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Posts Tagged ‘Big Ten’

Conference Report Week 1

In College Football, Conference Reports on September 11, 2015 at 3:07 PM

The new inter-conference week doesn’t start until Utah/Utah St. tonight.  A formerly WAC and Mountain West and currently Pac-12 team against a formerly WAC and Sun Belt and currently Mountain West team.

Louisiana Tech, a former WAC team, is now in the same conference as Western Kentucky, a former Sun Belt team, so that was not an interconference game last night.

A couple of disclaimers and reminders.  In these conference reports, I basically evaluate each conference as if it were a team.  For instance, “team SEC” beat Wisconsin when Alabama beat Wisconsin, and “team Big Ten” lost to Alabama.  So the SEC gets credit for beating Wisconsin just like a team would.  I don’t treat them as “generic Big Ten team”.  So even though only one week has passed, it’s almost like evaulating one season for a team against another since I believe only one conference game has been played.

Another thing to point out is this is NOT picking the conference who has the best team on average.  Alabama can go 0-8 in the SEC, and the important thing is it got that big non-conference win.  Baylor is apparently a very good team, but how good they are won’t matter too much in these because they don’t appear to have any quality non-conference opponents.

Also, records are against FBS opponents unless otherwise indicated.

I always liked this version of the logo.

I always liked this version of the logo.

The SEC was the unquestionable top conference of week 1, going 10-1 with wins over Wisconsin, Arizona St., Louisville, and North Carolina.  The only loss was to that Western Kentucky team I just mentioned.  The Hilltoppers beat Vanderbilt by two points after the SEC ’Doremats failed on a late two-point conversion attempt.  According to most gambling sources, Vandy either beat the spread or came out even, so while it would have been nice for the SEC to get that win, it’s not a huge problem that it didn’t.

The only record by a P5 conference (those are SEC, Big Ten, Big XII, ACC, and Pac-12) that came close was that of the 5-1 Big XII.  But the ten teams of the XII only combined to beat one major-conference opponent.  This was TCU’s win over Minnesota.  The other major opponent was when Texas lost to Notre Dame.  The other four wins were nothing special: SMU, Central Michigan, Akron, and Georgia Southern (which just became a full member of the Sun Belt after being in FCS and a transitional year).  Also, that record is not counting the fact that Kansas lost to FCS South Dakota St.  So even if Kansas is the Vanderbilt equivalent, losing to Western Kentucky is probably better than losing to South Dakota St.

The Mountain West went 2-1 with wins over Washington, and Colorado, but they also lost to an FCS team (Wyoming to North Dakota).  I can’t fault UNLV (another possible worst-in-conference team) much for losing to Northern Illinois.

The only other conference with a winning record was the CUSA at 5-4.  The CUSA did not beat any impressive teams, although it was a surprise that FIU beat Central Florida (which is now and American Conference [AAC] team).  The two wins over P5 teams were over Purdue and Vanderbilt, who are possibly the worst teams in their respective conferences.

The ACC is last among the power conferences, although it didn’t really do anything wrong, but there should have been a toss-up or something close where they won.  The only one where the ACC should have had a chance was North Carolina vs. South Carolina (in Charlotte); and the Tar Heels were respectable competition, but they didn’t win.  I can’t hold the losses by Virginia to UCLA, by Virginia Tech to Ohio St., and by Louisville to Auburn against the conference to any large extent.

The Pac-12 was relatively disappointing.  Arizona St. was supposed to be one of the best teams in the conference (based on returning starters anyway), and Stanford was supposed to be a sleeper team in the North Division.  So those losses (to Texas A&M and Northwestern, respectively) are worse than the ACC losses.  As for the wins, they are: Michigan (Utah probably isn’t great, so this is a positive), Virginia (which UCLA should have won easily anyway), UTSA (which Arizona should have won easily and didn’t), and Arkansas St. (by USC in a blowout that was expected).  Colorado might be the worst team in the Pac-12, but Hawaii was certainly a winnable game.  Also, another contender for worst in the Pac-12 is WSU, which certainly should have beaten Portland St.

So I mentioned two big wins by the Big Ten above, but there were somehow six losses.  They were all fairly excusable though.  Michigan and Minnesota put up a good fight in games few expected them to win (I picked Michigan, but hard to win on the road against a P5 opponent with four turnovers), and Nebraska of course lost the heart-breaker to BYU.  The other two wins were against MAC teams that probably won’t even be competitive in that conference, but still I think there were more positives than negatives despite the losing record.

Since we’re down to three independents, I’m not going to go into those as a category this year.  They don’t even play one another, so it’s hard to take pride in each other’s accomplishments, which is kind of the point of this. You might not be happy if your team goes 8-5, but you can take some pride in playing a lot of good teams that did well against other conferences and still making a bowl game.  It was different when Navy was there and played Army and Notre Dame annually, and Notre Dame has also played Army and BYU in recent years (I consider 2010 a recent year anyway).

The rest is mostly just a matter of who had the ugliest losses.  The good news is I mentioned the three relevant FCS losses already.  I’m just going to call it a tie between the MAC and AAC.  On the one hand, the AAC beat Penn St., but on the other hand (as mentioned) it lost to FIU.  The MAC just had vanilla results up and down the line.  Idaho and UNLV are possibly two of the worst teams in the FBS, and I can’t blame them for losing to teams that will likely make bowls.  Illinois and Old Dominion may not, but if the MAC is to beat such teams, EMU (I always wondered why their mascot wasn’t the emus) and Kent St. are probably not going to be the ones to do it.

