College Football: Power conferences’ weakest links tell a bigger story


This article is two fold. I was listening to an Arkansas based sports station the other day, essentially talking about the overwhelming dominance of the SEC.

The SEC as a whole is the strongest. They have all the titles, they have the best teams in the nation. I’ll preface this by saying yes, teams from the SEC conference won an impressive number of titles. Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Florida, they all won during that stretch.

However, listening to what the radio hosts over in Arkansas (SEC Country), were saying, I also was thinking about what Bob Stoops said a year ago. You know:

"“It depends on who you want to listen to. . .Listen, [The SEC] had the best team in college football, meaning they’ve won the national championship. That doesn’t mean everything else is always the best. . .So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you. . .You’re more than smart enough to figure it out. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?” – Bob Stoops (via The Tulsa World)"

As an Oklahoma Sooners fan, I can pretty well speak for all of Sooner Nation, that the win over Alabama was just awesome. It not only validated what Bob Stoops was saying, but OU gashed them through the air for 348 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. Stoops’ defense manhandled the Crimson Tide offense—seven sacks and five turnovers.

They was able to do this to one of the best programs the SEC had to offer in 2013. That brought validity to the statement, that the notion SEC football is head and shoulders above all other teams is simply propaganda. We know who the good teams are, and what they did in 2013. But, how did the bottom of the barrel stack up compared to other conference bottom feeders?

Before we continue further into this thought tank article, I want to explain the process of which I went through. I took the numbers in the regular season. Not counting conference championships or bowl games. Just the regular season overall win loss record for every conference. The other 4 conferences are pretty well the same. With in 1-2 percentage. The SEC was the only conference in the 60 percentile for winning. As seen below:

2013 Overall Conference Win Percentage:

  1. SEC (.617)
  2. Pac 12 (.586)*
  3. Big Ten (.576)
  4. ACC (.571)
  5. Big 12 (.567)

*USC had played 13 games in the regular season.

Okay. Partly not much of a surprise. The SEC is a good conference. They have good teams. Some in the media will have you believe that they are the best football conference from top to bottom. But what happens when you take the top teams out of the equation. I took the bottom 5 teams, bottom 6 teams, and the bottom 7 teams and calculated their winning percentages. Something interesting happens:

Bottom 5
1. Pac 12 (.367)
T2. Big Ten, Big 12, ACC (.350)
3. SEC (.333)

Bottom 6
1. Big 12 (.403)
T2. Big Ten, Pac 12 (.389)
T3. ACC, SEC (.375)

Bottom 7
1. Big 12 (.440)
2. SEC (.417)
T3. ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 (.392)

Whoa. The SEC tanks once you remove the top teams. The ACC does as well. The Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac 12 appear to have higher percentages at the bottom. They do seem to do better in the Bottom 7 category. Of course, you can spin this how ever you want. Like for example: “Hahahahaha” You’re dumb. This proves the SEC is dominant because we dominated the bad teams in the conference easily. The other conferences don’t do that”

Sep 7, 2013; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Eric Striker (19) in action against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

But that is the point of this article. Can you really determine the overall strength of every team in the conference by how bad the top teams can easily beat up the lower level teams? Not necessarily. You could also make the argument, that conferences who have extremely weak teams at the bottom, are essentially spoon fed to the Alabama’s or Florida State’s of the world.

Can conference strength be determined by how many national titles have been won? The answer to this is “No”. I say that because, Alabama went on that three title run. Their conference, the SEC did not. No more than the ACC won the title for Florida State, or the Big 12 won it for Oklahoma in 2000.

I also write this to bring up another point to consider. The College Football Playoff. Looking at these numbers, you can’t say that an SEC team is a sure thing for one of the four spots. You know they will have a team in the playoff, but if we look at conference strength, RPI and what have you, if your bottom half is such a weak group in terms of wins and losses, it should factor into the selection process.

The Big Ten has been considered a conference that would not make it to the playoff due to the perceived weakness. Looking at the bottom half and running the numbers, the Big Ten did fairly well.

The playoff selection committee hopefully will consider this when the selection process unfolds. It should go with out saying seeing some of these percentages, that conferences should take a strong look at their bottom level teams. Improving those teams can only help in the RPI. Playing strong non-conference games can help to limit the damage from weak conference members. Though, this can only take a team so far. In regards to what Coach Stoops said, the numbers don’t lie, they are spot on with what he said. Those comments now go hand in hand with being successful in the new national title scene. More than you know.