Saturday, January 10, 2009

Comparing the Automatic BCS Bid Conferences

At the end of the 2007 College Football season as well as at the beginning of the 2008 season, many of the pundits argued the ACC and the Big East scored the lowest in terms of collective conference strength, and they substantiated such arguments with solid facts. The ACC had performed atrociously in each of its BCS bowl appearances since the inception of the BCS. The only victory came at the hands of a Florida State win over Virginia Tech, who played in the Big East at the time and now plays in the ACC.

You can't help but cut the Big East some slack in this department. That conference has recently undergone a weakening by three of its powerhouse teams migrating the ACC: Boston College, Miami, and of course Virginia Tech. Considering the challenges that laid ahead of the Big East at the time of that transition, I think the Big East has made a good showing to at least hang on to their automatic BCS bid status.

The ACC, however, has no such excuse. At the time of the transition, the pundits gobbled up the hype and in some cases even began stacking the ACC next to the mighty SEC. The seasons that passed thereafter lead to quite a disappointment in how the ACC performed out of conference and during the bowl season. At the beginning of this season, I stated in a game preview that Virginia Tech should make its number one goal to win in the post season, wherever the post season took them. And of course by that I also suggested that all ACC teams should have had that goal. I have watched the ACC's out of conference performance this season very closely in the hopes of seeing a path towards the conference truly earning the status of which the pundits initially (and unduly) anointed the ACC at the time of its expansion.

I can't make it through a single posting on TSF without citing statistics, and I make no exception for this posting. I've compiled a set of standings in terms of wins and losses between each of the automatic bid conferences. I'm not trying to exclude non-automatic bid conferences for any reason other than this involved a lot of busy work. I don't have the fancy dancy searchable databases at the fingertips of professional commentators. I just compiled data for the automatic bid conferences because it seems a decent, although not perfect, way to compare these conferences. I did some of this by hand, so I apologize up front if there's a couple of errors. But for the most part, they have good data.

Overall Automatic Bid Conference Standings

Conference GP Total W Total L Total W %

SEC 19 11 8 58%
Big 12 22 12 10 55%
Pac 10 15 8 7 53%
ACC 26 13 13 50%
Big East 17 8 9 47%
Big Ten 16 6 10 38%

Let's first examine the overall record of the conferences. These standings include regular season and bowl season inter-conference play. To no real surprise, the SEC comes out on top, and the Big 12 comes in a close second. One surprise lies in who comes in third and fourth and by how many percentage points. This stat shows the Pac 10 to have a very good showing, only trailing the Big 12 by two percentage points. I think we can safely say that Pac 10 fans have been right call foul and claim themselves as an underrated conference this season. The ACC doesn't look too bad either, but this season's performance definitely leave some room for improvement. The Big East still has some headway to make to reestablishing themselves amongst the other automatic-bid'ers, and the Big Ten is hanging down in the basement. These standings give us a good birds eye view about how the conferences have performed with respect to each other, but let's take a further look at this in some different contexts.

Automatic Bid Conference Standings Regular Season Only

Conference GP Reg Season W Reg Season L Reg Season W %

ACC 19 11 8 58%
SEC 14 7 7 50%
Big Ten 10 5 5 50%
Big 12 16 8 8 50%
Big East 14 7 7 50%
Pac 10 11 4 7 36%

Here, we have the conference standings for games only played in the regular season, and this should make ACC fans proud. The ACC leads this category by 8 percentage points over the mighty SEC! I did expect that the ACC would perform better in this category than the previous, but I didn't think they'd come in first, and much less by 8 points. The SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and Big East all tie for the second, and the Pac 10 trails by a whopping 16 percentage points in last place. Maybe I need to retract that statement above about the Pac 10 fans saying their conference is underrated.

Overall Automatic Bid Conference Standings Bowl Season Only

Conf GP Bowl Season W Bowl Season L Bowl Season W %

Pac 10 4 4 0 100%
SEC 5 4 1 80%
Big 12 4 3 1 75%
Big East 3 1 2 33%
ACC 7 2 5 29%
Big Ten 8 2 6 25%

