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December 11, 2007

Big Ten still struggling against BCS foes

The Big Ten had ample opportunity to climb out of the cellar in the Rivals.com BCS Conference Power Rankings last week, with a couple of key opportunities against BCS foes.

Airball! Airball!

The Big Ten went 2-5 against BCS competition, and it remains at the bottom of the power rankings. Other than Indiana's 70-51 triumph over visiting Kentucky and Penn State's overtime upset of visiting Seton Hall, things didn't go well.

Wisconsin and Illinois had golden chances to improve their status and the league's playing at home (or close to it) against ranked teams. But the Badgers saw their 28-game home winning streak, third-longest in the nation, come to an end against Marquette. And the Illini had Arizona on the ropes in Chicago before the Wildcats clawed back to win in overtime.

The other results bordered on disastrous. Michigan got crushed by Duke, 95-67. Iowa somehow lost 56-47 to Iowa State, three days after the Cyclones had lost by 35 points to Drake. Purdue lost at Missouri 73-63, which was a little more respectable but still not good enough.

Here are the BCS Conference Power Rankings for the week ending Dec. 9:

Rivals.com Conference Power Rankings
1. ACC
Rivals.com ranking last week: First.
Record vs. Division I: 78-21.
Win of the week: Clemson 82, East Carolina 67. It doesn't seem that important or convincing of a win against a lower-division Conference USA team until you see below.
Worst loss: East Carolina 75, NC State 69. The Pirates went out in their next game after losing to the Tigers and bumped off the Wolfpack. NC State slipped to 4-3 and doesn't look like a league contender.
The skinny: Four ACC teams remain unbeaten, including North Carolina and Duke. Boston College is a surprising 7-1, and FSU will put a six-game winning streak on the line Saturday against Butler.
2. Big 12
Rivals.com ranking last week: Second.
Record vs. Division I: 71-27.
Win of the week: Kansas State 82, California 75. The Wildcats bounced back from a neutral-site loss to Notre Dame to take out the Golden Bears of the powerful Pac-10.
Worst loss: Drake 79, Iowa State 44. OK, Drake is an in-state rival and this is a huge game for the Bulldogs. But a 35-point loss?
The skinny: Iowa State bounced back from the embarrassment to beat a bigger rival, Iowa. It's a big reason you won't see the Big Ten on this list anytime soon. Oklahoma fans probably don't realize this, but the Sooners' weekend loss to Stephen F. Austin wasn't so horrible. The Lumberjacks are 6-1, with their only loss to the Big 12's Texas Tech.
3. Pac-10
Rivals.com ranking last week: Third.
Record vs. Division I: 62-17.
Win of the week: Washington State 51, Gonzaga 47. In a game in which defense was at a premium, the Cougars remained unbeaten with a hard-fought win over the Bulldogs.
Worst loss: Kansas State 82, California 75. The Golden Bears suffered their first loss to a team that entered the game 5-3.
The skinny: Washington State is the only undefeated team in the league. On a whole, the Pac-10 hasn't played an especially difficult non-conference schedule, either (strength of schedule is ranked eighth).
4. Big East
Rivals.com ranking last week: Fourth.
Record vs. Division I: 93-31.
Win of the week: West Virginia 88, Auburn 59. It's not so much that the Mountaineers won, it's that they beat the Tigers by 29 points at a neutral site in Birmingham.
Worst loss: Pick one against the Atlantic 10. You can choose from two to Rhode Island or Louisville's upset against Dayton. The Rams aren't a bad team (in fact, URI is an A-10 contender), but they weren't supposed to whack Providence (77-60) or win at Syracuse (91-89). The Cardinals were waylaid by the visiting Flyers, 70-65.
The skinny: Georgetown has been superb, and Pittsburgh also remained undefeated, though it was shaky at Washington. The impressive thing about the Big East is its depth. Marquette ended Wisconsin's 28-game home winning streak on Saturday, and Notre Dame and West Virginia both look solid. Don't forget that USF, heretofore a Big East cellar-dweller, is riding a seven-game winning streak.
5. SEC
Rivals.com ranking last week: Fifth.
Record vs. Division I: 71-22.
Win of the week: Ole Miss 76, UCF 67. The Rebels (7-0) remained unbeaten with a nice win in Orlando, Fla., against a team that won 20 games last season. The SEC's biggest win would have been LSU over Villanova until John Brady's team somehow blew a 21-point lead with about eight minutes to play.
Worst loss: Indiana 70, Kentucky 51. The Wildcats are struggling mightily. The Hoosiers didn't even have Eric Gordon and still UK had nothing for IU.
The skinny: Vanderbilt (9-0) is getting terrific play from senior Shan Foster and freshman center A.J. Ogilvy. Arkansas (7-1) has rebounded from an early loss to Providence to win five in a row.
6. Big Ten
Rivals.com ranking last week: Sixth.
Record vs. Division I: 58-32.
Win of the week: Indiana 70, Kentucky 51. Beating the Wildcats this season doesn't appear to be any monumental feat, but you can bet the Hoosiers sure enjoyed it. They also did it without the services of freshman superstar Eric Gordon.
Worst loss: Iowa State 56, Iowa 47. The Hawkeyes dropped to 6-5 with the loss to the Cyclones, who entered the game just 3-4.
The skinny: The Big Ten is the only BCS league without an undefeated team. It went 2-5 last week against BCS foes, with Indiana and Penn State (an overtime win over Seton Hall) providing the only victories. Yes, three of its teams played ranked BCS opponents, but they lost all three of those games - including two on their home floors. That's no way to move up the standings.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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