The Big Ten Resurgence

I’ve been remiss in updating by bowl points system this year. I was probably just so devastated by the Bulldog’s loss. In any case, here we go:

A few years ago, I invented my own Bowl Championship Points system in response to the Bowl Championship Cup. You can read all about it here, including my now hilarious prediction that the 2013 national title game would be a close matchup. The basic idea is that the Championship Cup was silly, as evidenced by ESPN abandoning it. It decides which conference “won” the bowl season by straight win percentage with three or more bowls. So it is almost always won by a mid-major conference that wins three or four bowls. The Mountain West has claimed five of them, usually on the back of a 4-2 or 3-1 record.

My system awards points to conferences that play in a lot of bowls and a lot of BCS bowls. As such, it is possible for a mid-major to win, but they have to have a great year. The Mountain West won in 2010-2011, when they won four bowls including a BCS game. But it will usually go to a major conference.

Here are the winners of the Bowl Championship Points system for the time I’ve been keeping it.

1998-1999: Big Ten (12 points, 5-0, 2 BCS wins)
1999-2000: Big Ten (10 points, 5-2, 2 BCS wins)
2000-2001: Big East (8 points, 4-1, 1 BCS win)
2001-2002: SEC (9 points, 5-3, 2 BCS wins)
2002-2003: Big Ten (9 points, 5-2, 1 BCS win)
2003-2004: ACC/SEC (9 points each)
2004-2005: Big 12 (6 points, 4-3, 1 BCS win)
2005-2006: Big 12 (8 points, 5-3, 1 BCS win)
2006-2007: Big East/SEC (11 points each)
2007-2008: SEC (14 points, 7-2, 2 BCS wins)
2008-2009: SEC/Pac 12 (11 points each)
2009-2010: SEC (10 points, 6-4, 2 BCS wins)
2010-2011: Mountain West (8 points, 4-1, 1 BCS win)
2011-2012: Big 12 (11 points, 6-2, 1 BCS Win)
2012-2013: SEC (10 points, 6-3, 1 BCS win)
2013-2014: SEC (11 points, 7-3, 0 BCS wins)
2014-2015: Big 10/Pac 12 (10 points)
2015-2016: SEC (19 points, 9-2, 3 CFP wins)
2016-2017: ACC (18 points, 9-3, 3 CFP wins)

You can contrast that against the Bowl Cup, which has been awarded five times to the Mountain West Conference and three times to Conference USA based on their performance in such venues as the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. I’m happy when the mid-majors do well, but winning three or four second tier bowls just isn’t the same as winning six bowls, two CFP bowls and a national title.

I also keep track of “doubles”, when a conference wins both the Bowl Challenge Cup and my system. That’s been done by the Big 10 (1998, 1999, 2002), the ACC (2003, 2016), the Big 12 (2005), the Big East (2006), the Pac 10 (2008), the Mountain West (2010) and the SEC (2013, 2015).

For years, I’ve been saying that the SEC’s dominance was waning, based on the points system, from its 2008 peak. And to the extent that the SEC did dominate, it was a result of being one of the only conferences that played defense, not “SEC speed”. History has born me out. The Big 10 and Pac 12 split the title in 2014. After a dominating 2015 performance by the SEC, the ACC dominated 2016.

Despite the all-SEC title game, the SEC did not have a good year this year. They were 5-6 and, even with three CFP wins and a title, they tied for second places with the the Big 12 and the Sun Belt. No, the big winner was the Big Ten, who went 7-1, won three CFP bowls but were shut out of the title game because the committee went with Alabama. While Alabama went on to win the title, I still think taking them over Ohio State was a mistake just as I thought take Ohio State over Penn State the previous year was a mistake. By my reckoning, Alabama owes Penn State a playoff berth.

Anyway, here are the all-time rankings. The SEC is still the best conference over the long haul, always placing among the best while other conferences wax and wane. But the last few years have seen a lot more parity, bringing the ACC and Big 10 back to the crowd of the other major conferences.

SEC: 107-73, 24 BCS/CFP wins, 165 points, 10.5 titles
Pac 12: 63-65, 16 BCS/CFP wins, 77 points, 1.5 titles*
American: 58-49, 11 BCS/CFP wins, 78 points, 1 title**
Big 12: 66-70, 11 BCS/CFP wins, 73 points, 2 titles
Big 10: 70-82, 21 BCS/CFP wins, 79 points, 2 titles
ACC: 75-83, 10 BCS/CFP wins, 77 points, 3 titles
Mountain West: 49-41, 4 BCS/CFP wins, 61 points
Conference USA: 51-55, 47 points
WAC (defunct): 23-29, 2 BCS/CFP wins, 19 points
MAC: 28-49, 7 points
Sun Belt: 22-21, 23 points
Independents: 16-18, 14 points

(*Screw the NCAA. I’m counting USC as a champion.)
(**This counts previous games from the Big East and Miami’s title.)