Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Out of Conference Report '08 - At Regular Season's End

For those who are new to this blog, I began this feature last season that would attempt to quantify the strength of each BCS league based on the quality of it's non-conference competition. Yes, I realize that football has far too many intangibles and such that can't be broken down into mere numbers. But I'm a stats guy, and if someone is going to tell me that the Big Ten or Big East or whoever is better than the ACC, I'd like to see some justification for that aside from the typical message board smack.

Updated non-conference records among the six BCS leagues through the end of the regular season:
Big Ten
Big East
Pac 10
The ACC taking 3 of 4 from the SEC on Thanksgiving weekend tied them in overall non-conference record, one little game behind the Big XII.

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:
Pac 10206-144.589
Big Ten
Big East211-200.513
Big XII223-237.485
If this analysis ended right here, the ACC would clearly be the best conference in 2008, bar none. But there is more to the story...

Below illustrates the percentage of games each league has played away from home in non-conference action:
Conf.Road Games/OOC GamesPct.
Big East17/4141.5%
Pac 1011/3135.5%
Big XII13/4827.2%
Big Ten11/4425.0%

*non-conference neutral site games (i.e. Missouri-Illinois, Alabama-Clemson) are calculated as road games for both leagues.

The only thing that really stands out to me is that the Big East had a respectable showing in overall non-conference record while playing over 40% of those games on the road. If you want a quick predictor on how a league will fare in non-conference play, take a look at how many games they play on the road - the number of losses is usually right around that number. Conversely, the Pac 10 evidently got hammered at home quite a few times in out-of-conference action.

The following indicates the percentage of non-conference competition played against fellow BCS-league opponents:
Conf.BCS Foes/OOC GamesPct.
Pac 1014/3145.2%
Big East16/4139.0%
Big XII15/4831.3%
Big Ten13/4429.5%
*For this analysis, Notre Dame is included as a BCS/power-league team

And each conference's record against other power-league competition:
Big East
Big Ten
Pac 10
Furthermore, the following is the combined record of each league's BCS opposition:
Pac 10
Big East
Big Ten
The numbers really say it all. What the ACC accomplished this year in this category is astounding, especially after the grisly opening weekend.

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.:
Big XII21-2.913
Big Ten17-5.773
Big East13-5.722
Pac 106-9.400
And the combined record of the "other 1-A" opponents for each BCS league:
Pac 10104-78.571
Big Ten115-114.502
Big East101-118.461
It's hard to gauge how the ACC really fared given the comparatively small sample size, but "meh" is a word that comes to mind. And the SEC's continued scheduling of the 1-A dregs never ceases to amaze me.

The percentage of non-conference games against 1-AA competition...
Conf.1-AA Foes/OOC GamesPct.
Big Ten9/4420.5%
Big XII9/4818.8%
Big East7/4117.1%
Pac 102/316.5%
And this is what keeps the ACC out of the top spot in "best conference" talk this season. Just under a third of all ACC out-of-conference games have been against the minor leaguers. Unacceptable. And the close calls (UNC-McNeese, Maryland-Delaware, Georgia Tech-Gardner Webb) further erode credibility. On the flipside, the Pac 10 would do well to not be so damn righteous.

All that said, this is how I'd rank the conferences in 2008:

1) Big XII
2) ACC
3) SEC
4) Big East
5) Big Ten
6) Pac 10

I think all the numbers above, plus a healthy dose of common sense, bear this ranking out. The Big XII and ACC shouldn't be throwing any parties just yet...bowl season has a way of really skewing these numbers and the ACC has ten bowl games in which to enhance or tarnish its reputation.


Lee said...

All those road victories for the Big East is really impressive. No matter how I shake the model I have been playing with all season that has had Big 12 #1 and then a close ACC/SEC #2 I keep getting Big East #1. It sounds crazy but they aren't playing any 1aa teams, ran middle of the pack in the other stats except for being 1 of 2 conferences to win h2h vs the BCS, and played (and won) a bunch of road games. Even toning down the road win calc from the RPI .5 model to .4 I come up with the following final rankings:

conf rating Conf.
22.85040337 Big East
21.34284197 ACC
19.71095647 Big XII
19.10879864 SEC
14.71406749 Big Ten
7.221928361 Pac 10

For what it's worth I think I would put the ACC at the top, the Big12 second, Big east 3rd, and then follow the rankings above. As Mizzou showed by not even putting up a fight 3 good teams isn't a good conference. and the SEC only has 2 (maybe even 1). I'de say the smart money will be running with Big East and ACC teams this bowl season...

