|Daily Blog • March 13, 2014|
Today I am concluding my series on ranking the toughest conferences from this past year. Over the past few days, I have been going over all of my criteria that goes into my rankings including power ratings, bowl records, overall non-conference records, conference records vs BCS conferences and overall record when you take out the conference’s wins vs FCS schools. I also analyzed how many teams they had finishing in the final AP Top 10 and Top 25 poll this past year as well as a sneak peek at how many players from each conference that we will see get drafted in the draft coming up a couple months from now. All of these factors go into my rankings and you can check out the individual category analysis by checking out the blog archives.
Before I get into 2013’s rankings how about a quick look back over the past decade.
In 2003, I put together all the factors (non-conf record, record vs BCS conf, average power ratings and bowl records) and rated the conferences with the SEC narrowly earning the title of 2003's Toughest Conference with the Big Ten and Big 12 finishing very close behind.
For 2004, I eliminated wins vs FCS schools but did include losses vs them. USC had tremendous power rating numbers which are also a part of my equation. During the season the Big 12 had the best non-conf record and a slight lead but USC's demolition of Oklahoma in the Title game had me awarding the Pac-10 its first-ever Toughest Conference Title. The #2 conference was the Big 12, #3 SEC, #4 ACC and the Big Ten was #5.
In '05, the best non-conf record went to the Big 12 at 23-5 (82%), followed by the Big Ten at 26-6 (81%). Against AQ schools the Big Ten was #1 (6-4), with the Pac-10 & Big 12 each at 4-3 and the ACC at 9-7. The MW (5-7) actually had a better record in this category than the Big East (4-9). Only 3 leagues had winning records in bowls (Big 12 5-3, Pac-10 3-2, ACC 5-3). Here is how I ranked the '05 conf's: #1 SEC, #2 ACC, #3 Big Ten, #4 Big 12, #5 Pac-10 and #6 Big East.
In 2006, it appeared late in the year that the Big Ten was the toughest league with Ohio St and Michigan #1 and #2 and Wisconsin not far behind. The Big Ten got blown up in the bowls (2-5) with #1 Ohio St, being dominated by Florida. That dropped the Big Ten to #3.The SEC was the CLEAR #1 with the best record during the regular season vs FBS teams at 32-8 (80%). The lowest mark among the BCS conferences was the ACC at 20-17 (54.1%). Both the MAC and CUSA posted more wins (5) in non-conf BCS games than the Big 12 or ACC!! The SEC led with 41 players drafted followed by the Big Ten (32), then the ACC (31). The Big East only had 16, which was actually 1 behind the WAC! The SEC and Big Ten each had THREE Top 10 teams (Big East 2). The SEC was 6-3 in bowls with 4 wins over ranked teams. The Big East was 5-0 but had only ONE win over a ranked foe. All of the factors above were tossed into my computer and the result was #1 SEC, #2 Big East, #3 Big Ten, #4 Pac-10, #5 ACC, #6 Big 12.
In 2007, it was another finish at the wire with the Big 12 making a huge rebound to #2. The best non-conf record (reg season) vs FBS teams was the Big Ten at 29-7 (80.6%) followed by the Big 12 at 29-11 (72.5%) and then the MW at 70.7%. The MW posted more wins (7) in non-conf BCS games than the Big Ten, Pac-10 or Big 12!! The SEC led again with 35 players drafted, followed by the Pac-10 (34) and the ACC (33). The Big 12 led with FOUR Top 10 teams (SEC 2). The MW (4-1) had the best bowl record! The SEC was 7-2 with 4 wins over ranked teams in bowls, which tied them with the Big 12 for the lead (MW 0). All of the factors above were tossed into my computer and the result was a nail-biting close-win for the SEC. The Big 12 was a hair behind at #2.
