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Math says the SEC was the second-best conference in 2012

5:15 PM, Dec 17, 2012   |    comments
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and his team hold the SEC trophy after winning the 2012 SEC Championship game against the Georgia Bulldogs at the Georgia Dome. Alabama won 32-28. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
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Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY Sports

The Southeastern Conference has won six national championships in a row, with the potential for seven should Alabama beat Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7. There's no question that the SEC rules the roost in the Football Bowl Subdivision - and not just yesterday but today, and not just today but also tomorrow, barring a surprising development.

But from top to bottom, was the SEC the strongest conference in the FBS in 2012? Remember that while there was 12-1 Alabama, there was also 2-10 Kentucky; while the SEC had six teams win 10 or more games, another five teams won five games or less.

According to Jeff Sagarin, who has provided ratings for USA TODAY Sports since 1985, the SEC was not the best league in the FBS during the regular season - it was the second-best, behind the Big 12.

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Sagarin rated the FBS leagues in this order (the number in parentheses is Sagarin's "central mean," which weighs the middle teams in each league more heavily than ranked those higher or lower in his rankings):

1. Big 12 (82.27)
2. SEC (81.16)
3. Pac-12 (79.07)
4. Big Ten (75.79)
5. Independents (73.55)
6. Big East (70.02)
7. Atlantic Coast Conference (68.92)
8. Western Athletic Conference (64.72)
9. Mountain WestConference(63.95)
10. Sun Belt (63.78)
11. Mid-American Conference (61.33)
13. Conference USA (59.54)

How did the Big 12 sneak past the SEC to take home Sagarin's crown during the regular season? Because unlike the SEC, the Big 12 had no soft middle -- nine of the league's 10 teams won at least six games in 2012.

The Big 12 also topped the SEC in Sagarin's "simple average," which adds up the combined ranking of each team in a conference and divides by the league's number of teams.

You might notice that the above list jumps from No. 11 MAC to No. 13 Conference USA. Where's No. 12? According to Sagarin, the 12th-best football conference in the NCAA was the Missouri Valley Conference, an FCS league whose members include North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Illinois State, among others. It wasn't a banner year for Conference USA, to put it mildly.

 

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