In my last little brain dump I opined on the idea that a great deal of how conferences perform during the bowl season can be attributed to the matchups. I also stated and supported my opinion that the Big East is a joke and has taken the idea of scheduling for success to a new level. Well, I'm proud to say.....the bowl season has more than proven my point, as I will explain below.
First, let me state that I don't believe that bowls are an indicator of overall conference strength. Because of their nature, the time off, the coaching changes, etc they are not good at determining the strength or weakness of a conference overall. So, the analysis below focuses only on bowl season performance and while it may support the idea that certain conferences are better or worse than others, I will not claim that it proves such.
My goal as I was sitting in the house listening to the kids bicker for the 4th day while it was 10 deg outside and the wind was blowing 30 mph, was to develop a system that provides an objective evaluation of conference performance in the bowl season. I started it with the data I used to determine the Bowl Matchup Factor I described last time (conference standing matchup comparison). I then developed a set of point awards based on who won or lost each game and the matchup. Here is the point system I used.
For this analysis I included each conference that sent a representative to a BCS game a a BCS conference, so games against MWC and WAC count as BCS games (the PAC10 better thank me for that or they would have finished worse than they did).
Win vs BCS conf team 3
Win Vs Non BCS conf team 1
Win +2 1
Win +3 2
Win >+3 3
Win <-4 -1
L -2 -1
L -3 -2
L <-3 -3
L to Non BCS conf team - 3
Example Win +2 means you beat a team that finished more than 2 positions higher in their conference than you did in yours. I consider a game against a team that finished within 1 spot of you an even matchup. Example Auburn, SEC #7 beat Northwestern, Big10 #5, so the SEC got 1 bonus point and the Big10 lost a bonus point.
The points are assigned to each game, totaled for each conference and divided by the number of games played. The final score is an average of the points earned by each team in the conference (comparing total points when the SEC had 10 and the WAC had 4 would be unfair) thus the average.
Assuming every team played an evenly matched team (between -1 and +1) and the conf had a .500 record, the conference average would be 1.5 points per team. Anything above that is good, below that is bad.
From the bottom up....
8. In last place with an amazing average of 0 points per team......the WAC.
A 2-2 records is OK, but the losses were to a non-BCS conference team and a team that finished 2 spots lower in their conference. Both wins were even matchups. So their wins were OK, but their losses were BAD!!! The next time people tell you Boise deserves a shot at the title, remember this, these are the teams they play every year on the way to those unbeaten seasons.
7. Next in line with an average of .571 points per team, the migty and powerfull PAC10.
Talk about not showing up. A 2-5 record, but worse, one of those 2 wins was against Temple from the mighty and powerfull Mid-American Conference. One win against a BCS conference team. They were 1-4 against teams that finished even or +/- 1 in their conference. A lot of people made noise this year that USC wasn't down, the PAC10 was up.....well, the bowl season sure didn't show that.
6. With an utterly amazing (amazing that they did that bad with that schedule) .833 points per game average......the Big East
How is that possible you might ask, they finished 4-2....yes, they did, but if you remember back to last time, they also had a joke schedule two games against non-BCS teams and their games against BCS conference teams averaged almost 3 positions below theirs. Their wins were against -3 and -2 teams.
So, two of their wins were only worth 1 point (congrats to USF and Rutgers next year maybe you can schedule a HS team for a bowl game). But the biggest loser award of the bowl season goes to Big East #2 WVU for managing to get blown out by ACC #5 FSU....earning their confernce a -3 bonus and sealing their fate.
5. Even with a game to play, the Big12 comes in at the number 5 spot. If TX wins, they will have a 1.25 points per team average, if they lose....a Big East worthy .875. Either way they are stuck in the 5 hole.
At this point they have a 4-3 record, but as with the Big East....they have no great wins and two bad losses. Missouri (who battled WVU for the biggest loser award) lost to Navy to earn their conference a -3 bonus....thank the Tigers everyone <Bundy Speak> THANKS TIGERS</BUNDY SPEAK>. Big12 #2 OK State losing to SEC #5 Miss didn't help matters either, earning the Big12 a nice -2 bonus. And it's a real shame the Tigers and Pokes decided to tank it and overshadow nice wins by Neb and TT (allbeit nice for different reasons).
That finishes up the underachievers...we now move on to those that had better than 1.5 averages.
4. The Big10 and the ACC tied with 1.571 points per team averages, but I have to give the Big10 the tie-breaker due to 2 head to head wins and a better winning percentage.
The ACC finished 3-4, but 1 of those wins was #5 FSU's win over Big East #2 WVU. They also received a -1 bonus for Clem's win over -7 Kentucky (the Thank You Bobby bowl realy messed up the ACC bowls this year from a seeding standpoint). In the end, the ACC won the games they were supposed to win, won 1 they weren't supposed to win but didn't do real well in the even matchups. But, they didn't play, or more importantly lose to, any non-BCS teams.
3. The Big 10 had a very Big 10 like Bowl Season and averaged 1.571 points per team. Uremarkable but steady.
They were 4-3, won the even matchups and lost the games they were supposed to lose. The only blemish was #5 Northwestern's loss to SEC #7 Auburn which cost the Big10 -1 bonus points.
2. At number 2, the SEC with a 1.6 per team average, (1.9 if Alabama wins tonight).
OK, I know, how dare I say the SEC is #2 at anything. Well, it's not me, it's the numbers. As of now the SEC is 5-4 with a chance to go 6-4. They have no bad losses and two good wins (Miss over +3 OKstate and Aub over +2 NW). But, they also lost 4 games. Their tough schedule and the bonus points they earned is why they finished above the Big10 and ACC despite similar records (that is the whole idea of this system).
1. The MWC with a fairly remarkable 2.2 points per team average.
A 4-1 Bowl record is impressive. From a subjective standpoint, there is some arguement to be made that the system is set up in their favor. All of their bowl games were against the two conferences that finished last in this analysis (WAC and PAC10) and one Non-BCS team. But, in the end, they won the games and their schedule was OK if not strong.
So that's it. I think it's a pretty fair assesment of how each conference performed this bowl season using facts and numbers. If you disagree, feel free to comment, but please, if you don't agree, bring some facts, not rhetoric.