Where does the Big East rank among conferences?

The Big East recently hired Paul Tagliabue as a consultant. Maybe the former NFL commissioner can help the league with its image problem.

The fact is, the conference plays some pretty good football. Did you know that, according to the Sagarin Ratings, the Big East was the second-strongest league in America (behind the SEC) in 2009?

And yet, everybody always wants to say the Big East is the worst of the six BCS auto-bid conferences, with some people occasionally putting the Mountain West ahead of it as well. Colleague Mark Schlabach ranked the conferences today, and he rates the Big East sixth, behind the other five BCS leagues.

There is logic behind that. Few would dispute that the SEC deserves the No. 1 spot based on its dominance in recent years. The Big East has fewer teams than those other leagues and probably will start the year with no schools ranked in the top 10. It's questionable whether there is a true national title contender in the conference, and the Big East has lost its last two BCS games (sorry, Cincinnati fans).

Still, I'm going to defend the Big East a little bit. I think that, top to bottom, it will be the most competitive league in the country this year. Any one of six teams could contend for the title, while Syracuse and Louisville should be improved. The same can't be said for the ACC, which has some very good teams at the top but also a lot of mediocrity and some real bottom feeders.

So my conference rankings look like this:

1. SEC -- No debate, really.

2. Big Ten -- Strong at the top, but weaker than the Big East at the bottom.

3. Big 12 -- A bit down from the past couple of years, but still deep.

4. Pac-10 -- Is Oregon the new big dog? Will USC be the same under Lane Kiffin.

5. Big East -- Pitt, Cincinnati, West Virginia and UConn should all be in the Top 25.

6. ACC -- Still has a lot to prove nationally, in my view.