These standings only include bowl season contests. Continuing the Pac 10's schizophrenic storyline, they blow everybody else out of the water by running the table in all their bowl season games. That's impressive. So my conclusion about the Pac 10 is they deserve the award for most streaky conference amongst the automatic bid'ers. The SEC of course still holds it's own, along with the Big 12, but the percentages drop drastically after that. The Big East, ACC, and Big Ten performed quite poorly in the bowl season. The ACC has had this as an Achilles heel since the inception of the BCS. Virginia Tech did its part this year, so we Hokie fans have good reason to be proud. Hopefully, we'll get another bowl victory next year, but against a more reputable conference like the SEC or the Big 12. But what happened to Miami? I think their game against Cal may have made for the worst display of clock management, in both halves, that I have every witnessed in my entire football (college or pro) watching life! Then, Boston College drops one to Vanderbilt? I know Vanderbuild hails from the SEC, but come on, they aren't LSU or Auburn. Georgia Tech definitely had their hands full against LSU, but they should have at least made it into the end zone. Clemson put up a good fight against Nebraska, but couldn't pull out the W. But let's hand it to Florida State for punishing Wisconsin for bailing on the Hokies' inter-conference matchup. Then again, the game that replaced it, versus Nebraska, went pretty well. Getting back to the standings, the ACC played the inverse role of the Pac 10 this season: great in the regular season and poor in the bowl season. If the ACC wants to earn more recognition, it needs to improve its bowl season play considerably. Performing will in the regular season definitely has its value, but the bowl season has the most visibility and the most emphasized chatter between the pundits.

Automatic Bid Conference Standings Overall
excluding points differential of a single possession

Conference GP Total W Total L Total W %

ACC 18 11 7 61%
SEC 15 9 6 60%
Big Ten 10 5 5 50%
Big 12 17 8 9 47%
Pac 10 10 4 6 40%
Big East 10 3 7 30%

So I decided to list the standings of the automatic bid'ers again, but this time with a twist. I removed all the games that ended in a score differential of one possession. Think about this. Those games really could have gone either way, and the clock played a significant role in who earned the W. So in this category, the ACC just barely squeaks by the SEC with the highest win percentage. This shows that the ACC, despite some key losses, may have the poise to come out on top of all the other conferences if it makes a few adjustments and pulls out wins in those close games that go down to the final possession. I don't mean to undermine the value of a team that demonstrates time after time that it can win the close games. That is very important, and let's face, it makes for the most exiting type of football. All this stated, the ACC just may have a break out season in 2009 or 2010.

Automatic Bid Conference Standings Regular Season Only
excluding points differential of a single possession

Conf GP Reg Season W Reg Season L Reg Season W %

Big Ten 4 4 0 100%
ACC 10 8 2 80%
SEC 10 5 5 50%
Big 12 9 4 5 44%
Pac 10 11 4 5 36%
Big East 9 2 7 22%

Automatic Bid Conference Standings Bowl Season Only
excluding points differential of a single possession

Conf GP Bowl Season W Bowl Season L Bowl Season W %

Big East 1 1 0 100%
Pac 10 1 1 0 100%
SEC 4 3 1 75%
Big Ten 6 2 4 33%
ACC 3 1 2 33%
Big 12 1 0 1 0%

In conclusion, I think the ACC did make a positive step towards strengthening the conference name. A strong regular season of inter-conference play definitely has boosted the perception of strength of the ACC. The poor bowl season performance will most likely overshadow the strong regular season, however, but there is a positive side to that. If you know your conference has strengthened, but you opponents don't quite recognize it, they may not see you coming, and that may be worth a major upset or two in '09 in favor of the ACC.

Lastly, this table includes all the games I used in these standings for your reference. And as always, LET'S GO HOKIES!

