Conference Comparison: Category 3

This is the third 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 2, and Part 4.

This third category is by far the most straightforward. It looks at performance in BCS games, plain and simple. Now, a cursory look at the BCS Wikipedia entry will tell you that the ACC’s 1-8 mark as documented in my original ACC post is the worst, but what does it mean?

In this case, the pure won/loss record is actually is meaningful before you look at who was or wasn’t supposed to win the games, as opposed to the other categories where they won/loss records alone were nearly meaningless, because, 1) the ACC has never had two teams in the BCS, and 2) that means only the ACC champion has ever played in BCS games. Now, you don’t get into the BCS with a mediocre team unless your conference itself was mediocre or you wear gold helmets. For the ACC champion to have lost 8 of 9 games, that means that most years the ACC champ was simply weaker than the other conference champions/BCS qualifiers.

Still, the point of this is to look at the numbers specifically, so now on to the good stuff:

Wins and Losses

No surprises here, as I said above. The ACC had the worst record. The ACC and Big East are the only two conferences not to have had more than one team in the BCS; Big Ten leads with 15 BCS teams. The SEC leads in wins and win percentage with an impressive 9-4 mark. The Big 12 joins the ACC as the only conferences under .500 in BCS games.

The Big Ten would appear to be the strongest in this category since it has had the most number of BCS teams, but it only managed to get to be one game over .500 for the BCS. Is this because quantity has meant a lack of quality? Is the ACC champion really that bad every year? Is the SEC’s record padded from consistently playing weaker competition within the BCS? Let’s find out.

Strength Ratio and Performance Points

The ACC played the toughest slate of BCS games, but this fact presents a chicken-or-the-egg problem: is the ACC’s strength ratio the highest because it only played elite teams or because it brought the weakest teams? Well, I can tell you the aggregate win percentage of all ACC teams in the BCS is .786. The next lowest is the Big Ten with .850 as its aggregate win percentage. I think that right there proves that the ACC just plain sends weaker teams to the BCS than the other conferences do. There’s really no way to spin it positively, especially when two of those nine teams finished the year with 5 losses. The lost point comes from 2001 Maryland losing to Florida (both 10-2), and the Gators, who were not conference champions that year thanks to Osama bin Laden and Darnell Dockett, won that game by 33.

The big surprise here was the Big Ten finishing with an astonishing -4 points, especially since it had the smallest strength ratio of all the conferences. It goes to show that the 8-7 must have been an indicator of too many teams from the conference getting in, right? Well, two of the four points came from 2001 Illinois (10-2), the conference champion, losing to LSU (10-3). Well, that’s not it, since the Illini were going no matter what. The other two points did though come from at large berths: 2002 Iowa losing to USC (both 11-2) and 2006 Michigan losing to USC (both 11-2).

Notice anything about those last two? It’s the Big Ten at-large against the Pac-10 champ. That’s unfair, right? Well, not really since every year that an at large team has played a conference champion, at least one at large has defeated a conference champion. No commercials, no mercy, and no sympathy points. The -2 stands.

The Big 12 and Big East both finished with zero for the category. In both cases, all of their games went according to how the final records would predict. Obviously some games, like the 2002 national title games with Miami facing the “Luckeyes” of Ohio State did not turn out as humans might expect, but no points are deducted for it.

The Pac-10 finished with two positive points, which is fitting with its 7-4 record. It got those two points from the two push games described above in the Big Ten’s analysis. The Pac-10 also gets honors for having the highest aggregate win percentage for all of its BCS teams, at .870. I know someone will ask, so I will just tell you that the Pac-10 is 3-3 if you throw out USC, and it would have come out with a score of zero since no points were lost or earned by non-USC teams. 2002 Washington State was the last Pac-10 team to go to a BCS bowl other than USC; and 2000 was the last year it sent more than one team.

The SEC once again wins the category. Its opponents were about 4 percentage points worse than its own teams, same as the Pac-10, but it managed to snag an extra point to give it the edge. LSU’s aforementioned win over Illinois netted two points, and Florida’s 2001 victory over Maryland got the SEC its third point. Part of the reason why the SEC’s strength ratio was so small was because of playing 4-loss Syracuse in 1998 and 5-loss FSU in 2002, but those games did not factor into point awarding.

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 3 Chart



Scores for each game


Won/Loss comparison for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into ACC wins and losses


Big 12

Scores for each game


Won/Loss comparison for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into Big 12 wins and losses


Big East

Scores for each game


Won/Loss comparison for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into Big East wins and losses


Big Ten

Scores for each game


Won/Loss comparison for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into Big Ten wins and losses



Scores for each game


Won/Loss comparison for calculating win percentage


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



Scores for each game


Won/Loss comparison for calculating win percentage


Won/Loss comparison broken into SEC wins and losses



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