SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel offers his rankings of conference superiority in a column posted today on the Web site.
Mandel's conclusion regarding the top spot from 2003 to 2008 is no surprise: the SEC is unquestionably the best. Mandel slots the Pac-10 second and, surprisingly, the ACC comes in third. Big XII fans may be dismayed to discover that Mandel has deemed it fifth best of the six BCS conferences.
Any attempt to devise an objective ranking criteria for this kind of project is going to end up being entirely subjective. On balance, Mandel's methodology is probably just about as good as any other would be. His rankings are based on five criteria:
- End-of-season AP poll rankings (weighted doubly);
- BCS record (weighted doubly);
- Record in other bowls;
- Nonconference RPI, which measures conferences' performances in nonconference games weighted by strength of opponents (as compiled by CollegeBCS.com); and
- NFL draft picks.
It's a pretty straightforward rating system, and a little additional nuance might have tilted the outcome one way or another.
For example, the ACC's lofty perch can be attributed to a 19-12 record in non-BCS bowls, good for first place among the six conferences. Likewise, since USC is the only team to have represented the Pac-10 in the BCS, the conference's ranking in terms of BCS record seems a bit misleading. In that sense, the general mediocrity of the rest of the league is offset by just one program's success.
I guess my biggest objection to the Mandel approach would be the importance of bowl performance. I've discussed my opinion of bowls before, so that shouldn't be a surprise.
Also, Mandel's system appears to treat all BCS games equally, which ignores the importance of the title game. Personally, I'd reward conferences that produce the two participants in the championship game with some type of bonus. Also, I'd add a bonus for winning the national championship. Consequently, I'd do away with the double weighting of the poll and BCS bowl categories.
Lastly, the average number of NFL draft picks per school might provide a good indicator of the overall level of talent within the conference. However, with the differences between the college and pro game, I think I'd give this category a little less weight than the others.