Pac-12, ACC Pass SEC for Best Conference

Pac-12, ACC Pass SEC for Best Conference

AUBURN – The SEC dominance that started with Florida’s destruction of Ohio State seven years ago ended today, as the ACC and Pac-12 capped off great seasons that put them ahead of the SEC in the final conference standings.

Yes, it’s heresy to say that in this part of the country, and the SEC could still claim bragging rights with a big bowl season, but follow the numbers …

First, to recap, the SEC was rated 14-points better than the average conference in the last ratings, issued after Week 7 when most interconference play ended. That made them at least four-points better than every other conference – though the other four Power Conferences were virtually even for second. Here are the ratings then, and the final ratings after today’s action:

Conference Week 7 Ratings Final Regular Season
1. Pac-12 +8 +12
2. ACC +9 +11
3. SEC +14 +10
4. Big 12 +10 +9
5. Big Ten +8 +8


SEC fans will of course write off Saturday’s 0-4 day against the ACC by pointing out that three of four games pitted bottom five SEC teams on the road against teams in the top four of the ACC. This is correct. The problem is that if we look at we see that if the SEC is as good as they looked in the early season, Kentucky had a 20% chance for a win, Florida had a 35% chance for a win, and South Carolina had a 45% chance for a win. On average, that means the SEC would have pulled off one upset (those three totals equal 100%, or 1.0 win in the three games).

Massey Ratings also indicates those three teams should have lost by a total of 20 points (Kentucky by 11, South Carolina by 3 and Florida by 6) if the SEC was as good as we thought. In fact they lost by an average of 7 points – so the SEC simply was not as good as we thought based on those three games.

The killer though was the SEC favorite Georgia – which was favored by 10 points and giving a 78% chance of beating Georgia Tech at home. This is the Georgia team that beat the SEC East champion 54-0 in Missouri and eliminated national contender Auburn 34-7.

If the SEC was really five points better than the ACC as we calculated through Week 7, then they should have won two games and lost by an average of 2.5 points in the four games. Instead they lost every game, and by an average of 8.3 points. So, either they were 6 points worse than we thought or the ACC was 6 points better than we thought. But either way we have to conclude that the ACC’s wins today show they were a better conference than the SEC on the field of play. Here are the games:

SEC team ACC team Massey Spread/ %W Actual
Kentucky At Louisville 20%, -11 points Loss by 4
South Carolina At Clemson 45%, -3 points Loss by 18
Florida At Florida State 35%, -6 points Loss by 5
At Georgia Georgia Tech 78%, +10 points Loss by 6
Total   1.8 wins, -2.5 ave margin 0-4, average – 8.3 ave mar

Pac-12 Passes for ACC for Title

The one other team that was moving up while most teams have been only playing conference foes since Week 7 is the Pac-12. During that time Arizona State and USC have both blitzed Notre Dame, a team that had also played four ACC teams and thus provides a great comparison between the Pac-12 and ACC.

Obviously, we would love the SEC and ACC to play the Pac-12 a bunch of times each year, but since we do not have that the Irish give us a common opponent.

USC clinched the regular season title for the Pac-12 today by blitzing Notre Dame by 35 points, 49-14, capping Notre Dame’s season:

Notre Dame vs. Conference Opponents & Conference Rank Average Spread
ACC Flo St 1st, Lville 3rd, UNC 7th, Syr 13th +4 Win
Big Ten Northwestern 8th, Michigan 9th, Purdue 13th +15 Win
Pac-12 ASU 4th, Stanford 5th, USC 6th -18 Loss

Obviously the Big Ten opponents were further down in the Big Ten standings, but the ACC and Pac-12 comparisons are almost apples-to-apples since the average ACC opponent was ranked 6th of 15 in the conference, and the average Pac-12 opponent was ranked 5th of 12.

The fact that the Pac-12 was an average of 22-points better per game than the ACC in their games against Notre Dame is just too big a margin to ignore.

Certainly ACC fans can argue based on Boston College’s 37-31 win at home against USC, which was factored into the ACC catching the Pac-12 in the ratings earlier in the year. With home field being worth a few points each way, that win by Boston College was about the same as their near upset at Florida State. A six-point road loss isn’t enough to offset the combined 22-point difference between the two conferences in seven games with a common opponent.

The Big 12 and Big Ten were right there as well in what ended up being the season of parity between the Power 5 Conferences. The Big Ten looked awful early, but Indiana’s upset at Missouri was part of an incredible couple of weeks. The Big 12 certainly is well represented with TCU’s destruction of Minnesota, but the SEC maintained a lead over those two – helped along by wins away from home by LSU over Wisconsin, Alabama over West Virginia, and Auburn over Kansas State.

The Bowl Season could settle the score – or leave us all believing things have evened out this season.

I have been arguing rabidly for the SEC’s superiority since I was six years old, but I always follow the numbers, and they just did not have the best regular season this year. Congrats to the Pac-12 and ACC for great years.