Which FBS Conference Was the Toughest in 2019?

Since LSU won the National Championship, does that equate to the SEC being the strongest conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision? Clemson advanced to the national title game. Does that prove that the ACC deserved more respect? Which FBS conference proved itself as the strongest conference in 2019?

Which FBS Conference Was the Toughest in 2019?

The following are the rankings of the ten FBS conferences according to this writer’s created system. This formula ranks the ten FBS conferences in an objective fashion. Teams earn points for their conferences based on victories versus other FBS teams. Victories on the road are worth more than those at home or at neutral sites. Wins against other conferences’ champions, divisional or overall, are worth additional points.

The conferences are ranked in descending order. Each conference’s score is in parenthesis.

Big 10 (.762)

The Big Ten finished with winning records against six of the other nine Power Five conferences. Those included 6-1 versus the American Athletic Conference, 3-2 versus the Atlantic Coast Conference, and 2-1 versus the Mountain West Conference.

However, the Big Ten slumped in the post-season. The conference finished 4-5 in bowls. Ohio State, the champion of the Big Ten, lost in the College Football Playoff semi-finals. That means no Big Ten member has won a game in the CFP since the 2014 season.

American Athletic (.723)

The AAC held its own against the Power Five conferences. The conference finished 1-1 versus the SEC, 2-2 versus the Big Twelve, and 2-1 versus the Pacific Twelve.

Once again, the American Athletic Conference failed to follow up noteworthy success in the regular season with an impressive showing in the bowls. The AAC won only four of its seven bowl games. Against opponents from the Power Five in the post-season, the AAC’s members finished 2-2. That included Memphis, the AAC’s champion, losing to Penn State in the Cotton Bowl.

Pacific 12 (.640)

The PAC-12’s 5-1 record versus the Big Ten stands out as the only conference with a winning record against the Big Ten. The Pacific Twelve also finished 1-0 versus both the ACC and CUSA plus 2-0 against the Mid-American Conference.

The Pacific Twelve found itself as the only Power Five conference whose champion was excluded from the College Football Playoff. The conference’s argument for an invitation instead of the Big Twelve’s champion seems undeserved considering that the PAC-12 finished 1-3 versus the Big Twelve. The 5-5 record against the Mountain West Conference also hurt the conference’s prestige.

Big 12 (.590)

The Big Twelve appeared to be on the verge of exclusion from the College Football Playoff through Championship Saturday in December. In hindsight, the conference’s 1-5 record in the bowls made the Big Twelve look undeserving of having its champion in the CFP. That same miserable record against the SEC further tarnished the conference’s reputation. Additionally, nine of the Big Twelve’s 30 out-of-conference games in the regular season occurred against FCS opponents.

However, the Big Twelve was not as completely outclassed as Oklahoma’s implosion in the CFP may have indicated. The conference finished 1-1 versus the Big 10 and 2-0 against the ACC during the season.

Southeastern (.561)

Four SEC members (LSU, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama) finished ranked in the top ten of the final Associated Press and Coaches Polls. Auburn also finished fourteenth in both polls. These five teams combined for a record of 6-0 against the ACC and 3-0 against the Big Twelve, They also had victories over the champions of the ACC, Big Twelve and Pacific Twelve conferences, all at neutral sites. In the bowls, the SEC finished 8-2, including LSU’s victory in the national championship game.

The strength of a conference is only a formidable as its weakest members. The other nine members of the SEC were only 2-4 versus the ACC, 2-1 versus the Big Twelve, and 3-2 versus the Sun Belt Conference. Finally, all of the SEC’s members played an opponent from the FCS, further diminishing the conference’s out-of-conference strength of their schedules.

Mountain West (.555)

The MWC turned in respectable showings. The conference had a 3-2 record versus SEC and 1-1 record versus the ACC. The group also won eight out of 12 contests against the FBS’ Independents. The MWC won both matchups with Conference USA.

The MWC did stumble in a few notable matchups. The conference finished 1-3 vs the Mid-American Conference. Also, the outcome of the bowl games was a tepid 4-3 mark, 1-1 against Power Five opponents.

Sun Belt (.506)

The Sun Belt struggled early in the season. Its members served as rent-a-wins in road games in many cases. The conference had a record of 0-2 versus the Big Ten, 0-4 versus the AAC, and 2-5 versus the SEC.

Nevertheless, the Sun Belt had some respectable outcomes. The SBC finished 1-1 versus both the ACC and Big Twelve. The season ended with a commendable 3-2 tally in the bowls.

Atlantic Coast (.465)

Besides its champion advancing to the national championship game, the ACC did have some other accomplishments. The ACC finished 6-2 versus CUSA. The ACC also won all five matchups with the Mid-American Conference.

However, 2019 provided much disappointment for the ACC. The conference had a record 2-4 versus the AAC.  This group of 14 teams won only four of its eleven bowl games. Also, Notre Dame swept all five games against the ACC.

Another reason for the ACC’s low score was the overall weakness of its non-conference games. Every ACC member played an FCS team. Virginia Tech faced two FCS opponents. More glaring, Georgia Tech lost to an FCS team.

