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 commentary mixed in with all the numbers, but for the most part the stats speak for themselves. And away we go...
Updated non-conference records among the six BCS leagues through the first month of the season:
Nice showing by the SEC. The ACC has recovered nicely from the thermonuclear opening weekend. And the Pac 10...just wow. .500?!
Conf. Record Pct. SEC 27-5 .844 Big XII 38-10 .792 Big Ten 31-9 .775 ACC 26-10 .722 Big East 20-11 .645 Pac 10 13-13 .500
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:
Not coincidentally, the SEC has the best record in non-league play, but has faced the worst 1-A competition, while the Pac 10 has the worst record but has faced the strongest FBS opposition. Yes, part of that is because the SEC has taken care of business, thereby causing a lesser overall record among their collective opponents; but even taking that into account, the numbers show that the Pac 10 has still played better non-conference competition.
Conf. Record Pct. Pac 10 68-38 .642 ACC 63-42 .600 Big East 62-45 .579 Big Ten 69-67 .507 Big XII 81-86 .485 SEC 47-61 .438
ON THE ROAD
Below illustrates the percentage of games each league has played away from home in non-conference action:
FYI: non-conference neutral site games (i.e. Missouri-Illinois, Alabama-Clemson) were calculated as road games for both leagues.
Conf. Road Games/OOC Games Pct. Pac 10 8/26 30.8% ACC 11/36 30.5% Big East 9/31 29.0% SEC 9/32 28.1% Big XII 13/48 27.1% Big Ten 10/40 25.0%
A 5.8-percentage point difference between first and last place in these standings is not a huge enough gap for this category to mean much at this stage. One thing that hasn't changed from last year is that the Big Ten continues to shy away from hitting the road in non-league play, moreso than the other BCS conferences.
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. Pac 10 11/26 42.3% ACC 15/36 41.7% Big East 12/31 38.7% Big Ten 11/40 32.5% Big XII 15/48 31.3% SEC 9/32 28.1%
Furthermore, the following is the combined record of each league's BCS opposition:
Conf. Record Pct. SEC 5-4 .556 ACC 8-7 .533 Big East 6-6 .500 Big XII 7-8 .467 Big Ten 6-7 .462 Pac 10 5-6 .455
FYI: For purposes of this analysis, Notre Dame is included as a BCS/power-league team
Conf. Record Pct. Big East 38-14 .731 Pac 10 35-14 .714 ACC 46-23 .667 Big Ten 34-20 .630 SEC 22-16 .579 Big XII 38-28 .576
That's a lot of numbers to look at and gauge. What they tell me is that the ACC comes out the best overall in this category, and the Big XII the worst. The SEC - like last year - continues to fatten up on a feast of opponents in the lower 1-A conferences while the Pac 10 and ACC are knocking helmets much more often against BCS-caliber competition. Think that doesn't make a difference in the overall win/loss standings?
OTHER 1-A/FBS 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 15-1 .938 Big XII 21-2 .913 Big Ten 17-2 .895 ACC 5-3 .625 Big East 7-5 .583 Pac 10 6-7 .462
You gotta give the SEC credit - they at least know how to drop the hammer on the cupcakes. No inexplicable losses to Navy, Middle Tennessee or half the Mountain West.
Conf. Record Pct. Pac 10 33-24 .579 ACC 17-19 .472 Big East 24-31 .436 Big Ten 35-47 .427 Big XII 43-58 .426 SEC 25-45 .357
THE 1-AA/FCS FACTOR
The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...
And this is where a lot of the warm and fuzzy feelings about the ACC in this analysis dies. One half of the league's total non-conference wins, and just over one third of all out-of-conference competition, have come from 1-AA opposition. Unacceptable. Yeah, I get it that some 1-AA teams (Richmond, McNeese State) are better than some bad 1-A teams (North Texas, Idaho, Syracuse) but the principle of scheduling FCS squads over lesser FBS squads was clear - fatten up with guaranteed wins and don't even risk the possibility of disaster. Lame.
Conf. 1-AA Foes/OOC Games Pct. ACC 13/36 36.1% Big Ten 8/40 20.0% Big XII 9/48 18.8% Big East 7/31 22.6% SEC 7/57 21.9% Pac 10 2/26 7.7%
FACTUALLY SUPPORTED SUBJECTIVE CONCLUSION
So what does all of this mean? It's still a little too early to tell but I think the picture so far tells us the SEC is still the best, the ACC (1-AA scheduling warts and all) is better than most pundits give it credit, and the Big East - as bad as it is - isn't ready for a funeral just yet.
All that said, this is how I'd rank the conferences so far in 2008:
2) Big XII
3) Big Ten
5) Pac 10
6) Big East
I'm toying around with the idea of creating some type of simple formula that takes into account all of the above numbers and then spits out a numerical rating for each conference, which would then take more of the subjectivity out of the above league rankings. But I'm certainly no math wiz, so any suggestions on a formula would be appreciated.
We'll see how things look in a few weeks when another batch of non-conference activity has been played out.