Putting the ACC into perspective

December, 5, 2008
12/05/08
5:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Leave it to my fabulous friend Brett Edgerton at ESPN Stats & Information to quantify the craziness in the ACC. Check out this piece Edgerton and Ryan McCrystal came up with:

Earlier this week, Ryan McCrystal and I were talking about the nuttiness called 2008 ACC football. This Saturday's conference title game between BC and Virginia Tech on ABC (1 ET) will be no doubt be overshadowed by the bigger games of the day, but perhaps we should be take a closer look at what that league experienced this year. Ryan and I took a look and discovered that no conference, perhaps in the history of college football, exemplified parity more than the ACC did in 2008. Sure, this was obvious to anyone who followed the topsy-turvy races in both divisions this season. But put in a historical context, the conference mayhem that happened this fall from Coral Gables all the way up the East Coast to Chestnut Hill was truly unprecedented in this ancient sport.

2008 ACC Standings

Atlantic Division
Boston College 5-3
Florida State 5-3
Maryland 4-4
Wake Forest 4-4
Clemson 4-4
NC State 4-4

Coastal Division
Virginia Tech 5-3
Georgia Tech 5-3
North Carolina 4-4
Miami (FL) 4-4
Virginia 3-5
Duke 1-7

So out of the 12 teams in the conference, a whopping 10 of them finished either tied for first or within a game of first. Ten! Paul Tagliabue would be so proud. Four teams finished 5-3 and another six finished 4-4. Virginia was 3-5 and Duke was 1-7, but neither of those teams were generally an easy out in conference play. So out of a dozen teams, only two failed to reach .500 in league play. Seem odd? Almost hard to believe mathematically? Well, that's because it is. An exhaustive look into every conference in major college football history (I-A/FBS) reveals that this year's ACC gave us the lowest percentage of losing teams in any conference...EVER. Yes, all of them. Starting with the first known conference in 1896.

Two of 12 equals 16.7% of the ACC. The closest thing to that parity in modern history was the 1982 race in the Mid-American Conference, in which two of the 10 teams (20.0%) finished with losing records in league play. The Big Ten had two of nine teams in 1942, but that's just 22.2%. Back in the day, there were conference that had four or five teams and had just one losing squad, but that still doesn't get you low enough for 16.7%. If you're looking for the last time a conference had two or fewer losing teams regardless of size, you have to go back to 1994 in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. In that eight-team league, Texas A&M finished 6-0-1, five teams tied at 4-3, Houston went 1-6 and SMU finished 0-6-1. Yes, the first- and last-place teams tied each other and won (A&M) or lost (SMU) all their other league games.

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised this overwhelming parity came out of the ACC, though. Of the nine times since 1960 that a conference has had two or fewer teams with a losing record, SIX of them have been by the ACC.

Conferences With Two or Fewer Losing Teams
Since 1960
Conference Teams with Losing Conf W-L
2008 ACC 2 of 12 teams
1994 Southwest 2 of 8 teams
1988 ACC 2 of 8 teams
1986 MAC 2 of 9 teams
1982 MAC 2 of 10 teams
1982 ACC 2 of 7 teams
1979 ACC 2 of 7 teams
1969 ACC 2 of 8 teams
1965 ACC 2 of 8 teams
NOTE: Only leagues with more than six teams

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