Conference USA (.258)

CUSA experienced a rough season. The conference’s woeful tallies included going 1-8 versus the AAC, 0-3 versus the Big Ten and 1-4 versus the SEC.

What kept CUSA from finishing last in these conference rankings? Its 5-1 record against opponents from the MAC certainly helped. Winning three of its five bowls also slightly boosted CUSA’s score.

Mid-American (.223)

The MAC looked far inferior to other conferences. A tally of 1-9 versus the Big Ten and 0-4 versus the SEC contributed to that.

Even the strongest teams in the Mid-American conference flopped. The MAC’s champion, Miami (Ohio) lost four non-conference games. The other team in the MAC’s championship game, Central Michigan, lost three out-of-conference games.

One bright spot for the MAC occurred in the post-season. The conference managed to win three of its seven bowls.


FBS Conference Main Photo Credit:

Which FBS Conference Was the Toughest in 2019? Clemson Tigers wide receiver Joe Ngata (10) has the pass broken up by LSU Tigers cornerback Kristian Fulton (1) during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

16 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. *SEC goes 7-2 in bowl games and wins the natty*
    Article: nah dawg, you’re gonna be ranked 5th behind PAC-12 and American who have terrible records in bowl games and all around bad teams

    What a joke.

      1. Part of the reason why the SEC’s score is that low is that every SEC member faced an FCS opponent in 2019. Although the SEC won all of those games, those victories are worth much less than having defeated FBS teams.

  2. Do you realize that there were 14 weeks of games, totaling a few 100, that were played before the bowls? The SEC did not fare so successfully during the regular season. Should we just ignore those?

  3. There were 14 weeks of games played before the bowls. The SEC’s record in those games was mediocre. There is more to the college football season than just the bowls.

  4. There is more to the regular season than just bowls? OK…Let’s count everything. How many OOC wins did the Big 12 have in 2019 against teams that finished ranked in the final polls (AP or Coaches)? The answer…..ONE. Texas beat Utah in the Alamo Bowl and that’s the only quality win that the Big 12 had the entire season outside their league. Yet the writer of this article ranks the Big 12 ahead of the SEC.

    How many OOC wins did the Pac-12 have in 2019 against teams that finished ranked in the final polls? The answer…..TWO. Oregon beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Washington beat Boise St. That’s it. Yet the writer rates the Pac-12 ahead of the ACC.

    How many OOC wins did the Big 10 have in 2019 against teams that finished ranked in the final polls? The answer…..FOUR. Michigan beat Notre Dame, Minnesota beat Auburn, Ohio St. beat Cincinnati, and Penn St. beat Memphis. Yet this writer ranks the Big 10 ahead of the ACC.

    Do you know how many OOC wins the SEC had in 2019 against teams that finished ranked in either the AP or the Coaches poll? EIGHT !!…..8 !! LSU beat Clemson, Oklahoma, and Texas. Georgia beat Notre Dame and Baylor, Alabama beat Michigan, Auburn beat Oregon (The Pac-12 champion by the way) and Florida beat Virginia.

    The writer makes a big deal about how the rest of the SEC only went 2-4 vs the ACC. I didn’t realize that Texas A&M and South Carolina were supposed to beat Clemson. Didn’t think that South Carolina’s loss to North Carolina would hurt the SEC considering that the Tar Heels are much higher on the ACC’s totem pole than South Carolina is on the SEC’s. Do LSU and Alabama get to play Wake Forest?

    The SEC was hardly perfect and 2019 wasn’t it’s best season ever. I could go through any conference I want and find flaws. But the bottom line is…..who did you beat? The numbers show who the best conference was and sources such as jhowell.net, the Billingsley Report, sportsreference.com, and Jeff Sagarin all agree that the SEC had the best season in 2019 of any conference. Those people have been rating teams and conferences a lot longer than John La Fleur has.

  5. This system to rate conferences exclusively uses OBJECTIVE FACTS, namely results of EVERY GAME played in the season. Beating a team that was ranked in a poll based on SUBJECTIVE OPINIONS is irrelevant to this formula. Beating the champion of another conference counts for more because that win is a fact. You want proof that those polls are SUBJECTIVE, therefore, not used in this OBJECTIVE system to rank conferences? The final AP poll has Texas as #25 while the coaches’ final poll has Virginia as #25. How could that happen, a disagreement over what team was #25 at season’s end? BECAUSE POLLS ARE BASED SOLELY ON THE OPINIONS OF THE VOTERS! Coaches, players, media & fans can rank teams differently because they are relying on their OPINIONS. I used only the scores of the games, not the opinion of anyone, not even mine. Yes, there is a mention of the rest of the SEC outside of LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia & Florida was 2-4 vs the ACC (a fact). Whether someone (fans, gamblers, casinos, etc.) thought/believed/hoped that Texas A&M & S. Carolina would/should/could beat Clemson, those are all subjective, not based on facts. By the way, I have been publishing the results of this formula since 2005.