Marcus said...

My quickie formula spits out the following rank:

1-ACC (53.57)
2-Big East (51.62)
3-Big 12 (50.53)
4-SEC (49.33)
5-Big 10 (48.21)
6-Pac 10 (44.57)

And that's why I went with the off-the-cuff subjective conclusion. How I weight categories in my formula is subjective anyway. And, I watched enough football this year to know that the Big 12 is better than the ACC and that the SEC is better than the Big East. But the numbers here really show that the differences aren't that great. The Pac 10 and Big 10 clearly are at the bottom, but the Big XII, ACC, SEC and Big East aren't that far apart from each other. We'll see if the bowls play out that way

Lee said...

I am becoming really convinced the SEC is absolute garbage this year. And by absolute garbage I mean what the Pac 10 and Big 10 are every year. The thing that irritates me the most is reading articles that basically say the Big East and ACC don't deserve BCS bids. Oftentimes these are to make sure USC gets in even if they don't win their league or no less than 2 SEC teams get in. Why? Does Alabama even have a single quality win this year? Clemson in Hotlanta week 1? Is that it? @ overrated Georgia? @ overrated LSU in OT? Does USC? Crappy Ohio State at home? ummmm.... I wonder how massey picks the bowl to play out, research forthcoming...

Side note: I feel like a SEC fan from 5 years ago. "God our league is so tough. You can't go undefeated in this league. Look at our OOC record. We're the best! Where's the love!"

Lee said...

Massey has VT(L almost toss up), GT(W big), CL(L), FSU(W big), BC(W big), UNC(W), MIA(W), MD(W big), WF(W), NCS(W)

8-2 with 4 of them pretty close to locks by the numbers. 7-3 would be plenty to crow about in my humble opnion.

Marcus said...

The SEC this year is a shell of it's former self. But it's still better than the Big East - the BE, with only 8 programs, can't afford to have 2 garbage teams in Louisville and Syracuse.

I'm keeping my enthusiasm about the ACC muted until after the bowls. If the league goes 6-4 or better - including the long awaited Orange Bowl win - I am dropping the hammer on the other conferences.

Lee said...

The sad part is the ACC will probably go 6-4 or even 7-3 but if VT loses (even though it will beat the SEC 2 more times) it still won't get the credit it deserves. I don't know about the Big East v SEC argument. If Lousiville and Syracuse played the same OOC schedule as Kentucky, Vandy, Miss St, Miss, every other SEC garbage team maybe they wouldn't be looked at so poorly. They're terrible, don't get me wrong, there are just 5 or 6 terrible teams in the SEC. Duek won AT Vandy for Gods sake...

Anonymous said...

You could add the MWC's numbers this year too. They are very impressive, yet they get no credit.

Marcus said...

The minute they get an auto-bid to the BCS, I'll add them. That's not to take away from the incredible year they had...but when 12-0 Utah only beats 3-9 Michigan by 2, and when 10-2 BYU gets by 0-12 Washington 28-27 in large part due to a godawful penalty, that matters.

Anonymous said...

Utah destroyed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

MWC (2-0)
ACC (2-9)

Eat crow.

Marcus said...

Eat crow? No thanks....unless you want to calculate the Mtn West's performance against the six BCS leagues using my criteria. I look forward to your analysis.

Anonymous said...

Not convinced by that article. Seems like another stat twister. I mean anyone can go in and twist stats around to make their conference look better. The ACC went 4-6 in bowls last year and the 4 wins they had were against cincy, wisky, Nevada, and Navy. I understand that those stats came out prior to the bowl season however it seems very convenient that the author is an ACC fan and the ACC comes out as the 2nd best conference in his formula. Funny how there isnt stats for conference record vs. top 25 or conference record against opponents with an above .500 winning percentage. Just because a team comes from a BCS conference doesnt mean their good. The bottom 4 or 5 teams in the big ten dont have any business in D1 ball same could be said for 3-4 teams out of the ACC, big east, or pac 10. Playing those types of teams is a step down to playing a team like boise, utah, tcu, or byu.

Marcus said...


The stats are pretty damn straightforward. I take into account the overall record of the non-conference opponents each league plays and then break it down by BCS conference and non-BCS conference. It's right there for you to see.

Who gives a rip what the record is against "Top 25" opponents? Top 25 is as subjective as you can get. And does Top 25 mean at the time of the game or end of season?