Which Conference Proved The Most in Bowl Season?

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

Extending with our deep and important discussion from regular season into bowl season, which conference had the toughest slate of opponents? Which conference had it easy goings?

Well let’s look at the bowl performance. We can get a good examination by taking a look at this chart, with each row featuring a game, starting with the most important one and going down from there (I’m sure there are some contentions you can make at the end about which game should go over which, but let’s not be too technical). Winners highlighted in bold.


So let’s analyze each conference as we did in the regular season post. Opponents of each conference are listed in order by the table (in the case of the ACC, #1 team in the ACC facing Kansas, followed by #2 team facing Michigan St, etc.), followed by a W or L for win-loss.

ACC (2-6)
#8 Kansas L
Michigan St. W
#22 Auburn L
Texas Tech L
Oregon St. L
Kentucky L
UConn W
Fresno St. L

Now it’s the ACC’s turn to bite dust. The Big 10 was plagued with a terrible OOC schedule and no marquee wins; the ACC replicated that conference’s performance come the holidays.

Most impressive win: Wake Forest knocking off 9-4 UConn. What sport is this again?

Most embarrassing loss: Virginia Tech really never matched up well with Kansas, and the Jayhawks controlled the majority of the game. Even though it was only a three point win, the Kansas defense took the reins and didn’t let go.

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Leftovers: Florida State was playing without half of its players and still kept it close with Kentucky…Virginia blew the Texas Tech game (up 14 with THREE minutes left), but almost every team in the Big 12 blows a Texas Tech game, so we’ll give them a pass…Clemson lost to Auburn in the ho-hum Bowl, etc. etc.

Toughness: 5th, making it all the more mystifying how badly the ACC performed. What the hell happened? You could argue that they were in each of these games until the end, but one would still think that they’d pull more wins out of these opponents than just two.

Grade: D- (and there’s some serious grade inflation going on here).

Big 10 (3-5)
#2 LSU L
#6 USC L
#9 Florida W
#14 BC L
#16 Tennessee L
Texas A&M W
Oklahoma St. L
Central Michigan W

Most impressive win: Total emasculation for the conference was avoided by Florida’s unexpected meltdown against an energetic Wolverine attack. It was clear Rich Rodriguez had already made his presence felt as Michigan went to the spread, lived by the spread, KILLED by the spread. Welcome to speed, Big Ten.

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Most embarrassing loss: The Illinois game was over in a matter of six minutes. When the hell are the SEC and the Pac-10 going to play in the Rose Bowl again?

Other game notes: Michigan State barely finished over .500 and took a highly ranked BC team the distance. Wisconsin-Tennessee came down to the final drive. The other victory against a big conference came against a team without a coach, which is about as impressive as it sounds. I heard the Purdue-Central Michigan game was entertaining, if you really really hate defense.

Toughness: To be fair to the Big 10, they drew a very tough slate of opponents, in my estimation the toughest in the country–three ranked SEC opponents, the Pac-10 champ and the ACC runnerup. They weren’t facing cupcakes here like they were in the regular season. Nevertheless, while the second-tier bowl games were at least competitive, it was clear the top of the Big 10 could not keep up with the best of the Pac-10 and the SEC for the second straight year.

Grade: C

Top 4 after the jump.

Big East (3-2)
#3 Oklahoma W
Southern Miss W
Oregon L
Wake Forest L
Ball St. W

As is the nature of the beast, the small size of the conference and the bowl assignments assures the Big East draws crappy opponents year after year. So all they have is their BCS opponent, and for the second straight year they acquitted themselves very well.

Most impressive win: West Virginia beating Oklahoma was by far the most impressive win in the BCS. Even the Buckeyes had a pulse late in the 4th quarter–Oklahoma was down quickly and out early.

Most embarrassing loss: South Florida. What the hell happened to schools from Florida? The state of football went 0-4 in bowls, and Miami didn’t even make it.

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Other games: Rutgers obliterated Ball St. in some game in Canada. Yeah, huh? Cincinnati beat Southern Miss, who had just learned their coach was getting the pink slip. These weren’t exactly the powers of the world. Shame for the Big East–all the mettle they had put up in the regular season could not be put to the test.

