— Since we'll be complaining about the Bowl Championship Series, arguing about a playoff and discussing far too many bowl games for the next couple weeks, it's a good time to tackle another constant controversy.
Ladies and gentlemen, here's our ranking of the conferences that make up the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision:
1 — SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE
Even its most ardent supporters, of which there are many, admit that the SEC isn't as strong as it has been in recent years. But it's still at the top of the heap.
Auburn, which wasn't considered to be among the conference's elite in the preseason, is on track to give the league a chance to win its fifth consecutive BCS title. This speaks volumes for the conference.
Other than the bullies rotating a bit, things don't change much from year to year within the SEC as a whole.
The Tigers would be the fifth different SEC team to win a crystal football in the 13-year history of the BCS (LSU and Florida each own two, while Tennessee and Alabama have one a piece).
Never mind that they all get fat on a heavy diet of Sun Belt, C-USA and subdivision teams during non-conference play, the week-to-week challenges within SEC play are still unmatched. Surely you remember that Kentucky gave Auburn all it could handle earlier in the season.
The Eastern Division was the Western's little sister this season, but the SEC is still the ultimate power conference. Supporters of the Pac-10 are eager to disagree and they'll have their chance to bang their chests if Oregon ends up playing and beating Auburn in Glendale, Ariz.
2 — PACIFIC-10 CONFERENCE
Top-heavy with Oregon and Stanford, the Pac-10 is the Katy Perry of conferences. Computers don't have eyes, but apparently they love that sort of look when determining conference strength.
If the Ducks make it to the BCS title game and Washington State upsets Washington in the "Apple Cup" this weekend, the league will send only three teams to bowls.
Obviously, there are reasons for that. We won't hold quality depth and parity against the Pac-10, but Oregon State, Washington, Arizona State or California really should have stepped up and done a lot better.
Unlike the rest of the BCS Top 10, the Ducks and Cardinal scheduled and won challenging road games at Tennessee and Notre Dame, respectively. You can't hold it against Oregon or Stanford that the Vols and Irish are going through a down cycle at the moment. At least both of those games weren't close.
We also feel compelled to give the "O" and "Tree" props for replacing signal-caller Jeremiah Masoli and running back Toby Gerhart so routinely. Sure, having Oregon RB LaMichael James and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is helpful, but take a look at Texas and Florida, which both had entirely too much difficulty in replacing their big guns.
Jeff Sagarin's current strength of schedule ranking has Stanford at eight and Oregon at 19. If you think that's not impressive, check out the numbers of whoever you believe is better. (Then, send you complaints to Jeff, not me.)
3 — BIG TEN CONFERENCE
That three-way logjam of 11-1 teams atop the Big Ten standings can be quite deceiving.
Wisconsin has been busy blasting the less fortunate into a pulp, but those scores don't erase the close calls the Badgers had with San Jose State (27-14) and Arizona State (20-19) back in September.
The league's other probable BCS participant, Ohio State also has a suspect resume. The Buckeyes have played only one school that's currently receiving any votes in the AP Top 25 and they lost to that team, Wisconsin.
We're having a helluva debate over here regarding Ohio State's best win of the season. Miami? Penn State? Iowa? Michigan? Furthermore, the Buckeyes' non-conference slate includes Marshall, Ohio and Eastern Michigan.
All the Big Ten tri-champs are rated behind both Boise State and TCU in Sagarin's computer ranking that incorporates margin of victory. Yes, Bret Bielema, you read that correctly.
Sagarin's strength of schedule rankings have Ohio State at 64 and Wisconsin at 71.
We can't really get behind an 11-team conference that plays only eight league games, leading to things like three-way deadlocks and a tiebreaker that goes directly against a head-to-head result. Flipping a coin would be more fair.
4 — BIG 12 CONFERENCE
Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State reloaded impressively. However, Texas did not, which caused the Big 12 to drop well below the Pac-10.
It's one thing for the Longhorns to have a down year, but to drop off the map and out of the postseason is something else entirely.
Missouri and Texas A&M compensated admirably for Texas.
Nebraska is halfway out the door, on its way to the Big Ten. But the Cornhuskers' brand of good ol' fashion football still resides in this conference, lending lots of support for this ranking well ahead of the ...
5 — ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
After Virginia Tech's loss to Boise State on Labor Day and the subsequent debacle versus James Madison, things were looking bleak for the ACC in the early going, especially with highly regarded North Carolina saddled with all of its problems.
The Hokies, however, turned things around in a big way. The return of Florida State to the top of the Atlantic Division was another big plus.
Ralph Friedgen's Maryland Terrapins (8-4) were the biggest surprise and the future looks bright with young Danny O'Brien taking snaps for at least the next two years.
On the flip side, Miami was a disappointment and we're still patiently waiting for Clemson to maintain a high level of success.
6 — MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
TCU alone makes the MWC worthy of this ranking. The Horned Frogs might be the most complete squad in the nation. You don't need to believe them, but the boys in Vegas will tell you so.
Most will remember this year's Utah team for being unable to compete in back-to-back spankings, to TCU and Notre Dame, but the Ute program is solid under the direction of Kyle Whittingham.
We have to believe that Utah would have earned a bowl berth if it was playing in the Pac-12 this year.
The rise of San Diego State following the arrival of Brady Hoke in 2009 comes at the right time with Brigham Young heading out the door toward independence.
7 — WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Boise State, Hawaii and Nevada all have one conference loss. While Boise gains the most headlines, Nevada has the honor of handing the Broncos their only defeat, and Hawaii has knocked off Wolf Pack.
Only the SEC and Big 12 can say that they have more teams ranked within the current AP Top 25 than the WAC's three.
Don't look now, but Boise, Reno and Honolulu are among the toughest places to win a game.
Although all this is good news for the WAC, the three mentioned above will be long gone by the time the 2012 season rolls around.
8 — BIG EAST CONFERENCE
The best thing you can say about the Big East this season is that this average play doesn't happen every year.
It's easy to say that the Big East doesn't deserve its automatic qualifying BCS status this year, but it has in the past and will in the future.
Pittsburgh is primarily the one to blame for this season's dramatic drop off. The Panthers were supposed to lead the way and fell incredibly short. Dave Wannstedt might not be the man for the job.
The fact that Syracuse was involved in the conference race well into November is both a bad and good sign.
Cincinnati falling apart without coach Brian Kelly, and star players Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard was as big a surprise as Connecticut's rise, which gives the Huskies the inside track to win the league title.
9 — CONFERENCE USA
If not for the early season injuries suffered by Houston quarterback Case Keenum, C-USA might have got the nod over the Big East this year.
Don't sleep on UCF, which got into the USA Today Top 25 this week. George O'Leary has won 17 regular-season games in the last two years.
The Knights will host SMU on Saturday in the C-USA championship game. June Jones' Mustangs amazingly have a shot at the league title this year, after winning just one game in 2008.
10 — INDEPENDENTS
There's only three of them, but Navy, Notre Dame and Army are all going bowling.
More importantly, all the programs seem to be in good hands. We haven't always been able to say that.
11 — MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE
Northern Illinois has reeled off nine consecutive victories after two early season losses, at Iowa State and at Illinois, bringing new blood to the top of the MAC.
Western Michigan's .500 season has been a disappointment, but the Broncos closed strong with three straight wins.
12 — SUN BELT CONFERENCE
As late as last week, there were zero bowl eligible teams in the Sun Belt.
One of the league's highlights was Western Kentucky snapping its 26-game losing streak last month.