Since the subject of conference vs. conference has been broached again, I thought I’d share some data that never gets mentioned in the mainstream media.
As most sentient beings would acknowledge, the default mentality out there is that the SEC is hands-down the best conference in the land, year-in and year-out. Any data to the contrary tends to get buried, dismissed or shouted down the way the sheep in the book Animal Farm drowned out dissent with their incessant bleating. Now, I personally think the SEC is the best conference this year (or it looks to be right now), but I don’t see where it is written that I must think this is the case each and every year. Each season must be looked at on its own merits. To some, this is a novel concept.
But have a look at the data provided by the website thenationalchampionshipissue.blogspot.com, which has a chart that keeps track of results of interconference play.
Some interesting gems of data emerge:
1. In the BCS Era (beginning in 1998), the SEC and Pac-10 are the only two conferences with winning records against the other BCS conferences. The SEC is 127-112 (.531), while the Pac-10 is 117-106 (.524).
2. The Pac-10 is the only conference that has a losing record against less than two of the other conferences. It’s only deficit is against the Big 12 and it’s a narrow one (30-32). The SEC has losing records against both the Big East (14-19) and the Pac-10 (9-12).
3. Of the BCS conferences, the Pac-10 has played the fewest games (38) against I-AA opponents–and it’s not even close. The other conferences: Big 12 (86), ACC (85), SEC (78), Big East (66), Big Ten (56).
4. Since 1998, the SEC has won 467 out-of-conference games. A whopping 340 of those wins–or 73 percent–have come against either non-BCS-conference or 1-AA opponents. The Big 12 is even worse in this regard, with 76 percent of its OOC wins coming against such foes. The other conferences by comparison: ACC (.608), Pac-10 (.632), Big East (.682), Big Ten (.672).
5. The Sunbelt Conference is the great whooping boy of college football, with a winning record against only 1-AA foes since 1998. The SEC has rolled up more wins against the Sun Belt than any other conference, going 79-4 since 1998. Coming in second is the Big 12, which is 53-5. No other conference has played more than 18 games against the Sun Belt during this span.
Now, without a doubt, the SEC has been excellent since 2006. Besides winning four national titles, it has a 58-38 (.604) record against the other BCS conferences. The Pac-10 is 46-35 (.567). However, the SEC is also 105-7 (.937) against the non-BCS (65-6) and 1-AA (40-1) portion of its schedule during that same stretch while the Pac-10 is 65-28 (.698). The Pac-10 is 20-0 against 1-AA opponents since 2006, but is just 45-28 against the other non-BCS conferences. This clearly reflects the Mountain West Conference’s emergence as the strongest of the non-BCS leagues (it is 16-14 vs. the Pac-10 since ’06) and the general rule that non-BCS leagues out West–the ones more likely to play Pac-10 teams due to geography–feature far stronger teams (Boise State, TCU, BYU, Utah, Fresno State) than the ones in the East. Significantly enough, the Pac-10 also went to a round robin schedule in 2006, which added five more guaranteed losses to its members.
After looking at just the SEC/Pac-10 comparisons, I believe this backs up my contention that there really isn’t a whole lot of differences between the conferences over time and that the overhype of the SEC is incongruous with the record. Furthermore, the SEC and the Big 12 are the most prone to pad their win totals by playing lesser competition. More wins equals a better record, which equals better rankings and more bowls and the benefit of the doubt when it comes to who should go to BCS bowls in the future. It’s why we hear speculation that a ‘one-loss SEC or Big 12 team’ should go to a BCS title game over Boise State, and rarely whether a ‘one-loss Big Ten, Pac-10, ACC or Big East’ team should.
Again, this is not to say that the SEC isn’t worthy of hype, or isn’t worthy of being considered the best conference. But let’s not act like there’s some giant gap between it and some of the other leagues, or that it hasn’t benefitted from playing boatloads of patsies over the years. The facts are the facts and you can check them yourself.
Whether you choose to believe them, that’s another story.