Number Say: No Clearly Dominant Conference
by Numbers Guy
I'm a huge SEC fan, but I'm also someone who looks hard at the numbers. In recent years, no matter how you slice the numbers, there are no clearly dominant conferences.
Granted, the SEC has brought home more than its share of BCS championships -- when they've had to win the big one, they've done it. They've also gone into some of these games as underdogs.
But a handful of games between the best of the best doesn't prove that entire conferences are better than others. There have been more than a few years recently where the SEC's non-conference performance during the regular season has been anything but spectacular.
"Well, the SEC beats up on itself," you often hear. Guess what, the SEC was 0.500 against itself this year, and last year, and the year before that. All conferences beat up on themselves. It's hard not to pass out a win without a loss in a conference game.
Over the last five years, at least five conferences have been very competitive: Big 12, ACC, Big 10, Pac-10, and SEC. The Big East (not quite the doormat it used to be) is now a fairly close 6th -- although down a bit this year.
Some of these conferences are fairly spread out top to bottom (like the 2008 Big 12). Others don't have a bunch of top 10 teams but also don't have too many laggards either (like the 2008 ACC).
There are up years (2002 and 2005 Big 10) and down years (2003 and 2004 Big 10). On average, though, there's not a huge amount of difference. When I say "average," you can't just look at the teams in the top 40 or the top 25.
The SEC and Big 10 can both make good arguments for who is better this year (2008), but at the same time it's not entirely clear if they're arguing over 1st and 2nd or 3rd and 4th.
The ACC, which for decades would have gotten little respect from the SEC, can make a case for ten top 40 teams right now (10/29/08). The SEC could claim 5 to 6 (depending upon whose ranking you use). The Big 12 this year might claim 6 or 7.
If you measure a conference only by its best team or teams, you're not really talking about the conference. And when you do compare conferences top to bottom, there is simply no conference that stands "head and shoulders above the rest."
While I would love to make such a claim for the SEC, the numbers prove otherwise. Fortunately, football is a game of numbers. You don't get style points or credit for artistic impression. If you're looking for that, you would best be a fan of figure skating or synchronized swimming.
Thanks, nice post, but I disagree. Year in and year out the SEC has the top non-conference record. And, what we mean about beating up on each other is it's darn tough to get out of an SEC season undefeated. Too many top 10 teams. Much easier to do that in say ... Big Ten; Pac-10.
Only Big 12 stands up to SEC this year. And, honestly, the Big 12 may be better. We'll see.
But, again, good points, (especially the top 40 stuff for ACC) great post.