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The Best Conference? Victory Margins Say SEC Tops; Pure Results Give Pac-12 No. 1

The Best Conference? Victory Margins Say SEC Tops; Pure Results Give Pac-12 No. 1

The BCS banned the use of victory margins in college rankings more than decade ago, resulting in the New York Times (see story here) replacing two other computer services in the BCS ratings. We let the reader decide–offering a “Method 1” without victory margins, which shows the Pac-12 as the best conference in Week 1 (see this post). When victory margins are included in our “Method 2,” Tennessee secured a No. 1 ranking for the SEC with a median score of 26 in the system explained here, while Baylor’s blow out of SMU left the Big 12 a close second at 24. The Big Ten in a distant third place at 8, followed by the Pac-12, which was knocked down three spots from their Method 1 ranking due to closer-than-expected wins.

For advocates of victory margins, not including them is the equivalent to awarding a “participation trophy.” If a team goes out and proves they are 60 points better than another team–fine. For others, a the BCS system in the early years included bad sportsmanship as Virginia Tech and Florida rolled up enormous victory margins against weak opponents to move up in the rankings and qualify for the BCS championship. On the flip side, victory margins also reward teams and conferences for excellent showings against great teams–which is why the Big 12 benefits greatly this week from West Virginia and Oklahoma State coming close to knocking off the No. 1 and 2 teams in the country on the same day. In Method 2 those games were both great showings for the conference by earning scores of “24” and “13” (0 is an average game in Method 2). In Method 1, the “close but no cigar” analogy says a loss is a loss and the Big 12 was only 3-2 for the weekend against other FBS schools.

In Method 1, the Pac-12 gets credit for going on the road to win games as far apart as Charlottesville to the east and Hawaii to the west, with a big upset by Cal of Northwestern in Illinois. In Method 2 every Big 12 performance of the week was impressive, while the Pac-12 had weak (below 0) performances in four of seven games. In that system the narrow margins of victory against weak teams (17-16 Washington over Hawaii), only one offensive score by UCLA in a narrow win at Virginia, Colorado’s loss to Colorado State, and Washington State being upset by Rutgers. Those kept the median score low despite the very impressive margins rolled up by Cal, USC, and Arizona on a day that neither Oregon or Stanford was in action against other FBS schools.

So pick your poison–if you want Victory Margins included, the SEC was No. 1 and Big 12 right behind at No. 2. If you do not want them included, then the Pac-12 was No. 1 followed by the SEC. Below are the ratings based on Method 2, with slight adjustments for Method 1. Below that are all of the team results and the Game Score they earned their conference in Week 1.

Rnk Conference Median Average Method1 – Wins
1 SEC 26 15 2
2 BIG 12 24 16 4
3 BIG TEN 8 10 3
4 PAC12 -3 11 1
5 ACC -4 -1 5
6 AMERICAN ATHL -12 -3 7
7 CONFERENCE USA -13 -7 6
8 MID-AMERICAN -9 -17 10
9 SUN BELT -13 -22 9
10 MOUNTAIN WEST -20 -11 8

The following is the actual conference score for each game played, starting from the most impressive performance by a conference team (for the American Athletic, Temple’s 30-point win over Vanderbilt when given only a 9 percent chance of winning) to the worst performance (Houston being stunned by UTSA). The number to the far left is the margin of victory, followed by the conference team, their chance of winning the game, their opponent and the conference that team is in, the predicted margin of the average FBS team if they had the same opponent in the same venue (“Diff” means the average team loses by 13 at Vandy), how good the team is in relation to the conference (Temple is 4 points worse than the average CUSA team). Finally, the number to the right indicates the overall ranking based on adding up the other numbers in the same row.  

The overall average Rating is below zero because of very low ratings against BYU and Notre Dame this week for two teams.

