Monday, January 07, 2008

Which NCAAF Conference Is the Best?

The LSU Tigers are the national champions. They beat the OSU Buckeyes 38-24 after falling behind early 10-0.

Reporting that fact is not the purpose of this post; trying to decide which conference was the best this year is. There are as many ways of determining which one deserves the top spot as there are people who talk about this topic. Some simply vote for the one their school is in, which is what I have found to be the case here in southern California. Some think historically, which is what Big 10 fans tend to do. Still others try to make an argument based on the number of good teams in the conference in a particular year, which is what SEC and Big 12 fans usually do.

I, however, do not have a favorite NCAA football team, I don't care about who the best conference is historically, and I have decided not to use the number of good teams as the sole criterion on which to base a conference's success. Instead, I want to take a look at the bowl records of the different conferences. This is beneficial for three reason: 1) It plainly shows which conferences have the most good teams by the total number of bowls in which a conference's teams played; 2) It places appropriate weight on the post-season games, games which tend to match two good teams; and 3) It allows us to get a good reading on which conference plays well when it matter most.

So what do we have then? I'll start by providing the list of BCS conferences in order by the number of wins they had in bowl games this season. Also, in parenthesis are the number of wins and losses, followed by the number of quality wins (defined as defeats of top-25 teams).

  1. SEC (7-2; 4)
  2. Big 12 (5-3; 4)
  3. Pac 10 (4-2; 2)
  4. Big 10 (3-5; 1) and Big East (3-2; 1)
  5. ACC (2-6; 0)
From this information it seems simple enough that the best conference in college football this year was the SEC -- they had the most teams in bowl games, they had the most bowl victories, and tied for the most quality wins. The Big 12 is a close second, also tying for the second teams in bowl games and the most quality wins, while coming in second in the number of bowl victories.

But what about the non-BCS conferences? Here is their information in the same format.

  1. Mountain West (4-1; 0)
  2. Conference USA (2-4; 1)
  3. Sunbelt (1-0; 0); Western Athletic (1-3; 0)
  4. Mid-American (0-3; 0); Independents (0-1; 0)

While none of these conference can compete for the top spots in my list, some have come close. The Mountain West did quite well but against poor opponents and the Conference USA had a quality win (ECU over Boise State). Perhaps one or both of these conferences could be ranked ahead of the ACC, but any higher than that is simply not justified.

So what is my final word? What is my final ranking? Drum roll please...

  1. SEC
  2. Big 12
  3. Pac 10
  4. Big 10
  5. Big East
  6. ACC
  7. Mountain West
  8. Conference USA
  9. Western Athletic
  10. Mid-American
  11. Sunbelt
  12. Independets

As for the future, I think that we will see the same top four next year in the same order. The SEC is a powerhouse and may get even better with the likes of Tebow of Florida and Moreno of Georgia returning. The Big 12 will put up a major fight for the top spot next year with several good QBs returning: Harrell at Texas Tech, Reesing at Kansas, McCoy at Texas, Bradford at Oklahoma, and Daniels at Missouri. The Pac 10 and Big 10 may switch places next year, though I imagine that UCLA will improve and Cal should be better for the Pac 10. However, OSU should be solid next season with 18-20 starters returning.

I can't wait for next season already!


Anonymous said...

The SEC is actually stronger than you state here. They were not tied for the most teams in bowls. They were #1 all alone with 9 teams in bowls. Three other conferences had 8. Those 9 teams went 7-2. See for more. And, the final AP poll had LSU #1 and Georgia #2. The SEC is definitely the strongest conference this year!

J. Matthew Barnes said...

Thanks for pointing that out. I forgot to add LSU's win in my tally!

And I can't believe that the USA Today poll put USC second, what a joke!

What about Kansas? They only have one loss and beat a very legit VT team in their bowl!?