Articles

Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

How Deep is Your Conference?

Quan Cosby and Brian Jackson

Big 12 fans have heard for years now that the conference's major problem is depth. It's Texas and Oklahoma, then everybody else.

Makes sense, seeing as the Longhorns and Sooners have won eight of 10 conference championships last decade.

Does it stand up to scrutiny, though? What about the other conferences? Let's take a look.

(Continue...)

Methodology

First, allow me to explain the paramters of this exercise, which relied on data provided by College Football Trivia. I limited the conferences under consideration to "major" conferences, i.e. the six BCS leagues.

To achieve an apples-to-apples comparison, I only considered out-of-conference games against other teams from other auto-bid leagues (Pac-10 vs. Big 12, Big East vs. Big Ten, etc.). That includes both regular season and bowl games.

Lastly, in addition to running the numbers for the entirety of each conference, I computed the records excluding the two best teams as measured by overall winning percentage in every conference. Doing so negates the impact of the big dogs on the league, giving a better picture of each conference's "backbone."

(Note: The shuffling of teams in the ACC and Big East during the early part of the decade presents a problem for this kind of analysis. I decided to exclude Temple, Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech from the Big East statistics, because they're pretty much irrelevant to the strength of each conference today. Furthermore, I eliminated Miami, BC and Va. Tech from the ACC data for the time period during which they were members of the Big East. As such, the only numbers that count for these three schools come from the time that they were members of the ACC.)

Results

Record Against Major Non-conference Opponents
Conference Win % Adj. Win % Opp. Win %
ACC 48.1 47.5 57.5
Big East 43.8 44.8 56.8
Big Ten 47.5 42.9 58.4
Big Twelve 48.9 44.0 63.8
Pac-10 52.8 42.9 62.1
SEC 53.5 50.6

64.8

-Adjusted winning percentage excludes the conference's top two teams. Teams excluded:
  • ACC: Virginia Tech, Boston College
  • Big East: West Virginia, Cincinnati
  • Big Ten: Ohio State, Wisconsin
  • Big 12: Oklahoma, Texas
  • Pac-10: USC, Oregon
  • SEC: Florida, LSU

-I included the combined winning percentage of opponents for each conference in the table, offering some additional information regarding strength of schedule.

Conclusions
*S-E-C! S-E-C!
The Southeastern Conference's claims of dominance rest on more than simply having won the last four national championships. In the last decade, SEC teams have played the best opponents outside their own conference and, from top to bottom, have won the highest percentage of those games.

*One-Trick Pony
This analysis seems to confirm the worst about the Pac-10, namely that it has been a one-horse league. With the USC Trojans and their 28-5 record against non-conference BCS opponents, the numbers say that the Pac-10 pretty much holds its own against any other conference around. Take USC out of the mix, though, and the conference hasn't fared so well.
*No Respect for the ACC, I Tell Ya
The ACC doesn't have the same name brand of a conference like the Big 12, but it holds its own outside its borders. Even if the league members haven't faced as tough of competition, they have the second-highest adjusted winning percentage. Plus, the drop-off from the full conference's winning percentage to the adjusted winning percentage is pretty slight. To me, that signifies that a deep league.
*Weak at the Top
As expected, the Big East appears weakest among the auto-bid leagues. More surprising, though, is that removing the two best programs in the league, Cincinnati and West Virginia, actually improves the conference's record.

*The Big Ten Bites
OK, maybe "bites" is a little strong. However, judging by these numbers, the conference has clearly taken a step back in recent years.
*The Big 12 Isn't That Bad
Yes, Texas and OU have ruled the roost in the Big 12 in the last decade. The rest of the league has given a pretty good account of itself when pitted against the other major conferences. The mid- and lower-tier Big 12 teams may not have a gaudy record, but, according to the data, they've faced relatively stiff competition.