Ohio State's Marcus Freeman is another big piece of the fearsome Buckeye defense.

Texas Tech dominates many of the NCAA passing statistics, but there are plenty of Big 12 players at other schools who have put together top performances this season. Of the 26 players who have made at least 11 catches in a game this season, six reside in the Big 12. Not surprisingly, two are at Texas Tech -- freshman sensation Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, who have already done it a combined five times. Kansas State wide receiver Jordy Nelson has cracked the 12-reception barrier twice, while Baylor's Brandon Whitaker had an 11-catch game against Colorado. The big games have not been limited to wide receivers, as Missouri tight end Martin Rucker had 11 catches against Western Michigan and Nebraska running back Marlon Lucky made 11 grabs against Ball State.

One glance at the national rushing leaders and you'll see plenty of underrated Conference USA running backs. Tulane's Matt Forte had an unbelievable 303-yard, five-touchdown effort against Southeastern Louisiana and is second in the nation in yards per game with 153.2. Central Florida's Kevin Smith was the nation's leader after six weeks and is currently third with 152.5 yards per game. Smith has become the central focus of every defensive coordinator that faces the Knights. He's cracked the 200-yard barrier twice and has 11 touchdowns. UTEP's Marcus Thomas, Houston's Anthony Alridge, Tulsa's Tarrion Adams and Southern Miss' Damion Fletcher are all in the Top 30 nationally and averaging over 100 yards per game.

Four of the nation's top six punters in average per kick reside in the MAC. Ball State senior Chris Miller is second at 47.8 yards, Jacob Richardson of Miami (Ohio) is fourth at 46.5, Toledo's Brett Kern is fifth at 46.0 and Jim Laney of Western Michigan checks in at sixth with 45.8. Buffalo's Ben Woods and Eastern Michigan's Zack Johnson are on the Ray Guy Award Watch List, with Johnson finishing in the Top 10 last year. Both Laney and Woods have uncorked 71-yarders this season.

Taking a look at the Mountain West rushing stats, you'll find six of the top eight rushers from the junior class, including the top three. Those three juniors, New Mexico's Rodney Ferguson, Utah's Darrell Mack and Wyoming's Devin Moore, all average over 100 yards per contest and are all ranked in the nation's top 25. Add in Frank Summers of UNLV, Kyle Bell of Colorado State and Moore's sidekick at Wyoming, Wynel Seldon, and there is going to be a bumper crop of backs for NFL scouts to check out in the scenic locales of this league next season.

We all know about Stanford's 24-23 stunner at USC a few weeks back. It was the biggest upset in Vegas history (Stanford was a 41-point underdog) and signaled the possible end of the Trojans' dominant run. But there have been three other games in which Pac-10 teams were at least two-touchdown favorites and went down in flames. One was Cal, which had a chance to become the nation's No. 1 team last Saturday. The Bears were 14-point favorites against Oregon State, but fell 31-28 at home. UCLA has suffered two rather shocking upsets this year -- the Bruins were 15-point favorites against Utah (a game they lost 44-6) and 21-point favorites against Notre Dame (a game they lost 20-6). The Irish's win at UCLA remains their lone victory of the season.

Hard to argue this one. The SEC has four coaches with national championships on their resume, including three in the SEC East. (South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, Florida's Urban Meyer and Tennessee's Phil Fulmer have done it from the Eastern Division, while Alabama's Nick Saban is the crystal-ball winner from the West.) Throw in the fact that Les Miles may be on his way to winning one and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville got about as close as you can get in 2004 (when his team went 13-0 but did not play in the title game) and there is no conference that can compare.

The Sun Belt may not lead the nation in much, but it does own college football's best comeback of the year. Trailing 31-6 midway through the third quarter, Arkansas State put together a furious 29-0 run in just a little over 15 minutes to upset Conference USA's Memphis. Kevin Jones sparked the turnaround with an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown, and from there, the Indians exploded. Corey Leonard threw three touchdown passes, the final one a one-yard pass to Preston Brown that gave Arkansas State the lead for good.

The WAC has had four tremendous overtime thrillers this season, including two by BCS bowl hopeful Hawaii. The Warriors pulled one out at San Jose State last Friday night, erasing a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit in the final four minutes, as Colt Brennan threw a touchdown pass and ran for an additional score. In overtime, Hawaii scored first, then intercepted San Jose State on the second play to cap the remarkable comeback.

In the Warriors' second game of the season at Louisiana Tech, Hawaii forced overtime with a 49-yard field goal, scored a touchdown to go up seven and then survived a failed two-point conversion to escape what would have been an embarrassing upset.

Sunday night, Boise State and Nevada hooked up in a quadruple-overtime classic, with Boise State winning 69-67. A field goal on the final play of regulation sent the teams into OT at 44-44, and six touchdowns and two field goals later, the Broncos survived at home.

And let's not forget Fresno State, which fell in triple overtime to Texas A&M after coming within one yard of victory in the first OT. Wide receiver Marlon Moore tried to reach over the goal line at the one and fumbled, but a roughing-the-passer call saved Fresno State. Had Moore not reached, Fresno State would have had a first-and-goal at the one, trailing by three. A failed two-point attempt in the third OT left Fresno State on the short end of a 47-45 final.

You are a joke. What a surprise Kentucky lost. It's because they are overrated. Just like West Virginia, just like half the top ten teams. What you nerd writers need to do is actually look at talent, coaching, recruiting, matchups and whether or not a team played their best football to determine who is good. JUST BECAUSE OREGON AND FLORIDA LOST DOES NOT MAKE THEM WORSE THAN SOUTH FLORIDA!!!!! You guys are a joke. Then all these pretender teams will lose later, and you will write, WOW WHAT AN UPSET!!!! It is not a f**** upset, idiot. Get a clue. If you can't watch all the games, and if you haven't played football, don't vote. My Grandma can write a better article and she is blind and doesn't have hands. --Travis, Los Angeles

What do you folks think Travis' reaction was to five of the six computers having South Florida No. 1 in the first BCS standings?

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