The Sun Belt went winless (apart from against the FCS), so you can’t really do worse.

  1. SEC
  2. Big XII
  3. Big Ten
  4. MWC
  5. Pac-12
  6. CUSA
  7. ACC
  8. (tie) AAC
  9. (tie) MAC
  10. Sun Belt
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Ranking the Conferences, Part IV: Full Season 2014

In College Football, Conference Reports on January 17, 2015 at 5:29 PM

sec-pinwheel-logo

Part I: Frame of Reference
Part II: King of the Bowls
Part III: Overall Bowl Performance

1. SEC
2. Pac-12

I’m going to start with acknowledging that if you look solely at winning percentages against the P5 or even against the FBS, the Pac-12 has a better winning percentage than the SEC. In overall winning percentages, the SEC and Pac-12 are in a virtual tie (I will discuss that more below).

I’m going to give some records below. Since I’m trying to get this out before it’s too late in the day (I’m on the West Coast), I haven’t checked them with other sources since the bowl games, so if I missed one or two games, I apologize in advance.

I also want to mention that while this is my last entry about the conferences, I do plan at least one more blog about the rankings (comparing my pre-season list to the current list) and something about LSU. Apart from the Notre Dame “Rivalry” blog. I haven’t done an LSU-specific blog since Thanksgiving weekend.

My philosophy for ranking conferences in my “conference report” series is as close as I can get to my philosophy for ranking teams. From watching the playoff games, the overwhelming consensus is that the team who entered those undefeated (Florida St.) was the worst of the four teams. So much so that they finished 6th in the coaches’ poll and in a tie for 5th in the AP poll.

You can’t get better than 100%. A lot of reasonable people had Alabama, who had only won 92.3%, ahead. The committee (and a few individuals) had Oregon (same winning percentage as Alabama) ahead. That winning percentage was also shared by Ohio St.

Oregon, the loser of the title game, won 86.7%, about 6 points below Florida St.’s current winning percentage.

In Part III of this series, I determined that the Pac-12 had a better bowl season than the SEC. The overall records of the conferences also reached a tipping point, as the Pac-12 record against other FBS conferences surpassed the SEC record against other FBS conferences for I believe the first time this season.

There is only a gap of 3.7% though. I think based on the discussion above, when it’s a winning percentage that close, you need to look a bit deeper.
When you go down the line, the SEC’s opponents are consistently better though. Judge for yourself though. I’ll start with how they did against the ACC, Big Ten, and Big XII, respectively. I think the top four teams of each conference are fairly easy to determine, so I’ll separate it there. Unfortunately, there were no games between the SEC and the Pac-12.

After giving the records, I will list the wins over the top four, followed by other losses to teams outside of the top four. “Good” losses don’t prove as much and neither do wins over mediocre teams.

Pac-12 vs. ACC: 1-0 vs. top 4 , 2-1 vs. others
SEC vs. ACC: 2-5 vs. top 4, 1-0 vs. others

Oregon beat Florida St.
Boston College beat USC

Georgia beat Clemson
Georgia beat Louisville.

Pac-12 vs. Big Ten: 1-1 vs. top 4, 5-1 vs. others
SEC vs. Big Ten: 2-2 vs. top 4, 1-1 vs. others

Oregon beat Michigan St.
Rutgers beat Washington St.

LSU beat Wisconsin
Missouri beat Minnesota
Indiana beat Missouri

Pac-12 vs. Big XII: 1-0 vs. top 4 (UCLA), 1-1 vs. others
SEC vs. Big XII: 1-2 vs. top 4 (Auburn), 4-0 vs. others

UCLA beat Kansas St.
Oklahoma St. beat Washington

Auburn beat Kansas St.

So the SEC played 14 games against top-4 opponents of the other power conferences against only 4 for the Pac-12. You can’t tell me that’s not a disproportionate ratio. It happened to be that the team who played two of three was the best team in the Pac-12, and the one who won the other was arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, UCLA. UCLA beat the same team SEC #6 Auburn beat.

The Pac-12 makes up some ground with Notre Dame, but I don’t believe they would have been a top-4 team in any power conference apart from possibly the Big XII (unfortunately, their recent games with Oklahoma didn’t take place this year to let us know more clearly). Arizona St. and USC beat Notre Dame. The Irish beat Stanford of the Pac-12 and LSU of the SEC. LSU and Stanford were similarly ranked in their respective conferences, and Notre Dame beat both by a field goal.

LSU was also denied what could have been a game-changing touchdown right before halftime. I don’t bring that up to say LSU is better than Stanford or their loss is more excusable, but I think we can infer that if Notre Dame played two higher teams in the SEC like they did in the Pac-12 (Arizona St. and USC were higher in the Pac-12 than Stanford), they most likely would have lost both games.

