NCAA Football Analysis – What are the Strengths of Each Conference

This sprang out of a conversation my friend Mike and I were having regarding the relative strengths of Pac-10 and SEC defenses, and he made the challenge that I need numbers to back up my arguments, and I thought, “You know, Mike’s right. Let’s get some numbers.”

However, for the sort of analysis Mike and I discussed, the numbers are not immediately evident. To be specific, the question regarded how conferences as a whole performed against out-of-conference AQ teams in their matchups, the assumption being that this would be a worthwhile indicator of the relative strengths of each conference.

In turn, my feeling is that if we really are talking about “conferences” and not just elite teams, which was my intention, this is an interesting exercise, because it allows us to really see overall conference strength, and not just the obvious powerhouses in each conference, i.e. Auburn, Oregon, Ohio State, etc.

I understand that this analysis doesn’t address a million different variations and individual matchups and questions of which conferences play which other conferences in their AQ matchups. I’m aware of this, but having looked at all the games and scores in putting this together, I’ll say that most conferences play a pretty wide spread of other conferences if you take into account all the teams in their conference.

So for example, the SEC didn’t only beat up on the Big East in out-of-conference play. Individual team match-ups were pretty diverse across conferences.

But in the future, I hope to do this in an even more rigorous fashion, so the spreadsheet (or Access database ideally) can be manipulated to reveal a wider range of statistics.

As it easy, I put together 6 fairly basic numbers. For each conference, I examined every team’s current record as of writing this, and calculated their:

a) Average offensive score in conference
b) Average offensive score out-of-conference against AQ opponents
c) Average offensive score out-of-conference against non-aq opponents

d) Average points allowed in conference
e) Average points allowed out-of-conference against AQ opponents
f) Average points allowed out-of-conference against non-aq opponents

For each conference, I also calculated each of these statistics on average for the entire conference (side by side with the average of average, which while less useful is interesting to see in comparison).

SO, from these numbers, I found for each conference, the score of their average game against an out-of-conference AQ opponent. I included this, with the point differential, and all the full conference averages in a summary table, but there are some interesting results that you can peruse.

Finally, without any intention or knowledge of the outcome beforehand, the findings, very interestingly, reveal the Pac-10 to be the strongest conference against other conferences, with both the highest average score and lowest number of points allowed out-of-conference.

If you take issue with this, also consider this article (ignore the title and first few paragraphs, they’re intended to get your goat, but Ted Millder makes great points):

Mostly, I’m not trying to say the Pac-10 is the shit, but I wish people would stop giving the SEC and other conferences so much credit by default without looking at the numbers. (see revised numbers in the  spreadsheet that include the Independent schools)

Conference Avg. Out-of-Conference BCS Game Score Avg. Out-of-Conference Game Point Differential
Pac-10 W 32.9-24.8 8.1
SEC W 27.9-23.3 4.7
Big-12 W 29.8-25.8 4.0
Big-10 W 23.5-22.7 0.8
ACC L 24.5-26.9 -2.4
Big East L 18.6-26.6 -8.0

Take a look at the attached spreadsheet for yourselves, enjoy, and let the discussion begin:

Updated NCAA Data



P.S. Go Cardinal.


About Tony

Lives in Austin, Texas and likes music, art, philosophy, and random stuff.
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14 Responses to NCAA Football Analysis – What are the Strengths of Each Conference

  1. Stanford sucks says:

    Stanford sucks!

  2. No More Nerds says:

    Andrew Luck is a Nerd. He should be stuffed in a locker.

  3. CalFan says:

    Too bad the wrong part of the Bay is bowling.

  4. CalFan says:

    In all seriousness, nice article but you have to break the paragraphs up in 3 or fewer lines when writing for online reading.

    Oh, and SU sucks.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks CalFan, I made some edits to break up paragraphs. Should break it up with more images, but I wasn’t really planning on it getting widespread viewing. Mostly just wanted to get the data to Ted Miller and see his thoughts.

      Check out the spreadsheet though. There’s definitely a lot of interesting ways to spin the data.

      Sorry for the beatdown the other week. Well, not really.

      Go Stanford!

  5. Jeff says:

    I’m not sure if this is in your calculation, but I might have found a mistake.

    On the “scores” tab for UCLA you have three scores under “BCS” (AQ) and no scores under “Non-AQ.” I think UCLA’s 31-13 win over Houston should be moved to “Non-AQ” since Houston is in Conference-USA, a Non-AQ conference.

    Other than that, great analysis! I guess Stanford grads aren’t THAT useless 😛

    Go Bears!

  6. Stanford445 says:

    Nice analysis.

    Go Cardinal!

  7. DB says:

    Awesome data. I’d love to see this information from year to year. I’m sure this sort of information is why Sagarin/BCS Computers have Stanford and the Pac-10 ranked highly.

    Too bad the weenies are confused by the information… I’d also like to see some folks from other conferences try to absorb your data and alter their perceptions of football superiority.

    • Tony says:

      I want to try to build a year to year, but I need to put together a better spreadsheet format to make it easier and faster to manipulate. Don’t worry though, I’ll get it together.

      I’ve been actually impressed by the discussion these numbers generate as opposed to blunt resistance. I found in just talking to folks about conferences, they get REALLY defensive without much statistical analysis to back their words up. This should help some folks. Obviously, like any statistics, we can play with the numbers and how we’re looking at them, but I certainly like this reading (i.e. Go Stanford!)

      Thanks for checking it out.

  8. Eric says:

    As an additional resource for conference v conference records:

    Unfortunately it doesnt have the scores but it reinforces your point.

  9. Stan Turd says:

    Andrew Luck = Napoleon Dynamite

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