Despite conference strength, Pac-10 suffering from lack of exposure
The toughest part of ranking teams is balancing what you see with what you don't see. For me, teams fall into three categories.
I trust most what I've seen in person, but I also feel like I can get a pretty good handle on a team I've seen five or six times on TV. The third group is the toughest to judge. I have to rely on highlights and news coverage, which means everything gets filtered before it gets to me. That makes it difficult to treat teams in the third group fairly, despite my best efforts.
Because I live in Florida, most of the Pac-10 falls into that third group. Needless to say, this is a bad year to miss Pac-10 games, because they are consistently the most exciting relative to their quality of play. I ticked off a lot of Left Coasters on Twitter on Saturday when, after Cal beat Stanford, I wrote that here on the east coast, we call that kind of parity the ACC. I was just kidding, though. Anyone who has watched the Pac-10 at all this year can see its top-to-bottom strength.
Unfortunately, many of us don't get to see it. I was among the 30 percent of the U.S. that had no cable access to Saturday's Oregon-Arizona thriller. I watched on an illegal Web feed because, as an Associated Press poll voter, I need to make every effort to see every team, but the choppy feed on my laptop had a tough time competing with the beautiful pictures I had of Kansas-Texas, Kansas State-Nebraska and Kentucky-Georgia.
So understand when you read these rankings that no matter how hard we voters try to be unbiased, we're just as susceptible as everyone else to unconscious bias based on teams we have or haven't seen. That's unfortunate for the Pac-10, which is the most underexposed conference in the nation. On Monday, I spoke to Commissioner Larry Scott about how that can be fixed.
So enjoy the rankings, and give that other story a read. Because unless you're scouring the illegal Web feeds like me, you might be missing some very good football.
Last Week: 1
Texas Longhorns (11-0)The lopsided nature of Texas' recent games probably has caused viewers -- and some poll voters -- to change the channel, but the Longhorns appear to have the fewest flaws of the Big Three at the moment. It also doesn't hurt that they're led by Colt McCoy, who now stands alone as the winningest starting quarterback in FBS history. They're about to be tested, though. A rivalry game on four days rest and a conference title game against the only other legitimate defense in the Big 12 (Nebraska) await.
Last game: Beat Kansas, 51-20
Next game: Thursday at Texas A&M
Last Week: 2
Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0)If Auburn shocks Alabama on Friday, expect CBS to get some of the blame. Alabama officials didn't learn until April that the game would be moved to Friday. Auburn is coming off an open date. Alabama is not, though Chattanooga hardly counts as a game. Still, the Tigers have a chance.
Last game: Beat Chattanooga, 45-0
Next game: Friday at Auburn
Last Week: 3
Florida Gators (11-0)Quarterback Tim Tebow's final game in The Swamp would have been a lot more intriguing had Maryland beaten Florida State on Saturday, because it might also have been FSU coach Bobby Bowden's final game. Now, it'll just be a Tebow love-fest. It's still a rivalry game, but Gators coach Urban Meyer has owned Bowden.
Last game: Beat Florida International, 62-3
Next game: Saturday vs. Florida State
Last Week: 4
TCU Horned Frogs (11-0)The Horned Frogs got the best possible news Saturday out of Albuquerque. Instead of watching their computer rankings plummet for beating 0-11 New Mexico, they'll watch those rankings plummet a little less when they beat 1-10 New Mexico.
Last game: Beat Wyoming, 45-10
Next game: Saturday vs. New Mexico
Last Week: 5
Cincinnati Bearcats (10-0)Quarterback Tony Pike will return as the starter against an Illinois team that's already out of bowl contention. The Illini -- who return Juice Williams at quarterback -- can't win anything, but they have nothing to lose, either.
Last game: Beat West Virginia, 24-21
Next game: Friday vs. Illinois
Last Week: 6
Boise State Broncos (11-0)The Broncos have annihilated most of their WAC opponents this year, but so has Nevada. In the past five games, the Wolf Pack have broken the 50-point mark four times. Forget the shutout at Notre Dame to start the season. This is a completely different Nevada team, and the Wolf Pack want to break Boise State's stranglehold on the WAC title.
Last game: Beat Utah State, 52-21
Next game: Friday vs. Nevada
Last Week: 7
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (10-1)After losing to Georgia from 2001-07, the Yellow Jackets can make it two in a row against the struggling Bulldogs. Georgia's defense has been undisciplined all year; it's tough to imagine the Bulldogs finding the patience to stop Paul Johnson's option.
Last game: Beat Duke, 49-10
Next game: Saturday vs. Georgia
Last Week: 8
Pittsburgh Panthers (9-1)West Virginia players haven't forgotten the Backyard Brawl two years ago, when a loss to Pitt cost the Mountaineers a shot at the national title. Though West Virginia can't harm Pitt's chances at a Big East title, the Mountaineers can still inflict some pain if linebacker Dom DeCicco and the Panthers' defense don't slow West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown.
Last game: Beat Notre Dame, 27-22
Next game: Friday at West Virginia
Last Week: 9
Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)Weird fact: Despite finishing first or tied for first in the Big Ten five times between 2002 and 2008, the Buckeyes' Jim Tressel has yet to coach in the Rose Bowl. He'll get his chance now.
Last game: Beat Michigan, 21-10
Next game: Rose Bowl Jan. 1 vs. Oregon or Oregon State
Last Week: 12
Oregon Ducks (9-2)The Ducks' second overtime possession in their win on Saturday at Arizona played out almost exactly like a pressure-situation simulation Oregon ran in practice earlier in the week. With drills like that, Ducks coach Chip Kelly won't be giving out more refunds.
Last game: Beat Arizona, 44-41 (2 OT)
Next game: Dec. 3 vs. Oregon State