Ranking college football conferences: Searching for the best in 2013

George Frey

Did the Pac-12 overtake the SEC, at least briefly, this year?

There will never be a definitive way to rank college football teams, but it doesn't stop us from trying. The same goes for conferences. This is the time of year when fans use bowl game results to try to prove their conference's superiority. Bowl games are just one method, though. Let's take a look at a few others:

Best Team

Let's keep it simple to start. Give us the best you've got:

Rk Conf High F+ Rk
1 ACC Florida State 49.7% 1
2 SEC Alabama 44.9% 2
3 P12 Stanford 41.5% 3
4 B10 Ohio State 31.7% 5
5 B12 Baylor 30.8% 7
6 AAC Louisville 24.3% 16
7 IND Notre Dame 18.8% 24
8 MW Utah State 13.7% 33
9 CUSA East Carolina 11.0% 36
10 MAC Bowling Green 9.1% 41
11 SB South Alabama -4.0% 71

Worst Team

You're only as strong as your weakest link, right?

Rk Conf Low F+ Rk
1 ACC N.C. State -11.4% 89
2 AAC South Florida -16.2% 98
3 SEC Kentucky -16.5% 99
4 B12 Kansas -18.8% 101
5 P12 California -20.8% 105
6 MW Air Force -26.2% 113
7 B10 Purdue -26.4% 114
8 SB Georgia State -33.6% 121
9 IND New Mexico State -34.6% 122
10 MAC Eastern Michigan -41.8% 124
11 CUSA Florida International -42.1% 125

Top 4

Here, I took the average F/+ ranking of the top 4 teams in the conference. The thought process here is that a conference should be judged from the top down. Let's see how the best 4 from each conference stack up:

You can see how some of the conferences drop off after 2-3 teams. The Pac 12 and SEC don't, though...both leagues have 4 teams in the F/+ top 20.

Rk Conf 1 F+ 2 F+ 3 F+ 4 F+ Avg
1 P12 Stanford 3 Arizona State 6 Oregon 7 USC 12 7.0
2 SEC Alabama 2 Auburn 4 South Carolina 14 Missouri 17 9.3
3 B10 Ohio State 5 Michigan State 9 Wisconsin 10 Iowa 28 13.0
4 ACC Florida State 1 Clemson 15 Virginia Tech 21 Miami 29 16.5
5 B12 Baylor 7 Oklahoma State 11 Oklahoma 23 Kansas State 27 17.0
6 AAC Louisville 16 Central Florida 24 Houston 42 Cincinnati 64 36.5
7 MW Utah State 33 Boise State 36 Fresno State 43 Colorado State 68 45.0
8 CUSA East Carolina 36 North Texas 49 Marshall 51 Rice 55 47.8
9 IND Notre Dame 24 BYU 26 Navy 66 Army 99 53.8
10 MAC Bowling Green 41 Ball State 52 Northern Illinois 61 Toledo 63 54.3
11 SB South Alabama 71 Western Kentucky 82 UL-Lafayette 88 Arkansas State 93 83.5

Top 8

Let's go a little bit deeper into each league to see how they hold up.

The Pac-12 and SEC are still very impressive here. Eight teams in the top 35? No other league has 6 teams in the top 35. The Big 12 is the weakest of the 5 major conferences by quite a wide margin here due to the big dropoff in the 7th and 8th spots (Texas Tech and West Virginia).

Rk Conf 1 F+ 2 F+ 3 F+ 4 F+
1 P12 Stanford 3 Arizona State 6 Oregon 7 USC 12
2 SEC Alabama 2 Auburn 4 South Carolina 14 Missouri 17
3 ACC Florida State 1 Clemson 15 Virginia Tech 21 Miami 29
4 B10 Ohio State 5 Michigan State 9 Wisconsin 10 Iowa 28
5 B12 Baylor 7 Oklahoma State 11 Oklahoma 23 Kansas State 27
6 CUSA East Carolina 36 North Texas 49 Marshall 51 Rice 55
7 AAC Louisville 16 Central Florida 24 Houston 42 Cincinnati 64
8 MW Utah State 33 Boise State 36 Fresno State 43 Colorado State 68
9 MAC Bowling Green 41 Ball State 52 Northern Illinois 61 Toledo 63
10 IND Notre Dame 24 BYU 26 Navy 66 Army 99
11 SB South Alabama 71 Western Kentucky 82 UL-Lafayette 88 Arkansas State 93
Rk Conf 5 F+ 6 F+ 7 F+ 8 F+ Avg
1 P12 UCLA 13 Washington 19 Arizona 30 Utah 34 15.5
2 SEC LSU 18 Georgia 20 Texas A&M 22 Ole Miss 35 16.5
3 ACC Georgia Tech 31 Duke 36 North Carolina 40 Boston College 54 28.4
4 B10 Michigan 32 Nebraska 45 Minnesota 48 Indiana 55 29.0
5 B12 Texas 39 TCU 47 Texas Tech 60 West Virginia 80 36.8
6 CUSA UTSA 67 Tulane 71 Florida Atlantic 73 Middle Tennessee 77 59.9
7 AAC Memphis 83 SMU 86 Rutgers 90 Connecticut 91 62.0
8 MW San Jose State 74 Hawaii 84 Nevada 85 San Diego State 94 64.6
9 MAC Buffalo 69 Kent State 102 Ohio 104 Akron 107 74.9
10 IND Idaho 116 New Mexico State 122 - - - - 75.5
11 SB Troy 106 Texas State 108 UL-Monroe 111 Georgia State 121 97.5

All-Teams Average F/+ Ranking

This is probably the most popular method to rank a conference. Take a simple average of all of the teams' rankings. The Pac-12 is your regular season conference champ this year.

Rk Conf Teams Avg F+ Rk Team Closest To Avg
1 P12 12 15.0% 36.1 Utah (34)
2 SEC 14 13.7% 38.1 Ole Miss (35)
3 B10 12 9.1% 44.6 Nebraska (45)
4 ACC 14 8.7% 48.0 Boston College (54)
5 B12 10 7.9% 47.6 TCU (47)
6 AAC 10 -2.4% 69.1 Cincinnati (64)
7 MW 12 -7.7% 78.1 San Jose St (74)
8 IND 6 -7.7% 75.5 Navy (66)
9 CUSA 14 -11.7% 82.9 Middle Tenn (77)
10 MAC 13 -16.5% 91.7 Kent St (102)
11 SB 8 -17.3% 97.5 Arkansas St (93)

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