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The Conference Debate – Week 2

With the Big Ten as the best conference in the country, Michigan State should be #1, not #5 (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
With the Big Ten as the best conference in the country, Michigan State should be #1, not #5 (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Week Two of the BCS standings brings even more turmoil that Week One. With two undefeated teams going down last weekend, the seven remaining are scrambling to remain in contention for the crystal ball. With only two of the still-undefeated teams playing each other, the strength of schedule becomes more and more important, as the year goes on. That strength of schedule, of course, is based primarily on conference play, and, thus, on how strong your conference is.


Now, I know that I said that I wouldn't rehash the method of calculation again, but my methods changed, sorry. Using the suggestions from last week's comments, I have come up with three new formulas (and datasets) to base the scores on, then use them to create the final score.


The average conference points is, simply put, the same conference points from last week, simply divided by the number of schools in the conference, then divided by two (this was to keep the potential points on target with the rest of the components). This calculation shows how strong the average team in the conference is, in the voters minds. The parity is a calculation of the in-conference record (even is worth 10, +/- one is worth 9, etc.), averaged out. This calculation shows the average strength of a team in a conference vs. another team in the same conference, thus showing how well balanced the conference is.


There is then the OCC score, which is the out of conference record (the w-l is the total points a team gets) averaged out, then multiplied by 2 (to even out the points). This calculation shows how well the average team in one conference does against the average team in all the other conferences (including FCS). Finally, there is the final score, which is simply an average of the three previous scores. This score should show which conference is the best overall, and when you take an average team from one conference, how it would do against an average team from another.


Okay, now, hopefully, I will never have to repeat those again...

Average Conference Points

When people see conferences with 5 teams ranked 20-25, and a conference with one team ranked 1 and one ranked 15, they often start arguing over which conference is better. Is it the one with the best team in the nation, one good team, and several bad ones? Or is it the one with 5 good teams, and several bad ones? By assigning points to the positions, and averaging it out, one can easily see which conference in the nation is the best, simply by their rankings.


Winner: The SEC


This week, the Conference Points factor was won by the SEC with an average of 3.17, that is, an average ranking of 23 for every team in the conference. This is a large gain for the conference, who last week averaged 2.92 and were in second behind the Big 12. This means that the voters believe that, on average, the SEC has stronger teams that then rest of the nation. As a curiosity, with no teams ranked, the Big East has a big, fat 0 in this category.


[Considering next year, the SEC would still be winning this category, but would be struggling to hold off the surging Big 10 and their average of 3.]


SEC – 3.17 (3.17)

Big Ten – 2.73 (3)

Big Twelve – 2.46 (2.35)

Pac Ten – 2.4 (2.75)

MWC – 2.22 (2.25)

WAC – 1.39 (0)

ACC - .71 (.71)

Big East – 0 (0)




Parity is a measure in which you can see how, on average, a conference will play against itself. While this does not adequately address conferences with clear and distinct tiers of great and horrific (see the WAC), it does handle conferences with a gradual slope from good to horrific (see the Big East). By looking at the parity of a conference, one can see how good the average team in that conference is, compared to the rest of the conference. This shows the internal strength of a conference.


Winner: The Big East


There really is no surprise that the Big East won this factor with 9.25 points; they are probably the favorites to win this every week. The Big East has no undefeated team, no ranked team, and no real national-picture team this year. This results in the conference beating itself up, which helps its rankings immensely. While the Big 12 will continue to try and close the gap, the Big East has a whole .6 points on them, and will probably continue to hold their spot throughout the year.


[Looking at next year, the Big East still will defend their #1 spot, fending off a slightly closer Big 12.]


Big East – 9.25 (9.25)

Big 12 – 8.67 (8.8)

Pac-10 – 8.4 (8.08)

Big Ten – 8.18 (8.25)

SEC – 8 (8)

WAC – 8 (7.83)

ACC – 7.83 (7.83)

MWC – 7.78 (7.9)




While parity will show you how a conference is internally, the OCC average will show you how a conference is doing against other conferences. This score, while it gives some help to schools that play cupcakes, will serve to show how well the average team from one conference would do against the average team from another. In other words, the ranking should show you the average W-L ratio for a team in that conference when playing a team from another.


Winner: The Big Ten


There really is no question as to why The Big Ten is the winner of this factor – they have six 4-0 teams in their conference, and the rest of the teams have a fairly good record. The Big Ten, with their 4.91 points, easily is keeping the Big 12 and their 4.67 points away. The interesting thing about these results, however, are the clear groupings that emerge: The Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC are clearly the best when playing another conference; the Pac-10, Big East, and ACC are the second grouping, winning half of the time; finally, the third grouping is the MWC and WAC, many of which have their teams beaten during the season by the upper tier.


[When considering this for 2011, the Big Ten continues to hold off the competition, beating the Big 12 by almost a whole point. Interesting to note is that the WAC goes from .89 to -2 in one year, meaning that their strongest teams will be leaving the conference.]


Big Ten – 4.91 (5.17)

Big 12 – 4.67 (4.4)

SEC – 4 (4)

Pac-10 – 2.4 (3)

Big East – 2 (2)

ACC – 1.67 (1.67)

WAC - .89 (-2)

MWC – 0 (1.6)




Final Score

While all three of these factors (and as many more as you could conceive of) could be used to determine which conference is the best, combining them creates the best illustration of how good a conference really is. While Parity is nice, is it really better than OCC? This combination allows for an user to view all of the main factors, and then see what conference really is the dominant one.


Winner: The Big Ten


While this might come as a surprise to some people, there is no question that the Big Ten should be considered one of the top conferences in the nation. The conference, with its 5.27 points, barely holds off the Big 12 and their 5.26 points. This is a switch from last week, where the two conferences flipped places, and the Big 12 was winning. While this might not hold true when playing against the Big 12, this win means that the average Big 10 team would win against an average team from any other conference. An interesting note is that the MWC, a conference with two teams in the top-10, is at the bottom of the standings.


[Considering next year, the Big 10s margin would grow larger, as they would gain .2 points, and the Big 12 would lose some. Likewise, the MWC would be benefited, as they would move from the bottom of the standings to the middle.]


Big Ten – 5.27 (5.47)

Big 12 – 5.26 (5.18)

SEC – 5.06 (5.06)

Pac-10 – 4.4 (4.61)

Big East – 3.75 (3.75)

WACC – 3.43 (1.94)

ACC – 3.4 (3.4)

MWC – 3.33 (3.95)



This makes you wonder, Why is the best team from the best conference ranked 5th in the nation, while the best team from the worst is ranked 4th?


If you want to see this years rankings (past, present, and future), the math, and/or the trends, check out my current spread sheet HERE. For the results concerning next year's changes, please check it out Here.