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Pac-12 vs. SEC: The Blind Resume Test

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With only a few weeks left before conference championships (unless you’re the Big-12), the hierarchy of the college football landscape is as uncertain as it was ten weeks ago. Only one thing is truly certain, the Pac-12 and SEC are the best college football conferences in America.

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There has to be a best conference though, right? Let's take a look.

In past installments of the "Pac-12 vs. SEC" series, we have analyzed rankings and strength of schedule primarily, focusing on the overall perception of each conference nationally. But with larger bodies of work to now examine, the focus will shift to overall record, good wins, bad losses, and strength of schedule through week 12.

However, the names of the universities will be hidden. The past prestige and name recognition of programs like Alabama, Oregon, Auburn, etc. will not be a determining factor. It does not matter who you are, but what you have done.

Below are two groups, one represents the Pac-12 and one represents the SEC. Five programs from each conference that are currently ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25 will be used for this exercise. A knowledgeable college football fan will most likely figure out which conference is which, but what team corresponds with specific statistics may not be as evident.

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Conference A:

Team Record Wins vs. Top25* Losses vs. Top 25* Home Losses Sagarin SOS**
TEAM 1 9-1 1 1 0 2
TEAM 2 9-1 1 1 0 32
TEAM 3 8-2 1 1 1 14
TEAM 4 8-2 3 0 1 10
TEAM 5 7-3 3 2 1 1

Conference B:

Team Record Wins vs. Top25* Losses vs. Top 25* Home Losses Sagarin SOS**
Team 1 9-1 3 1 1 22
Team 2 8-2 2 2 2 11
Team 3 8-2 2 1 1 27
Team 4 8-2 1 2 1 50
Team 5 7-3 2 2 2 15

*Based off current College Football Playoff rankings

**Based off Sagarin strength of schedule through week 12

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What stands out?

Overall records are similar, but Conference A has two teams that are 9-1 versus Conference B's one. However, one of Conference A's 9-1 teams has what would be the second worst strength of schedule if it were grouped with Conference B. And neither of Conference A's 9-1 teams have as many Top 25 victories as Conference B's 9-1 team. All three 9-1 teams have one loss to a Top 25 program, the variance is Conference B's 9-1 program lost at home.

Outside of the 9-1 programs, the majority of the Top 25 victories for Conference A come from Team 4 (8-2) and Team 5 (7-3). One of these teams has as many Top 25 victories as Team 1-3 combined. Conversely, there is only one program in Conference B that does not have 2+ Top 25 victories.

Moreover, the "Losses vs. Top 25" column may be deceiving because the numbers are greater for Conference B versus Conference A. In this case, that's a good thing. Conference B teams have only lost two games to teams who are not currently ranked in the Top 25, whereas Conference A teams have lost four.

Conference A advocates may argue, "Look at all those home losses for Conference B teams!" And they are significantly higher--three for Conference A and seven for Conference B. Does that make Conference A better than Conference B? Or is that just statistically speaking to the parity of Conference B? That's debatable.

In the end, here's what matters:

Conference B has more wins versus Top 25 programs, and their losses could be categorized as "better" because more of them have come at the hands of Top 25 programs.

Conference A may have two 9-1 teams and less home losses, but look what they have done--is it really that impressive? Conference B's 9-1 team has one more Top 25 victory than both of Conference A's 9-1 teams combined.

Conference A may look good skimming through the records, but through week 12, Conference B has done more.

Who's who?

It's likely at this point you have pieced together that Conference A represents the SEC and Conference B represents the Pac-12. As of the most updated College Football Playoff Top 25, the SEC has five teams ranked, all of which were used for this analysis. On the other hand, the Pac-12 has the most teams ranked of any conference in the nation with six. To make things even, Southern Cal, the lowest ranked of the Pac-12's ranked programs, was not used in this analysis (note: USC currently has one Top 25 victory, one Top 25 loss, and one non-Top 25 loss).

Conference A

  • Team 1: Alabama
  • Team 2: Mississippi St.
  • Team 3: Ole Miss
  • Team 4: Georgia
  • Team 5: Auburn
Conference B
  • Team 1: Oregon
  • Team 2: UCLA
  • Team 3: Arizona St.
  • Team 4: Arizona
  • Team 5: Utah
So what really sets apart the SEC from the Pac-12, the "eye test?"  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