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2008 Spring Preview - Ranking the Conferences
Missouri QB Chase Daniel
Missouri QB Chase Daniel
Posted Feb 29, 2008

How should the conferences be rated from top to bottom? Which team will likely be the best in each league? Will Chase Daniel and Missouri end up ruling the Big 12 again? The Spring Questions continue with No. 15, the conference rankings.

Spring Preview 2008

The 20 Big Questions - No. 15

By Pete Fiutak 

- 2008 Spring Questions
No. 20 - Top 40 Non-Conference Games
No. 16-19 - BCS Busters, Rule Changes & More

15. Which conference will be the best in 2008?

11. Sun Belt - The league took a monster step forward last year with Troy shocking Oklahoma State, Florida Atlantic beating Minnesota and Memphis, and in one of the biggest upsets in an upset-filled season, UL Monroe stunning Alabama. Troy, Florida Atlantic and Middle Tennessee will be strong, while North Texas could have the most exciting offense this side of Texas Tech.
The best team should be ... Florida Atlantic

10. WAC - As always, the WAC will be top-heavy. Fresno State and Boise State will be top 25-worthy, if not higher, all season long, and even though Hawaii will take a step back, it'll still be potent. Nevada will probably be the league's third or fourth best team, it would probably win the MAC. The key will be the expected improvement of teams like San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. If the mid-range teams are better, the league should probably be boosted up a bit.
The best team should be ... Fresno State

9. MAC - After two down years with everyone seemingly fully reloaded, this could be the best the league has ever been. Bottom-feeders like Eastern Michigan and Temple should have their best teams in several years, while Buffalo have its strongest team ever. Central Michigan is terrific again, Miami is good enough to repeat as East champions, Ohio is better than it's ever been under Frank Solich, Western Michigan gets everyone back on defense, Toledo, Bowling Green and Ball State will light up everyone like Las Vegas, and teams like Kent State and Northern Illinois, who struggled last year with injuries, will be improved. In other words, the league should be great from top to bottom.
The best team should be ... Central Michigan

8. Conference USA - Where's the buzz? Put it this way; the league had two, 2,000-yard backs last year (UCF's Kevin Smith and Tulane's Matt Forte) and you didn't hear boo about it. It's a conference in transition with major coaching changes among some of the top programs like Houston and Southern Miss, while SMU will be one of the season's most interesting curiosities with June Jones taking over. While the conference might not be anything fantastic overall, it could be among the most entertaining with teams like Tulsa and Rice certain to put up huge offensive numbers. 
The best team should be ... Tulsa

7. Mountain West - After a slightly disappointing season, with TCU not up to predicted snuff, the conference should come out roaring with BYU and Utah each good enough to be BCS busters, with the right breaks. TCU will likely sneak up on everyone now that the spotlight is off, Air Force should be solid again now that head coach Troy Calhoun has had a year to work, and UNLV, San Diego State, Wyoming and Colorado State will be occasionally dangerous, even if they're not all that great.
The best team should be ...

6. Big East - Call this a wait-and-see choice for the sixth slot because the Big East has the potential to be fantastic if the transfer of power at West Virginia is smooth, and if there's improvement in Louisville. Pitt is loaded with as much talent as anyone in the league, but now it has to start playing like it. Cincinnati has to build on a big first season from Brian Kelly, South Florida must be more consistent, Connecticut has to prove that 2007 wasn't a fluke, and Rutgers has to play up to its potential. If all four of those things happen, and if Syracuse isn't horrific, this will be a fun race week-in-and-week-out.

The best team should be ... West Virginia

5. ACC - It's all up to the big names and how fast they reload. Miami and Florida State should be good in 2009, but they might need this year to gear up. On the plus side, the worst team, Duke, will be better and there might not be another true dog in the bunch, but there also might not be a killer outside of Clemson, Virginia Tech, and possibly Boston College (who'll also be loaded in 2009). The mid-level teams like Georgia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest and Virginia might be interchangeable.
The best team should be ... Clemson

4. Pac 10 - USC isn't without its big question marks with a battle going on for the starting quarterback spot and with the receiving corps a concern. Even so, it's still a national title contender. While the league should be better from top to bottom, the jury is still out on whether or not Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon, Cal, or someone from out of the blue will be BCS-caliber.
The best team should be ... USC

3. Big Ten - The perception will be that the league is down after Ohio State's second straight national title loss and with Michigan in a state of flux, but the reality is that things weren't really that bad last year and there are several good teams returning. Wisconsin will be at least as good, if not better defensively, Penn State will be strong if it can find a quarterback, Illinois isn't going anywhere, and Michigan State will be better. The bottom teams like Minnesota, Northwestern and Iowa should all be far better.
The best team should be ... Ohio State

2. Big 12 - Remembering that Iowa State started to come on at the end of the year, outside of Baylor, where's the weak link? 11 teams will be going into the season with an honest goal of going to a bowl game, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma will be at least as good as last year when they were all in the national title hunt, Texas will be Texas, Oklahoma State will be dangerous, and Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State should be better. And then there's Texas Tech, who'll assault the record books with a jaw-dropping offensive season, even by its own standards, while it'll play a little D, too.
The best team should be ... Oklahoma

1. SEC - But it's closer than you might think. Georgia, Florida and LSU could be the three best teams in America, but there's a ton of upheaval across the rest of the conference. Tennessee, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Arkansas are all undergoing major changes. Mississippi State will still be looking for some offense, and Kentucky should take a step back. In other words, it's still the best conference going, but  it could become a tad top-heavy.
The best team should be ...