Match Winner Loser Season W Points L Points Differential
Iowa vs. Pittsburgh Big East Big Ten Regular 21 20 1
West Virginia vs. North Carolina Big East ACC Bowl 31 30 1
Mississippi vs. Wake Forest ACC Big 12 Regular 30 28 2
Vanderbilt vs. Boston College SEC ACC Bowl 16 14 2
Tennessee vs. UCLA SEC Pac 10 Regular 27 24 3
Kansas vs. South Florida Big East SEC Regular 37 34 3
Vanderbilt vs. Duke ACC SEC Regular 10 7 3
Baylor vs. Connecticut Big East Big 12 Regular 31 28 3
Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State Pac 10 Big East Bowl 3 0 3
Ohio State vs. Texas Big 12 Big Ten Bowl 24 21 3
West Virginia vs. Colorado Big 12 Big East Regular 17 14 3
Rutgers vs. NC State Big East ACC Regular 33 29 4
Northwestern vs. Duke Big Ten ACC Regular 24 20 4
Nebraska vs. Clemson Big 12 ACC Bowl 26 21 5
Virginia Tech vs. Nebraska ACC Big 12 Regular 35 30 5
Oregon vs. Purdue Pac 10 Big Ten Regular 32 26 6
Miami vs. California Pac 10 ACC Bowl 24 17 7
Michigan State vs. California Pac 10 Big Ten Regular 38 31 7
Northwestern vs. Missouri Big 12 Big Ten Bowl 30 23 7
California vs. Maryland ACC Pac 10 Regular 35 27 8
Kansas State vs. Louisville Big East Big 12 Regular 38 29 9
Oklahoma vs. Florida SEC Big 12 Bowl 24 14 10
Illinois vs. Missouri Big 12 Big Ten Regular 52 42 10
Oregon vs. Oklahoma State Pac 10 Big 12 Bowl 42 31 11
Iowa State vs. Iowa Big Ten Big 12 Regular 17 5 12
Michigan State vs. Georgia SEC Big Ten Bowl 24 12 12
Vanderbilt vs. Wake Forest ACC SEC Regular 23 10 13
Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati ACC Big East Bowl 20 7 13
Penn State vs. USC Pac 10 Big Ten Bowl 38 24 14
Kansas vs. Oklahoma Big 12 SEC Regular 45 31 14
Georgia vs. Arizona State SEC Pac 10 Regular 27 10 17
South Carolina vs. Clemson ACC SEC Regular 31 14 17
Auburn vs. West Virginia Big East SEC Regular 34 17 17
Miami vs. Texas A&M ACC Big 12 Regular 41 23 18
Colorado vs. Florida State ACC Big 12 Regular 39 21 18
Syracuse vs. Northwestern Big Ten Big East Regular 30 10 20
Iowa vs. South Carolina Big Ten SEC Bowl 31 10 21
Minnesota vs. Kansas Big 12 Big Ten Bowl 42 21 21
Miami vs. Florida SEC ACC Regular 26 3 23
Alabama vs. Clemson SEC ACC Regular 34 10 24
Kentucky vs. Louisville SEC Big East Regular 27 2 25
Connecticut vs. North Carolina ACC Big East Regular 38 12 26
Cincinnati vs. Oklahoma Big 12 Big East Regular 52 26 26
Oklahoma State vs. Washington State Big 12 Pac 10 Regular 39 13 26
Washington State vs. Baylor Big 12 Pac 10 Regular 45 17 28
Wisconsin vs. Florida State ACC Big Ten Bowl 42 13 29
Florida vs. Florida State SEC ACC Regular 45 15 30
Oregon State vs. Penn State Big Ten Pac 10 Regular 45 14 31
Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech ACC Big 12 Regular 38 7 31
North Carolina vs. Rutgers ACC Big East Regular 44 12 32
Ohio State vs. USC Pac 10 Big Ten Regular 35 3 32
South Carolina vs. NC State SEC ACC Regular 34 0 34
Georgia Tech vs. LSU SEC ACC Bowl 38 3 35
Virginia vs. Connecticut Big East ACC Regular 45 10 35
Oklahoma vs. Washington Big 12 Pac 10 Regular 55 14 41
Arkansas vs. Texas Big 12 SEC Regular 52 10 42
Penn State vs. Syracuse Big Ten Big East Regular 55 13 42
Virginia vs. USC Pac 10 ACC Regular 52 7 45


mainaman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mainaman said...

Those comparisons are looking nice on paper however they are fairly inaccurate, because the number of games played per conference is not equal, the percentages will change if each conference played the same number of games(actually they have to play the same opponents too). You can't get accurate statistics based on performance over several seasons either, because teams have rebuilding years etc. The only way to draw a meaningful conclusion is to have a sample for one year with all conferences playing equal number of games and also they should play the same teams , all this is impossible and imo the number crunching is used by people that like to prove a theory of theirs, by twisting the data however they like.
This is not a critique towards you, its just my opinion of using this type of statistics to determine the best conference or team for that matter.

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadJay said...

My own view is that until the ACC produces a top 5 caliber team, no one outside of the ACC cares about the conference or will listen to any argument about how good or not good the conference might be.

That said I expect 2009 will see two Top 10 caliber ACC teams (Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech) and a third potential one (Florida State). Three ACC teams in the top 15 with even one in the Top 5 will end this crap about the conference being "weak" in football.

Brian "Where's The Ice?" said...

mainaman, you do correctly observe that this comparison has some elements of inaccuracy, and in the exact ways that you state, but it's the closest attempt I've seen across most commentary. Most simply put up the bowl season statistics and leave it at that. I think it goes much deeper than just the bowl season. So with its imperfections, I still think these statistics shed more light than what we typically see on sports shows and read in sports columns. And yes, doing this across multiple year makes most sense, which I (or somebody at TSF) plan to do for seasons to come while looking back on the past season upon which TSF has examined. Thank you for your comment.