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Posts Tagged ‘AAC’

Conference report after Week 10

In College Football, Conference Reports on November 6, 2013 at 1:37 PM
LSU isn't particularly relevant to this discussion, but I still thought it was a cool picture to go with the SEC logo.  It was taken after LSU went 9-0 against the SEC in 2011.

LSU isn’t particularly relevant to this discussion, but I still thought it was a cool picture to go with the SEC logo. It was taken after LSU went 9-0 against the SEC in calendar year 2011.

Background/Intro

It seems like every year when a bunch of teams make it into the top 25 from the SEC that the claim is made that it’s just SEC hype. These are three common arguments: “They play too many FCS/Sun Belt/CUSA teams,” “All but a few teams are having down years,” “SEC fans only argue the middle of the conference is good because the top of the conference has a bunch of losses.”

I’m not one to argue that you can tell anything by conference records. If one conference has 4 teams with one loss or fewer and another has none, that gives you absolutely no information about which conference is strongest. So we have to look at non-conference records.

Every week with my computer poll, I publish a page called “Conferences & Divisions“. This is an attempt to rank the conferences according to top 10/25/40 membership in my unbiased computer poll. What I’m going to look at here, however, is how the conference as a whole has fared against other conferences.

The next section is how I arrived at #1; the discussions go a lot more quickly (usually with less depth) after that.

1 vs. 2

The best conference record against other conferences, at least by my tally that I keep throughout the year, is the SEC’s at 39-6. Admittedly, that includes 10 FCS wins, which is tied for second-most with the MAC and behind the ACC. Consider that the Pac-12, for instance, has played 10 games against FCS schools, but one was a loss. The ACC, SEC, and Big Ten are the only conferences that are perfect against the FCS this year. Keep in mind that the ACC and SEC each have two more teams than the Big Ten(+2) does. The Big Ten has 9 wins over FCS opponents.

If we take those games completely out, the Pac-12 is slightly better with an 80.8% winning percentage as compared to 80.6%. I think the SEC should still be considered better, all things being equal, due to the lack of an FCS loss. But all things aren’t equal, so we can explore further.

I have Notre Dame as a stand-alone category because they used to have special provisions in the BCS formula as one of the original signatories. Also, I think a program that played in the national championship game last season should qualify for that category anyway.

Anyway, other than that one-team category, the lowest number of losses overall (6 apiece) belong to the SEC and Pac-12. As mentioned, the Pac-12 has the one FCS loss (Oregon St. to Eastern Washington). Cal lost to Northwestern and Ohio St., Notre Dame beat Arizona St. and USC, and Washington St. lost to Auburn. The SEC has nonconference losses by lower teams to Rutgers (by Arkansas), Louisville (by Kentucky), and Western Kentucky (Kentucky again).

Western Kentucky is not a good team, but I think they might beat Eastern Washington. Even if they wouldn’t, I think it’s more understandable for possibly the worst SEC team (the Wildcats are winless in conference) to lose such a game. Western Kentucky only has two more losses than Eastern Washington does. In contrast with Kentucky, Oregon St. is 4-2 in the Pac-12.

I don’t think there is anything to take away from Tennessee losing to Oregon or Washington St. losing to Auburn. Georgia lost to Clemson, and Florida lost to Miami, but Georgia and Florida are probably the 6th and 7th SEC teams right now. That was against the ACC’s #2 and #3, and the ACC is having a relatively strong year, at least at the top.

I guess with Notre Dame’s loss to Michigan, you can be a little more critical of the two Pac-12 teams for losing to the Irish, but Arizona St. is the only one where it looks a little bad so far. USC is more the equivalent of Florida and Georgia in terms of in-conference strength.

The SEC is 8-5 against BCS conferences (+Notre Dame), and the Pac-12 is 6-5 against that same group. The AAC is only barely a BCS conference, so if you take that out, the SEC’s 7-4 is still better than 6-5.

So I think the SEC is fairly #1 and the Pac-12 is fairly #2. Both are over 80% against FBS, and no other conference is over 80% even if you include all opponents including FCS.

Nos. 3 to 7

I’m going with the ACC next. Even though their winning percentage dips to 68% when the FCS wins are taken out, they have fairly big wins. Among the BCS, the Big Ten has beaten Notre Dame (good win, don’t get me wrong), Iowa St., Cal twice, and Syracuse twice, along with a few insignificant AAC teams. The Big XII only has Notre Dame and Mississippi St., along with two wins over SMU.

I think based on Michigan’s position in the Big Ten, the Big Ten’s win over Notre Dame is more significant. Cincinnati and Syracuse twice is better than SMU twice. The bad losses of Rice and Navy are roughly equal, but the Big XII has the two FCS losses.

The AAC is the sixth conference at least, so it shouldn’t be too painful to watch its champion in a BCS bowl. It has a better Division I and FBS record than the Sun Belt, the surprising #7. The Sun Belt is very balanced though, and notably has no teams in my computer ratings above ULL at #49.

Nos. 8 to 11

If I counted Notre Dame as part of the independents, that would make the independents 6th, but apart from playing Navy, the Irish aren’t really in the loop with the other independents, who are now three Western teams along, two service academies, and Old Dominion, which has hardly played any other FBS teams anyway. So I think it makes more sense to just leave them out of that group. Anyway, without Notre Dame, I would put them at #8. BYU has been the only impressive team (despite the baffling loss to Virginia), but Navy’s win over Indiana was another plus.

