Mississippi sits at 9-3 and even with a couple of disappointing losses, the Rebels have an RPI of 61 two weeks before the start of SEC play. Not a bad place to be when it comes to NCAA at-large possibilities, right?
Think again. Thanks to the horrific state of the SEC West, Mississippi has almost no chance of landing an at-large berth. It's a seemingly impossible position for a BCS conference team at this stage of the season, but it's true.
• As of now, all 10 of Mississippi's divisional games will be against teams outside the RPI Top 150 and only five of the Rebels' 16 SEC games will be against top 80 opponents. The Rebels wouldn't be much worse off playing an Ivy League schedule. The Ivy has two top 60 teams and only three of its eight teams are below No. 175.
• Mississippi State, considered the preseason favorite in the West, just had two players involved in a brawl in the stands in Hawaii and sits at No. 239 in the RPI. Assuming it keeps Renardo Sidney (who is suspended again) and Dee Bost comes back in form, the Bulldogs are now an "all-downside" proposition: no computer benefit for a win over a solid team.
• Auburn is projected to wind up as the worst-ever BCS-league team. According to Jerry Palm, operator of CollegeRPI.com, the Tigers are projected to finish at No. 292. The 2007-08 Oregon State team, at No. 269, holds the current (dis)honor. The worst SEC team ever was 1993-94 Tennessee, at No. 235.
Mississippi's hopes may come down to home games against Tennessee (Jan. 29) and Kentucky (Feb. 1). Without wins there, the Rebels could end up with a completely empty 11-5 league mark. Even with three extra at-large spots this year and some precedent set with Kentucky's SEC-enhanced at-large bid in 2008, it's hard to imagine that kind of profile being worthy of inclusion this season.
Remember, records listed are Division I only, per NCAA tournament selection guidelines. All RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and SOS (Strength of Schedule) data are from Sunday's realtimerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins
Duke remains the clear class of the league and the battle for second and beyond remains as muddled as it was last week.
For now, Kansas State drops from lock status due to Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly getting suspended for receiving impermissible benefits. Pullen will be back after one more game but there's no word on Kelly's situation. The impact of the loss of last year's point guard, Denis Clemente, is an ongoing issue, but K-State needs Kelly back and performing to be in position to live up to preseason expectations.
The league has five teams ranked in the top 10. Monday's UConn-Pitt clash in Pittsburgh is a great way to kick off the conference season and is a nice soundcheck for both teams.
Much like in the ACC and Big 12, the race for second place in this league could go a number of ways. The Big Ten much more closely resembles the Big 12 in overall quality, though, which should result in solid NCAA seeding for a number of teams.
Happy time! Thursday/Saturday Pac-10 weekends are back! And the league is surging, which should make things even more fun. Washington and Arizona still feel like the best teams, but after a couple of weekends of head-to-heads, we'll find out a lot more about the pursuers.
Tennessee's unexpected slide bumps the Vols down a level for now, just because it's hard to know exactly what will happen next. Will the Gators follow them out of lockdom? More losses like last Monday's matinee to Jacksonville won't help. This isn't a vintage year in the SEC. The East division is very competitive but lacks an elite team and the West is a mess.
The league mostly did what it needed to do this past week, adding a couple of solid wins to the ledger. It really appears to be a four-team show. Could all of them make it? Depends on how the head-to-heads work themselves out.
The Aztecs remain unbeaten and the league continues to look good for three bids. The upcoming showdowns between SDSU, UNLV and BYU will be a lot of fun. New Mexico (and Colorado State) look more like spoilers than sleepers at this point, but we'll see how Drew Gordon continues to fit in.
No one's made it into the lock category, but there were some solid signs for a couple of the traditional non-BCS powers.