Anyway, the differences in schedules don’t end there. I think CUSA, MAC, and Sun Belt only have two teams worth considering apiece, but I’ll go with the top 4 for the MWC and AAC. Neither of those are very deep, but they’re centered around a few serious teams. The MWC had four teams who each won at least 10 games, so I think they’re all worth considering strongly (though not as strongly as the top 4 of the power conferences of course). The AAC had three teams tie for first. East Carolina was not in that tie, but I think they made up for having a couple more losses (two to teams in that tie) with their wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech out of conference, so I’ll give them credit for 4 too. I’ll break these down collectively.

Pac-12 vs. G5: 2-3 vs. top teams, 16-1 vs. others
SEC vs. G5: 10-0 vs. top teams (Auburn), 18-1 vs. others

UCLA beat Memphis
Utah beat Colorado St.
Nevada beat Washington St.

South Carolina beat East Carolina
Florida beat East Carolina
Missouri beat Central Florida
Missouri beat Toledo
Ole Miss beat Boise St.
Ole Miss beat Memphis
Ole Miss beat ULL
Auburn beat Louisiana Tech
Arkansas beat Northern Illinois
Tennessee beat Utah St.
Temple beat Vanderbilt

Despite winning 11 games over the Mountain West, the Pac- 12 only won the bowl game against a 10-game winner. The Pac-12 was 0-2 against those teams otherwise and also lost to Nevada, the #6 MWC team. The Pac-12 also suffered a loss to BYU, who I included as one of the good G5 teams even though they’re independent.

The only SEC loss to a non-P5 team was by the worst team in the SEC, Vanderbilt. They lost to Temple.

I mention who won the games because I have no problem with Oregon and UCLA both being in the top 10. You can even put them both ahead of Alabama if you want to, but they got all the major wins for the Pac-12, except for the two over Notre Dame and the one over Colorado St.

I just don’t think the accomplishments of those two teams put the Pac-12 as a whole ahead of the SEC. The fact that teams so far down the SEC won major games, not to mention that 5 teams that weren’t even in the top half of the SEC won bowl games. These are not the games mentioned above, except for the Florida win over East Carolina.

If you evaluate conferences anything like teams are evaluated in the main, you’d have to acknowledge that the SEC was far more tested in terms of opposition, and that how tested they were overcomes the slight deficit in winning percentages.

Some people only want to look at performance among the top teams or don’t care at all (win or lose) what happened against non-P5 opponents, but that’s not how anyone I know of looks at teams. The concepts overlap, but I’ll give analogies.

Regarding the former outlook, West Virginia and LSU looked like two of the best teams when they played top teams. WVU was within a possession of Alabama for 50 minutes (losing by 10), beat Baylor, and lost by a single point to TCU. LSU beat Wisconsin, beat Ole Miss, and lost to Alabama in overtime. No one I know of is going to ignore that LSU lost to Arkansas and Notre Dame or that West Virginia lost to Texas and Texas A&M though.

Regarding the latter outlook, the problem many people had with Ohio St. was that they lost to Virginia Tech, who barely even qualified for a bowl game. Imagine they had lost to Navy instead. That wouldn’t count against them? So when the Pac-12 loses to BYU and Nevada, that should count against them.

Still others might say that you look at the performance at the end. So between the last week of the season and the bowls, the SEC lost nine games to other conferences (even all of those were either the best independent team [Notre Dame] or in the top 4 of P5 conferences).

Anyway, as I indicated at the beginning, I’ll grant that there are ways of looking at this that would not put the SEC first, but not the way I’ve ever approached this discussion.

The demise of the SEC West was also greatly exaggerated. Even counting the bowl losses, the SEC West won 85.7% of its non-conference games. Granted, the Pac-12 South won 86.9%, but refer back to what I said about strength of schedule. Most of those quality SEC wins were by the West. Then take out the Oregon wins when you consider the Pac-12. It’s not even close.

Also, it’s been overlooked that the SEC East went 5-0. They got a lot closer to the SEC West in the process. The SEC East won a total of 78.8% of their non-conference games. The Pac-12 North, on the other hand, won only 73.9% of their non-conference games.

The numbers I just gave count FCS opponents, so that’s where some of the discrepancy is, but I excluded those games initially because strength of schedule matters.

Including the FCS games, the Pac-12 was only 0.4 percentage points ahead, and there wouldn’t even be that difference had the Florida/Idaho game not been canceled. Even if you don’t place a high premium on it, if you don’t think strength of schedule can change the outcome of just one game out of dozens, then I guess this just isn’t for you. Also, I guess Marshall should have been in the top 2 going into Thanksgiving, and Florida St. was the best team going into the playoff games despite how those games turned out.

I think the bowl results are pretty conclusive as to the rest of the Power 5 conferences and many of the others, so rather than trying to fill up another blog with that, I’ll just list the teams and mention any highlights briefly.

3. Big Ten

Like the SEC/Pac-12 discussion, the B1G had a slightly worse record than the ACC against the P5, but the level of competition was higher. For instance, it played six games against the top half of the SEC compared to only four by the ACC. The ACC had a better record against the SEC than the B1G did, but mostly because they played Florida, South Carolina, and Kentucky. Also, the Big Ten had fewer losses overall, meaning they had fewer bad losses. It also helps that the B1G went 5-1 against the ACC, the only loss to Virginia Tech by Ohio St.