The MAC and the Mountain West are pretty even. The MAC has a few more wins over BCS teams, but really they each have one meaningful win: Northern Illinois over Iowa and Fresno St. over Rutgers. Against the FBS, the MWC has won 25%, the MAC has won 24.4%. I’m just going to call that a tie.

The CUSA was pretty similar to those two, but I put them last because of some ugly games. Also, they had losing records against the MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt. One of their better teams by record is Tulane, which lost to South Alabama. The one major win was East Carolina over North Carolina, which isn’t impressive. There is a loss to Kansas and a loss to Arkansas, the two teams only having 3 FBS wins between them all season. There are also bad losses to New Mexico, Colorado St., Troy, Army, and Bethune-Cookman.

Rankings list

1. SEC
2. Pac-12
3. ACC
4. Big Ten
5. Big XII
6. AAC
7. Sun Belt
8. Independents (excepting Notre Dame)
9 (tie). MAC
9 (tie). MWC
11. CUSA

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Realignment Revisited (Again)

In College Basketball, College Football, Realignment on August 31, 2013 at 4:44 PM

I’ve written about this a few times, but as the college football landscape keeps changing, that will change what realignment solutions make sense. Some of the conference additions and subtractions do make a bit of sense, and there is no reason to cause new problems unnecessarily.

One of the more noticeable things about the alignment going into next season is the number of new independents. Before BYU left the Mountain West to become independent, there were only three independent programs: Army, Navy, and Notre Dame.

The independents swell to 7 programs this season. Idaho and New Mexico St. were left without conferences when the WAC folded and no one picked them up, and Old Dominion joined the FBS as a transitional team. (Fewer than half of its games this season will take place against other FBS teams.)

Old Dominion is scheduled to join Conference USA (and I believe this is the move that makes the most sense anyway), but the CUSA will have an uneven number of teams next season as it awaits the development of UNC-Charlotte’s football team.

I mentioned last year that the absence of the WAC left a bit of a vacuum out West, and I believe this is still true despite SMU and Houston joining the former Big East (now AAC) and despite Mountain West expansion.

The only change I would make to the Mountain West is I would replace New Mexico with Idaho. New Mexico is admittedly a more traditional team to be playing Air Force and Colorado St., but I don’t think that’s the natural place for them. Idaho is a better fit with the rest of the Mountain division: Boise St., Utah St., and Wyoming. New Mexico also fits a lot better into my proposed Big West/Sunbelt/WAC conference:
Rice (currently CUSA)
Texas El Paso (currently CUSA)
Texas San Antonio (currently CUSA)
Texas St.
New Mexico
New Mexico St.
Louisiana Lafayette
Louisiana Monroe
Louisiana Tech (currently CUSA)

So that’s 4 Texas schools, 2 New Mexico schools (one of which is about 20 minutes’ drive from Texas), and 3 Louisiana schools. That’s why it’s so much more fitting for New Mexico than it is for Idaho. Also, it would be much more conceivable for New Mexico to finish with a winning record.

This is what Conference USA would look like in 2015:

Eastern Division Western Division
Florida Atlantic Alabama Birmingham
Florida International South Alabama*
Georgia St.* Troy*
Marshall Southern Mississippi
Middle Tennessee Arkansas St.*
NC-Charlotte North Texas
Old Dominion Western Kentucky**

*currently Sun Belt
**Western Kentucky is playing in its last season in the Sun Belt and will already join CUSA next season.

If you think I missed a few Sun Belt teams, North Texas, Middle Tennessee, Florida Atlantic, and Florida International are all playing their first respective seasons in the CUSA right now. UT-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech are also playing their first respective seasons in the CUSA, but I think the give and take might work out if it’s something like what I presented. I know the conference big wigs aren’t going to read this and change everything tomorrow, but moving toward something like this would be a viable long-term plan for the respective schools and conferences. I’m not sure how all the legalities work, but whatever the new conference is called could conceivably be a successor to the Sun Belt.

The major conferences may be fairly set for right now, as moves have been made to secure programs’ television rights even if they join new conferences in the future, but I think there may be some changes where two conferences can simply work it out and the TV requirements could be waived for the right price. Maybe there will be some trades like what I’m suggesting above for the more minor conferences.

Apart from SEC scheduling, the main thing that doesn’t make sense to me in the major conferences right now is we still have a 10-team Big XII and not too far from Morgantown, West Virginia, (which is not anywhere near other Big XII campuses) there are two schools you may have heard of called Cincinnati and Louisville. Cincinnati may be relatively easy to recruit since it’s in the AAC (the former Big East) rather than in the process of joining the ACC like Louisville is. But it would seem to me that Connecticut (another AAC school) would be a better fit in the ACC anyway. They’re a natural rival with Boston College and Syracuse and at least a historical rival with Pittsburgh (if you’re out of the loop, Syracuse and Pitt are also joining the ACC). I would also hope the ACC would consider a more logical approach to their divisional alignment.

I know Louisville won the national championship in basketball, but I can’t imagine that Connecticut wouldn’t be just as good of a long-term possibility in that sport (with multiple championships in recent years). Connecticut only recently started having a major football team, but that program could be just as good as Louisville’s also. There is also the matter of Connecticut possibly driving TV revenue in the New York area. I can’t imagine that the ACC would require too much money in order to go along with something of this nature.