For better or worse, I've compiled a fairly detailed set of numbers that go a long way in showing where the conferences stack up against each other. One thing some of you may ask is....why not just list how one conference performed against each of the other five leagues last season and leave it at that? For starters, no conference played another league enough times to get an accurate feel. Secondly, even if there were enough games played to make a good determination, that only shows that one conference was better than another, not how one conference stacks up against the other five.
So, I hope that explains this whole endeavor. I have some ACC-centered commentary among all the numbers, but for the most part the stats speak for themselves. And away we go...
Final non-conference records among the BCS leagues, post-bowl craziness:
Based on general perception, I don't think it surprises anyone that the ACC is comfortably in last place in these standings, nor that the SEC is in first. But, as this feature has been pointing out throughout the 2007 season, there's more to out-of-conference competition than the above records.
Conf. Record Pct. SEC 47-10 .825 Big XII 41-15 .732 Big Ten 38-14 .731 Big East 32-13 .711 Pac 10 25-12 .676 ACC 35-21 .625
To delve a little deeper, below is the combined record of all 1-A/FBS opposition faced by each BCS league in non-conference play:
So while the ACC finished last in the win-loss standings, it appears that part of the reason was that they faced stronger out-of-conference opposition than everyone but the Pac 10. It's interesting to note that only the Big Ten had their non-conference opponents collectively finish below .500...and comfortably below .500.
Conf. Record Pct. Pac 10 249-194 .562 ACC 333-285 .539 SEC 326-280 .538 Big XII 315-291 .520 Big East 252-243 .509 Big Ten 240-311 .436
ON THE ROAD
Below illustrates the percentage of games each league played away from home in non-conference action:
FYI: bowl games and out-of-conference neutral site games (i.e. Missouri-Illinois, Florida State-Alabama) were calculated as road games for both leagues.
Conf. Road Games/OOC Games Pct. ACC 28/56 50.0% Big East 21/45 46.7% Pac 10 16/37 43.2% Big XII 24/56 42.9% Big Ten 19/52 36.5% SEC 17/57 29.8%
One-half of the ACC's non-conference competition was played away from an ACC stadium. One half! Meanwhile, seven out of ten of the SEC's non-league games were played at home. The Big Ten wasn't partial to hitting the road either.
The following indicates the percentage of non-conference competition played against fellow BCS-league opponents:
And each conference's record against other power-league competition:
Conf. BCS Foes/OOC Games Pct. ACC 29/56 51.8% Pac 10 15/37 40.5% Big East 18/45 40.0% Big Ten 20/52 38.5% SEC 21/57 36.8% Big XII 19/57 33.3%
Furthermore, the following is the combined record of each league's BCS opposition:
Conf. Record Pct. Pac 10 9-6 .600 SEC 12-9 .571 Big Ten 11-9 .550 Big XII 10-9 .526 ACC 13-16 .448 Big East 8-10 .444
That's a lot of numbers to look at and gauge. What they tell me is that the ACC has to be applauded for the quality of non-conference opposition it faces. More than one-half of that competition is from the other five BCS leagues. On top of that, it's good competition (witness the .608 winning percentage of the opposition). Unfortunately, the league wasn't quite up to meeting the challenge, given the 13-16 record. I was a bit surprised to see that the Big East fared just a tad worse in the win-loss column. The SEC and Pac 10 appear to have fared the best in this category when you look at all of the numbers (and remember that the Pac 10 is the only league to play 9 conference games, so that's one less non-conference game for each member). Neither the Big East nor the Big Ten impress in this category in any aspect.
Conf. Record Pct. Big XII 148-83 .641 SEC 176-108 .620 ACC 217-140 .608 Pac 10 100-79 .559 Big East 119-102 .538 Big Ten 122-131 .482
OTHER 1-A (OR "FBS" IF YOU WANT TO BE ALL TECHNICAL) COMPETITION
Each league's record against other 1-A/FBS foes...that is, the non-conference results against the poor schmoes from Conference USA, the MAC, the WAC, etc.:
And, just for kicks, the combined record of the "other 1-A" opponents for each BCS league:
Conf. Record Pct. SEC 26-1 .963 Big Ten 21-3 .875 Big East 18-3 .857 Big XII 24-5 .828 ACC 15-5 .750 Pac 10 14-6 .700
That's too many losses by the ACC and Pac 10 given the number of games played, although the Pac 10 can be slightly forgiven given that they played fairly decent non-BCS competition. Overall though, the Big Ten's lack of quality non-conference opposition, whether BCS or non-BCS, is evident. Just .042 percentage points separate the winning percentage of the Big East opponents with the Big XII's opposition, while there's a drop of .047 points between the Big XII and Big Ten.
Conf. Record Pct. Pac 10 149-115 .564 Big East 133-141 .485 SEC 150-172 .466 ACC 116-145 .444 Big XII 166-208 .443 Big Ten 118-180 .396
THE 1-AA (OR "FCS" IF YOU WANT TO BE ALL TECHNICAL) FACTOR
The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...
This is one set of standings in which finishing at the top is not something to plaster all over the conference media guide. Nonetheless there's not a big difference between the SEC through the ACC. The Pac 10 deserves kudos for avoiding lower-division matchups whenever possible. If there has to be a big loser in this category, it's the Big Ten, since the six BCS leagues went 40-2 against 1-AA opponents in 2007....and the two losses were by Big Ten schools (Michigan and Minnesota).
Conf. 1-AA Foes/OOC Games Pct. SEC 9/57 15.8% Big Ten 8/52 15.4% Big XII 8/56 14.3% Big East 6/45 13.3% ACC 7/57 12.3% Pac 10 2/37 5.4%
FACTUALLY SUPPORTED SUBJECTIVE CONCLUSION
So, what does all of this mean? A few things stand out to me: 1) The quality of the ACC's non-conference competition has clearly affected their won-loss record in non-conference play; 2) I'm surprised that the Big East wasn't more impressive in this category, given the better reputation they seem to hold with many in the media; 3) The SEC deserves it's props as the King of college football, but they play weaker non-conference competition than most, and they stay at home to do it; 4) The Pac 10 looks fairly impressive, but is a bit of an anomaly since they played much fewer non-conference games due to their round-robin league slate; 5) Nothing much stands out about the Big XII except that they could buck up on the number of BCS opponents they face outside of league play; 6) The Big Ten's non-conference opposition was generally horrible, and they didn't exactly set the world on fire against it.
All that said, this is how I'd rank the conferences for 2007:
2) Pac 10
3) Big XII
5) Big East
6) Big Ten
And there's a large gap between the Big XII and the ACC. Still, looking at the numbers, the ACC is better than it's national perception....and even better then the perception I had of it. The Big Ten enjoys far more favorable media coverage than the ACC (and Big East for that matter), but it's loftier tradition can only carry it so far. The Pac 10 is much better than "USC and the nine dwarves". And the SEC is the best...but not quite as dominant as advertised.