To set up the discussion of the comparable strengths of the different BCS conferences, we're gonna review last season in great detail. First of all, I am going to add the MWC in with the other BCS conferences, and I am also going to add Boise State to the conversation. I am not going to argue why at this time, just know that I will include them in the conversation, present all the facts, and they you can decide if they belong in the conversation or not.
The only way to compare one BCS conference against another is to look at the Out Of Conference (OOC) games between BCS (and MWC & BSU) teams and see how they did last year. For example, Alabama played Utah and Clemson. Those were the only games Alabama played last year, including the bowl games, against teams from other BCS conferences.
Just a real quick shout out for Boise State - they beat Oregon, and lost to TCU last year. Not much to examine here, but they have shown the ability to play with anyone year in and year out.
Now for the combined conference records for OOC games against other BCS schools by conference:
The ACC - 15 and 13 - Not bad
The Big East - 9 and 9 - OK
The Big 10 - 6 and 12 - Yup, they sucked bad last year
The Pac 10 - 11 and 12 - Thankfully they did OK in the bowls, otherwise it was ugly
The Big 12 - 13 and 12 - Not as great as you would expect
The SEC - 11 and 12 - Shockingly mediocre record
So on the surface, except for the Big 10 which we will examine in detail, it appears that there is parity amongst the BCS conferences. So how did the MWC do overall last season?
The MWC went 11 and 5 - WOW! Pretty great record, surprisingly so.
OK, so for those of you who are thinking that only the top of the MWC plays any BCS teams, and somehow things are skewed, lets look a little closer, just to get the facts out.
The MWC includes the following teams in order of their rank in the conference at the end of the season stricktly based on number of wins for '08:
5) Colorado State
6) New Mexico
8) San Diego State
Now, lets look at the bottom 4 teams of the conference. Did they play any BCS teams, and how did they do? Combined, the bottom four teams played: Arizona State, Arizona, Iowa State, Texas A&M and Tennessee.
OK, now of those 5 teams, one of them was a true bottom feeder in their BCS conference - Iowa State. But the others were teams that finished near the middle of their conference. Even Tennessee, which had a horrible year last year tied for the middle of their SEC conference last year.
And how did the bottom feeders of the MWC do against the middle to lower end of the BCS conferences? They went 4-1, only loosing to Texas A&M. Everyone says that other conferences are tougher top to bottom. Really? When the MWC goes 4-1 against the middle to lower end of the 'power conferences' how do you figure that? When Wyoming, a team that had 1 in-conference win, can go to Tennessee and beat a Tennessee team that went 3 - 5 in-conference, how is the bottom of the MWC so bad?
These are the results, not opinions. The reason for this blog is that everyone has an opinion, especially about the BCS conferences and the non-BCS conferences. But rarely are those opinions formed after careful consideration of the facts.
So how about the top half of the MWC, who did they play from the BCS conferences?
Alabama, Michigan, Oregon State, Stanford, Oklahoma, Boise State, Washington, UCLA, Arizona, Colorado & California
11 Games including these powerhouses last year - Alabama, Oregon State, Oklahoma & Boise State. That is NOT a patsy schedule. Only one of those teams - Washington - was a true bottom feeder last year. Michigan and UCLA finished in the bottom half of their conferences, but were decent teams. So this isn't a situation where the top of one conference takes advantage of the bottom of the other conferences.
The record of the MWC against all 11 OOC BCS teams: 7-4. Compare that stat to the top of any league, much less the league as a whole, and you start to get the picture of why the MWC went to battle on Capital Hill over the summer.
The MWC is as solid top to bottom, based on wins/losses against BCS teams, as any other conference in the nation. I challenge anyone to look at wins/losses and conclude certainly that the MWC doesn't belong.
So let's look at another conference, say the Big 10. Who did they play, and how did they do, and why?
First of all, the bottom six teams in the conference only played 5 games OOC against BCS schools. And they lost all 5. That's the bad news, but the consolation stat is that three of those 5 games were played against teams at or near the top of their league - Utah, Florida State & I'll throw in Oregon. Missouri and Kansas ended up near the middle of the Big 12. So the bottom half of the Big 10 didn't play many OOC BCS games, and when they did, they were playing the top half of the other conferences, so no shock that they lost all 5 games. But still, 0-5 has gotta hurt. And Michigan is included in that bottom half, so you would think that they could have helped out a bit even with a very poor year last year.
Now for the top 5 teams in the Big 10 - they played a total of 13 games and went 6-7. Even the top of the Big 10 couldn't manage a winning record against non-conference BCS teams. Even though the top half of the Big 10 played a bunch of bottom feeders like Syracuse - twice, Iowa State and Duke. So 4 of the 13 games should be gimme's, and they still only managed to win two out of the remaining 9 games?!?!? They beat South Carolina and Oregon State. Woo Hoo. Not very impressive. In fact, it is laughable that some people still think of the Big 10 as a power conference. Based on these results, they shouldn't even have an auto berth to the BCS. I mean really, 6-12 overall, and 4 of those wins were against the absolute bottom of the other conferences? C'Mon.
So what teams beat up on the top 5 of the Big 10? Did the Big 10 ONLY play the top one or two teams from the BCS conferences? Actually, of the 7 losses for the top 5 teams, two came at the hands of USC, and one each came from Texas & Georgia. So 4 of the 7 losses are understandable - sorta. But in the context that the Big 10 can ONLY win against the middle or lower end of the other conferences, if the Big 10 is supposed to be able to compete with top teams, why did they get only 1 quality win last season? I mean the only thing they can hand their hat on is the win by Jo Pa over Oregon State. THAT'S IT! No other quality wins period, even though there were 5 opportunities by the top half of the Big 10 and 3 opportunities with the bottom half of the Big 10.
Bottom Line - the Big 10 had a MISSERABLE season last year OOC. I am just embarrassed for them.
To finish this entry, let me tease a future post: I will cover the other BCS conferences in the same detail, and there are some other huge surprises awaiting.
Also, I know that one year does not make or break a conference. But I feel that the times are a changin' and wanted to get on the front end of this change. My prediction is that the MWC will prove once again in '09 that they belong, and the BCS system is wrong. Only time will tell.