Conference champions have been decided, the College Football Playoff is set and the 2015 bowl season will kick off with five games on Dec. 19. So with the exception of Saturday's Army vs. Navy matchup, the regular season is over. So let's see how the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences fared in 2015 shall we?
To do this, I came up with my formula to rank the conferences according to a series of objective factors. These factors are used to calculate scores for all 10 FBS conferences. The criteria include:
1. Wins by each member of every conference when facing non-conference foes.
2. Games on the road are worth more than those at neutral sites or at home.
3. Victories versus other conferences’ champions or second-place teams/divisional winners count for more points.
4. Wins against FBS opponents have much more value than those against FCS members.
Below is how the 10 conferences measured up to one another entering the bowl season. Each conference’s score is in parenthesis. For those curious about the scale of my formula, a perfect score for a conference is 3.188.
1. Big Ten (.848)
The Big Ten did not stumble out of the gate as they did in 2014. Big Ten members defeated three champions of other conferences: Indiana (Conference USA), Northwestern (Pac-12) and Penn State (Mountain West). The Big Ten has a respectable record versus the ACC (4-3), the Big 12 (2-2) and the Pac-12 (3-2). The conference finished 3-0 versus the service academies. The Big Ten split its two games versus BYU.
2. SEC (.741)
Just like last season, the SEC had impressive results in September then faded over the course of the season. SEC teams lost three out of four of their intra-state matches versus the ACC to finish 4-3 against their nearby conference brethren. Two wins over AAC teams in September were negated by two losses in October. South Carolina also lost to the Citadel, an FCS member.
However, there were some reasons to boast. SEC members did win their sole games against the Big Ten and the Pac-12, respectively. Also, SEC teams defeated both divisional champions of Conference USA.
3. Pac-12 (.674)
Washington State lost to FCS member Portland State in its season opener. Two Pac-12 teams lost to Mountain West opponents in the first week of the season as well. During the rest of the regular season, the Pac-12 won the other 11 games against the MW. Later in the season, the Pac-12 finished 1-1 against Notre Dame.
4. Big 12 (.567)
Eight of the 10 members played a team from the FCS. Kansas lost to one of those, South Dakota State. Also, Big 12 schools were only 2-1 versus the MAC. On the bright side, the Big 12 won both contests against the SEC.
5. ACC (.500)
The ACC hurt its score with every member playing at least one opponent from the FCS. The schools also finished 1-5 versus Notre Dame. The Coastal Division winner, North Carolina, lost on a neutral field to South Carolina. The Gamecocks finished 3-9. One of the ACC's three wins versus the SEC was against the SEC East Division champion (Florida State over Florida).
6. American Athletic (.479)
The AAC still has not proved that it is on par with the Power 5 conferences. The members, including AAC East winner Temple, lost both games versus Notre Dame and all three matchups with BYU. On a positive note, the AAC did win two of its four games against the SEC.
7. MAC (.304)
On the bright side, MAC champion Bowling Green beat both Big Ten opponents that it played (Maryland, Purdue). Toledo beat an SEC team (Arkansas) and a Big 12 team (Iowa State).
On the down side, Bowling Green lost to an SEC team (Tennessee) and an AAC team (Memphis) that both finished in third place in their respective divisions. Additionally, the rest of the conference served as punching bags for the Power 5, especially the Big Ten.
8. Conference USA (.240)
Western Kentucky, CUSA's champion, lost to a 6-6 Big Ten member (Indiana) and an 8-3 SEC member (LSU). Southern Miss, the runner-up, lost to Nebraska, a 5-7 Big Ten team and an 8-4 SEC member, Mississippi State, on the Golden Eagles' home field. Those show the huge disparity between CUSA and the Power 5.
9. Sun Belt (.148)
Arkansas State won the Sun Belt championship by finishing undefeated against SBC foes. However, in non-conference games, the Red Wolves only won one. That was against FCS member Missouri State. Their losses included a close one at home to SEC member Missouri, which finished with a 5-7 record.
Overall, the SBC showed its ineptitude. Its members lost all nine contests versus the SEC. They also dropped all four versus the ACC.
10. Mountain West (.104)
Both divisional champions finished 1-5 in games versus other FBS members. MW Champion San Diego State lost to a member of the Big Ten (Penn State), Pac-12 (California) and Sun Belt (South Alabama). None of those teams won more than seven games during the regular season. In fact, South Alabama finished 5-7.
We may have discovered why BYU has not been invited to re-join the conference. The Cougars finished 4-0 versus the MW. Maybe the MW should re-admit this former member so losses to the Cougars will not continue to drag down the MW's already abysmal non-conference record.
— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)