SEC falls, Big Ten rises in Conference Power Rankings

The Big Ten is rising in the Conference Power Rankings thanks in part to Michigan State. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After an impressive 12-1 record in Week 1, which included four wins against Power 5 opponents, the SEC stumbled in Week 2. In addition to losses by Arkansas and Tennessee, Auburn needed overtime to beat Jacksonville State, and Florida and Missouri held on for a pair of seven-point wins against Group of 5 opponents.

Based on FPI’s pregame projections, which account for the strength of opponents faced and game site, the SEC underachieved more than any Power 5 conference in its nonconference games in Week 2 (1.2 fewer wins than expected).

As a result, the SEC fell more than any other conference in the Conference Power Rankings, and the gap between the SEC and the rest of the conferences is closing.

As a quick refresher, the Conference Power Rankings are a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the Associated Press poll and ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) to determine the best and worst conferences in the country. The AP poll is designed to capture the strength at the top of the conference, while FPI is intended to capture conference depth.

One conference that may be deeper than most realize is the Big 12. In addition to conference favorites TCU and Baylor, Oklahoma proved it belongs in the playoff conversation after beating Tennessee 31-24 in OT on Saturday. West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas State all have risen in FPI since the preseason after dominant wins against admittedly lesser competition.

The Big Ten was the biggest riser in the Conference Rankings after posting a 12-2 record, including three wins against Power 5 opponents, in Week 2. Michigan State’s three-point win over Oregon was the highlight of the weekend for the Big Ten, but bounce-back victories by Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin helped solidify the conference’s rating.

We will learn a lot about the depth of the Big Ten next week when Illinois (at North Carolina), Northwestern (at Duke), Nebraska (at Miami), Purdue (versus Virginia Tech) and Iowa (versus Pittsburgh) face ACC opponents in Week 3. FPI favors the ACC in four of those five games, so upsets by the Big Ten could lead to an even greater rise in the conference ranks.

Other nonconference games to keep an eye on include: Texas Tech at Arkansas, California at Texas and BYU at UCLA. Each of those games could have an impact on the Conference Power Rankings as the Pac-12 and Big 12 try to close the gap on the SEC.