One of college basketball's great appeals has been the rise of mid-major programs. College basketball teams from non-power conferences have gained a foothold in the NCAA Tournament by building senior led programs and years upon years of upsets in the big dance.
College football has its own version of the mid-major in Boise State and until this year TCU. BYU has been a national power on and off. The Cougars are now an independent and Boise State will join the Big East next year.
When all the major conferences snap up the best programs not already at the BCS table, the question becomes who will take up the banner for the little guys. There might not be one team take up the mantel but several from small conferences.
This season the SEC has been terrorized by the Sun Belt Conference. The mighty SEC has been upset by Louisiana-Monroe and Western Kentucky. Troy and South Alabama have kept games close against best conference in the land.
Last Saturday, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) terrorized nearly every major conference. MAC victims included the Big Ten (Iowa), Big East (Connecticut & South Florida), Big-12 (Kansas).
Michigan State ran away from Eastern Michigan in the fourth quarter and Akron was tied with Tennessee at halftime before the Volunteers pulled away in the second half. The MAC had a chance to take down another Big Ten team and the SEC in an already successful weekend.
Earlier this season, Indiana and Penn State fell to MAC schools. Other small conferences have gotten wins from the major conferences as well.
The Mountain West has taken down the PAC-12 (twice). The Western Athletic Conference (WAC) upset the Big Ten, and PAC-12 (twice).
Even as bad as Conference-USA has been, as a whole, the conference can still boast a win over the Big-12. Small conferences are slowly working on no longer being easy pickings for the major conferences.
Teams at the top of the major conferences are still more talented than smaller conferences but teams near the middle and bottom of the big conferences are in danger. Top teams from small conferences are starting to beat those teams in the middle and bottom of the BCS conference pack.
It is too early to tell the if the play of small conferences this season is an anomaly or a trend to usher in a new era of college football. The MAC, MWC, C-USA, WAC and Sun Belt have long wanted a seat a the big boy table in terms of money from the BCS and soon from the new playoff system.
The only way these smaller conferences are ever going to get a seat at the table is by beating the big boys on the road and doing it more consistently. Times might be changing at the top of the level of college football.
At week four, the following teams are undefeated and from small conferences. Ohio 4-0 (MAC), Texas-San Antonio (WAC) and Louisiana Tech (WAC) all will have have chance to break into the BCS if they can stay undefeated. Ohio and Louisiana Tech have the best chance to be BCS Busters.
The top of the SEC might be has heavy as it has ever been depending on how things turnout. Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi State are all undefeated heading into the final week of September.
Tennessee, Ole Miss and Texas A&M all only have one loss. Missouri has two losses and Vanderbilt, Auburn, and Arkansas all have three loss. The Commodores, Tigers and Razorbacks all face an uphill climb to reach a bowl before the first month of the season is over.
Unless each SEC school has two losses by the end of the season, it seems unlikely that the conference won't have a team in the national championship game.
Washington upset of Stanford on Thursday left the PAC-12 with just two undefeated teams both from the same state. Oregon and Oregon State are the last two teams without a blemish left out west.
Even though the PAC-12 has just two undefeated teams the conference his only second to the SEC in depth. Washington, Stanford, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA all have just one loss.
Unless the state of Oregon runs the table, the Pac-12 could get a one loss team in the national title game if the rest of the nation slips.
Utah and Washington State have two losses. That leaves just Colorado and California who have three losses already this season.
The Big-12 has only one team with more than one loss. Kansas is 1-3 and in last place in a conference that has seven undefeated teams.
Kansas State, Baylor, TCU, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Texas, and West Virginia are all undefeated but overall none of these teams have any major wins out of conference. An undefeated or one loss team from the Big-12 will be on the outside looking in of the national title picture if there are two teams from other conference with the same record as this conference champion.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State each have one loss. The Big-12 might have played the weakest non-conference schedule of any of the major conferences.
No major conference is slipping as fast as the Big Ten. The conference has received losses from most of the small conferences and haven't picked up any big wins against the other major conferences.
The best team in the Big Ten might be an undefeated Ohio State team that can't even play for the conference crown or the national championship. Northwestern and Minnesota are both but neither has begun conference play yet.
Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Nebraska and Purdue each have one loss. The Spartans, Cornhuskers and the Badgers will have the best shot at getting into the national title picture.
Iowa, Michigan, Illinois and Penn State all have two losses. There is no team in the Big Ten with three losses yet.
Louisville gets all the headlines as the undefeated BCS favorite but after Rutgers defeated Arkansas to stay perfect, it is time to give the Scarlet Knights some love. Cincinnati is also undefeated but has only played two games.
Connecticut, South Florida, Temple, and Pittsburgh all have two losses. Syracuse has three losses but has played everyone on their schedule close.
The Big East would help their national standing if they win their BCS game. After West Virginia left for the Big-12 many thought the conference lost its best team but Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati will have something to say about the preseason Big East doubters.
Florida State is the lone undefeated team in the ACC after defeating Clemson last Saturday. The Seminoles are the only team left in the ACC with a chance to play for a national championship.
Clemson, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech, and Duke all have one loss. Maryland, Boston College, Georgia Tech North Carolina and Virginia all have two losses.
No team in the ACC has three losses heading into to week five.
Week five picks (pick in bold)
Baylor at West Virginia
Arkansas at Texas A&M
Penn State at Illinois
Duke at Wake Forest
Tennessee at Georgia
Ohio State at Michigan State
Clemson at Boston College
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati (at a neutral location)
Louisiana Tech at Virginia
Texas at Oklahoma State
Wisconsin at Nebraska
Oregon State at Arizona