One third of the college football season is officially over, and these last four weeks have given the nation thrilling upsets and overwhelming blowouts. In western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the results have not always been rosy. With that in mind, let's take a look at where the three local teams stand, how their conferences are competing nationally, and what the final eight weeks might hold for each team.
Penn State Nittany Lions and the Big Ten Conference
At the beginning of the year, most analysts and fans predicted a 3-1 start to the season, with the lone loss coming on a tough road trip to Tuscaloosa to face the reigning national champions. Those predictions turned out to be correct, as Penn State took care of Youngstown State and Kent State in Weeks One and Three, respectively. In between, the Crimson Tide proved to be too much for true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden, handing the Lions a 24-3 loss. In Week Four, the Temple Owls gave Penn State a scare before the Lions put them away 22-13.
After four weeks, Jeff Sagarin (whose computer rankings constitute a portion of the BCS rankings) has ranked the Nittany Lions and their opponents as follows: Alabama No. 1, Penn State No. 20, Temple No. 47, Youngstown State No. 112, and Kent State No. 128. In the "human" polls, Penn State ranks No. 22 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the USA Today/Coaches poll.
Playing all four of their out-of-conference games in the first four weeks, the Lions now look to eight straight Big Ten games, starting this weekend with a tough night matchup against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Lions also have to travel to Ohio Stadium, while playing host to Michigan on Halloween weekend in the marquee home contest.
The Big Ten conference overall has fared quite well in 2010. Its overall record stands at 34-8 with no conference games having been played as of yet. Five of the eight losses were suffered by Minnesota and Purdue, two of the conference's worst teams. The remaining three were suffered at the hands of Alabama (Penn State), Arizona (Iowa), and Missouri (Illinois). The Big Ten has victories over every major conference, and two wins over Notre Dame. Finally, the conference boasts the greatest number of teams in the USA Today/Coaches poll, at six (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State; 2011 Big Ten member Nebraska is also ranked).
Pitt Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers and the Big East Conference
Pitt entered the 2010 season with extremely high hopes, garnering fringe national title attention and exciting fans. The first four weeks of the season, however, have not been kind to the Panthers. On the field Pitt has lost to both Utah and Miami en route to a 1-2 start. Off the field, numerous Panthers have been in trouble with the law, the university, or both.
In the Sagarin rankings, the Panthers and their opponents rank as follows: Miami No. 17, Utah No. 18, Pitt No. 54, and New Hampshire No. 131. Pitt is not ranked in either the AP or the USA Today/Coaches poll, nor are they in the "Receiving Votes" category.
Pitt has two remaining out-of-conference games, hosting Florida International this weekend before traveling to Notre Dame in two weeks. After that, seven straight Big East games round out the 2010 season for the Panthers, including the Backyard Brawl on November 26 at Heinz Field.
West Virginia came into 2010 with similar high hopes, finding themselves ranked No. 25 in both preseason polls. The Mountaineers' start has been successful, but shaky - they easily took care of Coastal Carolina and Maryland, but needed overtime to beat in-state rival Marshall and dropped a marquee game last weekend at LSU.
West Virginia and their opponents are ranked as follows on the Sagarin rankings: LSU No. 5, West Virginia No. 21, Maryland No. 42, Marshall No. 94, and Coastal Carolina No. 200. WVU is not ranked in either the AP or USA Today/Coaches poll, but are first in the "Receiving Votes" category of the AP poll and third in the same category in the USA Today/Coaches poll.
West Virginia has a bye in the upcoming week before finishing its out-of-conference slate in two weeks against UNLV. Like Pitt, the Mountaineers then have seven straight conference games, including the aforementioned Backyard Brawl.
The Big East conference once again finds itself at the bottom of the Big Six conference power rankings. WVU is the lone Big East representative in Sagarin's Top 25, and no other team comes in ranked higher than 50. In addition to the other five BCS conferences, the Big East is ranked below the Mountain West, the WAC, and Conference USA in the Colley Matrix (another portion of the BCS computer rankings). The conference has only one win over a BCS conference school, while tallying ten losses to such schools. In the "human polls," the Big East does not have any ranked teams.