Which Collegiate Conference is Strongest for Football?

Photo by JMRosenfeld of Flickr
Photo by JMRosenfeld of Flickr | Source

If you ever want to start a real argument just ask a group of fanatical fans which college conference is the strongest in football, they won't be hard to spot decked out from head to toe in fan gear. But those that debate the issue often use numbers to make their case that can also be used by others to make a case for a different conference. For example if you consider the conference with the most sacks, with seven or more, the PAC wins with a difference of three to one. However, if you change to the conference with the most sacks with at least six, the SEC comes out on top with a five to one ratio.

When people express their opinions they often use a variety of statistics to make their case, even the schools that are considered big money-makers within the different conferences. In the money category, the South East Conference would come out ahead, followed by the Big 10, the ACC and the PAC 10. The Big East has a money sharing program and basketball that drops them down on the list.

However, income alone does not make a conference any stronger in football and measuring strengths can be based on a variety of metrics. Many fans look at the number of players drafted by the NFL and while that may be an indicator of talent, it doesn’t always tell the whole story. Pro teams do seem to pick from the larger conferences and in that regard the SEC, Big 10 and PAC 10 rank the highest. Although there is very little separation between the SEC and the Big 10. The thing to remember is that NFL teams scout for the best talent, not necessarily the conference in which they play.

Another statistic to consider is the number of draft picks that are made from within the conferences. During the last five years, there have been 187 players drafted out of the SEC and 184 from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Big 10 and PAC 10 are tied with 159 and the Big 12 sent 148 to pro draft picks. A case can be made that that BCS conferences generally are at the top of the list unless it is considered that 346 players from non-BCS schools have been drafted along with 122 from outside the Football Championship Subdivision.

Heisman trophy winners are sometimes part of the mix, but considering that defensive players are typically not named winners, it can skew the numbers when looking for the strongest conference. Recruiting the best players also helps a conference have the strongest talent and hence the strongest teams but recruiting violations can have negative accounts on an individual team, regardless of their strength. The coach’s role also plays into the strength of the team and the conference. Just ask the Big 10 and Ohio State University.

Many will spout off numbers from an individual team and while the team may help make the conference stronger, you have to consider that if the team is out of the conference, will it be any less strong. Teams like Ohio State, Florida State University and UCLA have been strong contenders in their respective conferences but without them the conferences can be just as dominant.

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