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Bowl Mania: Utah Win Moves Pac-12 Close to SEC as Best Conference

The Pac-12 had the best regular season of any conference, and their quest to also top the SEC in the Bowl season started well with a blowout win by Utah, which has now won 11 of their last 12 holiday season games, including a blowout of Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.

The table below of each Bowl Game scores each conference to determine the rankings based on results on the field of play.

Conference USA appears to have the title as the best of the “Group of 5” conferences unless the American Athletic pulls upsets in their remaining three games.

Utah’s unexpectedly easy 45-10 win over a Colorado State team riding a 9-game winning streak, including a win at Boston College, solidified their Massey Rating as one of seven Pac-12 teams in the top 23–to eight for the SEC.

The SEC and Pac-12 rarely play each other, and when they do the games often pit a very good team from one conference (LSU or USC) against a weaker team from the other conference. If Oregon faces Alabama for the title, many will say that whoever wins that game has the better conference. However, consider last year when Florida State destroyed conference foes and barely beat Auburn for the title. Did that make the ACC better than the SEC? And should Kentucky emerge from March Madness triumphant, would anyone dub the SEC the best basketball conference?

To compare all 10 conferences we start with how many points better or worse their teams played than the average FBS team based on their Massey Rating, and then adjust that figure (see precise math below table) based on each result. So far, the following are the Bowl rankings for all 10 conferences:

