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.
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.
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.
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