BCS Conferences in a Nutshell

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

LET'S SET THE STAGE FOR THE START
OF 2010 COLLEGE FOOTBALL

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

The 2010 college football season begins this Thursday Night. To get you in the mood for what should be a very entertaining campaign, we wanted to run brief nutshell summaries of all six BCS conferences. Who's ranked now? Who's supposed to win? Who may be overrated?

We'll take them alphabetically, starting with the ACC and working through the Pac 10.

ACC

Ranked in the AP: #10 Virginia Tech, #13 Miami, #16 Georgia Tech, #18 North Carolina, #20 Florida State

Consensus Favorite: This is always such a competitive conference that it's hard to find a consensus about anything. Many believe a Virginia Tech win over Boise State this Monday Night will grease the skids for a potential National Championship run. Frank Beamer's boys have a tradition of stubbing their toe once or twice a season though in games they shouldn't lose. Should be another entertaining season, in a league that's truly not quite championship caliber right now when you compare it to the SEC or the Big 12 South. Maybe the early respect in the polls will help change that.

There's Buzz About: North Carolina was a very popular darkhorse choice until problem with legalities kept popping up. Now, it's hard to know who's going to be allowed to play, and how that will affect the mindset of the team. Senior quarterbacks at FSU, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech are all capable of working their way into Heisman Trophy discussions if they can lead their teams to big seasons.

NOTEBOOK: We've been very impressed with ACC defenses in recent years. These guys do hit hard...and that lunchbox mentality has really taken hold in several places. We'll be looking to exploit that with Unders this year, particularly in games involving less experienced or inconsistent quarterbacks. We'll also be paying close attention to defensive depth. Along with the five teams mentioned in the rankings, Clemson and Boston College will be their usually pesky selves. Handing the challenge of a tough conference slate will be paramount. Shorthanded teams will be on the 'go against' list in the latter half of the season.

BIG EAST

Ranked in the AP: #15 Pittsburgh, #25 West Virginia

Consensus Favorite: Pittsburgh is getting that nod now by default. Note that defending champion Cincinnati, under new head coach Butch Jones, just missed the AP rankings at #26. Connecticut would rank #31 if the rankings went down that far.

There's Buzz About: We're hearing a lot about Connecticut. They return Zach Frazer at quarterback, and head coach Bobby Edsall continues to get improvement from his players year-after-year. If there's going to be a 'breakthrough' season this year in the Big East, UCONN is the best nominee in our view. They return 8 starters on both sides of the ball. We're looking forward to their meeting with Michigan this Saturday afternoon on ABC.

NOTEBOOK: Like the ACC, this looks to be a competitive race that probably won't influence the national championship picture unless everything breaks right. Cincinnati getting crushed last year by Florida pretty much cemented that. Cincy brought the most impressive Big East representative to a BCS bowl in quite some time...and wasn't even competitive. Still, in their own league, and against non-conference opponents, this is definitely a group that can make you money. We'll be devoting a lot of attention to new coaches Skip Holtz (South Florida) and Charlie Strong (Louisville).

BIG TEN

Ranked in the AP: #2 Ohio State, #9 Iowa, #12 Wisconsin, #19 Penn State

Consensus Favorite: Ohio State is getting the nod right now....but the media ALWAYS gives Ohio State the nod for reasons that we haven't been able to fathom. Sure, the Buckeyes closed the season well...particularly in that Rose Bowl win over Oregon. This is still the group that lost to Purdue, and almost lost to Navy. We wouldn't be shocked to see Iowa or Wisconsin sneak past them.

There's Buzz About: Wisconsin is the popular choice of people who don't want to pick the obvious. Ten starters return on offense...and these guys really impressed late last season. Frankly, what's surprised us this year is the LACK of buzz about the bottom seven teams in the 11-team league. It's like everyone's given up on squads like Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, or Purdue even being competitive any time soon. Michigan and Michigan State barely exist any more other than teams that show up on Notre Dame's schedule and get some of the early TV slots on ESPN. We expect somebody outside of the 'big four' to create some buzz in September. We're not telling who because we'll likely be on them in the next couple of weeks.

NOTEBOOK: We spent many years on these pages proving to everyone beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Big Ten wasn't as good as its poll rankings. Maybe last year's bowl showings are a sign that things are about to get better. We'll stay open-minded. Just remember that Big 10 powers fooled the pundits so often in the last decade that it virtually killed the role of TV punditry. Do you even listen to what the 'Around the Horn' guys say about the Big 10 anymore? When they're not getting arrested we mean.

