Ranking The Conferences in College Football

October 1, 2009

Although many teams still have nonconference games yet to play, it isn't too early to get a sense of each conference's strength in college football after Week 4. In ranking the various major conferences, it is obviously not easy to figure out a perfect system.

Still, the DSH will avoid using the easiest, most common, and most irresponsible criteria of all: "reputation." Unlike most college football voters, we will actually measure each conference by what it accomplishes on the football field.

Here are the main factors we will consider: (1) Nonconference record overall and (2) Nonconference record against "quality teams."

The latter statistic is important as it reveals which conferences play harder schedules and how they fare against better competition. A "quality team " is a team from a "Big 6" conference or any other school that has has been ranked at some point in this year. While all "quality teams" are not equal, it is indisputable that on average, those teams are tougher opponents.

1. SEC - 23-2 overall nonconference record; 6-2 against quality teams.
Key Wins: Arizona St., Louisville, N.C. State, V. Tech, Washington, W. Virginia.
Key Losses: Oklahoma State, UCLA

Once again the SEC has the best nonconference record, and clearly has the best winning percentage against quality opponents. They also play the least quality teams despite having as large a conference as any of the "Big 6" and larger than the Pac-10, Big 10, and Big East. The SEC is undoubtedly one of the toughest conferences, if not the toughest, in college football, so why are they so afraid to play even decent competition outside of their conference?

2. PAC 10 - 19-7 overall nonconference record; 7-6 against quality teams.
Key Wins: Kansas St., Maryland, Minnesota, Purdue, Tennessee, Utah, Ohio St.
Key Losses: Boise State, Cincinatti, Georgia, Iowa, LSU, Wake Forest

The Pac-10 has thus far played 13 quality teams, with only the ACC (a 12-team conference) having played more. Thus, their reputation of playing top non-conference competition is reaffirmed. All of that is in addition to the fact that the Pac-10 is the sole major conference to play every member of its own conference. Thus, it is fair to say they are the most willling to play tough opponents. This year, they had decent success against quality teams, with a winning percentage only second to the SEC. 4 more nonconference games against Notre Dame will help determine their pre-bowl games Conference rankings.

3. BIG EAST - 21-7 overall nonconference record; 5-7 against quality teams.
Key Wins: Baylor, Florida St., Maryland, Northwestern, Oregon St.
Key Losses: Auburn, Kentucky, Minnesota, N. Carolina, NC State, Penn St., Utah.

The Big East deserves some props for playing a lot of respectable opponents. They also went 16-0 against the ones that weren't so good. Although they have nothing close to a real BCS Title contenders in their conference, from top to bottom they clearly have performed better than most expected.

4. BIG 10 - 24-9 overall nonconference record; 5-7 against quality teams.
Key Wins: Arizona, Iowa State, Notre Dame, Syracuse (2).
Key Losses: Cal, Missouri, Notre Dame, Oregon, Syracuse (2), USC.

The Big 10 had their ups and downs against quality foes thus far. All 3 of their losses to the Pac-10 came against the top tier of that conference, so that should be taken into consideration somewhat. Yet, they don't have too many really great victories either. They are behind the Big East only due to their two losses to non "quality" competition.

5. BIG 12 - 32-10 overall nonconference record; 4-7 against quality teams.

Key Wins: Duke, Georgia, Illinois, Wake Forest.
Key Losses: BYU, Connecticut, Houston (2), Iowa, UCLA, V. Tech.

The numbers reveal once again that the Big 12 is overrated. Undoubtedly this conference has quality teams, but from top to bottom they fail to get it done in quality nonconference matchups. With the exception of Oklahoma State's victory over Georgia, none of the Big 12's nonconference victories have been impressive.

6. ACC - 19-13 overall nonconference record; 5-9 against quality teams.
Key Wins: BYU, Connecticut, Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Stanford.
Key Losses: Alabama, Baylor, Cal, Kansas, Rutgers, S. Carolina, S. Florida, TCU (2).

Some preseason projections believed the ACC could be the second best major conference this year. Certainly not so far. While they have admirably played in the most "quality" nonconference games to date, they have lost the solid majority of them. Florida State's victory at BYU was the crowning achievement for the conference this year in nonconference play. Too bad the Seminoles threw away the good will with a loss to South Florida the very next week.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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