October 01, 2008
There's a good reason I avoid conference-on-conference firing lines, highlighted perfectly this morning by the ever-vigilant Wizard of Odds, from head-to-head, inter-conference records over the last decade compiled by The National Championship Issue.
The Wiz has a chart for every conference, but I highlight the SEC's because of that number against the Big East. It's not a typo -- the endlessly useful Stassen.com has the same number. So what does the SEC's atrocious head-to-head record against the Big East tell us about the relative strengths of those two conferences?
Unless you think the Big East is twice the league the SEC is, not very much, obviously, which is a neat demonstration of the useless vagueries and limitations of head-to-head in these sorts of arguments. Fortunately, we have bigger numbers, and bigger numbers are better numbers. And when you put ALL the head-to-head numbers together for the last ten years, you get this:
SEC: 50.8 %
Big Ten: 50.5 %
Big 12: 48.8%
Big East: 45.9%
Those percentages are all awfully close to .500. And when you adjust for small and inconsistent sample sizes, blatantly unequal matchups (i.e. Big East champion West Virginia vs. SEC bottom dweller Mississippi State, for example), injuries, rebuilding years, wide variations of strength and scheduling within each conference -- anything that might fall under the category of "margin of error" -- ALL of the numbers indicate that, over any appreciable length of time, the major conferences are ... roughly the same. Which seems about right.