If you’re not convinced, this is the list of their P5 wins to compare with the others: Pitt, Syracuse, Miami, Boston College, North Carolina, Baylor, Washington St., Oregon, Missouri, Alabama, Auburn.

4. ACC

This is more a symptom of the weakness of the Big XII, who went only 6-11 against P5 conferences compared to the mark I mentioned by the ACC (nearly .500).

P5 wins by the Big XII: Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, Tennessee, Ole Miss. Two were against top teams of those conferences, but both were wins by TCU. Not a lot of depth.

P5 wins by the ACC: Ohio St., Oklahoma St., Kansas, Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi St.

Also, if you didn’t notice, the ACC went 3-0 against the Big XII.

5. Big XII

Even though 6-11 vs. the P5 isn’t great, it beats the 5-18 mark of the MWC by far enough that we don’t really have to look into the specifics much. The other four conferences went a combined 10-79. I did give the CUSA credit for having a better bowl season, but the bowl win by Louisiana Tech over Illinois was the only win of the season by the CUSA over a P5 opponent. Also, the Big XII only lost two games to a non-P5 opponent compared to the MWC’s nine losses against that group.

6. Independents

Notre Dame, BYU, and Navy were all a bit above average (at least in records) while Army was a bit below. They went just under .500 against P5 opponents, and a few games over .500 against the FBS. Most of the big wins were by Notre Dame, but BYU beat Texas, Cal, and Houston. Navy didn’t do anything spectacular, but they did beat three teams with winning records: Texas St., Georgia Southern, and San Diego St. The only somewhat bad losses were by Army: Yale, Kent St., and Wake Forest.

7. Mountain West (MWC)

The MWC, as usual, was clearly the best of the rest. It was competitive with many P5 opponents and had the best record of the G5 conferences against them. Also, it suffered no embarrassing losses. It went undefeated against FCS opponents (unlike the Big XII, by the way). There were only three losses to non-bowl teams. Colorado and Oregon St. beat Hawaii, and Oregon St. beat San Diego St. Colorado was a bad team, but they didn’t beat one of the MWC’s seven bowl teams. As to the Oregon St. win over San Diego St., it’s not shameful in any way for a low-level G5 bowl team to lose to possibly one of the best P5 non-bowl teams. If there were a losing-record championship game, I probably would have liked to have seen Oregon St. vs. Kentucky.

8. CUSA
9. AAC

The CUSA has to have been happy with how well it fared given the defection of so many teams to the American (AAC), who I believe it just barely edged out. I mentioned the CUSA only had the one win over a P5 conference, and while that was certainly a negative, as were the two FCS losses. The CUSA had better games against everyone in between, however. 21-25 vs. the FBS is a lot better than the 10-31 mark of the AAC. The CUSA went 3-1 against the AAC (losing only to Memphis), it beat three of the MAC bowl teams (compared to only one such win by the AAC), and it beat three MWC teams (compared to only one). The wins over ULL and Navy roughly cancel out the two AAC wins over BYU.

10. Mid-American (MAC)

Like the AAC, the MAC only had 10 wins, but unlike the AAC, the MAC didn’t beat teams like North Carolina and Virginia Tech and did lose to two FCS teams. The MAC only beat three bowl teams: Pitt, South Alabama, and Arkansas St. The last two were wins in bowl games.

11. Sun Belt (SBC)

The Sun Belt won only 5 FBS games, two over bowl teams. ULL beat Nevada, and Arkansas St. beat Utah St. It did get one P5 win, but Wake Forest (who lost to ULM) barely counts.

Ranking the Conferences, Part III: Overall Bowl Performance

In Bowls, College Football, Conference Reports on January 10, 2015 at 3:08 PM
The Pac-12 edged the SEC for #1.  I cover the remaining conferences below.

The Pac-12 edged the SEC for #1. I cover the remaining conferences below.

Part I: Frame of Reference
Part II: King of the Bowls

1. Pac-12
2. SEC

3. Big Ten

The B1G finishes with one more win than the ACC, which had qualified one more team, so even if you prefer looking at percentages, they would come out on top.

Ohio St. was of course matched with another conference’s #1. Michigan St. still gets credit for beating Baylor even though the way they did it was kind of ridiculous. That was another evenly-matched game. I think TCU should have been regarded as the tougher team to beat out of the Big XII. Wisconsin barely held on in overtime in what should have been a win anyway over Auburn, the SEC #6.

The next couple of teams, the ones who unsuccessfully competed for the Big Ten West, lost. Minnesota lost to Missouri, but if anything Missouri was a spot higher in the SEC. (I don’t think Missouri should have been considered the SEC #2 though since the best SEC team they beat during the regular season was Florida.) Nebraska played respectably despite getting rid of Pelini but fell short to USC, another fair match-up.

Maryland was a little higher in the Big Ten than Stanford was in the Pac-12, but Stanford basically had a home game, so they should have been expected to win, which they did easily.

That still gives the top six of the Big Ten a 3-3 record. That’s one game better than the top six of the SEC, but the other teams went 2-2 rather than the SEC’s 5-1 in other games. Had they gone 4-0 to give the Big Ten a total of record of 7-3, the Big Ten could have had an argument for #2.

