I've written before about conference strengths and comparisons (here), and a lot of that focuses on looking at non-conference games and how teams do there. With 35 bowl games, there is a plethora of games to look at to further analyze to see if conferences are indeed as strong, or as weak, as perceived.
As a reminder, my computer had the conferences ranked:
In this analysis, I'll look at not just the records in bowl games, but look at the record compared with what the record "should be", and compare specific performance against both the Vegas line and my computer's prediction. This is important because match-ups are very important and simply looking at win/loss misses that.
Below is a table that lists each conference along with what Vegas predicted the record should be and what my computer predicted. I also include the record through bowl games played 1/1 except for the Fiesta Bowl and the how each conference did beating the spread through those games.
As far as records compared to expected go, those teams doing better than expected are:
- ACC - already 4 wins with 2 to play but underdogs in those games
- Big-Ten - expected to be terrible so even a 2-5 record is a little better
- Independent - 2 wins when expected to have none or only 1
- Sunbelt - will finish with at least 2 wins when expected to only have 1
And those doing worse:
- Big-12 - very disappointing 2-4 record thus far when 6-2 or 7-1 expected
- MAC - 3 wins expected but only 1 with 1 to play
- SEC - still have 4 to play and favored in 3 of those 4 but would have to win 3 or 4 to get to expected
- WAC - only win thus far is BSU but Nevada still to play
Similarly, those doing well against the spread:
- Mountain West - a very good 4-1
- Sunbelt - a surprising 2-0
And doing poorly against the spread:
- Big-12 - 1-5 is just bad
- Conference USA - 2-4 a bit below what you'd expect
So the ACC could have a good showing and the Big-Ten wasn't quite as bad as expected but that isn't really a good argument that they are better than the #4 and #5 conferences. However, the Big-12 has stunk it up putting their #3 in jeopardy.
The PAC-10 could do better than expected and they were my #1 conference and the SEC has to play a little catch-up to just do as expected.