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.
Alrighty then, pesky explanations are now out of the way. Let's get going...
Updated non-conference records among the six BCS leagues through the first month of the season:
At first glance, the SEC looks incredibly dominant, while the Pac 10 looks horrid on a legendary level. But there's a bit more to non-conference play than just the above records, as we will see.
Conf. Record Pct. SEC 28-5 .848 Big XII 38-10 .792 ACC 32-10 .762 Big Ten 31-10 .756 Big East 24-12 .667 Pac 10 13-15 .464
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 overall win-loss standings are almost flipped entirely when it comes to the opposition's record. Earlier in the season, you could argue a direct causal relationship between the overall standings and opposition record...not so much anymore, now that most conferences are 3 or 4 games into intra-league play.
Conf. Record Pct. Pac 10 120-66 .645 Big East 113-94 .546 ACC 104-89 .539 Big XII 133-130 .507 Big Ten 115-114 .502 SEC 77-105 .423
ON THE ROAD
Below illustrates the percentage of games each league has played away from home in non-conference action:
*non-conference neutral site games (i.e. Missouri-Illinois, Alabama-Clemson) are calculated as road games for both leagues.
Conf. Road Games/OOC Games Pct. Pac 10 10/28 35.7% Big East 12/36 33.3% SEC 10/33 30.3% Big XII 13/48 27.1% ACC 11/42 26.2% Big Ten 10/41 24.4%
Again, we see part of the reason for the Pac 10's awful non-conference showing. But the SEC deserves a lot of credit for playing a decent percentage of road games and still looking good in out-of-conference play. In general, up until the last weekend of the year, there appears to be a close correlation between overall non-conference losses and the amount of road games played outside the league.
The following indicates the percentage of non-conference competition played against fellow BCS-league opponents:
*For purposes of this analysis, Notre Dame is included as a BCS/power-league team
Conf. BCS Foes/OOC Games Pct. Pac 10 12/28 42.9% ACC 17/42 40.5% Big East 13/36 36.1% Big Ten 13/41 31.7% Big XII 15/48 31.3% SEC 9/33 27.2%
And each conference's record against other power-league competition:
Furthermore, the following is the combined record of each league's BCS opposition:
Conf. Record Pct. ACC 10-7 .588 SEC 5-4 .556 Big XII 7-8 .467 Big East 6-7 .462 Big Ten 6-7 .462 Pac 10 5-7 .417
That's a lot of numbers to look at and absorb. Surprised to see the ACC faring the best in this category? Me neither, but I'll bet a lot of SEC and Big Ten blogs/message boards would be.
Conf. Record Pct. Pac 10 55-25 .688 Big East 62-31 .667 ACC 72-48 .600 SEC 35-25 .583 Big Ten 47-37 .560 Big XII 56-46 .549
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 16-1 .941 Big XII 21-2 .913 Big Ten 17-3 .850 ACC 7-3 .700 Big East 11-5 .688 Pac 10 6-8 .429
I'll repeat what I said in the last Out of Conference Report...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 Toledo. That said, holy schnikees do they play some crapola Sun Belt and Conference USA dregs, while the Pac 10 is getting knocked around multiple times by BYU, Utah, TCU and Boise State.
Conf. Record Pct. Pac 10 65-41 .613 Big XII 77-84 .478 Big East 51-63 .447 Big Ten 68-77 .469 ACC 32-41 .438 SEC 42-80 .344
THE 1-AA/FCS FACTOR
The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...
And again, this is where a lot of the hopeful feelings about the ACC get torn asunder. One third of all out-of-conference competition has 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.
Conf. 1-AA Foes/OOC Games Pct. ACC 14/42 33.3% SEC 7/33 21.2% Big Ten 8/41 19.5% Big East 7/36 19.4% Big XII 9/48 18.8% Pac 10 2/28 7.1%
POTENTIALLY FLAWED SUBJECTIVE CONCLUSION
So what does all of this mean? The Big East and Pac 10 are better than you think, but they're still the bottom of the BCS-league barrel this year. The Big XII looks the best, with the SEC right behind. The ACC and Big Ten are close in overall quality. The biggest movers over the final half of the season will be the ACC and SEC. The ACC has six non-league games left, with five of them coming against the SEC; the SEC has a whopping 15 out-of-conference matchups still to play.
All that said, this is how I'd rank the conferences so far in 2008:
1) Big XII
3) Big Ten
5) Pac 10
6) Big East
I'm still 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. I've tried a few calculations and I'm not happy with any just yet. Suggestions would be most appreciated.