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Monday, October 7, 2013
SEC leads 1st conference power rankings

By Sharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Info

After six full weeks of football, it is again time to see how the conferences stack up.

Over the last few years, ESPN Stats & Information has published its weekly conference power rankings – a formula that equally weighs the rankings from the AP Poll and a compilation of available BCS computer rankings in order to determine which conference is the best and worst in the country.

This season, ESPN Stats & Information will be using ESPN’s new Football Power Index (FPI) instead of the BCS computers, but the premise of the rankings remains the same. The AP Poll will measure the strength of the top schools in the conference and the FPI will measure the depth of the conference.

The AP Poll and FPI will be weighed equally and the results will be calculated on a 0-100 scale in order to determine the top conference in the country.

FPI is a one of ESPN’s new storytelling metrics designed to determine which team is the best in the country. FPI does not necessarily answer the question of who DESERVES to be in a playoff; instead, it is designed to answer the question of which team would WIN if two teams were to meet on a neutral field. FPI ranges roughly between -30 to 30 and the difference between two teams amounts to a projected point spread.

The SEC has run away with the conference power rankings each of the last three years. However, the race for the top conference in the nation is much closer in 2013.

SEC vs Pac-12: The SEC leads the Pac-12 by 6.6 points through six weeks of football. The biggest difference between the top two conferences is the strength of the SEC’s top schools.

The SEC has six teams ranked in the Top 20 of the AP Poll, compared to four Top-20 teams in the Pac-12.

Many would argue that that Pac-12 has the best record in the FBS against non-conference opponents (29-4). However, 23 of their 29 wins came against opponents from non-BCS AQ conferences, including eight wins against FCS opponents.

In comparison, the SEC went 32-7 against out-of-conference opponents, but played five more games against BCS-AQ conference teams than the Pac-12.

The SEC and Pac-12 have split their only two games against each other as Oregon beat Tennessee 59-14 and Auburn beat Washington State 31-24.

SEC West vs Pac-12 North: The popular debate over the last few weeks has been whether the Pac-12 North is better than the SEC West. The rankings say that the race is very close, but the Pac-12 North has a 1.3-point advantage over the SEC West. It is important to note that the rankings system averages the points based on the number of teams in the conference, so the fact that the SEC West has one additional team does not give it a boost.

ACC and Big 12: Perhaps the most surprising results relate to the rise of the ACC and the fall of the Big 12 this season. The ACC has three undefeated teams, tied for the most of any conference, and all three of those teams are ranked in the Top 13 of the AP Poll. In comparison, the Big 12 has just one team ranked in the Top 13 of the AP Poll after finishing the regular season as the third-best conference in the country last season, according to conference power rankings.