The Texas Longhorns were the grand prize in the conference realignment sweepstakes, and in the end, they elected to keep their value all to themselves. Reports indicate that Texas will make more money by remaining in a 10-team Big 12 than it would by joining the Pac-10 or any of the other rumored suitors. But are the remaining members better off from a football perspective?
Measuring the strength of a conference is not something that is easily agreed upon. Is a conference as good as its best team or teams? Is it as strong as its bottom teams? Is a conference with a deep middle tier more difficult to navigate than one with a few elite teams and a number of also-rans? At Football Outsiders, our F/+ ratings were developed as a combination of separate drive-based and play-by-play-based systems, and provide a solid metric to help resolve these debates.
We also have a unique strength of schedule methodology that measures a group of opponents from the top down. Defeating one elite team and one weak team is more difficult than defeating two average teams. We can apply the same principle to a conference by measuring the likelihood that an elite program would be able to go undefeated against an entire conference. By this measure, the size, depth and upper tier of a conference are all part of the analysis.