Refs, top conferences and Tebow vs. Ingram 

November, 12, 2009

Let's dive into the Friday mailbag:

From Alex in Richmond, VA: Please explain to me the difference between the wonderful Pac-10 and the lowly ACC: 2-3 top teams, a group of mediocre teams and 2-3 horrible teams. They look pretty similar to me except for the fact the ACC has a higher-ranked top team and even their worst team has an FBS win. Oh yeah, and the eighth ACC team (Wake) beat one of the top Pac-10 teams (Stanford).

I'm not sure there really is much of a difference. Both conferences are stocked with promising young QBs and both have had their top teams knocked off by other league teams.

There really isn't one right answer to the questions of conference superiority. People can talk about how great the SEC may be this year because it has two of the top three teams in the BCS standings. But after those two you have LSU -- which doesn't have a win over anyone in the current Top 25. And after that, maybe it's Auburn and a group of disappointing teams (UGA, Ole Miss, South Carolina). The Big 12 has been even more disappointing, save for Texas. Oklahoma State lost to Houston and got blown out by UT. OU is having a nightmarish year and the Big 12 North is a mess, again. The Big Ten? Ohio State and Iowa are playing this weekend to see who is the top team. Ohio State already lost to USC at home and to lowly Purdue. Iowa lost at home to Northwestern, who lost to Syracuse.

On the whole when people size up which conferences are best, I do think it's all about perception, and how you choose to look at things. According to the NCAA's strength of schedule rankings, there are six ACC teams listed among those with the 25 toughest schedules: Virginia Tech (No. 5); Florida State (No. 6); UVA (No. 9); Miami (No. 15); Clemson (No. 23) and UNC (No. 25). (The Pac-10 has four among the top 25. The SEC has five, as does the Big East.) Meanwhile, the Sagarin schedule rankings list six Pac-10 teams as having among the top nine hardest schedules with the ACC having six of the toughest 14.

Among the six automatic-qualifying conferences, only the Pac-10 and ACC have three nonconference wins against opponents ranked in the Top 25 at the time of the game (Oklahoma, BYU and Nebraska for the ACC and Ohio State, Utah, Notre Dame for the Pac-10). That's a note straight from the Pac-10 conference release. Of course, that's not such a great stat if you go by the current rankings where the ACC would only have FSU's win at BYU, while the Pac-10 would have two with USC's win at Ohio State and Oregon's win over Utah.

If you look at noteworthy out-of-conference games against teams from the other five major conferences, the ACC has an 8-7 record, while the Pac-10 is 6-5.

I think you're splitting hairs between the two. My hunch is the top of the Pac-10 might get a slight edge but the bottom of the ACC is better.