Toughness: None really. Other than Oklahoma, two wins came to the minor conferences and the other two losses came to the big. Last among the big conferences.

Grade: B-

Pac-10 (4-2)
#13 Illinois W
#17 Texas L
#19 BYU L
#23 South Florida W
Maryland W
Air Force W

Most impressive win: USC beating Illinois was expected, so I’m going with Oregon hammering a pretty good South Florida team. Any thoughts that the Pac-10 and the Big East are on equal footing talent-wise were mightily shaken with the fourth string QB for the Ducks just passing at will on the Bulls.

Most disgusting loss: I have to say, I hated watching that Arizona State team play. Their first quarter stats are astoundingly bad–they scored FOUR touchdowns all season in the opening stanza. The Holiday Bowl was, for the second time in four years, an embarrassment for the Pac-10 as a BCS contender got romped. Texas should have won by 40 if not for this bizarre play.

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Other game notes: UCLA had every chance to win that BYU game and squandered it (I would know, I liveblogged that ridiculous bowl). Oregon State utilized their horse Yvenson Bernard (who I think can make some significant noise in the NFL) to move past Maryland, and well, we know about Cal.

All in all, the bowl performances didn’t show much, but like I said before, the metrics are fairly different from the regular season because of the way the seedings work out. It’s naturally more difficult for a Pac-10 team to manage two teams into the BCS because of its brutal round-robin, and it’s difficult for the Pac-10 to prove anything with their lousy tie-ins.

Toughness of opponents: 4th–not one top ten team, and they did not fare too well against top twenty teams. Still, four ranked opponents out of six is a fairly strong aggregate.

Grade: B (fairly run-of-the mill year for the Pac-10, albeit far more impressive than last year’s performance).

SEC (7-2)
#1 Ohio St. W
#10 Hawaii W
#7 Missouri L
Michigan L
#15 Clemson W
#18 Wisconsin W
Colorado W

Most impressive win: Geaux Tigers!

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Most embarrassing loss: Oh, Florida. Those who mocked the Big 10 in earnest all offseason get taken apart by the black sheep Wolverines. The punishment seemed fitting. I considered Arkansas for their no-show performance, but their player-popular coach just did get fired.

Toughness of schedule: 3rd. Now you might say second because there were five ranked teams, which is impressive because the SEC was 4-1 versus ranked opponents. However, two of those teams were from the Big Ten, a conference that did little to prove its worth during the regular season, one was from the ACC (a step distinctly below the SEC this year), and one was Hawaii. Although these teams were ranked, the competition was much lower than in the Big Ten or Big 12’s schedules.

Grade? A

Big 12 (6-2)
#11 West Virginia L
#5 Virginia Tech W
#12 ASU W
#25 Arkansas W
#21 Virginia W
Penn St. L
Indiana W
Purdue W

For all the talk of South and West being the best conference, the Big 12 continues to perform superbly in bowl season. Between its record in the offseason and its record in the postseason, the conference of the heartland held its own very well against every major conference save the Big East.

Most impressive win: Kansas did their best to rescue the Big 12 from Oklahoma’s massive dump the night before by knocking around Virginia Tech.

Most embarrassing loss: Bob Stoops, despite the best efforts of his brother Mike, cannot justify yet another BCS appearance and subsequent loss (Oklahoma is now 0-4 in its last 4 BCS appearances and has been outscored 167-103 in those appearances).

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Toughness: 2nd. And it’s a strong second too; five top-25 teams and a 4-1 record. Again, the Big 12 delivered by handing each major conference outside of the Big East (Big 12, Pac-10, SEC, ACC) a loss.

Grade: A

While the Big East and the SEC can lay claim to either the regular season or postseason crowns respectively, the Big 12 seems to have a major edge by being near the top in each category. In the future I’ll tackle the biggest matchups of the year and see how each conference fared, and we’ll see who performs the best there.

Again, having the most impressive accomplishments on your resume doesn’t make this team the best, it just means they’ve shown what they’re capable of on the field rather than through the mystical intangible of talent and potential off the field. This is the important distinction to make.

To view the spreadsheet with the data, click here and examine Sheet 2.

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