Conference Scorecard: SEC closes strong
All season long, we've tracked college football's six BCS conferences, charting their records against teams from other BCS leagues to determine their relative strengths against each other. And while bowl season is a big part of how the BCS leagues are perceived, the regular season has ended and we can report the final results of 50 regular-season games that pitted one BCS league against another.
Thanks to a 3-0 sweep against the ACC this past weekend with wins from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, the SEC has finished as a resounding winner, with a 10-4 record against teams from other BCS leagues, and a 42-6 overall nonconference record from its teams.
The only other leagues to finish with a winning record against non-conference BCS opponents were the Big East (9-7) and the Pac-10 (8-7). After getting swept by the SEC this weekend, the ACC finishes 9-11, while the Big Ten struggled to a 5-9 mark and the Big 12 had the worst mark at 4-7. Notre Dame finished its season 5-5 against BCS competition.
Here's the final chart entering bowl competition:
SEC 42-6 (.875) 10-4
Big East 32-8 (.800) 9-7
Pac-10 21-10 (.677) 8-7
ACC 30-18 (.625) 9-11
Big Ten 31-11 (738) 5-9
Big 12 35-13 (.729) 4-7
We've also tracked the five non-BCS leagues in I-A football and how they've fared as "BCS Busters." They've taken a big step back from last season -- in 2008, those leagues went 24-80 against BCS teams, and this year, they're 16-86, with two games remaining (Fresno State-Illinois and Wisconsin-Hawaii).
The Mountain West, which went 9-5 last season, had the best record at 5-9. Conference USA, which went 2-21 a year ago, got twice as many BCS wins, going 4-21. The Western Athletic, which went 5-12 last year, stumbled to a 2-11 mark, as did the Mid-American Conference, which went 6-22 last season but just 3-26 this fall. The Sun Belt was reliable, going 2-20 last season and going 2-19 in 2009.
One more metric I figured I'd use is to compare the preseason AP top 25 with the current AP poll (we can visit this again after the season) to see how conferences as a whole were overvalued or undervalued. If you assign a point value based on the preseason ranking and current ranking (using 26 for any unranked team), you'll see the Big East -- which had no ranked teams in the initial AP poll -- carries an aggregate value of plus -35, with the Mountain West (+13) and Big Ten (+10) as the other big overachievers from their national preseason expectations. The Pac-10 was at plus-2 -- USC is 16 spots lower than anticipated, but that's offset by Oregon and Oregon State, who are nine and 13 spots higher than they were in preseason. The ACC is at minus-4, and the two leagues who entered the season with highest expectations, the SEC and Big 12, are respectively minus-32 and minus-35.
Both the SEC and Big 12 had five teams in the preseason top 25, but those leagues now have just three each. The Pac-10, which had three in preseason, now leads the way with five; all six BCS leagues have at least three for impressive parity among the top conferences.
We'll revisit the standings and records after bowl season -- hard to imagine the SEC not finishing with the best record, but the rest of the pack could still see a lot of change.