Res AMERICAN ATHL chance Opponent Conf Diff ConfRnk Rate
30 Temple 9% Vanderbilt SEC 13 4 48
-2 UCF 56% Penn St Big 10 5 -12 -9
-25 Connecticut 17% BYU Ind 5 5 -15
-20 Houston 74% UT San Antonio CUSA -8 -7 -35
Sun SMU 6% Baylor Big 12 22 0  
    1.62 almost 2-3       -3
  ACC            
-8 Virginia 6% UCLA Pac 12 18 13 23
6 Florida St 69% Oklahoma St Big 12 20 -23 3
1 NC State 76% Ga Southern SB -18 13 -4
13 Boston College 94% Massachusetts MAC -23 5 -5
-7 Wake Forest 69% ULM SB -7 7 -7
-24 Clemson 48% Georgia SEC 19 -11 -17
    3.62 almost 4-2       -1
  BIG TEN            
48 Nebraska 85% FL Atlantic CUSA -9 -3 36
3 Rutgers 19% Washington St Pac 12 8 11 22
38 Michigan 98% Appalachian St SB -24 -3 11
2 Penn St 44% UCF Amer 7 0 9
17 Ohio St 81% Navy Ind 2 -11 8
-4 Wisconsin 41% LSU SEC 20 -10 5
9 Purdue 84% W Michigan MAC -26 16 -1
-7 Northwestern 77% California Pac 12 -9 1 -14
    5.29 at least 5-3       10
  BIG 12            
31 Texas 86% North Texas CUSA -4 -2 25
-10 West Virginia 7% Alabama SEC 25 9 24
-6 Oklahoma St 31% Florida St ACC 28 -10 13
32 Oklahoma 99% Louisiana Tech CUSA -20 -9 3
45 Baylor 94% SMU Amer -7 -8 30
    3.17 at least 3-2       19
  Conference USA            
38 UAB 66% Troy SB -13 8 33
28 W Kentucky 33% Bowling Green MAC 0 -6 22
20 UT San Antonio 26% Houston Amer 5 -6 19
7 UTEP 69% New Mexico MWC -13 9 3
-32 Louisiana Tech 1% Oklahoma Big 12 22 5 -4
15 Marshall 94% Miami OH MAC -26 -11 -22
-31 Rice 9% Notre Dame Ind 16 -8 -23
-49 Southern Miss 99% Mississippi St SEC 12 12 -24
-31 North Texas 14% Texas Big 12 15 -11 -27
-48 FL Atlantic 15% Nebraska Big 10 11 -6 -43
    4.26 at least 4-6       -7
  MID-AMERICAN            
-15 Miami OH 6% Marshall CUSA -4 16 -3
-9 W Michigan 16% Purdue Big 10 -8 11 -6
-23 Massachusetts 6% Boston College ACC -2 13 -12
-28 Bowling Green 67% W Kentucky CUSA -3 -16 -47
    0.95 almost 1-3       -17
  MOUNTAIN WEST            
-1 Hawaii 5% Washington Pac 12 15 6 20
14 Colorado St 44% Colorado Pac 12 -1 -3 10
-22 Boise St 30% Mississippi SEC 13 -11 -19
-7 New Mexico 69% UTEP CUSA -24 10 -21
-45 UNLV 6% Arizona Pac 12 17 1 -27
-39 Fresno St 14% USC Pac 12 19 -8 -28
Sun Utah St 44% Tennessee SEC 9 -12  
    2.12 at least 2-5       -11
  PAC12            
39 USC 86% Fresno St MWC -1 -3 35
45 Arizona 94% UNLV MWC -10 -1 34
7 California 23% Northwestern Big 10 7 19 33
8 UCLA 94% Virginia ACC -4 -7 -3
-14 Colorado 56% Colorado St MWC -3 14 -3
-3 Washington St 19% Rutgers Big 10 -6 5 -4
1 Washington 5% Hawaii MWC -9 -4 -13
    3.77 almost 4-3       11
  SEC            
24 Georgia 52% Clemson ACC 14 -2 36
22 Mississippi 70% Boise St MWC 5 0 27
49 Mississippi St 99% Southern Miss CUSA -27 4 26
4 LSU 59% Wisconsin Big 10 16 -6 14
10 Alabama 93% West Virginia Big 12 1 -11 0
-30 Vanderbilt 91% Temple Amer -12 3 -39
Susp Florida 99% Idaho SB -29 5  
31 Tennessee 56% Utah St MWC 3 7 41
    6.19 at least 6-2       15
  SUN BELT            
7 ULM 31% Wake Forest ACC -4 -5 -2
-1 Ga Southern 24% NC State ACC -4 0 -5
-38 Appalachian St 2% Michigan Big 10 11 6 -21
-38 Troy 66% UAB CUSA -17 -6 -60
Susp Idaho 1% Florida SEC 12 11  
    1.24 at least 1-4       -22

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