  1. SEC starts at +16 but will have to prove it
  2. Pac-12 moves up from +13 to +14.4 with Utah blowout of Colorado St.
  3. Big 12 starts at +12 with seven games to move up
  4. Big Ten moves up to +7 with Rutgers blowout upset of UNC outweighing Illinois losing by more than expected to Louisiana Tech
  5. ACC drops behind Big Ten at +6 with UNC getting upset in a blowout vs. Rutgers
  6. Conference USA improved from -8 to -4 by winning four out of five, all but one by at least 17 points, to likely rate as the best of the Group of 5 conferences
  7. American Athletic stays at -8 with UCF losing to NC State, but they could still catch C-USA with upsets by Cincinnati, East Carolina, and Houston
  8. Mountain West plummets to -12 with Nevada and San Diego St. being upset and Colorado and Fresno St. being beaten worse than expected
  9. Sun Belt improves to -13 on ULL upset of Nevada
  10. Mid-American drops to -16 with Bowling Green upset but C Michigan and W Michigan falling short
Conference Team %W Pred Opponent Win? Margin Adjust
Cincinnati 40% -3.5 Virginia Tech 27-Dec
East Carolina 21% -10.5 Florida 3-Jan
Houston 30% -6.5 Pittsburgh 2-Jan
Memphis 49% -0.5 BYU 1 1.0 1.08
UCF 47% -2.5 NC State 0 -7.0 (1.12)
American Athletic starts at -8 1.9 -23.5 (8)
Boston College 65% 5.5 Penn St 27-Dec
Clemson 41% -3.5 Oklahoma 29-Dec
Duke 28% -7.5 Arizona St 27-Dec
Florida St 20% -10.5 Oregon 1-Jan
Georgia Tech 39% -3.5 Mississippi St 31-Dec
Louisville 29% -6.5 Georgia 3-Dec
Miami FL 46% -2.5 South Carolina 27-Dec
NC State 53% 2.5 UCF 1 7.0 1.12
North Carolina 59% 3.5 Rutgers 0 -19.0 (2.08)
Pittsburgh 70% 6.5 Houston 2-Jan
Virginia Tech 60% 3.5 Cincinnati
Atlantic Coast starts at 7 2.9 13.5 6
Illinois 37% -4.5 Louisiana Tech 0 -17.0 (1.24)
Iowa 37% -4.5 Tennessee 2-Jan
Maryland 15% -14.5 Stanford 3-Dec
Michigan St 50% -0.5 Baylor 1-Jan
Minnesota 29% -7.5 Missouri 1-Jan
Nebraska 37% -4.5 USC 27-Dec
Ohio St 31% -6.5 Alabama 1-Jan
Penn St 35% -5.5 Boston College 27-Dec
Rutgers 41% -3.5 North Carolina 1 19.0 2.08
Wisconsin 32% -6.5 Auburn 1-Jan
Big 10 starts at 6 1.8 -26.5 7
Baylor 50% 0.5 Michigan St 1-Jan
Kansas St 51% 0.5 UCLA 2-Jan
Oklahoma 59% 3.5 Clemson 29-Dec
Oklahoma St 32% -6.5 Washington 2-Jan
TCU 49% -0.5 Mississippi 31-Dec
Texas 26% -7.5 Arkansas 29-Dec
West Virginia 47% -1.5 Texas A&M 29-Dec
Big 12 starts at 10 2.1 -12.5 10
Louisiana Tech 63% 4.5 Illinois 1 17.0 1.24
Marshall 72% 7.5 N Illinois 1 25.0 1.26
Rice 55% 2.5 Fresno St 1 24.0 1.76
UTEP 20% -10.5 Utah St 0 -15.0 (0.58)
W Kentucky 67% 5.5 C Michigan 1 1.0 0.48
Conference USA starts at -8 2.8 9.5 (4)
BYU 51% 0.5 Memphis 0 -1.0 (1.08)
Navy 44% -2.5 @ San Diego St 1 1.0 1.26
Notre Dame 28% -7.5 LSU 30-Dec
FBS Indep starts at -1 4.0 0.0 (1)
Bowling Green 48% -1.5 South Alabama 1 5.0 1.30
C Michigan 33% -5.5 W Kentucky 0 -1.0 (0.48)
N Illinois 28% -7.5 Marshall 0 -25.0 (1.26)
Toledo 53% 1.5 Arkansas St 4-Jan
W Michigan 45% -2.5 Air Force 0 -14.0 (1.36)
Mid-American starts at -14 2.1 -15.5 (16)
Air Force 55% 2.5 W Michigan 1 14.0 1.36
Boise St 29% -6.5 Arizona 31-Dec
Colorado St 33% -6.5 Utah 0 -25.0 (1.40)
Fresno St 45% -2.5 Rice -24.0 (1.76)
Nevada 66% 5.5 ULL 0 -13.0 (2.06)
San Diego St 56% 2.5 Navy 0 -1.0 (1.26)
Utah St 80% 10.5 UTEP 1 15.0 0.58
Mountain West starts at -7 2.8 9.5 (12)
Arizona 71% 6.5 Boise St 31-Dec
Arizona St 72% 7.5 Duke 27-Dec
Oregon 80% 10.5 Florida St 1-Jan
Stanford 85% 14.5 Maryland 3-Dec
UCLA 49% -0.5 Kansas St 2-Jan
USC 63% 4.5 Nebraska 27-Dec
Utah 67% 6.5 Colorado St 1 25.0 1.40
Washington 68% 6.5 Oklahoma St 2-Jan
Pac 12 starts at 13 3.3 31.5 14
Alabama 69% 6.5 Ohio St 1-Jan
Arkansas 74% 7.5 Texas 29-Dec
Auburn 68% 6.5 Wisconsin 1-Jan
Florida 79% 10.5 East Carolina 3-Jan
Georgia 71% 6.5 Louisville 3-Dec
LSU 72% 7.5 Notre Dame 3-Dec
Mississippi 51% 0.5 TCU 31-Dec
Mississippi St 61% 3.5 Georgia Tech 31-Dec
Missouri 71% 7.5 Minnesota 1-Jan
South Carolina 54% 2.5 Miami FL 27-Dec
Tennessee 63% 4.5 Iowa 2-Jan
Texas A&M 53% 1.5 West Virginia 29-Dec
Southeastern starts at 16 3.0 19.5 16
Arkansas St 47% -1.5 Toledo 4-Jan
South Alabama 52% 1.5 Bowling Green 0 -5.0 (1.30)
ULL 34% -5.5 Nevada 1 13.0 2.06
Sun Belt starts at -14 4.4 14.0 (13)

Each team starts with their current points above or below average based on Massey Ratings (SEC +16 to Mid-American and Sun Belt -14) and then moves up or down every time a team exceeds or falls short of their expected result. The winning team improves their conference rating by two minus twice their chance to win (Utah had a 67% chance to beat Colorado State if Massey’s Ratings were accurate, so the Pac-12 gets a +0.66 for the win) and one-25th per point better or worse than Massey’s prediction with a cap of 25 points (Utah was expected to win by 6.5 and actually won by more than the 25-point max to improve the Pac-12 a total of 1.40 for the game).

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