The College Football National Championship is taking place tonight. When one of the teams is on the podium accepting the trophy, it will mean that the 2015 college football season is over.
With the the new implementation of the College Football Playoff it seems more now than ever, the argument of who has the best conference is heightened. With this new system in place it seems that the committee has put more emphases on playing against quality teams in the Power Five conferences.
For the first two seasons of the new playoff system only Power Five conference teams have made the playoff. For those who are unfamiliar the Power Five, the conferences include: SEC, Big XII, Big 10, Pac-12 and ACC teams.
Being located in the south you mostly hear about the SEC and the Big 12. History shows that over a long stretch, it seems that the Big 10 and SEC have a case for best all-time. However, let’s just look back since the playoff was introduced.
First of all, while there is nothing better than seeing a team from a lesser known football conference beat a Power Five team. There is little justification to put them in the argument of best conference in the playoff era. While the American Athletic Conference is a well established conference, their level of play is just not quite good enough to be recognized as having a legit argument to be included.
Last season there was all this commotion when Ohio State from the Big 10 got in over Baylor and TCU from the Big 12. Basically that debate alone has lead to many to make the statement, ‘my conference is the best’. There is not a sure fire way to say which conference is the best. The best way is to collect statistics from the 2014-2016 seasons in match-ups between Power Five conferences and records overall. There is also another way, which is to compare bowl records from the Power Five conferences.
Most non-conference games against Power Five opponents come in bowl games. So when fans say that they base their argument based on bowl season it makes some sense. However you have to take in the season as a whole.
SEC: The conference is best known for everybody hating it, unless you are a part of it. Over the past two seasons the conference has been dominated by Alabama who has represented them in the playoff. In bowl play in the past two years combined the SEC is 13-7. The SEC has had six teams finish up in the top 25 last year and will have four this season. Over the past two years the SEC has a combined record, including bowl games against the Power Five was 23-16. They were 11-9 last year and 12-7 this year. Overall, the SEC West has carried this conference and mostly the big bowl games have been played by teams from that side. It will be determined tonight if the SEC can add a national championship to their resume but for now the SEC who had all but two teams in the conference make bowl games, has a legit claim as best conference.
BIG 12: The Big 12 has had a conference known for scoring. Over the last two seasons they’ve had at least three teams ranked in the top ten in scoring. They are almost polar opposites in the way they play than that of the SEC. So, the claim goes that Big 12 offenses outweigh the ability of SEC defenses and other defenses in the Power Five. In bowl play over the last two seasons combined, the Big 12 is 5-9. The Big 12 had three teams finish in the top 25 in 2014 and four this season. Over the past two years the Big 12 has a combined record against the Power Five of 13-18. The Big 12 was 7-7 this season and 6-11 last year. Now you have to take into consideration that the Big 12 has four less teams, but the elite teams haven’t performed well in their bowl games. They are the only conference that hasn’t had a team in the title game as of yet.
ACC: The ACC has been seen as the weakest of the of the Power Five mainly because of past success. The ACC had the last team to win the national championship before the introduction of the new playoff system. But, we are not looking at that, we are starting after that season. In bowl play the last two years combined the ACC is 8-12. They had three teams finish in the top 25 in 2014 and three this season. Over the past two years the ACC has a combined record against the Power Five of 14-23. The ACC finished 7-12 this season and 7-11 last season. The ACC has the other participant in the championship in Clemson and could add a championship to their resume as well. For now the ACC hasn’t performed too well and the bottom tier teams really hurt their record.
Pac-12: The Pac-12 is also known as a conference that has a lot of great offenses. Over the years the conference has been represented by Oregon and Stanford. Both of the those teams have really helped the perception of the Pac-12 but a lot of people don’t even include them as a real contestant. In bowl play over the last two season they are a combined 12-6. They had six teams finish in the top 25 in 2014 and three this past season. Against the Power Five the Pac-12 has a combined record of 15-12. They were 6-8 this season and 9-4 in 2014. Overall the Pac-12 has a real argument of why they should be recognized. They have a better percentage of winning against the Power Five than the ACC, Big 10 and Big 12.
BIG 10: So far, this is the only conference that can claim a piece of the new College Football Playoff championship trophy. This conference has been one of controversy because of Ohio State getting in because they had a conference championship. In bowl play over the last two seasons the Big 10 is a combined 9-11. They had three teams finish in the top 25 in 2014 and had six teams this year. Against the Power Five, the Big 10 has a combined record of 22-27. They were 11-14 this past season and 11-13 in 2014. There is a large gap in number of games played against top competition which the Big 10 plays by a lot. The Big 10 historically has been known as one of the best and it has been no different these past two seasons.
There is no perfect formula and it would takes months to break down every aspect of the conferences but this is just a small look at how these conferences match-up.