  6. What’s your formula? You posted a percentage in parentheses after each conference but you didn’t explain how you derived at that number. Head to head records between conferences is fine but if Clemson goes 8-0 in the ACC and Vanderbilt goes 0-8 within the SEC then a Clemson win over Vanderbilt shouldn’t carry very much weight. And how in the world is the Big Twelve ahead of the SEC when the SEC demolished it head to head during the entire season? And how is the Big Ten ahead of the Pac-10 when the latter beat the former 5-1 head to head.
    You claim to use facts but your facts make no sense and nobody seems to agree with you. You stand alone.

  7. “……..The SEC did not fare so successfully during the regular season.” That’s a SUBJECTIVE opinion. I happen to think that the SEC did very well during the regular season.

    1. Charlie, those percentages are based on wins by a conference’s members. Wins on the road are worth more those those at neutral sites, which are worth more than true home games. Wins against divisional and conference champions are worth more. Wins over FBS teams are worth much more than victories vs. FCS members. Those total points are divided by the number of OOC games. The fact that the PAC-12 went 5-1 vs. the Big 10 forms only a portion of the PAC-12’s score. The PAC-12’s mediocre record in the bowls & 5-5 record against the Mountain West dragged down its score. Do you know that the SEC finished 2-3 vs. the Mountain West? That fact along with others such as every SEC facing an FCS opponent hurt the SEC’s overall score. You are entitled to think “that the SEC did very well during the regular season.” However, these rankings are not based on what I think. They are determined by objective facts, namely, outcomes of games.

  8. The SEC did very well during the 2019 regular season. Fact: LSU beat Texas. Fact: Georgia beat Notre Dame. Fact: Auburn beat Oregon (Pac-12 conference champion). Fact: Missouri beat West Virginia from the Big 12.

    Here’s my issue with you. You claim to use facts but they’re all strawman arguments. And you don’t explain how those facts translated into your final ratings. Yes the Mountain West went 3-2 vs the SEC. So why isn’t the Mountain West ahead of the SEC? You also claim that the SEC’s great OOC success against ranked teams doesn’t factor into your ratings because the polls are opinionated. Right away that takes away the biggest weapon the SEC has: Great wins against great teams. Polls don’t count in your world so a win by LSU over Clemson counts as much as a win by LSU over Boston College. And that’s not right (opinion). In other words, 127 writers and coaches think that Oklahoma is the 7th best team in the nation but they’re all wrong and John La Fleur is right. And you still haven’t explained your formula.
    Personally, I don’t think you have a formula. I think you just want to stir the pot. You’re a Michigan St. fan who’s still bitter that the SEC has shown the Big Ten how to play football since the 1960’s. Fact: The SEC leads the Big Ten 57-32 all-time in head to head bowl games and that bothers you a lot (Opinion). Keep doing your formula which no one seems to be responding to (Fact) and I’ll let the experts like Jeff Sagarin (SEC #2 in 2019), sportsreference.com (SEC #1), Richard Billingsley (SEC #1), jhowell.net (SEC #1) decide. In fact go to masseyratings.com/cf/compare.htm and look at 102 college football ratings. 65 of them think that the SEC was #1, 33 of them think that the SEC was #2, and only 4 of them have the SEC as the #3 conference. On the other hand, John La Fleur has the SEC at #5. But then again…..they’re all wrong and only John La Fleur is correct. After all, who else but John really thinks that the American Athletic Conference was the 2nd best conference in college football in 2019?

  9. This John is just an SEC Hater!!and if we didn’t play smaller division schools,they would go broke and die.and many kids would never play ball pass high school!!!

    1. It’s not the role of SEC or any other FBS conference to hand out the athletic equivalent of charity. FCS teams can reduce their budgets instead of relying on FBS programs to prop up their football programs. If FCS programs can’t survive w/o subjecting SEC football fans to worthless OOC games, then so be it.

  10. Charlie, you clearly are not reading & understanding my explanations of this system. I already pointed out that wins over other conferences’ champions are worth more. Therefore, LSU’s wins over Clemson & Oklahoma were worth more than LSU’s win over Texas or its other out-of-conference opponents. BTW, I never ranked Oklahoma or any other team. This system ranks entire conferences. I have to re-state this again because you didn’t grasp the concept the first time: This system factors in the ENTIRE season, EVERY OOC game. The PAC 12 had a 5-1 record vs. the Big 10 but finished behind the Big 10 in the rankings. That’s due the PAC 12’s overall record vs. OOC opponents was inferior. The same goes for why the MWC is below the SEC despite the 3-2 record against the SEC. You obviously don’t understand the difference between an objective statement & a subjective statement. This system is 100% objective, based solely on wins, with wins on the road & at neutral sites worth more than wins at home. You cited other polls based OPINIONS. Those are SUBJECTIVE.

  11. Any ranking system that results in the SEC ranking 5th in overall conference strength is using faulty metrics. The fact that the AAC is second in this asinine ranking system is all the evidence you need to see it. You keep justifying this system all you want, it makes you look foolish. One question, who designed the metrics of this ranking system?

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