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Rushing to Defend the Conference's Honor

I'll not pretend that the Big 12 is the best football conference in America but I have to call bull when I see it. SI.com's Stewart Mandel discussed his conference rankings this week in the college football mailbag and he put the Big12 as the fifth ranked conference. Again, before you call me a homer for the Big 12 conference (which I am) let me point out that my beef is not that the Big 12 isn't #1. My beef is that he has the Pac 10, Big 10, and even the Big East ranked ahead of the Big 12. Here's what he had to say about the Big 12.

5) Big 12: Earlier this decade, I really thought the Big 12 was going to emerge as the best conference in the country. But due in large part to Dennis Franchione's thus-far disappointing tenure at Texas A&M, the South Division has remained largely a two-team show (though Texas Tech is a consistent second-tier bowl team), and the North has yet to fully recover from its all-out implosion a few years ago. Nebraska should be a top-20 team, but I'm not convinced the Huskers are ready to contend nationally yet, Missouri should again be good but not great and the jury's still out on the likes of Kansas State and Kansas.

When compiling a conference power rankings list you have to consider the conference from top to bottom and not just the conference champion and runner up. Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Compare the Pac 10 (Mandel's second strongest conference) from top to bottom against the Big 12.

Conference
Finish
Pac 10 Big 12 My Pick
Head-to-Head
1 USC OU USC
2 Cal Nebraska Cal
3 Oregon
State
Texas Texas
4 UCLA Texas A&M UCLA
5 Oregon Texas Tech Texas Tech
6 Arizona State Missouri Missouri
7 Washington
State
Kansas
State
Kansas
State
8 Arizona Oklahoma
State
Oklahoma
State
9 Washington Kansas Washington
10 Stanford Baylor Baylor

The Pack 10 may be heavy at the top but from top to bottom I'll take the more balanced Big 12 over the top heavy Pac 10. The same goes for the Big 10 as well.

Conference
Finish
Big 10 Big 12 My Pick
Head-to-Head
1 Ohio
State
OU OSU
2 Wisconsin Nebraska Nebraska
3 Michigan Texas Texas
4 Penn
State
TexasA&M Penn
State
5 Purdue Texas Tech Texas Tech
6 Minnesota Missouri Missouri
7 Indiana Kansas
State
Kansas
State
8 Iowa Oklahoma
State
Iowa
9 Northwestern Kansas Kansas
10 Michigan
State
Baylor Michigan
State
11 Illinois Iowa
State
Iowa
State

At least in my little conference ranking world the Pac 10 and Big 10 are competitive against the Big 12 and prove that they belong to be mentioned in the same breath but the same just isn't true for the Big East.

Conference
Finish
Big East Big 12 My Pick
Head-to-Head
1 Louisville OU OU
2 West
Virginia
Nebraska West
Virginia
3 Rutgers Texas Texas
4 South
Florida
Texas
A&M
Texas
A&M
5 Cincinnai Texas
Tech
Texas Tech
6 Pittsburgh Missouri Missouri
7 Connecticut Kansas
State
Kansas
State
8 Syracuse Oklahoma
State
Oklahoma
State

Clearly the SEC is the best conference in the country and we really don't need a chart to back that up but in my opinion two, three, and four are all up for grabs to anyone but the Big East.