So another College Football Season is almost done. Time to revisit my Bowl Championship System:
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)
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), the Big 12 (2005), the Big East (2006), the Pac 10 (2008), the Mountain West (2010) and the SEC (2013, 2015).
For years, I said 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”. In 2014, I saw the Pac 12 rising and predicted we were moving toward two super-conferences — the SEC and the Pac 12 — dominating the college football scene. But then the Big Ten, with two of their top teams returning, moved into the picture, with more parity overall. Last year, however, the SEC dominated, shattering the record for the best Bowl performance.
This year, however, we’re seeing something unexpected: the ACC has essentially already won the “double” with an 8-3 record, two CFP wins already and a chance at a national title. The SEC could finish a close second if Auburn wins tonight and Bama wins the title. However, if Clemson wins the title, the conference will have had the second most dominating performance in the last two decades. I don’t think anyone saw that coming.
The B1G has been a disappointment, with a 3-7 record. Michigan and Penn State played well, but Ohio State was humiliated in their playoff game. Of the four B1G teams ranked in the top ten, only Wisconsin won and that was against MAC champ #15 Western Michigan. The MAC, incidentally, just broke their own record for most futile bowl season by going 0-6 (they went 0-5 in 2008-9). That makes Wisconsin’s win a bit less impressive as well. I think it’s fair to say the B1G was a tad over-rated, which always seems to happen when Ohio State and Michigan are both having good years, inducing a circularity in the press’s ranking logic. Still … the B1G has long put their status as a doormat behind them.
Looking back over the last few years, I’m surprised at how much parity has asserted itself. I truly believed we were moving toward a system where two conferences would dominate, but the B1G came back in a big way and the ACC is having a great year this year. I don’t why there’s so much parity in college football right now, but it’s a good thing. Makes it much more fun.
The SEC continues to dominate the all-time rankings, of course. Here are the conferences through tonight’s Rose Bowl:
SEC: 102-65, 21 BCS/CFP wins, 160 points, 9.5 titles
Pac 12: 62-57, 16 BCS/CFP wins, 83 points, 1.5 titles*
Big 12: 69-72, 11 BCS/CFP wins, 77 points, 2 titles
American: 54-46, 10 BCS/CFP wins, 72 points, 1 title**
ACC: 70-77, 9 BCS/CFP wins, 72 points, 2 titles
Big 10: 63-81, 18 BCS/CFP wins, 63 points, 2 title
Mountain West: 46-38, 4 BCS/CFP wins, 58 points
Conference USA: 47-50, 44 points
WAC (defunct): 23-29, 2 BCS/CFP wins, 19 points
Sun Belt: 18-20, 16 points
Independents: 14-18, 10 points
MAC: 27-45, 9 points
(*Screw the NCAA. I’m counting USC as a champion.)
(**This counts previous games from the Big East and Miami’s title.)