One of the arguments for LSU to play for the national championship game has been that they won the Southeastern Conference championship. Since the SEC is the toughest conference, the argument goes, the Tigers deserved to face Ohio State when the No. 2 slot opened up courtesy of Pitt's shocking upset of West Virginia.
That's a sound argument, as long as the SEC truly is the top conference among the six BCS leagues. After thorough examination, the SEC does hold up as the best conference in 2007, but it is not nearly as dominating as some may think.
Observe the numbers for yourself and you'll see that not only is parity prevalent among the teams, it goes for the conferences as well. Here are the latest rankings, along with some interesting notes as we pass the interminable wait until the national championship. Undoubtedly, there will be a shakeup in these rankings after the bowl season, and we'll revisit the final list in January.
Note: In order to have a "quality" non-conference win, the losing team must be a BCS team and had to finish .500 or better in its conference. Notable non-conference losses are losses to non-BCS teams. Notre Dame is considered a BCS team.
Number of teams in final BCS Top 10: 2 Number of teams in final BCS Top 25: 5 Bowl teams: 9 Non-conference record: 40-8 Non-conference record vs. BCS foes: 7-7 Quality non-conference wins (4): Georgia over Oklahoma St., LSU over Virginia Tech, Georgia over Georgia Tech, Florida over Florida StateNotable non-conference losses (1): Louisiana-Monroe over Alabama
Skinny: The only thing that distinguishes the SEC from other conferences is the amount of teams in the final Top 25, as well as the fact that one of those teams is playing for the national championship. LSU's 48-7 whipping of Virginia Tech turned out to be the signature non-conference win of the year nationally, at least until the bowls play out. The SEC has the fewest embarrassing losses and the most bowl teams of any league.
Number of teams in final BCS Top 10: 3 Number of teams in final BCS Top 25: 4Bowl teams: 8 Non-conference record: 36-12 Non-conference record vs. BCS foes: 5-6 Quality non-conference wins (3): Missouri over Illinois, Iowa State over Iowa, Nebraska over Wake Forest Notable non-conference losses (6): Fresno State over Kansas St., Northern Iowa over Iowa State, Toledo over Iowa State, Kent State over Iowa State, Troy over Oklahoma St., TCU over Baylor
Skinny: Finding a No. 2 conference was tough. They all have their flaws. The Big 12 has way too many bad losses, but two quality wins, three Top 10 teams and eight bowl teams push the league behind the SEC. Which begs the question, why didn't Big 12 champion Oklahoma get any run as a possible opponent for Ohio State?
Number of teams in final BCS Top 10: 1 Number of teams in final BCS Top 25: 3 Bowl teams: 8 Non-conference record: 35-9 Non-conference record vs. BCS foes: 9-4 Quality non-conference wins: none Notable non-conference losses (5): Appalachian State over Michigan, Western Michigan over Iowa, North Dakota State over Minnesota, Florida Atlantic over Minnesota, Bowling Green over Minnesota
Skinny: Here's where things get interesting. The Big Ten gets a slight nod over the ACC (very slight) given the fact that its non-conference record vs. BCS foes is 9-4 (the best of any conference), and three of the "bad" losses in the conference were incurred by the same team. Yes, the league was able to go 4-0 vs. Notre Dame to pad its BCS record, but remember the Irish were 2-1 vs. the Pac-10, so those wins cannot be completely discounted. No quality wins and only three teams in the Top 25 hurts, but the other two factors barely outweigh those negatives, plus the league does boast the nation's No. 1 team.
Number of teams in final BCS Top 10: 1 Number of teams in final BCS Top 25: 4 Bowl teams: 8Non-conference record: 33-15 Non-conference record vs. BCS foes: 11-11 Quality non-conference wins (4): Florida State over Alabama, Miami over Texas A&M, Virginia over UConn, Florida State over Colorado Notable non-conference losses (4): UCF over N.C. State, Wyoming over Virginia, East Carolina over North Carolina, Navy over Duke
Skinny: Again, we're splitting hairs, but the ACC gets a slight nod over the Big East. Almost every category is a wash. But the ACC's four Top 25 teams all reside in the Top 20, while the Big East's four Top 25 teams check in at Nos. 9, 21, 22 and 25.
Number of teams in final BCS Top 10: 1 Number of teams in final BCS Top 25: 4 Bowl teams: 5 Non-conference record: 29-11 Non-conference record vs. BCS foes: 7-8 Quality non-conference wins (3): West Virginia over Miss. State, Cincinnati over Oregon St., South Florida over AuburnNotable non-conference losses (3): Utah over Louisville, Navy over Pittsburgh, Miami (Ohio) over Syracuse
Skinny: Tough to have the Big East at No. 5 after some compelling performances. The league had a 2-1 mark vs. the SEC and more quality wins than any other conference. But having the top-ranked team in the league be No. 9 and the second-highest rated team No. 21 does not speak highly for the top of the conference, and the bottom of the conference was weighted down with Syracuse's brutal 2-10 season. Top to bottom, it is tough to argue the Big East is stronger than any of the four leagues ahead of it.
Number of teams in final BCS Top 10: 1 Number of teams in final BCS Top 25: 2 Bowl teams: 6 Non-conference record: 21-10 Non-conference record vs. BCS foes: 7-6 Quality non-conference wins (3): California over Tennessee, Oregon over Michigan, Arizona State over Colorado Notable non-conference losses (4): Utah over UCLA, New Mexico over Arizona, TCU over Stanford, Hawaii over Washington
Skinny: I have warned my inbox to prepare for a mountain of West Coast emails. Facts are facts, however. The Pac-10 has the fewest Top 25 teams at season's end (demonstrating a lack of power teams) and the fewest percentage of bowl teams (demonstrating an abundance of sub-.500 teams). The Pac-10 also has the worst non-conference winning percentage. Cal's landmark win over Tennessee seems like decades ago. Oregon and Cal had late-season collapses and Arizona State, the league's No. 2 team, beat one team with a winning record all season. It appeared the rest of the league had caught up to USC, but now that the season has played out, it is clear it is still "the Trojans and Everyone Else" ... and Everyone Else isn't very good.