I mentioned in the previous blog that if the conferences were equal, Iowa (the #7) should have been better than Tennessee, but they weren’t. On the other hand, North Carolina probably should have beaten Rutgers and Boston College probably should have beaten Penn St., so these results help me determine SEC, Big Ten, ACC in that order.

Northwestern might have been a better bowl team than Illinois judging by the good teams they beat (Notre Dame and Wisconsin), but like Maryland, Illinois didn’t get a geographically beneficial game, so I don’t treat them too harshly for losing to Louisiana Tech.

4. ACC

Since it didn’t make the cut for #3, the ACC was the obvious #4. It got four wins, twice as many as the Big XII. They also qualified four more teams. I covered most of the games already. I didn’t mention Pitt losing to Houston in the most ridiculous conclusion this year. I don’t think it was bad enough to drop the ACC lower than #4.

5. Conference USA
6. Big XII

Conference USA went 4-1. The Big XII should have won both of the games they won anyway. #1 vs. #4, and #7 vs. #8.

I mentioned Louisiana Tech beating Illinois, the only P5 opponent. Marshall beat Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois is not a P5 opponent, but I think they’re a serious enough program to be considered in the same category as a low-level P5 bowl team. The only loss was by UTEP to Utah St., which beat BYU and Air Force during the season, so they’re no joke either.

The Western Kentucky and Rice wins weren’t impressive, but it was too hard for me to put a 2-win conference ahead of a 4-win one. Obviously the Big XII will still be much better overall.

TCU did a good job, I have no problem with them being in the top 5. Whatever happens with my objective system, that’s how I would have voted them, but their conference just didn’t impress me enough to be #5 in the bowls.

7. Mountain West (MWC)

The MWC went 3-4, but also in that conference, there was a steep drop from #1 to everyone else, so that’s why I kept them behind the Big XII. I mentioned the Utah St. win. Air Force also beat Western Michigan. It would have been embarrassing to lose either of those games. Colorado St. and Nevada barely showed up (losing a combined 61-13), and San Diego St. basically lost a home game against Navy (although I do realized there are plenty of Navy people in the area).

8. Independents

The independents went 2-1. They qualified three of the four teams in that category, the only loss was to a conference co-champion. There were wins over SEC #7 and MWC #6.

9. American (AAC)

The AAC went only 2-3 even with Houston’s miraculous win. The losses to N.C. State and Cincinnati showed pretty clearly that they don’t belong in consideration for a power conference. Even Memphis, the only of the three co-champions to win, needed two overtimes to beat BYU. BYU, who at one time was predicted to go undefeated, had continually gotten worse as the year went on. East Carolina was respectable in a loss, but that’s not much to go on.

10. Mid-American (MAC)

The MAC went 2-3, but Bowling Green (who beat South Alabama) beat one of the worst bowl teams in history, and Arkansas St. (who lost to Toledo) wasn’t much better. The MAC #1 got blown out, Western Michigan lost by a couple of touchdowns to Air Force, and Central Michigan lost to Western Kentucky.

11. Sun Belt (SBC)

Last is the SBC. I mentioned it got two awful teams into bowl games. It’s a shame Georgia Southern and Appalachian St. couldn’t get those spots or maybe the SBC could have gotten a spot or two higher. The only other team the SBC got into a bowl is ULL, but they only had to travel a couple of hours (by car) in what has become an annual New Orleans Bowl tradition to play Nevada, who came from half a continent away and was #7 in their conference.

Ranking the Conferences, Part I: Frame of Reference

In Bowls, College Football, Conference Reports on January 4, 2015 at 11:57 AM

Walter Sobchak: Were you listening to The Dude’s story?
Donny: I was bowling.
Walter Sobchak: So you have no frame of reference here, Donny. You’re like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know…

The Big Lebowski (1998)

The characters Donny and Walter

The characters Donny and Walter

Standing alone, this blog probably won’t be very interesting, but I want to provide a frame of reference for later blogs I have planned.

As I had stressed at the end of the regular season, it’s helpful to look at where a team is in a conference when talking about inter-conference games. For instance, it’s not anything to brag about when a top-4 team of one conference barely beats a bottom-two team of another conference at home.

I’m going to start with what I think are fair conference standings going into the bowls. Since there are so many ties and since so many conferences have uneven conference schedules, you can’t just follow the official conference standings. This won’t be exactly what I’ll go by when I rank the conferences overall; but, since I consider the bowls to be just another game (in actuality, if you’re not in the top 4, they’re LESS meaningful than most regular games), it won’t be far off.

Even though the SEC West (for instance) went only 2-5 in bowl games, playing six bowl teams in the division should earn some consideration. Texas A&M and Arkansas (winners of the two bowl games) were not opponents that provided teams in that division a breather like the bottom two teams of just about any other division would have. To not be able to take a break at all in divisional play makes it harder to get to 7-1, 6-2, 5-3, etc.

I decided not to alter that by more than two games though. For instance if one team is 5-3 and another is 7-1 and the two teams did not play one another, I’m going to keep the 7-1 team ahead.

I also factored in non-conference play at times if two teams were close, especially where there was no meaningful difference in conference schedule.

I’ll list the conferences in the order I had them going in. I’m grouping Notre Dame with the ACC since it is part of the ACC bowl group.

