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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Weekly Rankings

Delving a Little Deeper Into the 1-120

Yesterday’s conference rankings opened a slight Pandora’s box of questions, largely over how specific leagues are impacted by the bottom-feeders — such as in the Pac-12, whose average ranking plummeted over the conference’s second half. And what of the divisions inside certain conferences? Theoretically, the SEC West should be the top-ranked division in college football. But the Big 12 is the highest-ranked conference, so what does that say about the SEC East? Let’s break things down a little further in each league: by divisions, the top half and the bottom half. Again, the listings include the league’s average ranking, the highest-ranked team and the number of teams in the P.S.R. top 25 in parentheses.

By division

The MAC East has seven teams, which doesn’t help that division’s bottom line. Every other division listed has six teams.

1. SEC West (33.8, 1, 3)
2. A.C.C. Coastal (42.8, 13, 1)
3. Big Ten Leaders (44.2, 11, 2)
4. Pac-12 North (44.3, 3, 2)
5. Big Ten Legends (45.2, 8, 3)
6. SEC East (45.5, 14, 2)
7. A.C.C. Atlantic (53.9, 5, 1)
8. Pac-12 South (64.8, 21, 2)
9. Conference USA West (66.8, 18, 1)
10. MAC West (67.3, 45, 0)
11. Conference USA East (78.8, 25, 1)
12. MAC East (92.6, 57, 0)

By top half

Again, the MAC has 13 teams. So I’m going to count its highest-ranked six teams as the top half of the conference. The Big East and Big 12 have 10 teams, so this list involves the top five teams. The WAC and the Mountain West have eight teams, so this lists the top four teams. The Sun Belt has nine teams, which leaves me with a conundrum. The top four or the top five? I’ll use the top four, since it won’t matter much.

1. Big 12 (12.2)
2. SEC (13.7)
3. Big Ten (16.8)
4. Pac-12 (22.8)
5. A.C.C. (25.3)
6. Mountain West (34.0)
7. Big East (37.8)
8. Conference USA (44.7)
9. MAC (58.8)
10. Sun Belt (72.8)
11. WAC (73.3)

By bottom half

Same as above, pretty much. The MAC ranking include seven teams. The Sun Belt contains five teams, not four.

1. Big 12 (52.7)
2. Big Ten (55.8)
3. SEC (65.7)
4. Big East (68.3)
5. A.C.C. (71.3)
6. Pac-12 (86.3)
7. MAC (98.4)
8. WAC (100.3)
9. Conference USA (101.0)
10. Mountain West (102.3)
11. Sun Belt (103.8)

A few conclusions

While it’s only one set of rankings, you begin to see why it’s hard to consider the new Mountain West and Conference USA marriage as one that might lead to an automatic B.C.S. berth. It’s not about the top half; it’s about the bottom halves, which rank 9th and 10th in the country among the 11 conferences — not including the Independents, of course. Those two leagues just aren’t feasible as future B.C.S. members until the bottom half becomes more competitive.

The SEC’s top half remains among the cream of the crop; the top third, the top four teams, is again as good as it gets. But you see that the league as a whole is weaker than in year’s past: while the top half ranks second, behind the Big 12, the bottom half ranks third, behind the Big 12 and Big Ten and just ahead of the Big East.

Does any conference feature a larger dichotomy between the top and the bottom half as the Pac-12? The first six teams: Stanford, Oregon, U.S.C., Arizona State, Washington and California. The bottom six teams: Utah, U.C.L.A., Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona and Colorado. That’s how the Pac-12 ranks last among the B.C.S. conferences after eight weeks.

Give the Big East some credit for consistency, at least. The conference isn’t good — for a B.C.S. league, I should add — but it is deep, with no team ranked higher than No. 23 but no team ranked lower than No. 71. Unfortunately, this parity does provide for losses like the one we saw last Friday night, when Syracuse torched the Big East favorite, West Virginia, by 26 points.

Alone, the MAC West would be the top-rated non-B.C.S. conference. When including the woeful MAC East, however, the conference as a whole drops to 10th overall, ahead of only the WAC and the Sun Belt. The MAC East is easily the worst division in college football. Temple is good and Bowling Green has played well in spurts, but Ohio has been a huge disappointment. The bottom four of Miami (Ohio), Buffalo, Akron and Kent State? That’s as bad a quartet as you’ll find in college football. And those four constitute roughly a third of the MAC as a whole.

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Comments

  1. Josh Hines says:

    This definitely proves that you have much too much time on your hands. But we definitely appriciate it! Keep it up because it is this kind of in depth look that we rarely see and it is definitely interesting to note these types of disparities inside of a conference. Being a fan of the MAC (go Cardinals!), I don’t think Buffalo is terrible. Just a string of bad luck. Bowling Green is definitely inconsistent which just means they can always be the sleeper for any team. Same goes with Ohio. Not terrible, just inconsistent which makes it hard to really rate them against any competitor. Miami though was definitely a let down this year after the terrific year they had last year and you have no qualms from me for saying Akron is one of the worst teams in the nation. Kent State is plain bad too, but they do have potential. Sorta like many of the Sun Belt teams. Who knows, maybe next year Kent State will be the ULL of the MAC. Something interesting to note as well, if the crazyness continues in the MAC and teams keep getting upset inside the conference, we could end up having 8 eligible bowl teams. That certainly has NEVER happened. Crazy.

  2. Monty says:

    I think you’ve got the PAC-12 North and PAC-12 South switched — unless you know something I don’t know about UCLA, I suppose….

  3. Dave says:

    Fantastic analysis. Please re-run after the season is over, to capture all the bowl outcomes!

    Does anyone know if the Big 12(10) will break back into divisions with the addition of TCU, and if so, what they would be?

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