Conference Bowl Comparisons

Ronald Martinez

Too many bowl games? Get outta here! The more the merrier, I say.

You might think that with teams playing 12 games a season now, instead of 11 like they used to, or even 10 back before that, there would be room for plenty of quality inter-conference matchups in the regular season - but you'd be wrong, for there are less than there used to be. The increasing size of conferences leading to more in-conference games is one of the reasons, but it seems that the bigger reason is that teams just don't want their schedules to be any more difficult than they have to.

While that's easy to understood, with obvious benefits in things like poll rankings and bowl opportunities, not to mention injury avoidance, it has made it more difficult than ever to get a handle on how the conferences stand against each other during the regular season. That information is mostly derived, these days, from bowl matchups.

I just don't get the perennial outcry against "too many bowls." Somebody please tell me, just one good time, who those extra bowls hurt, OK? I mean I would get it if you were being forced to watch them, but you aren't really, are you? My TV wasn't tuned to the big San Diego State-Buffalo matchup, but in the bigger scheme of things I think it's all for the betterment of college football that those two squads got to polish their skills with a few extra December practices.

From my perspective, it's not just the top against top matchups that are informative. Games like 7-6 North Carolina beating 9-4 Cincinnati 39-17 or 10-4 Marshall prevailing 31-20 over Maryland? Well, my TV dial ain't turned to those games, but I'll remember next fall how they turned out. Because while I'm a big believer in basing this year's rankings on this year's results as much as possible, there just isn't enough information out there to compare how teams fare in different conferences unless you pay at least a little bit of attention to last year's bowls.

As for this year, we saw what we usually see: even though the BCS championship streak ended, the SEC was still easily the best bowl conference. The BCS loss was scarcely embarrassing for the conference, as a team that struggled against middle-of-the-pack conference foes like Mississippi St. came within 30 seconds of yanking the title away from heavily-favored Florida State. And while the SEC's 7-3 record was only just better than the Pac 12's 6-3, if you look beyond the records you see it wasn't close: the SEC had 5 big 5 conference wins to 3 for the Pac 12, and the SEC had wins over Oklahoma State and Wisconsin, whereas the Pac 12's best win was probably over Texas.

The Big 12 had a decent but abbreviated showing, with the win over Alabama the obvious highlight. The ACC got themselves a championship and a BCS bowl win to boot, but the big picture reveals it is still the ACC.

The Big 10 was the worst of the big conferences, clocking in at 2-5, with the two victories by a total of 9 points. While I'm still putting the conference in the "big 5 conferences" group - consisting of the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, that's increasingly just a matter of tradition, as the Big 10 has been the caboose on that train for a while, one that sometimes gets passed by a handcar on another track. This year the fledgling American Athletic Conference, which mostly consists of the dregs of the former Big East, outperformed the Big 10 in bowls.

Here's the data:

Atlantic Coast Conference

5-6 overall, 3-4 against big 5 conferences
Average score: 26.3-32.3
Best win: FSU 34, Auburn 31
Worst loss: Marshall 31, Maryland 20
Versus: AAC 1-1, Big 10 2-0, C-USA 0-1, 1-0 MAC, SEC 1-2, PAC 12 0-2

FSU 34, Auburn 31
Clemson 40, Ohio St. 35
Louisville 36, Miami 9
UCLA 42, Virginia Tech 12
Texas A&M 52, Duke 48
Arizona 42, Boston College 19
North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17
Ole Miss 25, Georgia Tech 17
Syracuse 21, Minnesota 17
Marshall 31, Maryland 20
Pittsburgh 30, Bowling Green 27

Big 10

2-5 overall, all against Big 5
Average score: 21.7-26.6
Best win: Michigan St. 24, Stanford 20
Worst loss: Kansas St. 31, Michigan 14
Versus: Pac 12 1-0, SEC 1-2, ACC 0-2, Big 12 0-1

Michigan St. 24, Stanford 20
Clemson 40, OSU 35
LSU 21, Iowa 14
South Carolina 34, Wisconsin 24
Nebraska 24, Georgia 19
Syracuse 21, Minnesota 17
Kansas St. 31, Michigan 14

Big 12

3-2, all against big 5 conferences
Average score: 30.2-27.8
Best win: Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Worst loss: Oregon 30, Texas 7
Versus: SEC 1-1, Pac 12 1-1, Big 10 1-0

Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Missouri 41, Oklahoma St. 31
Oregon 30, Texas 7
Kansas St. 31, Michigan 14
Texas Tech 37, Arizona St. 23

Pac 12

6-3, 3-2 against big 5 conferences
Average score: 35.1-22.9
Best win: Oregon 30, Texas 7
Worst loss: Colorado St. 48, Washington St. 45
Versus: ACC 2-0, Big 10 0-1, Big 12, 1-1, Independent 1-0, Mountain West 2-1

Michigan St. 24, Stanford 20
Oregon 30, Texas 7
UCLA 42, Virginia Tech 12
USC 45, Fresno St. 20
Arizona 42, Boston College 19
Texas Tech 37, Arizona St. 23
Oregon St. 38, Boise St. 23
Colorado St. 48, Washington St. 45
Washington 31, BYU 16

SEC

7-3, 6-3 against big 5 conferences
Average score: 33.9-26.8
Best win: Missouri 41, Oklahoma St. 31
Worst loss: Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Versus: AAC 2-0, ACC 1-0, Big 10 2-1, Big 12 1-1, C-USA 1-0

FSU 34, Auburn 31
Oklahoma 45, Alabama 31
Missouri 41, Oklahoma St. 31
South Carolina 34, Wisconsin 24
LSU 21, Iowa 14
Texas A&M 52, Duke 48
Vandy 41, Houston 24
Mississippi St. 44, Rice 7
Ole Miss 25, Georgia Tech 17
Nebraska 24, Georgia 19

American Athletic Conference

2-3 overall, 2-2 against Big 5 conferences
Average score: 29.0-32.0
Best win: UCF 52, Baylor 42
Worst loss: North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17
Versus: SEC 0-1, ACC 1-1, Big 12 1-0, Independent 0-1

UCF 52, Baylor 42
Louisville 36, Miami 9
Vandy 41, Houston 24
North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17
Notre Dame 29, Rutgers 16

Conference USA

Overall: 3-3, 1-1 against Big 5 conferences
Average score: 23.7-24.3
Best win: Marshall 31, Maryland 20
Worst loss: Louisiana Lafayette 24, Tulane 21
Versus: ACC 1-0, Independent 0-1, MAC 1-0, Mountain West 1-0, SEC 0-1, Sun Belt 0-1

North Texas 36, UNLV 14
Mississippi St. 44, Rice 7
Marshall 31, Maryland 20
Navy 24, Middle Tennessee 6
East Carolina 37, Ohio 20
LA-Lafayette 24, Tulane 21

Independent

Overall: 1-2, 1-1 against big 5 conferences
Average score: 23-17.7
Best win: Notre Dame 29, Rutgers 16
Worst loss: Washington 31, BYU 16
Versus: Sun Belt 1-0, ACC 1-0, Pac 12 0-1

Navy 24, Middle Tennessee 6
Notre Dame 29, Rutgers 16
Washington 31, BYU 16

Mid-American Conference

Overall: 0-5, 0-1 against big 5 conferences
Average score: 21.0-32.0
Best win: ummm
Worst loss: Utah St. 21, Northern (near BCS contestant and home of Heisman finalist) Illinois 14
Versus: ACC 0-1, C-USA 0-1, Sun Belt 0-1, Mountain West 0-2

Utah St. 21, Northern Illinois 14
Arkansas St. 23, Ball St. 20
Pittsburgh 30, Bowling Green 27
East Carolina 37, Ohio 20
San Diego St. 49, Buffalo 24

Mountain West

Overall: 3-3, 1-2 against big 5 conferences
Average score: 29.1-33.7
Best win: Utah St. 21, Northern Illinois 14
Worst loss: North Texas 36y, UNLV 14
Versus: C-USA 0-1, MAC 2-0, Pac 12 1-2

USC 45, Fresno St. 20
North Texas 36, UNLV 14
Utah St. 21, Northern Illinois 14
San Diego St. 49, Buffalo 24
Oregon St. 38, Boise St. 23
Colorado St. 48, Washington St. 45

Sun Belt

Overall: 2-0, no games against big 5 conferences
Average score: 23.5-20.5
Best win: Arkansas St. 23, Ball St. 20
Worst loss: the mighty Sun Belt Conference went undefeated in bowls
Versus: C-USA 1-0, MAC 1-0

LA-Lafayette 24, Tulane 21
Arkansas St. 23, Ball St. 20

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