There were a couple of teams such as Western Kentucky and South Alabama who were arguably lower, but since a bowl picked them instead of another team, I used that to break the tie rather than making it more complicated. That’s also how Penn St. went ahead of Michigan and Northwestern (neither of which was eligible for bowls).

However, I included two non-bowl teams in the Sun Belt listings because they were clearly better in the conference than bowl teams. (They were considered transitional teams and would only have been eligible had other teams in the conference been ineligible for contractual bowl slots.)

SEC (12/14 teams in bowls)
1. Alabama
2. Mississippi St.
3. Missouri
4. Ole Miss
5. Georgia
6. Auburn
7. LSU
8. Florida
9. Texas A&M
10. Arkansas
11. Tennessee
12. South Carolina

Pac-12 (8/12 teams in bowls)
1. Oregon
2. Arizona
3. UCLA
4. Arizona St.
5. USC
6. Utah
7. Stanford
8. Washington

Big Ten (10/14 teams in bowls)
1. Ohio St.
2. Michigan St.
3. Wisconsin
4. Minnesota
5. Nebraska
6. Maryland
7. Iowa
8. Rutgers
9. Illinois
10. Penn St.

ACC (11/14 + Notre Dame)
1. Florida St.
2. Georgia Tech
3. Clemson
4. Louisville
5. Duke
5 1/2. Notre Dame
6. North Carolina
7. Pittsburgh
8. Boston College
9. North Carolina St.
10. U. Miami
11. Virginia Tech

Big XII (7/10 teams in bowls)
1. TCU
2. Baylor
3. Kansas St.
4. Oklahoma
5. West Virginia
6. Texas
7. Oklahoma St.

(Other) Independents (2/3 teams in bowls)
1. BYU
2. Navy

Mountain West (7/12 teams in bowls)
1. Boise St.
2. Colorado St.
3. Utah St.
4. Air Force
5. Fresno St.
6. San Diego St.
7. Nevada

Conference USA (5/13 teams in bowls)
1. Marshall
2. Louisiana Tech
3. Rice
4. UTEP
5. Western Kentucky

American (5/11 teams in bowls)
1. Memphis
2. Central Florida
3. Cincinnati
4. East Carolina
5. Houston

Sun Belt (3/11 teams in bowls)
1. Georgia Southern (NOT in a bowl)
2. UL-Lafayette
3. Appalachian St. (NOT in a bowl)
4. Arkansas St.
5. South Alabama

MAC (5/13 teams in bowls)
1. Northern Illinois
2. Toledo
3. Western Michigan
4. Central Michigan
5. Bowling Green

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:
Preseason
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

Comments
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.

Mid-Season Conference Report

In College Football, Conference Reports on September 26, 2014 at 1:18 PM

I know it’s not right in the middle of the season, but we’ve had most of the inter-conference games that are scheduled, so I won’t do this again until before the bowls maybe.

The three records are overall, FBS, and power conferences. Just as a reminder, intra-conference games are excluded.

sec-pinwheel-logo

1. SEC
31-3, 26-3, 5-2
2. Pac-12
29-4, 21-4, 6-2
3. ACC
32-10, 18-10, 4-5
4. Big XII
19-8, 12-7, 4-6
5. Big Ten
35-14, 24-14, 5-11
(Independents {including Notre Dame}
10-4, 10-4, 4-4)
6. AAC
15-18, 7-18, 3-11
7. MWC
18-20, 8-20, 3-16
8. CUSA
20-21, 13-19, 0-17
9. MAC
16-29, 6-27, 3-18
10. Sun Belt
10-23, 3-22, 1-12

I’m glad I waited an extra week. The Big Ten turned things around. Not enough to surpass any of the other power 5 conferences, but at least they look like a power 5 conference (P5).

The SEC now has three losses out of conference, but that’s still fewer than any other conference. The SEC has three more overall wins (and six more FBS wins) than the Pac-12, which has four losses.

I also think the SEC’s quality wins are clearly best: Clemson, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas St., East Carolina, Central Florida, Boise St.

The Pac-12’s P5 wins are Virginia, Northwestern, Michigan St., Michigan, Illinois, and Texas. There are no particularly impressive wins against lower teams. UTSA may be the best one, and they nearly beat Arizona. Fresno St. would have been a good win last year, but they don’t seem very good this year.

The Pac-12 is clearly ahead of any other conference apart from the SEC though. It actually has the best record against P5 teams with one more win than the SEC has. The other three P5 conferences all have losing records in those games.

Overall, the ACC, Big XII, and Big Ten are all between 70% and 75% success. The Pac-12 is at 87%, and the SEC is at 91%.

The Big Ten is clearly the lowest P5 conference still because is clearly worst (31.25%) against P5 teams (which include Notre Dame), and it’s also last of the group in overall winning percentage and FBS winning percentage. The Big Ten also has the second-highest number of FCS opponents so far, after the ACC.

It’s not easy to determine the better conference between the ACC and Big XII, but I give the nod to the ACC, who has wins over two P5 runners-up last season, Oklahoma St. and Ohio St., as well as over USC. The Big XII only has wins over Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota, and Tennessee. The Big XII has won a higher percentage (65-62%) over the FBS, but unlike the ACC, the Big XII has a loss to an FCS team.

