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2017 College Football Best Conference in the Land? (Long form post)

Always a matter of debate, college football fans want to know who is the most dominant conference in college football. For much of this century, that answer has been the SEC. It’s tough to deny that the 10 national titles the Southeastern Conference has amassed makes them the best in terms of accolades. But are they still the premier conference in the land, and if not, who is? Over the past five years, I’ve done a simple experiment of collecting data of all interconference games during the season. The data has been interesting, but has presented several different champions:
2012: SEC
2013: SEC
2014: Pac-12
2015: SEC
2016: ACC

2017: The Data:

The regular season was a bit of a jumble. The SEC had the best overall winning percentage, but that’s bolstered by almost every team playing an FCS and two Sun Belt teams out of conference. It should be noted that they won *almost* every single one of those games, but still, hardly tough competition. (*Exception*: Troy beating LSU in Death Valley on 9/30). When you cut out the non-P5 schools, you are left with the Pac-12, of all conferences, having a very good win percentage of .750, though they only played 8 total games. Sneaking in behind them is the Big 10 with a 7-5 record. The SEC actually finished in 4th BEHIND the ACC against P5 competition.

Then comes the post-season and the winner outs itself in a big way. The Big 10 went 7-1 in bowls this year. They annihilated the competition as all eight of those games were against P5 schools. The Big 12 was the only other conference to finish above .500. Every other P5 conference lost at least one game to a non-P5 school (Thanks UVA!) while the Pac-12 failed it’s one attempt and the SEC failed in both attempts to beat their Non-P5 competition. But hey, to the SEC’s credit, they played Notre Dame, who is, by all accounts, a P5 school, and the eventual National Champi….I mean, the AAC’s UCF.

Add all this together, and you can see the results in Table 3; the Big 10 has a higher win percentage overall, edging out the SEC. But the determining factor, for me, is that overall record against P5 schools. The B1G was the only conference to finish the season with a winning record against its P5 competition. Anyone can rack up wins against non-P5 schools, just look at the last column in Table 3. The P5 was 137-27 against non-P5 schools. Remove Notre Dame and the P5 was 134-17 against non-P5 schools. Pretty easy to garner wins there, but step it up to P5 competition, and the story changes.

The SEC just didn’t cut it this year outside of Alabama and Georgia. As a conference, they were 2-5 outside of the CFP in bowl season. Those wins were against a floundering Michigan team and a slightly above average Louisville team. It wasn’t a good year for them, but admittedly, they still finished as the 2nd best conference this year.

The ACC and Big 12 had similar years, though the Big 12 performed better in the postseason. I would rank them as even for the year, 3A and 3B. The win percentages aren’t that different, the Big 12 having slightly better ones. However, they play a lot less OOC games, so it’s hard to determine if they finished with a good statistical average.

Ranked in 5th is the Pac-12, easily. They were dreadful in the postseason (1-8) and just didn’t play that many P5 teams overall. Their only Bowl win was a 7-6 Utah team against 7-6 WVU. They tied the ACC by losing a conference high 7 games to non-P5 teams throughout the year; however, the Pac-12 did that in eleven less games. The finished with the worst win percentage in each category. It’s an extraordinary fall from 2014, as they had phenomenal results from 2012-2014. But they sure have fallen off since.

Overall, this year proved that top teams can really dictate the narrative of how power is perceived in the college football landscape. All I heard this year was how pathetic Wisconsin’s schedule was, and how the Big 10 is a weak conference and didn’t deserve a playoff spot. Clearly, they did something right, amassing wins throughout the year, especially against other P5 schools. However, Clemson, Oklahoma, Alabama and Georgia dominated the headlines for their exceptionally tough schedules and premier wins from early in the season. I'm not saying the CFP committee got it wrong, but the perception through the season didn't play out on the field. Just because a team is ranked in the top 25 at the beginning of the year, doesn’t mean they are a Top 25 team when it’s all said and done (Looking at you FSU and Tennessee). The Big 10 was undervalued because of preseason narratives, and it’s a shame. They had a great 2017.

[Post edited by hoosnowahokie at 01/12/2018 09:42AM]

Posted: 01/12/2018 at 09:40AM


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Current Thread:
  True this..... ** -- Slider!22 01/12/2018 1:27PM
  ACC definitely had the most "good" teams -- JoesterVT 01/12/2018 12:42PM
  Who are the 6? ** -- reestuart 01/12/2018 3:49PM
  I meant the Big Ten... -- reestuart 01/12/2018 4:39PM
  Thanks for the analysis.... -- 2hhoop3 01/12/2018 09:58AM
  I understand.... -- 2hhoop3 01/12/2018 10:26AM

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