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BIG 12

Ranked in the AP: #5 Texas, #7 Oklahoma, #8 Nebraska,

Consensus Favorite: Call it a consensus three-way coin flip. Nobody knows who's going to win the Texas-OU game...which will very likely determine the winner of the Big 12 South. Nebraska is certainly a consensus to win the North. Only distractions from the pending move to the Big 12 could get in their way.

There's Buzz About: Texas A&M is getting some buzz because the media is tired of talking about Texas and Oklahoma all the time. Quarterback Jerrod Johnson led the #5 offense in the country last year. And, they put on quite a show Thanksgiving Night vs. Texas. The defense was horrible, but 10 starters do return. We could see the Aggies at least making things interesting in their big showdown games.

NOTEBOOK: This conference lost some luster in the offseason when it almost imploded and nobody really cared. The Big 12 North was almost left begging to join the Mountain West. A&M, Tech, and Baylor were seen as ducklings who will follow Texas wherever they go. It's important that handicappers not lose sight of the quality that will be on the field this month. We have are eyes on at least FOUR teams we haven't mentioned yet who are likely to catch people by surprise in September. That means GAME OF THE MONTH possibilities for JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK, and possibly even a GAME OF THE YEAR possibility. No hints beyond that!

SEC

Ranked in the AP: #1 Alabama, #4 Florida, #17 Arkansas, #21 LSU, #22 Auburn, #23 Georgia

Consensus Favorite: Alabama and Florida are still expected to rule their divisions. Though, Florida has a new quarterback and Alabama only returns one defensive starter. You can see a drop off down to the 'we know the SEC is good but we don't know where to stick everybody else' contingent.

There's Buzz About: Can there be a buzz about uncertainty? There are so many question marks right now that nobody knows what to buzz about. You have new starting quarterbacks with about half the teams. Some of the returners weren't anything special last year. There are three new head coaches, and nearly a half dozen others in the 'they still need to prove themselves category. Does Auburn trust Gene Chizik? Is Ole Miss really that fond of Houston Nutt? Has Les Miles worn out his welcome even if he can still pose with his National Championship trophy? Maybe it's not a buzz we're hearing, but just a nervous hum vibrating through the region.

NOTEBOOK: Many SEC teams started to look mortal in bowls last year, meaning the bloom may be off the rose. We'll be following this story very closely this season. This is another league where we'll be looking to play Unders. Defenses ruled last year, and now there will be new quarterbacks all over the place. Oddsmakers tried to lower the numbers last year, but were a bit behind the curve much of the way. Remember that defenses started taking control of the sport back from spread offenses last year. Maybe the ACC and SEC were the canaries in the coal mine...and now you should be looking for a continuation in other conferences.

PAC 10

Ranked in the AP: #11 Oregon, #14 Southern Cal, #24 Oregon State

Consensus Favorite: Southern Cal is ineligible for the crown because they've been living the Hollywood lifestyle for several years and it finally caught up with them. Oregon is getting the nod by default even though there are some question marks at quarterback. Nobody else is jumping up as a team threat.

There's Buzz About: Jake Locker and Andrew Luck! Mel Kiper and the draftniks are already celebrating Jake Locker of Washington as the next big thing, even though he has ugly stats for a 'star' and rarely gets tested in terms of big game importance. Luck is the quarterback and Stanford who got overshadowed by his running back last year. Maybe everyone has been brainwashed to think you look to the West Coast for quarterbacks. Plus, there's not much else to talk about this year in the Pac 10 unless you want to list all the stuff USC has had to give back so far.

NOTEBOOK: Poor showings in bowls last year set the stage for what could be a very down year for the league. If Oregon State can't be competitive with TCU at the new Cowboys stadium this Saturday Night, it's going to be very hard for the Pac 10 to get much media mojo. We'll probably be looking to go against the league in non-conference testers. Once Pac 10 play begins, we'll be looking for value with experienced quarterbacks.

That wraps up our nutshell reviews of the BCS conferences heading into the start of the season. We'll run expanded previews of marquee games the rest of the week:

WEDNESDAY: A look at Steve Spurrier to get you ready for South Carolina's TV game with Southern Miss the following night.

THURSDAY: An update on USC as they go to battle late in the evening at Hawaii

FRIDAY: Notes on Arizona's potential to step up this year leading into their prime time affair with Toledo.

SATURDAY: A preview of the marquee North Carolina/LSU game in prime time

SUNDAY: The latest on Tommy Tuberville's takeover of Texas Tech on the day they kick off 2010 vs. dangerous SMU.

MONDAY: A preview of the long awaited Boise State/Virginia Tech game.

Yes...college football is here...which means it's time to link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK! You can purchase monthly or seasonal packages online with your credit card. Game day releases will always be available a few hours before kickoff. If you'd like more information on our service, call 1-800-323-4453.

Fasten your seat belts folks...it's going to be a helluva ride!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.

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