The three independents apart from Notre Dame have done well, but it’s hard to compare three teams to 12 or 14 teams. But they combine for a winning record despite not having played any FCS opponents, so I think they would be right after the P5 conferences.

The first three second-tier conferences (I could call them group of 5, but that confuses people) that emerge are the AAC (some call it the American, it’s what is left of the football Big East), the CUSA, and the Mountain West. The Mountain West (MWC) is now basically the WAC, so it has a lot more weak teams than it used to.

I decided the worst of those three conferences, despite some similar percentages against DI as a whole and FBS was the CUSA. The CUSA has two losses to FCS teams and no wins against P5 teams in 17 games.

The AAC quality wins are East Carolina’s two wins over ACC teams and Temple’s win over Vanderbilt. I don’t think Vandy will be a bowl team this year, but they were last year, and while it wouldn’t be considered a good win for a P5, it is at this level. These are much better wins than the MWC over P5: Wake Forest, Colorado, and Washington St.

The only arguably good win for the MWC against other second-tiers is ULL, who has made (and won) minor bowl games a few years in a row, but the win was by Boise St., who may win the conference this year.

So that just leaves two more conferences to settle: the MAC and the Sun Belt. Apart from FCS teams, the MAC has better records in all the other categories. This is partly from having played 20 games already against the Big Ten, but as last week showed, that shouldn’t be completely dismissed. The only good win for the Sun Belt was ULM’s win over Wake, but Wake also lost to Utah St.

So I don’t think that one win is enough to overcome the other deficiencies. The MAC is also 2-1 against the Sun Belt.

Better Late than Never: 2013 Conference Report

In College Football, Conference Reports on September 11, 2014 at 2:13 PM

I’ll start with the records. I tabulate these myself, so they could be a game or two off for each conference (especially the “group of five” conferences, due to membership changes). If there is a reliable database somewhere, let me know though.

Best records overall
SEC 53-11
Pac-12 37-9
Big Ten 38-16
ACC 46-21
Big XII 25-11

Best records vs. FBS
SEC 40-10
Pac-12 28-8
Big XII 19-9
Big Ten 29-16
ACC 33-21

Best records vs. BCS-conference*
SEC 17-9
Pac-12 10-7
Big XII 7-7
ACC 12-14
Big Ten 11-13

Notre Dame went 9-4 against the FBS and 6-4 against the BCS conferences, although Temple really shouldn’t count.

*This includes Notre Dame since special provisions were made for them under the BCS. The American (AAC) was an automatic bid conference last season, so they still qualified. The AAC was the only conference outside of the “Big Five” (ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12, SEC) that won more than 1/4 of its games against “Big Five” teams last year. Being that its membership continues to change and is now essentially what the CUSA was a few years ago, I did think it was fair to remove them starting this year. The new Playoff contract also treats them along with the CUSA, MAC, MWC, and Sun Belt (referred to as Group of Five).

I think it’s fair to say the major teams have consolidated themselves into the Big Five conferences. There were 10 fewer teams in the Big Five overall just 11 years ago, so what used to be a competitive Big East has been absorbed by the other conferences (Temple is an exception, but they were removed from the Big East effective in the 2005 season before being invited back to join what became the AAC) . There were a couple of teams that competed in the Big East recently there were not absorbed (such as Connecticut, South Florida, and Cincinnati), but South Florida and Connecticut are still fairly new to the FBS (with transition years in 2002 and 2003, respectively). Cincinnati was in the CUSA as recently as 2004, but I’ll admit they would probably fit in playing in a Big Five conference. There have always been a few outliers since the BCS started though.

Overall rankings and reasoning

sec-pinwheel-logo

Anyway, no surprise, but #1 goes to the SEC. It’s really no contest whatsoever based on those numbers alone. 16 more wins than the Pac-12 versus only two more losses. Even if you whittle it down to BCS-conference opponents, it’s 7 more wins versus two more losses.

It gets a little better when the AAC teams are eliminated, but one of those SEC wins was over Central Florida. That’s better than the Pac-12’s best out-of-conference wins Notre Dame and Wisconsin (which South Carolina also beat). Oklahoma St. (beaten by Missouri in the Cotton Bowl) was also better than those two teams.

Being that the they were the only other conference worth discussing for #1, the Pac-12 takes #2.

I’m actually going to award #3 to the ACC. They’re behind the Big XII in winning percentage against the Big Five, but look how many more games. There are more teams, but it’s approximately an average of one more opponent for every two teams. Ohio St., Georgia, and Auburn are a pretty good top of the list. Of course, LSU was the only team other than Florida St. to beat Auburn all year. Georgia’s only other out-of-conference loss was to Nebraska in the bowl game, and of course Ohio St.’s only other loss was in the Big Ten championship game.

Also, the ACC’s losses are pretty solid. The only bad ones were Northwestern (which beat Syracuse), Ball St. (which beat Virginia) and ULM (which beat Wake Forest).

Despite not having the best strength of schedule, I’m going with the Big XII as #4. Except for the FCS losses, every other loss was to a bowl team. North Dakota St. (one of the FCS losses; the other was Northern Iowa) probably could have been a bowl team had the Bison played in the FBS. I’m not going to pretend Maryland and Rice were very good but these are the rest of the FBS losses: Central Florida, Iowa, Oregon, LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri, and BYU. The wins were similar in strength to those of the Big Ten, who I’d put 5th.

