College Football Spotlight: Conference Perception Key As Big 12 Makes Statement

Virginia Tech laid an egg at home against a good East Carolina team a week after handling Ohio State in Columbus the previous week. USC was taken down on the road at Boston College a week after scoring a huge Pac-12 win against two-time defending conference champion Stanford. As they say in college football, momentum will only carry you so far. Let this be a lesson to all around college football that no game should be taken for granted. This season, perhaps more than most, wins are more valuable than ever before and only a few select programs may be able to weather the storm that comes with a loss along the way to the College Football Playoff.

Virginia Tech and USC were not likely to be realistic playoff contenders at the end of the season, and the chances to play for a conference championship were not affected by this weekend’s results (USC is still 1-0 in the Pac-12 and Virginia Tech has yet to play an ACC game), but the losses taken this weekend do affect the overall perception of the conferences. Never before have conferences had to ban together to support other member schools in non-conference action.

Perception is everything this season. USC losing to Boston College dings the Pac-12’s reputation, although the conference overall is still doing well. The Eagles’ victory should also give the ACC a boost and prove this is not a conference that is simply Florida State and everybody else. But then again, Virginia Tech losing at home to East Carolina negates the positive gain from Boston College’s victory.

As it turned out, this past weekend in college football happened to be a successful weekend for the Big 12. After witnessing the dismal performance of the Big Ten the previous week, the Big 12 was thrown under the microscope with a good handful of games against power conference opponents. There were some highs and lows, but the Big 12 avoided a complete meltdown the way the Big Ten has experienced the past couple of weeks.

Oklahoma defended its home field against a rising SEC team, Tennessee. The Big 12 notched three victories over the Big Ten, including two on Big Ten soil with West Virginia clipping Maryland with a last-second field goal and Iowa State getting the last laugh against Iowa thanks in part to Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz calling a timeout on what proved to be a missed field goal. The Big 12 nearly recorded a victory against the Pac-12, but UCLA proved to have just enough in the tank to get by Texas. The ACC, Pac-12 and SEC may have the most valuable wins in non-conference play thus far, but the Big 12 completed the task of separating itself from the Big Ten. Come playoff selection time, that could be a huge factor.

Conference play will begin picking up this week. The ACC’s star battle will see Florida State take on a Clemson squad that may be the biggest threat to the Seminoles. Oklahoma travels to a confident West Virginia. LSU hosts undefeated Mississippi State. Alabama welcomes Florida. But there will also be some key non-conference match-ups as well. Defending SEC champion Auburn heads to Kansas State for a Thursday night match-up. This could be the Big 12’s last chance to leave a huge impression on the selection committee. 

There are just four spots available for the College Football Playoff. The race is already heating up.

Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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