We're still a few weeks from our friends at ESPN Stats & Info unveiling their weekly College Football Conference Power Rankings. Their formula is a beautifully formulated blend of the AP Top 25 and computer rankings that measure a conference's top-shelf strength as well as its bottom-shelf weaknesses.
But I'm an impatient man. So, until they reveal their initial numbers, let's take an official midsummer crack at it ourselves, shall we? For this week's Three Downs and Punt:
First Down: Ranking the conference colossuses
I'm employing a much simpler formula that's one part top teams, one part problem teams, one part hunch -- and a little easier to bang out on a calculator for those of us who barely made it out of middle school algebra.
My numbers are based on my predictions. 1. How many teams from each conference will legitimately factor into the BCS championship fight? 2. How many teams will be in the AP Top 25 conversation on a regular basis throughout the season? 3. How many teams do I expect each conference to send to a bowl game? 4. How many teams will qualify for none of the above, aka the "Holes in the Boat" that threaten to bring the conference down from the inside?
BCS Contenders: (+2) Alabama, LSU
Top 25 Contenders: (+7) Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State
Likely Bowl Teams: (+10) Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky
Holes in the Boat: (-2) Ole Miss, Vanderbilt
This is the no-brainer of the list, although it's closer than most might have thought before doing the actual arithmetic. The Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers are on nearly everyone's preseason title contenders list. Past that, it's a bunch of schools that are already being labeled "could be this year's Auburn," schools that could finish the season in the AP top 10 or outside the Top 25 altogether. Still, the SEC likely will send a whopping 10 schools to bowls. Some say that last team will be Ole Miss, I say Kentucky. As for the league's longtime Hole in the Boat, Vanderbilt is on the way up, not down.
To see Ryan's ratings for the remaining 10 FBS conferences (plus independents), become an ESPN Insider today.