Second only to deciding the best way to determine the National Championship (play-off, polls, etc.), is there a bigger debate year after year among college football "experts", pundits, fans and know-it-all’s than the question of "which is the most powerful and dominant Division I 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 dominant, the most successful in any given year? Which are the real conferences and which are the pretenders?
Everyone would agree 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 is a group of losers that might not even make it to bowl games.
There are only four other BCS bowls. Determining the most dominant overall conference takes more than looking at the five big bowls. It can't be based on the seasons 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.
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.
Cincinnati may have been undefeated this year both in-conference and in regular season out-of-conference games, but although a great team, its true lack of dominance was exposed this year in the Sugar Bowl. Ditto with Hawaii in 2007.
Determining the criteria for the most dominant conference can be as complex or as simple as one wants to make it.
To prevent it from getting too complex yet still take into account the most important criteria and avoiding getting an obviously wrong result, the most dominating 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.
An initial indication of how dominant a conference is is how many teams are "bowl qualified." Will a conference qualify 80 percent of its teams or 10 percent 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 six games does indicate some level of strength. But it doesn’t say much for a conference to qualify 80 percent of its teams and lose 80 percent of those games to other conferences.
That being the case, past the minimum six-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 against No. 1 from every other conference. For example, this year we had the No. 1 CUSA team against the No. 6 or No. 7 SEC team.
Instead, the BCS and the bowls attempt to match national rankings, conference rankings, W-L records, and team talent so fairly even teams from each conference play each other. (For purposes of this article, let’s leave issues of politics and revenue for another day).
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.
So let’s see how the conferences fared this year. Which conference takes the title of the most dominating and successful for the 2009 CFB season?
1. SEC - 10 played / 6 won = 16
2. Big 12 - 8 played / 4 won = 12
3. Big 10 - 7 played / 4 won = 11
4. Big East - 6 played / 4 won = 10
4. ACC - 7 played / 3 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 won = 6
9. MAC - 5 played / 1 won = 6
11. Sun - 2 played / 1 won = 3
(Navy - won)