Conference Comparison: Category 2

This is the second part of a four part series to find a quantitative answer as to which conference is the best in college football right now. The explanation of how this works is here. See also Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.

The second category in the conference comparison is performance against the top-10 since 2002. I picked that year since that’s the farthest back I can find schedule/results with rankings at the time included. That’s fine since it gives a bit of a relatively intermediate time range when deciding which conference is best now. That’s right, now – not since 1900, not since the 1950s, just who’s best right now.

Now, there is the little problem of going by top-10 teams at the time. Namely, the top-10 is a rather fluid construct. Teams come and go throughout the year, and top-10 status in early September is close to meaningless. I realize and understand this fact, however, the final top-10 can be heavily influenced by end-of-the-year performance. A 10-2 team is much more likely to be in the final top-10 if it lost those two games in September than in November. To get rid of meaningless results, I have eliminated all games where the “top-10” opponent finished with more than three losses. That’s kind of arbitrary, but it’s better than having 2006 Iowa State’s upset of Iowa count as a top-10 win when Iowa finished the year 6-7. Plus, it’s not unheard of for 3-loss teams to finish in or near the top-10 (2006 Oklahoma at #11, 2005 Georgia at #10).

After all, part of the point of this comparison is to see if the stats in my ACC post were misleading by being on their own with no comparison to other conferences attached. I have to keep some semblance of attachment to that issue. Cutting off the “top-10” opponents at 3 losses is the best compromise I can think of at the moment.

Anyway, on to the good stuff:

Wins and Losses

Bad news, ACC. Under the old guidelines, you were 1-24 against the top-10 since 2002. After throwing out all games against teams with 4 or more losses, you ended up winless at 0-21. So how does that measure up? Let’s see:


As it turns out, all of the conference’s win percentages look more like batting averages. This makes sense because as I said in the explanation, games between top-10 teams are rare so you’d expect the top-10 teams to come out on top more often than not. Still, these numbers don’t make any sense unless you put them in context of what the strength of the opponents was.

Strength Ratio and Performance Points


Turns out, the ACC team was the lesser team in all 21 losses, so the ACC is not penalized for not winning a game. It should be commended for scheduling farther over its head than any other conference did.

The Big East came out clearly the worst from this. It had the second-easiest group of opponents, but tanked it in the performance points category. The -4 is the result of two better teams falling – 2003 Miami (11-2) to Tennessee (10-3), and 2005 West Virginia (11-1) to Virginia Tech (11-2). Interestingly enough, Miami in 2002 and 2003 accounts for 4 of the 12 games in this category, or a full third of the games. It shows the Big East is not doing a whole lot to try to get the top teams on its schedules.

Just above the Big East is the Big Ten, in what I thought was a surprising result. The Big Ten played the easiest set of games of them all and couldn’t capitalize on it. It lost two push games, 2002 Iowa vs. USC (both 11-2) and 2006 Michigan vs. USC (both 11-2). Only four of the 13 games were played by teams other than Ohio State and Michigan.

The Pac-10 was next up with a solid 3 points. The Pac-10 had only one win as a lesser team, 2003 Oregon (8-5) upsetting Michigan (10-3), but it did have two push wins, 2002 USC over Iowa and 2006 USC over Michigan. It did give a point back by losing a push game, 2002 USC vs. Kansas State (both 11-2).

The Big 12 was impressive, scoring 5 points. It had two games where it was the lesser team and won, 2002 Iowa State (7-7) upsetting Iowa (11-2) and 2004 Texas Tech (8-4) upsetting Cal (10-2), and it tacked on another point in winning a push game, 2002 K-State over USC. Only about a third of the Big 12’s games for this category were played by Texas and Oklahoma, the best two teams of the last 4 years, showing a willingness of Big 12 teams to go out and schedule some tough games.

Once again the winner of the category is the SEC, only this time it was by a landslide. The SEC did not lose any points, but had large gains thanks to four wins as the lesser team: 2003 Arkansas (9-4) defeating Texas (10-3), 2003 Tennessee defeating Miami, 2004 Florida (8-5) defeating FSU (9-3), and 2006 Tennessee (9-4) over Cal (10-3).

Click to link to read the rest of this post if you want to see the complete charts for each conference, which include margin of victory stats along with the ones described above.

Full Category 2 Chart



Scores for each game


Won/Loss for calculating win percentage


Big 12

Scores for each game


Won/Loss for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into Big 12 wins and losses


Big East

Scores for each game


Won/Loss for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into Big East wins and losses


Big Ten

Scores for each game


Won/Loss for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into Big Ten wins and losses



Scores for each game


Won/Loss for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into Pac-10 wins and losses



Scores for each game


Won/Loss for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into SEC wins and lossessec-cat2-3.png


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