09 December 2009

Conference Power Rankings

Now that the regular season of college football has concluded, college football fans need some topics to fill the conversational void until the bowl games start. Since all the awards were handed out last week, they have to find another issue. The never-ending debate over conference superiority always generates interest, if not heated discussions.

In an effort to determine the strength of conferences in relation to each other, I have devised a formula to calculate objectively how they rate. I have reviewed the non-conference match-ups of the eleven Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-A) conferences' members.

The formula consists of teams contributing points toward their conference's totals with each win against other teams outside their own conference. Teams receive no credit for defeating members of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-AA). However, conferences' members are penalized for losing to FCS/Division 1-AA teams. Wins on the road or at neutral sites carry more value than wins at home. Conferences earn bonus points if their members defeated other conferences' overall champions or divisional champions. The score of 1.000 is the highest possible score for a conference whose members played all of their non-conference games at home; in this case, the conference won all of them, beating only FBS opponents, none of whom won their conference or divisional championships.

After plugging in all of the numbers into my top secret formula, here are the results:

Southeastern: 48 .891
Big East: 40 .788
Pacific Ten: 30 .617
Big Twelve: 48 .578
Big Ten: 44 .574
Mountain West: 36 .535
Atlantic Coast: 48 .521
Western Athletic: 38 .434
Conference USA: 48 .250
Mid-American: 52 .231
Sun Belt: 36 .083

The Atlantic Coast Conference had monumental victories. Virginia Tech's wins over the Big Twelve Northern Division champion Nebraska and Conference USA's champion East Carolina earned some respect for the ACC. Additionally, North Carolina also defeated ECU. Boston College defeated the Mid-American Conference champion, Central Michigan.

On the flip side, the ACC suffered several embarrassing losses. Virginia lost to William & Mary and Duke lost to Richmond; both of those winning teams play at the FCS level. The ACC struggled mightily, 2-5, versus the SEC. The only two wins occurred against the only two SEC teams who finished with losing records. The fact that both teams in the ACC title game lost to SEC teams finishing 7-5 further tarnished the ACC's image. Finally, BC dropped a game to the imploded program in South Bend, Indiana.

The Southeastern Conference piled up notable wins yet could have easily earned a higher score. Florida and Arkansas rolled over Troy, the Sun Belt champion. Georgia’s win at Georgia Tech combined with South Carolina defeating Clemson bolstered the SEC's claim to superiority over the conference derisively regarded as "a basketball conference". Also, Tennessee beat Ohio, the Eastern Division winner of the Mid-American Conference. Had nine of the members played FBS instead of FCS opponents, including Mississippi beating two formerly labeled Division 1-AA programs, then the SEC's point total could have easily exceeded 0.9, even if not all of those games were wins for the SEC.

The Big Ten continued its cherished tradition of inviting Mid-American Conference members to serve as punching bags. Prior to starting intra-conference games or just filling in open dates later in the year, the Big 10 bullied the MAC in eleven of the thirteen head-to-head contests.

The Pacific Ten responded positively following last season's embarrassing regular season record of 1-6 versus the Mountain West Conference. This year, the PAC 10 won all three games against the MWC. Fans might wonder if the smaller number of match-up between these two conferences contributed to the reversal. However, the PAC 10 appears more balanced and improved than in 2008.

For those higher rated conferences, take pride in your rankings. As for the rest, redemption can always occur in winning bowl games.


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