We think about college football 24/7 so you don't have to.

The Countdown

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

Weekly Rankings

How the Conferences Rank, 1-12: Week 3

As an accompanying post to today’s re-ranking, here’s the entire F.B.S. conference breakdown in terms of average P.S.R. 1-124 ranking. It’s not entirely fair to include the Independent programs among the true conferences, seeing that there’s only four Independent teams, but it does give a slight slice-of-life taste of where that quartet stands in the big picture. The listings include the average ranking, highest team ranking and number of teams in the top 25 in parentheses. Without further ado:

1. Big 12 (33.4, 8, 5)
2. SEC (38.7, 1, 7)
3. Pac-12 (42.5, 3, 4)
4. Big Ten (48.8, 7, 2)
5. A.C.C. (51.8, 4, 3)
6. Independent (52.3, 17, 2)
7. Big East (60.8, 27, 0)
8. Mountain West (79.8, 22, 1)
9. WAC (79.9, 29, 0)
10. MAC (86.9, 18, 1)
11. Conference USA (88.5, 49, 0)
12. Sun Belt (91.2, 50, 0)

Thoughts? It’s the Big 12 above the rest – and if not with a bullet, by a fairly high margin. It’s not surprising: the SEC is better along the top slice, but the Big 12 is by far the deepest league in college football. Nine Big 12 programs rank in the top 54, from West Virginia through Texas Tech; the only team piggybacking on the upper crust is Kansas, which lost to a food product on Saturday.

In contrast, the SEC has three teams hanging onto the top tier’s coattails: Auburn, Mississippi and Kentucky – doubly on the latter pair. Would the SEC’s best beat the Big 12’s best? I think that’s a safe presumption. But would the Big 12 beat the SEC in some sort of basketball-like challenge?

I’d give the Big 12 the edge – I think. Consider the breakdown, using this week’s rankings and some sort of formula to match the SEC’s 14 teams with the Big 12’s 10 teams. Alabama would play West Virginia; L.S.U. and Texas; Georgia and Oklahoma; Kansas State and South Carolina; T.C.U. and Mississippi State; Baylor and Missouri; Oklahoma State and Arkansas.

And so on. At the very least, the Big 12’s wall-to-wall depth – everyone but Kansas – threatens the idea that the SEC is the undisputed belt-holder among the B.C.S. conferences. Then again, Alabama or L.S.U. would beat any team the Big 12 sent into the B.C.S., based off what we know today, so the theory is, in the end, utterly meaningless.

The Pac-12 made a move up to third at the Big Ten’s expense, thanks in large part to two major non-conference wins from U.C.L.A. and Oregon State. The WAC is right on the Mountain West’s heels after Utah State’s 33-spot leap. The Big East remains entrenched as the worst B.C.S. conference, though there’s a larger gap between the Big East and the Mountain West than in the recent past.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Home  Home


  1. Aaron says:

    I’m a little shocked that the Big Ten is still in the top four.

  2. CUSA Sucks says:

    How is CUSA not last? They will be very soon with all the FCS call-ups and take root there.

  3. TOP 2 says:

    Top two should be Big 12 and PAC-12.

    SEC is (and has been for a while) VERY overrated.

    The Big Ten is really down this year.

    ACC – meh.

    MWC and MAC are both better than Big East.

    WAC is showing well in its swan song.

    Sun Belt, great win by UL Warhawks, but still in bottom two.

    CUSA is the BOTTOM conference.

  4. BobJ says:

    The Pac-12 wasn’t supposed to be very good this year, but Colorado and WSU aside, this weekend was a surprise. Utah losing Jordan Wynn explains a lot.

  5. Misthaufen says:

    The B12 is the deepest conference and will likely pay the price –no team in the BCS title game because its champ will have 2 or more lossed.

    The B12 needs to go to 12 or 14 teams, just so they have some bad teams to beat up…..

