Pre-Bowl Rankings and Why the SEC Is Still #1

In College Football, Conference Reports, Rankings on December 8, 2014 at 6:35 PM

My Top 25
My Rank/BCS/team/prev
1 ( 2 ) Florida St. 1
2 ( 1 ) Alabama 2
3 ( 4 ) Ohio St. 3
4 ( 3 ) Oregon 4
5 ( 5 ) TCU 5
6 ( 20 ) Boise St. 6
7 ( 6 ) Baylor 14
8 ( 9 ) Ole Miss 8
9 ( 7 ) Miss. St. 9
10 ( 10 ) Arizona 7
11 ( 13 ) UCLA 11
12 ( 27 ) Marshall 16
13 ( 8 ) Mich. St. 12
14 ( 12 ) Ga. Tech 10
15 ( 18 ) Wisconsin 13
16 ( 15 ) Missouri 15
17 ( 14 ) Georgia 18
18 ( 17 ) Auburn 19
19 ( 11 ) Kansas St. 17
20 ( 33 ) Colo. St. 20
21 ( 19 ) Clemson 21
22 ( 23 ) Nebraska 22
23 ( 16 ) Arizona St. 23
24 ( 32 ) N. Illinois —
25 ( 21 ) Louisville 25

(LSU, Utah, and USC are the three Mock BCS top 25 teams who are not in my top 25.)

Full Rankings 1-128

Out of top 25: (24) Oklahoma

There are a total of 39* teams that got some level of points in the Mock BCS standings linked to above. (I list 40 teams since Texas A&M was in the top 25 of one of the computer rankings, but they got no points since the highest rating is dropped)

Earlier top-25 blogs:
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12
Week 13
Week 14

I covered all the commentary I intended to cover Sunday morning, but I just wanted to note that I’m not making a new rankings blog after the Army-Navy game. I don’t expect any changes to the top 25. I will update my ratings site because obviously this would affect some lower teams, including Army and Navy themselves, and strengths of schedule.

This is my favorite SEC map so far.

This is my favorite SEC map so far.

Why the SEC Is Still #1 (despite going 5-6 against Power 5 conferences)

I will do a “conference report” for the season at some point (there may or may not be one before the bowls). This is the full one for last year to give you an idea, but I didn’t want to wait until then to make the basic argument that when looking at inter-conference play, the SEC is still the best conference overall; and it’s not even that close.

I mentioned this last week, but since then I’ve seen an increasing number of people say or suggest that the SEC must not be the best conference since it is 5-6 against other Power 5 opponents out of conference.

One thing that’s telling is they’re saying different conferences are #1, but many of them don’t really defend that, they just act really confident that whoever it is, it’s just for sure not the SEC.

It’s kind of like saying Alabama shouldn’t be #1—because they lost to Ole Miss, should have lost to LSU, and gave up over 600 yards against Auburn and (had those Tigers not settled for field goals so often) probably should have lost that one too—and then simply ignoring that any other team you would suggest is just as flawed if not more flawed.

To be fair, I’m not sure if they’re all talking about top to bottom. Maybe some think the combination of TCU, Baylor, and Kansas St. is better than the combination of Alabama, Mississippi St., and Ole Miss, for instance. As an aside, I would also argue with that assertion. The top three SEC teams are 2-1 against Auburn and the three Big XII teams are 0-1 against Auburn. I would also value beating WVU (which Baylor failed to do, by the way) and Boise St. above the one good out-of-conference win of TCU over Minnesota.

Five of the six Power 5 losses by the SEC were to teams that are currently ranked in a major poll. The only loss to a team from outside of the Power 5 conferences was by Vanderbilt, which went 0-8 in conference.

I have acknowledged that the loss by Missouri to Indiana (obviously the Power 5 team not in any major polls) was a bad one, but that was the #4 team in the SEC. I don’t see it as worse than the #1 team in the Big Ten losing to Virginia Tech, for instance.

As for the wins, three of the five came against ranked teams (and they came against teams in the top three of other conferences). These are SEC #7 LSU beating Big Ten #3 Wisconsin, SEC #5 Georgia beating ACC #3 Clemson, and SEC #6 Auburn beating Big XII #3 Kansas St.

You really have to use some tortured logic to say that any of those conferences belong ahead of the SEC. I know the ACC just beat four SEC teams (also, the ACC has almost as many bowl teams), but let’s consider what that looks like if the roles were reversed. Rather than it being the top 4 of the ACC versus numbers 5, 8, 10, and 13 of the SEC, let’s make it top 4 of the SEC versus numbers 5, 8, 10, and 13 of the ACC.

Pittsburgh @ Alabama
Mississippi St. @ Boston College
U. Miami @ Ole Miss
Wake Forest @ Missouri

Does anyone seriously think the SEC is likely to lose one of those? Mississippi St./Boston College (the equivalent of Georgia/Georgia Tech) might be a good game, but people would make fun of Alabama and Missouri for playing these games. Ole Miss wouldn’t exactly be drowning in praises with a win either. They get almost no respect for having beaten Boise St. as it is.

As I mentioned, the SEC did beat the ACC in a game earlier this year (the equivalent match-up would be Boston College @ Ole Miss), so at best they would also have gone 1-4 but more likely 0-5.
I mentioned the SEC only lost one game outside of the Power 5 conferences. The ACC lost seven such games, including to such luminaries as Akron (by a bowl-eligible team) and ULM. The ACC also lost two games to unranked Power 5 conferences when it lost to Iowa and Maryland.

So since I’ve eliminated the others, the only conference you can even pretend might be as good as the SEC is the Pac-12.

I mentioned the SEC only lost to one Power 5 team that is not in the top 25 of either poll. Counting Notre Dame as Power 5, the Pac-12 lost three such games: Notre Dame, Boston College, and Rutgers. I also mentioned the SEC only lost to one team that was not in the Power 5. Again, the Pac-12 lost three such games: Colorado St., Nevada, and BYU. Meanwhile, the SEC has won 17 more games against other conferences than the Pac-12 has won.

I mentioned the SEC (and three teams toward the middle of the SEC at that) beating three teams that are currently ranked. The Pac-12 has only beaten one such team, and it was Oregon, the Pac-12 champions, over Michigan St., the Big Ten East runners-up.

The only strong win against teams not in the Power 5 for the Pac-12 is UCLA’s win over Memphis. An SEC team also beat Memphis. That was Ole Miss, who as mentioned also beat Boise St. Another SEC team beat East Carolina, and yet another beat Central Florida.

You can’t honestly tell me the list of wins versus the list of losses favors the Pac-12.

My argument is also backed up by computer ratings. Kenneth Massey has a survey that includes 105 objective computer formulas. The SEC is #1 in 104 of them. (The SEC is also #1 in the three major Top 25 listings, so that’s why it says 108 when you click on the link.)

The Pac-12 is consistently in the top 2, but #2 is more questionable than #1. Just from skimming, it looks like the Pac-12 is #3 or lower in about one out of five.

Judge for yourself, but just so you know, the one exception put Georgia Tech #3. How well would that have gone over if the Yellowjackets were going to the Rose Bowl to play Oregon and Florida St. were going to the Sugar Bowl? It had TCU and Baylor #8 and #9. They’re both behind Georgia.

I don’t mean to make fun. Running an objective ratings system is hard work, and they look for and measure different things. I mention this because I didn’t want to just say they were wrong because they’re overwhelmingly outnumbered. I think people can recognize that this is not a system that agrees with what just about anyone (outside of Georgia anyway) thinks of as how the rankings should be configured.

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