Congratulations to Auburn and the SEC. A hard fought battle ended in classic high drama fashion. And the SEC wins its 5th National Championship in a row. But although the SEC has the best team in the country, it doesn't answer what conference is the best.
Second only to deciding the best way to determine the National Championship (playoff, polls, etc.), is there a bigger debate year after year among college football "experts", pundits, fans and know-it-all’s than the ultimate question of "which is the most powerful and dominant Division 1 conference in college football?" The "conference" being every team in the conference - top to bottom.
So how do we determine what conference is the most powerful, the most dominating, the most successful in any given year? Which are the REAL conferences and which are the pretenders? Which are on the incline and which are on the decline? What "changes in the guard" are happening?
A team’s in-conference record may say something about where that team stands in relation to its conference but says nothing about where that team stands against out of conference teams and, thus, says nothing about where that conference stands against other conferences.
Everyone would agree that the answer is not simply what conference wins the National Championship. A conference can have THE most powerful team one year while the rest of the conference are losers and might not even make it to bowl games.
And there are only four other BCS bowls. Determining the most dominating overall conference takes more than looking at the five big bowls or the success of the conference in any or all of the bowl games. Nor can it be based on the season of the top two or three teams in each conference.
It requires inclusion of the success (or lack thereof) of every team in the conference, top to bottom, regular and post season.
Determining the criteria for THE most dominating conference can be as complex or as simple as one wants to make it.
An initial indication of how dominant a conference is is how many teams are "bowl qualified". Will a conference qualify 80% of its teams or 10% of its teams. In the regular season, all teams are going to play 12 games. Bowl qualification is not enough though. Both the team and the conferences have too much control over scheduling "cupcake" games that could inflate regular season records.
Although it doesn’t completely answer the question, a team being able to win at least 6 games does indicate some level of strength. But it doesn’t say much for a conference to qualify 80% of its teams and lose 80% of those games to other conferences.
That being the case, past the minimum six game win requirement, there is a lot of subjectivity in bowl game selection. When bowl games are scheduled, they are not - and cannot be - scheduled No. 1 from each conference vs. No. 1 from every other conference. For example, this year, just like last year, we had the No. 1 CUSA team vs the No. 6 or No. 7 SEC team.
Instead, the BCS and the bowls attempt to match conference rankings, W-L records and team talent so that fairly even teams from each conference play each other. That may mean an "upper-tier" team from one conference may play a "mid-tier" team from another conference. But, for the most part, the match ups are usually pretty close.
It should also be agreed that a conference that plays a team and wins in a BCS bowl should receive additional "power credit".
With all this in mind, how do we objectively determine the most dominant conferences in a season? What kind of formula (short of a BCS computer program or a calculus brain choke) can we create?
To prevent it from getting too complex yet still take into account the most important criteria, and avoiding, as much as possible, getting an obviously wrong result, the most dominating, the most successful conference in any given year can be decided by adding two criteria: 1) the number of bowl games played, and 2) the number of bowl games won.
To give additional credit for the five BCS wins, each is counted as an additional game won.
Note that Navy, Army and Notre Dame have been left out of the debate because they are not in any conference.
Here were the 2009 results:
1. SEC - 10 played + 6 + 2 won = 18
2. Big 10 - 7 played + 4 + 2 won = 13
3. Big 12 - 8 played + 4 won = 12
4. ACC - 7 played + 3 won = 10
4. Big East - 6 played + 4 won = 10
6. MWC - 5 played + 4 won = 9
6. Pac 10 - 7 played + 2 won = 9
8. CUSA - 6 played + 2 won = 8
9. WAC - 4 played + 2 + 1 won = 7
10. MAC - 5 played + 1 won = 6
11. Sun - 2 played + 1 won = 3
So let’s see how the conferences faired this year. Which conference takes the title of the most dominating and successful for the 2010 CFB season?
1. SEC - 10 played + 5 + 1 won = 16
2. ACC - 9 played + 4 won = 13
3. Big 12 - 8 played + 3 + 1 won = 12
3. Big 10 - 8 played + 3 + 1 won = 12
5. MWC - 5 played + 4 + 1 won = 10
6. Big East - 5 played + 4 won = 9
7. Pac 10 - 4 played + 3 + 1 won = 8
7. CUSA - 6 played + 2 won = 8
9. WAC - 4 played + 2 won = 6
9. MAC - 4 played + 2 won = 6
11. Sun - 3 played + 2 won = 5