College Football Tuesday: Rent-a-wins give way to meaningful games

John Harris
| Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 11:09 p.m.

Bloody Saturday is over. It's time for meaningful football games among Top 25 college football teams.

It figures to get considerably more challenging for No. 4 Ohio State, which hosts No. 23 Wisconsin Saturday.

The same goes for No. 8 Florida State, which faces Maryland, as well for No. 16 Miami, which hosts Georgia Tech.

Collectively, those teams outscored their FCS opponents 207-13 last weekend.

Of course, officials at Florida A&M, Bethune Cookman and Savannah State knew what they were signing up for when they agreed to serve as sacrificial lambs for Ohio State, Florida State and Miami, respectively, one week before the opening of conference play.

The money those schools receive from those lopsided losses contributes heavily to their annual athletic budgets. Still, it's disconcerting to see such a disparity in talent, as well as on the scoreboard, for the sake of a large paycheck.

Fact: Seven teams in the poll scored at least 54 points in games in which they were heavily favored last weekend, while none of their seven opponents scored more than 13 points.

Buying wins is one thing. There's something inherently wrong with humiliating overmatched opponents simply because you paid for that right.

Pac-12 moving up

It remains to be seen if the best team in the Pac-12 (Oregon) can defeat the best team in the SEC (Alabama). We probably won't find that out until the BCS national championship game. We do know Oregon may have the most explosive offense this side of Texas A&M, which upset Alabama last season and nearly won this year's rematch.

On paper, the Pac-12 is pushing the SEC as the best conference in college football. The Pac-12 is 6-3 against other BCS leagues this year with four teams in the poll and six league members still unbeaten.

It's a league with a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate (Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota) and a 3-1 Washington State team ranked No. 17 after winning a total of three games a year ago.

It's also a league strong enough to survive its signature program (USC) not being ranked. How many other leagues can say that?

SEC still strong

The SEC is a strong league as long as its signature program — Alabama — is strong. The top-ranked Crimson Tide have won two consecutive BCS national titles and is favored to win three straight.

Right now, it's a toss-up between the SEC and Pac-12.

Four SEC teams are ranked in the Top 10, and there are seven league members in this week's poll. Still, the SEC is 7-6 against other BCS leagues despite featuring four undefeated teams.

There are many faces to the SEC this year. No. 21 Mississippi is a surprise team which drilled Texas, 44-23, in Austin. However, the league also features underachieving Mississippi State (2-2) and Arkansas, which suffered a 28-24 loss at Rutgers despite leading 24-7 in the third quarter.

The SEC offers a top Heisman Trophy candidate, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who's attempting to become the first repeat Heisman winner since Ohio State's Archie Griffin.

Big Ten playing catch up

The Big Ten is 8-6 against other BCS leagues this year. Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan and Wisconsin are ranked in the Top 25, but Ohio State is clearly the class of the league — with or without quarterback Braxton Miller, who was the league's top Heisman Trophy candidate until his injury. No. 17 Northwestern is 4-0 and ranked higher in the polls than Michigan.

So far, the league's signature win is Michigan's 41-30 demolition of Notre Dame three weeks ago. It's also a league featuring Nebraska losing at home to UCLA by 20 points, and Indiana starting the season 2-2 despite scheduling four nonconference home games.

ACC up, Big 12 down

Combined, the ACC and Big 12 are 7-10 against other BCS leagues this year. However, the ACC is 5-6, while the Big 12 is only 2-4.

The ACC features five undefeated teams, two teams in the Top 10 and three teams in the poll. The Big 12 has four undefeated teams, no teams in the Top 10, and a total of four teams in the poll.

Clemson is the class of the ACC. The Tigers own the league's best win, a 38-35 decision over Georgia, and senior quarterback Tajh Boyd could be invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

The Big 12's biggest win to date is Oklahoma State's 21-3 decision over Mississippi State. West Virginia produced the biggest stinker in the Big 12, losing 37-0 to Maryland.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty has legitimate Heisman potential.

Louisville leads AAC

American Athletic teams are 4-7 against other BCS leagues this year. There are three undefeated members. No. 7 Louisville is the only team from the former Big East appearing in the poll.

Central Florida's 34-31 win at Penn State is the best performance in the league. Connecticut's 33-18 upset loss to Towson State is the worst.

Humble Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who could be the first player selected in the 2014 draft, asked school officials not to mention his Heisman candidacy.

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