As mentioned, the AAC was #6, due largely to Louisville and Central Florida.

#7 is a bit of a surprise. I’m going with the Sun Belt (SBC), which had a winning record in non-conference games. The only thing the Sun Belt got seriously wrong was letting in Georgia St., which lost to three FCS teams. There were a total of 12 combined losses to the SEC and Big XII, and all but a couple of those were to bowl teams. There weren’t any huge wins, but the SBC represented itself well against the other conferences: 4-2 against CUSA, 3-0 against the MAC, 1-0 against the MWC, and 5-1 against independents.

Speaking of Independents, I would put the independents apart from Notre Dame after the Sun Belt, but since they’re not really a conference we can call them #7.5. The main reason they’re not even higher is because Idaho, New Mexico St., and Old Dominion were included last season.

CUSA is #8. North Carolina (lost to East Carolina) and Maryland (lost to Marshall) were decent wins, but there wasn’t much else to write home about. There were a very high number of losses, include two to South Alabama, which had just fully joined the FBS. There were three other losses to Sun Belt teams, three losses to MWC teams, and four to MAC teams.

#9 is the MWC. Most of Big-Five-conference opponents were in the Pac-12, but there was only the one win over Washington St. The only other FBS win was over Rutgers. There was one other win of substance by Utah St. over Northern Illinois in the bowl game, but I think that was mostly the Huskies being let down by the loss to Bowling Green for the MAC title. There were also some bad losses to Utah, Colorado, UTSA, and Texas St.

The #10 MAC only won 11 games over the FBS. It won 10 games over the FCS but lost two. Northern Illiniois beat a decent Iowa team, but the other three wins over BCS conferences were Connecticut, Virginia, and Purdue. Ohio had three wins over the CUSA, and Bowling Green had one. Also, Toledo beat Navy. Not really an impressive group of wins there.

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

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.

How I Would Reorganize College Football…… Part III: Big East/ACC Recombination and Big Ten+2+4

In College Football, Realignment on October 22, 2011 at 11:09 PM

LSU note: This is only the Tigers’ fourth 8-0 start (1973, 1958, and 1908). See also the updated LSU/Auburn edition to my Rivalry Series.

Big East/ACC recombination

I’ve already gotten some responses to the first section along the lines of “What about West Virginia? Virginia Tech?” I put them both in this group. As I did before, I’m going to have the two divisions both vertical next to each other with the permanent rivals (other-division team to play every year) paired horizontally.

Miami-BC
Va. Tech-WVU
Virginia-Maryland
USF-Rutgers
UNC-Syracuse
Duke-Army
Wake-Navy
NCS-Connecticut

It’s not the best set-up for West Virginia admittedly, but I think they would have good rivalries with Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Navy. I don’t think they’d be much better off staying in the current Big East with Pitt leaving. I was a little haphazard with the last 5 permanent rivalries, but they wouldn’t really be necessary. The teams could alternate over time. Virginia and Va. Tech could swap occasionally. Breaking up Miami and BC would not be allowed as long as Doug Flutie is alive though. I’m somewhat kidding. You could argue the two Florida teams don’t belong at all, but I’m OK with allowing for custom to prevail over geography in some places.

The Big Ten + 2 + 4

I’ll save going out west for the next blog, so now I’ll go to opponents WVU might miss like Pitt, Louisville, and Cincinnati. I had to pump the current 12-team Big Ten up to sixteen somehow. Wait, I’ve mentioned three…guess who? Could it get a little more obvious than Notre Dame? But hey, that’s a really good basketball conference for them to be in too. Not bad for baseball either. So I think it maintains enough of the Big East that the Domer fans would go for it (I know other sports don’t matter as far as money). Some just want to be obstinate, but remember when the Big Ten and Pac-10 were rigidly opposed to a conference championship game? Not very long ago.

And…and Notre Dame would still play Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan St. every year. Hopefully the mid-90s were long enough ago that they would accept Northwestern as an annual opponent once again. The permanent rival I picked was Louisville. Indiana-Kentucky, makes sense, right?

I toyed with trying to get Notre Dame to play Indiana for the in-state thing or Penn St. to bring back another forsaken rival, but I knew if I got too creative, I would mess up the battle for Paul Bunyan’s little brown oaken bucket of Rosedale or something. I probably already did something bad with putting Ohio St., Illinois, and Indiana in the mostly non-original-Big-Ten division. I checked on this, but I don’t know what all 12 Big Ten trophies are. I read one is being designed right now for Iowa-Nebraska. Good thing I was going to make them permanent rivals anyway. Anyway here it is. If I did miss something more obscure than the Land Grant Trophy (which I reinstated…you’re welcome), keep it to yourself. If I overlooked something major, let me know though.

Michigan-Ohio St.
Michigan St.-Penn St.
Minnesota-Cincinnati
Wisconsin-Pitt
Iowa-Nebraska
Northwestern-Illinois
Notre Dame-Louisville
Purdue-Indiana

I have no reason for Minnesota-Cincinnati or Wisconsin-Pitt, but switching them up didn’t make it any better. The rest seem good. And I know this is crazy, but I would just call the one on the left the North and the one on the right the South.