Conference Rankings: 2009-10 Bowl Performance To Date

Brian NelsonCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2010

Perhaps the most intriguing by-product of the one-of-a-kind BCS system is its over-emphasis on conference strength as a determining factor for valuating individual teams.

It’s given rise to a strange new paradigm of spectatorship that has completely altered the rooting behavior of coaches, players, and fans.

"Conferencism" (as Baby Tate cleverly dubbed it) has reached unprecedented heights in college football. It has changed foe to friend and rival to supporter.

It's the only time when Sooners cheer for Longhorns, Bruins celebrate with Trojans and Wolverines congratulate Buckeyes for a job well done.

Unlike any other time of year, the bowl season provides the most compelling match-ups of the season and as a result, the most telling barometers of overall conference strength, while giving fans and pundits talking points and bragging rights for the long nine months of offseason that awaits us all.

Here is the updated ranking for how each of the major conferences have performed in the bows thus far (through games ending on January 1).



1. Mountain West Conference (4-0)

Key Wins: Fresno State, Oregon State, Cal, Houston

Losses: None

Games Remaining: TCU vs. Boise State (Fiesta Bowl)


The MWC ranks atop the list boasting a 4-0 record with three convincing victories over quality opponents. The MWC now moves to 14-4 in bowls since 2006-07 and have won six straight bowl games dating back to last season when TCU beat Boise State and Utah knocked off Alabama.

All four MWC teams that have prevailed came into this year's bowls as underdogs. Combined, these teams have beaten the spread by an average of 22 points.

While the BCS spent the off-season downplaying the MWC's credibility and Utah's success in particular, TCU's run this year has done nothing but add fodder and credence to the MWC's case for BCS inclusion.

Especially when you consider the Horned Frogs' regular season opponents have now moved to 6-0 in the bowls.

Despite the undefeated record, the MWC still lacks a marquee win over a legitimate top ten opponent. TCU will have the perfect opportunity to crystallize the MWC's quest for bowl perfection when it faces the Boise State Broncos on Monday.


2. Big Ten (3-2)

Key Wins: Miami, LSU, Oregon

Losses: Iowa State, Auburn

Games Remaining: Michigan State vs. Texas Tech (Liberty Bowl), Iowa vs. Georgia Tech (FedEx Orange Bowl)


Look who showed up for the postseason! The struggling Big Ten, which has longed for a statement nonconference win, has been nothing but clutch this bowl season. 

The Big Ten has showed up big time by posting the most impressive collection of wins to date with victories over elite teams from the Pac-10, ACC and SEC.

For the first time in half a decade, the Big Ten has captured the elusive Rose Bowl Trophy with a solid win over an explosive Oregon team.

The Big Ten was even strong in defeat. Their two losses consist of a one-point setback by Minnesota to Iowa State and an overtime loss by Northwestern to a resurgent Auburn.

If the Hawkeyes can pull off a victory over the Yellow Jackets on Tuesday, this could prove the Big Ten's best bowl performance since 2005.

Maybe that week off the first week of December ain't so bad after all.



3. SEC (3-3)

Key Wins: Texas A&M, Northwestern, Cincinnati

Losses: Clemson, Penn State, Virginia Tech

Games Remaining: Arkansas vs. East Carolina (Liberty Bowl), South Carolina vs. Connecticut ( Bowl), Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State (Cotton Bowl), Alabama vs. Texas (National Championship Game)


While the SEC has been less-than-stellar this bowl season, they do claim the lone victory thus far over a top five opponent, as Florida completely owned Cincinnati. An impressive feat when your runner-up takes down an undefeated team from a BCS conference in that fashion.

SEC fans may be quick to overestimate the value of their mid- and lower-tier squads, but the elite of the SEC, Alabama and Florida, are playing on an entirely different plane than the rest of college football.
Although the Mountain West may have something to say about that.

The SEC's other two victories pose little meaning. Georgia laid a beat down on a mediocre Texas A&M team and Auburn eked out an overtime victory over Northwestern.

Conversely, two of the SEC's three losses came at the hands of elite ACC teams with Tennessee falling to Virginia Tech and Kentucky falling to Clemson.

The most telling loss of the SEC bowl season was LSU's mismanagement of Penn State. It doesn't help the SEC's pristine image when the third best Big Ten team takes down the third best SEC team.

With four bowl games remaining including the BCS National Championship Game, the jury is still out on this year's overall bowl performance for the SEC. That said, if TCU falls to Boise State, Alabama beats Texas and Ole Miss knocks off Oklahoma State, the SEC can quickly claim the title as this year's top bowl performer.

4. Big 12 (3-2)

Key Wins: Arizona, Stanford, Minnesota

Navy, Georgia

Games Remaining: Texas Tech vs. Michigan State (Alamo Bowl), Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma State (Cotton Bowl), Texas vs. Alabama (National Championship Game)


Like the MWC, the Big 12 has claimed two telling victories over quality Pac-10 opponents.

Nebraska's stunning 33-0 victory over Arizona illustrated just how dominating the Husker's defense has become.

What really weighs down the Big 12 in this ranking is the ugliness of their two losses to two unranked teams. Missouri was annihilated by Navy and A&M proved no contest against the Georgia Bulldogs.

The two games remaining feature head-to-head battles against the vaunted SEC. If the Big 12 can end up 5-2 with a win in Pasadena and a National Championship, they can arguably jump the SEC as the best conference in college football.



5. ACC (3-3)

Key Wins: West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky

Losses: USC, Pitt, Wisconsin

Games Remaining: Georgia Tech vs. Iowa (FedEx Orange Bowl)


While the ACC has played fairly well with an even record and forgivable losses against the likes of Pitt, USC and Wisconsin, the ACC is in dire need of that marquee victory that really spells success for the bowl season.

A win by Georgia Tech over the Iowa Hawkeyes will do just that.



6. Big East (2-2)

Key Wins: North Carolina, Central Florida

Losses: Florida, Florida State

Games Remaining: Connecticut-South Carolina ( Bowl),


While the Big East got off to a terrific start with Pitt outlasting Butch Davis' Tar Heels and Rutgers taking care of business against Central Florida, the absolute seal-clubbing Florida handed to an undefeated Cincinnati team is embarrassing.

Clearly the Big East does not belong amongst the upper crust of the BCS. Beginning next season, the Big East will not have a single head coach with experience coaching in a BCS Bowl game. Meanwhile, the non-BCS MWC may have as many as three.



7. Pac-10 (2-5)

Key Wins: Boston College, Temple

Losses: BYU, Utah, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio State

Games Remaining: None


After losing their stranglehold on the Rose Bowl tonight and losing in embarrassing fashion, the end of the bowl season couldn't come soon enough for the Pac-10.

What a difference a year makes! Just one year ago, the Pac finished 5-0 in the bowls with victories over the Big Ten, the  MWC, the Big East, and the Big 12.

In fact, just a few weeks have passed since some insiders were making a case for the Pac-10 being the strongest conference in all of college football.

Not this year. The Pac-10 has once again allowed the "inferior" MWC to bitch-slap them for dominance out west with surprising losses to both BYU and Utah. (The Pac was 2-6 versus the MWC in 2008).

Could you imagine how ugly this bowl season would've been for the conference of champions had Temple hung on to beat the Bruins?


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