Conference Realignment: Which BCS Schools Have a Right to Complain About Their League?

Which Teams Have Severely Outperformed Their Conference-mates Over the Past Five Seasons?

Though conference realignment talk has simmered a bit over the past week, it’s still a hot topic in the back of everyone’s heads as we await news on what the college football playoffs will look like. Teams like Florida State claim they pull more than their own weight when it comes to the product on the field in the ACC. But there’s also plenty of other schools that either fail to do so, or consistently do so, yet are mum on the subject. This is where our debate starts today.

We’ve broken down each of the six current “BCS conferences,” calculating the average wins over the last five years on both a per-conference, and per-school basis. While wins aren’t the only factors in conference realignment, the thought is that actual football performance may still matter somewhat in the game of “who brings the most televisions to market” — or at least that’s what we hope. As a forewarning, for some this exercise was a point of validation (Oregon, Alabama, in particular), while for others it was a sobering glance at ineptitude (Washington State and Syracuse, to name a few). Enjoy…

Also before continuing, please note that only schools playing in the same conference for the time period (2007-2011) were included (for consistency’s sake). So this eliminates just three teams from the 2011 BCS group (Colorado, Nebraska and Utah)

The conferences, sorted by average number of wins per team, per season:

The top two are to be expected, while the bottom may appear surprising in that order. This may also give some clues as to expansion patterns (all three leagues added at least one school in the latest round of realignment). But we’ll touch more on that further down.

The top five teams, sorted by average number of wins per team, per season:

Of those five, only VPI hasn’t appeared in a National Championship Game in the time period, and they’re also the only team of the five mentioned in current expansion rumors (coincidence?).

Teams above their conference’s average wins for the time period:

ACC: Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Boston College

Big 12: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Missouri, Texas Tech

B1G: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Iowa

Big East: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, USF

Pac-12: Oregon, USC, Stanford, California

SEC: Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina

Obviously, the more teams listed, the less top-heavy it is, hence why six of the Big East’s eight teams are listed. The ACC lists just five due to both parity from the top-to-middle, and a very low bottom (Duke). Same goes for the B1G, while the Pac-12 is probably the worst league in terms of competitive balance.

Average wins, and how/if they correlate to confirmed realignment moves:

So based on the numbers, just three of the five confirmed moves actually show a positive impact on the new league’s overall averages. Missouri’s 9.6 would bump the SEC into the eight wins-per-year range, while West Virginia’s add to the Big 12 is an even swap with the Tigers. Pitt provides a slight bump for the ACC, and (coupled with WVU), a big knock on the Big East figures — or at least it would be, if Syracuse wasn’t leaving as well. Sadly, my alma mater’s 4.4 is the most troubling figure in the bunch, as they actually drag down the ACC average.

Average wins, and how/if they correlate to speculated realignment moves:

Again, the only team that makes a big splash here is the Hokies, while FSU, Clemson and Georgia Tech would also provide gains for any conference. To credit Florida State with a valid complaint, adding SU/Pitt/UConn/Rutgers to the ACC fails to really add a whole lot on the football side based on wins alone, and the television numbers aren’t much better. For comparison’s sake on Miami, their averages are similar to Kansas State, if they were to move to the Big 12.

So who has a complaint? Removing SEC and Big 12 teams: Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Oregon, USC, Cincinnati, Ohio State and Wisconsin. With one of those schools (WVU) headed elsewhere anyway, and another four staying pat, VPI and Cincy are the only schools with true gripes. As for Florida State and Clemson? If we’re looking at these numbers alone, both are better-than-average, sure. But not by much.

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4 thoughts on “Conference Realignment: Which BCS Schools Have a Right to Complain About Their League?

  1. Interesting analysis.

    I would have included Louisville in the last list (average wins) that you posted. They definitely want to get out of the Big East if they can find someone better. I suspect Cincinnati would like to go too, but I’d guess they feel they aren’t likely to get an invite, so they’re keeping quiet.

    There are many, many factors to consider with a possible move to another conference. One of the biggest issues for the ACC overall is its performance in out-of-conference games, especially in bowl games. That poor performance in bowls includes Virginia Tech and Clemson. FSU has been good in bowls recently, although they have not performed well in previous BCS bowls.

    The game continues.

    • Definitely should’ve added Louisville on that last part, you’re right. Without the numbers in front of me, I want to say they averaged 5.6 wins per year during the time period, which makes sense since this hasn’t been a particularly impressive stretch for the team.

      We broke down the individual ACC schools more in the past, and definitely took Clemosn and VPI (and FSU, to a lesser extent) to task for lack of postseason success. Overall, the conference needs to just perform better in bowl games. Getting 10 teams to the postseason (as was the case a few years back) is great, but not if you’re only winning a third of those matchups.

  2. It seems to me that average wins per team by conference would be weighted heavily toward nonconference play. I’ll admit statistics isn’t my strong suit, but if only conference games were included, the average should be exactly .500 every year–every win for one team necessarily means a loss for another. Correct me if I’m wrong. So any difference among conferences in the total win average would come in non-conference games, and all six BCS conferences finish above .500 because most non-conference games are against lesser leagues. The SEC’s first-place finish comes from the best record in non-conference play.

    In that light, it might be interesting to line up those numbers with scheduling boldness. College football has unfortunately seen a swelling of cupcake games in the last decade, but some conferences (SEC) have been much worse at it than others (ACC, Pac-10). I wonder if those conferences’ last-place finish in your first table comes less from producing worse teams and more from scheduling tougher games; FSU scheduling a home-and-home with Oklahoma can (in an ideal world) hope to split the series 1-1, while scheduling a directional Michigan twice in a row is an almost certain 2-0 series.

    Of course, if that’s the case, the ACC needs to start winning those games to move up in the rankings. FSU didn’t split the Oklahoma series, Clemson and GT are in three-game losing streaks with their SEC rivals, etc. It’s good to schedule the tough games, but you have to win them, too.

    • Right. I went with overall, since you’re correct in your assessment of league games (the average always being .500). You’re also dead-on in your take on non-conference games: ACC schedules tougher, but also loses more, so double-whammy. If you’re the SEC, you schedule cupcakes, but you also face tougher teams in-conference (same goes for the Big 12), so it evens out. The Big East kind of runs the gambit, with some teams (Rutgers) scheduling patsies, while others stress a tougher schedule (Syracuse and Pitt, in particular). The Pac-12 and Big Ten make it a point to schedule “bad” teams. In the B1G’s case, they’re chowing down on MAC schools, and then coming up even in league play. But for the Pac-12, they’ve run into an issue thinking they’ll dominate MWC teams. Running a quick unofficial tally, the Mountain West has actually racked up more wins in those games than their more prestigious counterparts on the coast. However, many of the teams responsible for that mark are either on the way out or completely gone already.

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