As Bob Stoops Knows, Evaluating College Football Leagues Is a Tricky Process
When Bob Stoops spoke about the SEC "mystique" to Tulsa World on Tuesday, it started quite the ripple around the college football world. Barrett Sallee at the SEC Blog hit on not only Stoops' off-base comments but on Nick Saban's rebuttal to Big Game Bob.
Stoops' comments kicked off quite the conversation about whether the SEC was overrated, or if he, like others living the non-SEC life, was just jealous of the monster.
The real issue, what we should be talking about, is not how overrated a league is, but rather, how we evaluate conferences in general. Should the Stoops-ology of measuring the bottom of the conference determine a league's worth? Should the top levels of success be where we focus our efforts when it comes to league rankings? Is quality depth the metric?
If we're looking at the bottom of leagues to determine who is the best, then just not being terrible is what matters. Or, rather, dispersing wins equally throughout the conference is the goal. That is exactly what the Big Ten is looking at in its bottom four, as the 10-team league has three bowl teams in the bottom four of the conference.
True, West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State were not exactly very good, but they were better teams than the bottom of the of the SEC and bottom of the Pac-12. It sounds great to say, except what it really means is no one in the league, outside of Oklahoma and Kansas State, was good enough to consistently beat anyone else. Teams three through nine are separated by two games, at most, in conference play.
That's called parity, and if parity is what you're after, sign up the ACC, the Big Ten and a couple other leagues for the, "we don't have a lot of separation in the middle, so that makes us good," package.
How would you rank the conferences?
Or, you could go at it another way. A way that celebrates high-caliber ballclubs and asks which conference is populated by more of them. That means that the teams at the bottom are going to look a lot worse because they spend their weekends getting beat by the top of the league.
The bottom four in the Pac-12 have seven total conference wins. Yet the league was viewed as one of the stronger conferences because it sent two teams to BCS bowls and had two other squads with nine wins. Not the six teams with double-digit wins that the SEC boasted, but still an admirable effort from the conference out west.
However, when you look at the ACC or the Big 12 from that same frame you have two teams that have double-digit wins, and a list of middling clubs that have beaten up on one another during the year.
Ultimately, you get to pick your method by which to grade conferences. What generally ends up happenings is people, like Bob Stoops, pick the grading rubric that best suits their situation. If we are going to have a real discussion following Stoops' comments, we need to figure out what system we're going to use to rank conferences, so that we are all on the same page.
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