In the 2008 regular season there was little doubt that the top 2 conf's were the SEC and the Big 12. The top 4 ranked teams heading into the bowls were all from those 2 conf's. They were the top two in terms of non-conf record vs FBS foes (Big 12 28-10, 73.7%, SEC 28-11, 71.8%). The SHOCKING winner of best record in non-conf games vs BCS schools was the MW at 9-4 (6-1 vs Pac-10) with the ACC at 13-8 (61.9%), the only other conf topping .500 in that category. The Pac-10 was actually 12-17 in non-conf FBS games (8th best). The bowls saved the Pac-10 as they went a perfect 5-0 (4 wins vs rank bowl foes) and finished with 2 Top 10 teams. The SEC went 6-2 in bowls (Big 12 4-3) and won the title game. Five conferences had TWO Top 10 teams at the end but one of them was the MW while the Big East and ACC had NONE. The top 3 conf's in terms of players that were drafted were the SEC with 37, the ACC with 33 and the Pac-10 32. The top 4 conf's of '08 were #1 SEC, #2 Big 12, #3 Pac-10 and for the first time the MW cracked the top 4.
In '09 there was little doubt that once again the SEC was the king but at least the Big Ten made a comeback after their #6 finish in '08. The SEC had the best record in non-conf games vs FBS foes at 36-10 (78%) with the Big East #2 at 26-10 (72%) and the Big Ten #3 at 27-15 (64%). In games vs AQ conf's the SEC was tops at 15-8 (65.2%) and they were the only league above 50%. The MW was #2 at 7-9 (44%). The SEC led with 10 bowl teams (6-4). The Big 12 was 4-4 and the Big Ten was 4-3. The Big Ten's 4 bowl wins were ALL vs ranked teams (SEC 3, Big 12 2, Big East 0). The SEC once again led in draft picks with 49 (Big Ten 34, ACC 31). The Big Ten actually finished with the most AP Top 10 teams (3) while the SEC had two. The top 4 conferences's of '09 were #1 SEC, #2 Big Ten, #3 Big 12 and #4 Big East.
In 2010, the SEC went 36-11 (76.9%) in non-conf gms and went 15-10 (60%) vs other AQ conf's (no other conf above 50%). Their 10 bowl tms were the most as were their 38 draft picks. The Pac-10 had 31 draft picks and two Top 10 tms and might have been #2 but only had 4 bowl teams overall. The Big Ten had 8 bowl tms and despite just 29 players drafted finished a distant #2 to the SEC with a very slight edge over conferences #3, 4 and 5. The Big 12 had just 1 win over a ranked tm in the bowls and 1 Top 10 tm but actually were #2 with 5 top 25 tms. The top 4 conf's of '10 were #1 SEC, #2 Big Ten, #3 Big 12 and #4 Pac-10 (now the Pac 12).
In 2011, the SEC was far and away the best again with 4 Top Ten teams at the end of the year, the most NFL draft picks with 42, the best record (9-3) in non conf BCS games, 3 wins over ranked bowl teams and a 6-3 record in bowls that included a loss to an SEC school (LSU to Bama in Title game). The top 4 conf's of '11 were #1 SEC, #2 Big 12, #3 Big Ten and #4 Pac-12.
In 2012, the Big 12 for the 2nd year in a row had the best record in overall non-conference action with a 26-4 (87%) mark which just edged out the SEC 48-8 (86%). The conference was also 5-1 against BCS conferences. However, in the end, the SEC had a better bowl record at 6-3. Set a record with an amazing 5 teams finishing in the AP Top 10 and then broke the NFL draft record with 70 players drafted as they claimed a 8th straight title. The top 4 conf's of '12 were #1 SEC, #2 Pac-12, #3 Big 12 and #4 Big Ten.
Now to my current rankings for the toughest conferences in 2013 and the NFL Draft will have the final say as far as the rankings go. Some of these conferences are just a couple of total points away from one another and depending on many players get drafted in April could alter these rankings slightly but I can guarantee you that the SEC will rank No. 1 once again for my 9th consecutive year.
Ranking the Toughest Conferences in 2013
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