SEC finishes atop football power rankings

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
3:13
PM ET
It is no surprise that the SEC remains atop ESPN Stats & Info’s Conference Power Rankings after winning its sixth straight BCS National Championship on Monday.

The SEC was dominant all season. The conference consistently had three teams ranked in the AP Top 10, and at one point was the first conference since 1971 to hold the top three spots in the polls. Today, three of the top five teams in the final AP Poll reside in the SEC after the conference went 6-3 in bowl season.

The Big 12 finished second in the rankings after a strong season by many of its top programs. The conference went 6-2 in bowl games, which was the best winning percentage of any AQ conference. Overall, the Big 12 finished with the best out-of-conference record (33-5) in the nation, but it lacked two top-tier teams, ultimately costing the conference the top spot in our rankings.

For the first time this season, the ACC fell behind the Big East in the Conference Rankings after being outscored by 74 points in its bowl games. The conference went 2-6 in bowls, including 0-2 in BCS Bowls. The ACC is 2-13 all-time in BCS Bowl games, but the most embarrassing of its losses may have been Clemson’s 37-point loss to Big East Champion West Virginia in this year’s Orange Bowl.

In the race for the top non-AQ conference, the Mountain West Conference came out on top. Boise State and TCU finished the season ranked in the AP Top 15 and gave credence to those who said that the conference deserved a BCS Bowl bid by winning by a combined 39 points in its bowl games. The conference finished 17.6 points ahead of the Big East and 23.3 points ahead of the ACC for fifth in our rankings.

Finally, Conference USA made a push for seventh in the rankings after a strong bowl season. The conference went 4-1 in bowl games and outscored its opponents by 52 points, tied for the best point differential with the SEC.

With 2011 in the books, it is not too soon to start looking ahead to next season. Conference realignment has the potential to change these rankings significantly. Will the Big 12 be the top conference in the nation with the addition of West Virginia and TCU? How will Texas A&M and Missouri impact the depth of the SEC? Tune in next year to see how it all turns out.

For a brief recap on how we rank the conferences, click here.

Albert Larcada is an Analytics Specialist in ESPN's Stats & Information group. Among other analytics projects, he maintains, advances and writes about ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) algorithm.

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