  6. Greg says:

    Losing Wynn might explain why Utah lost, but they looked a whole lot better after he went down. Honestly Paul I’m surprised you brought Utah State up so much, judging by you numbers here I’d think you favoring Utah astate over Wisconsin.

  7. jwolf says:

    sportswriters are so shallow. Let’s look at the non-conf. opponents and see who beat the best non-conf. opponents after 5 weeks into the schedule. Then you might have a story.

  8. tmcd65 says:

    How is it that he missed that Oklahoma is listed as #5 in the polls. He shows the top B12 ranking as #8, which is WVU, but OU is still in the top 5 for now. And he has the top ACC team as #4, when FSU is #6.

  9. Brad says:

    The only people that compare the bottom quarter of a conference are fans of bad conferences. The SEC has the #1 and #2 teams in the country, more teams in the Top 10 (4) than any other conference, and more teams in the Top 25 (6) than any other conference (with two more on the doorstep).

    In a sport where 2 losses knocks you out of the playoffs, that’s MUCH more challenging than playing a bunch of #11-25 teams.

  10. Brad says:

    My idea of the toughest schedule is the one that presents the most great teams, not the one with the most good teams. To that point, here is the average ranking for the top six teams in each conference:

    WAC – 85
    SunBelt – 75
    CUSA – 61
    MAC – 51
    MWC – 51
    Big East – 49
    ACC – 24
    Big 10 – 21
    Pac-12 – 16
    Big 12 – 15
    SEC – 10

    Paul: Very cool. Great work, Brad. Here’s another way to look at it, folks. Hat tip to Brad.

  11. Brad says:

    And here are the bottom 4 teams from each conference:

    MAC – 118
    CUSA – 115
    SunBelt – 113
    WAC – 109
    MWC – 102
    Big East – 94
    Pac-12 – 90
    ACC – 88
    Big 10 – 84
    SEC – 75
    Big 12 – 73

    Go on about how talented the Big 12 is…

  12. Brad says:

    I should note that my rankings are based on Jerry Palm’s CBSSports.com 124. I tend to believe he is an absolute moron when it comes to ranking college football teams, but he’s the only major outlet that ranks them all 1-124.


  13. Woodysc says:

    Averaging rankings is meaningless. Read ch.1 of any intr to statistics book on types of data and the type of calculations that can be done with them. By averaging rankings, you are treating the difference between each ranking the same. That is, you are saying that the difference between the #1 team and the #25 team is exactly the same as the difference between the #100 team and the #124 team.
    Since the rankings themselves are subjective, why not just give a subjective conference ranking? It would be more meaningful and you wouldn’t have to worry about being used as an example of bad math in college stats courses.

  14. Brad says:

    OK, ignore the averages. Which conference provides the biggest challenges toward winning a Championship?

    #1 TEAM


    SEC – 3
    Pac-12 – 1
    ACC – 1

    TOP 10 TEAMS
    SEC – 4
    Pac-12 – 2
    ACC – 2
    Big 12 – 2

    TOP 25 TEAMS
    SEC – 6
    Pac-12 – 5
    Big 12 – 5
    Big 10 – 4
    ACC – 2
    Ind – 1
    Big East – 1
    MWC – 1

    TOP 50 TEAMS
    SEC – 8
    Big 12 – 7
    Big 10 – 7
    Pac 12 – 6
    ACC – 6
    Big East – 4
    IND – 3
    MAC – 3
    CUSA – 2
    MWC – 2
    Sun Belt – 1
    WAC – 1

    SEC – 0
    Big 10 – 0
    ACC – 1
    IND – 1
    Big 12 – 1
    Big East – 1
    Pac 12 – 1
    MWC – 2
    Sun Belt – 3
    WAC – 4
    CUSA – 4
    MAC – 6

    Only the Big 12 and Big 10 have a higher percentage of conference teams ranked in the Top 50.

  15. Brad says:

    Summary: No conference has more teams in the Top 1, Top 2, Top 5, Top 10, Top 25, or Top 50, and no conference has fewer teams in the Bottom 25.

Leave a Comment