Ranking the divisions in power conferences
Now that we’re down to one game left in the 2015 college football season, we can take a look back and rank the power conferences by divisions.
1. SEC West – This one isn’t even close. The SEC West is the only division among power conferences to have all of its teams above .500 and competing in bowl games — competitively, too, at that, going 6-1 in the postseason. That number could rise as Alabama still has a chance to claim a national title, further bolstering the strength of the country’s staunchest division. The West went 64-27 for a combined .703 winning percentage this year, a mark close to .100 percentage points higher than the next division, the Pac-12 North. The biggest win of the year for the division (so far) is Alabama’s drubbing of the Big Ten East’s Michigan State in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
2. Pac-12 North – Had it not been for Oregon’s historic collapse in the Alamo Bowl, the Pac-12 North would have been the lone power conference division to go undefeated. Instead, the North finished 4-1 in the postseason, earning a .603 winning percentage on the year — second only among divisions to the SEC West and percentage points better than the Big Ten East. The division’s biggest win on the year came in the form of Stanford rolling Big Ten West champ Iowa 45-16 in the Rose Bowl.
3. Big Ten East – Michigan State’s throttling at the hands of Alabama drops the Big Ten East to 2-3 in the bowl season and gives the division a combined .600 winning percentage on the year. The East is one of two power conference divisions housing three teams with double-digit wins — the other being the Big Ten West. The Spartans and Ohio State are among the nation’s elite teams; plus, the East got a boost this year as Indiana qualified for a bowl game for just the second time in the past 22 years.
4. Big 12 – OK, so the Big 12 is the only power conference without divisions — which is kind of an onion in the ointment of these rankings. The conference boasts four teams with 10-or-more victories, including College Football Playoff semifinalist Oklahoma. The conference (.560 winning percentage, five bowl teams) also gets a boost from Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU, who all flirted with a berth in the second annual playoffs. Not helping the Big 12 is Kansas (0-12), who is one of only two teams in the FBS that failed to win a game this season — the other being Central Florida.
5. Big Ten West – In what’s sure to be an unpopular ranking to ACC Atlantic fans, the Big Ten West edges out the division. The West posted a higher winning percentage (.566) than the Atlantic (.550) and sent more teams to bowl contests where they had a better record (3-2). The division featured some surprise teams this year as three teams earned 10-win seasons, including Iowa, which accepted the Rose Bowl invite. The Big Ten West is simply stronger from top to bottom than the ACC Atlantic.
6. ACC Atlantic – The national champion can call the ACC Atlantic its home for the second time in three years when Clemson takes on Alabama in the College Football Playoff finals. The Tigers have just three losses in the past two seasons are among the class of the FBS under head coach Dabo Swinney. Florida State won 10 games, but failed in its quest to return to the College Football Playoff. Instead, the Seminoles lost their Peach Bowl matchup to Houston. Dragging down the division is a Syracuse program that’s missed out on a bowl game for the second time in as many years, as well as Wake Forest and Boston College, each who finished 3-8 and a combined 1-15 in the ACC. All told, the Atlantic finished 2-2 in bowl games. If Clemson can pick up that third win, and national title, then the argument can be made for the ACC Atlantic to leapfrog the Big Ten West on this list.
7. Pac-12 South – Utah was a viable College Football Playoff contender until Arizona torpedoed their hopes late in the season with an upset loss. The Utes still tied Southern California, which claimed its first-ever Pac-12 South title on a head-to-head tiebreaker. The division as a whole beat up on one another this year, closing with a .544 combined winning percentage. The South limped out of the bowl season 2-3 with UCLA’s loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl likely not one many people in California will be telling their grandkids about one day.
8. ACC Coastal – The ACC Coastal had the same winning percentage (.544) and bowl record as the Pac-12 South, but the edge went out west, thanks to stiffer competition. North Carolina was the class of the division, but couldn’t get past Clemson nor Baylor in their final two games. Tar Heels included, the division’s top three teams all lost their bowl games, including Pittsburgh to Navy and Miami to Washington State. The ACC Coastal is in a bit of a transition now with three new coaches taking control of programs.
9. SEC East – When people say it was a down year for the SEC, what they really should be declaring is that it was a down year for the SEC East. The division sent only three teams to bowl games and finished just four games above .500 (46-42) as a collective whole. The saving grace is that the SEC East went 2-1 in bowl games (all against Big Ten schools) with wins over Northwestern and Penn State by Tennessee and Georgia. It was Florida that took the loss, getting trounced by Michigan from the Big Ten East 41-7.