December 15, 2010

League success in bowls depends on opponents

You could win plenty of bets in sports bars across the country by asking what conference has posted the best bowl record during the BCS era.

It's not the mighty SEC, which has produced each of the past four national champions. Nor is it the Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-10.

The answer instead is the much-maligned Big East, which has gone 36-23 in bowl games since the 1998 season. The only league with a higher bowl winning percentage is the Big West, which went 3-0 in bowl games from 1998-2000 before it got out of the FBS business.

The Big East's .610 winning percentage in the BCS era gives it a razor-thin edge over the Mountain West, which has posted a 25-16 bowl record (.609) since forming in 1999. The SEC has the best record in BCS games with a 14-5 mark (.737).

As we get ready for Saturday's kickoff of the 2010 bowl season, we decided to see how each conference has fared in overall bowl games and BCS contests since the start of the BCS era.

For the purposes of this report, we didn't erase any bowl wins that have been vacated as a result of NCAA investigations. We also didn't allow teams to transfer bowl wins to their new conferences after they switched leagues. For example, TCU played in the WAC through the 2000 season and was a Conference USA member from 2001-04 before joining the Mountain West in 2005. The Horned Frogs' bowl results are attributed to whatever league they belonged to at the time of the game.

The most remarkable element of the Big East's bowl success is that it continued to succeed in the postseason after Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left for the ACC. Miami and Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004 and Boston College followed in '05.

The Big East is a sizzling 16-6 over the past four years and hasn't had a losing record in the postseason since 2005.

The caveat: That postseason success is due in part to a relatively lightweight bowl schedule. That 16-6 mark includes an 8-0 record in bowl games against teams from outside the six major conferences. The Big East has played 36.3 percent of its bowl games in the past four seasons against teams from the MAC or Conference USA.

The Pac-10 also faced non-AQ teams in one-third of its bowls over the past four seasons - with the bulk of those games coming against MWC heavyweights BYU and Utah - but none of the other four major conferences played more than 16.7 percent of its bowl games against non-AQ programs during that stretch.

Our research underscored how much the balance of power has shifted in the past several seasons. For instance, the Big Ten posted a 19-12 bowl record and a 5-3 mark in BCS games from 1998-2002. The SEC was 20-20 in all bowls and 5-3 in BCS games during that same stretch. Since the 2003 season, though, the SEC has a bowl record of 36-19 (9-2 in BCS games), while the Big Ten is 19-31 (5-8 in BCS games).

BEST OVERALL BOWL RECORDS
NOTE: The standings are limited to current FBS conferences. The Big West was 3-0 record in bowls from 1998-2000 (Idaho winning the 1998 Humanitarian and Boise State winning the 1999 and 2000 Humanitarian before both schools joined the WAC and the Big West left the FBS).
1. BIG EAST (36-23, .6101)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 2-2. 1999: 2-2. 2000: 4-1. 2001: 4-1. 2002: 3-2. 2003: 2-3. 2004: 2-3. 2005: 1-3. 2006: 5-0. 2007: 3-2. 2008: 4-2. 2009: 4-2.
Buzz: The Big East benefited in the early part of the BCS era because Miami was one of the nation's dominant programs and Boston College began a string of eight consecutive bowl wins in 2000. Still, the Big East has gone 16-6 in bowl games over the past four seasons even after the exodus of Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech.
2. MOUNTAIN WEST (25-16, .6097)
Year-by-year record: 1999: 1-2. 2000: 3-0. 2001: 2-1. 2002: 0-3. 2003: 1-2. 2004: 2-1. 2005: 2-2. 2006: 3-1. 2007: 4-1. 2008: 3-2. 2009: 4-1.
Buzz: How close is the Mountain West to taking over the lead? The Big East has a bowl winning percentage of .6101 in the BCS era, while the MWC is at .6097 since launching in 1999. The MWC is 18-8 overall - and 2-1 in BCS games - since the 2004 season, which featured the first of Utah's two perfect seasons.
3. SEC (56-39, .589)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 4-4. 1999: 4-4. 2000: 4-5. 2001: 5-3. 2002: 3-4. 2003: 5-2. 2004: 3-3. 2005: 3-3. 2006: 6-3. 2007: 7-2. 2008: 6-2. 2009: 6-4.
Buzz: The SEC struggled in the postseason during the early part of the BCS era, but it has been dominant across the entire bowl spectrum during its current run of four consecutive national championships. The SEC is 25-11 in bowl games over the past four years and hasn't posted a losing bowl record since 2002.
4. BIG 12 (45-45, .500)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 3-4. 1999: 3-3. 2000: 4-3. 2001: 3-5. 2002: 5-3. 2003: 2-6. 2004: 4-3. 2005: 5-3. 2006: 3-5. 2007: 5-3. 2008: 4-3. 2009: 4-4.
Buzz: While other conferences have endured plenty of peaks and valleys in their recent bowl history, the Big 12 has been remarkably steady. The Big 12's 2-6 record in 2003 - including losses in the Fiesta and Sugar - marked the only time in the BCS era the league has been more than two games above or below .500 in a given postseason.
5. PAC-10 (33-34, .493)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 1-4. 1999: 1-4. 2000: 3-2. 2001: 2-3. 2002: 2-5. 2003: 4-2. 2004: 3-2. 2005: 3-2. 2006: 3-3. 2007: 4-2. 2008: 5-0. 2009: 2-5.
Buzz: The Pac-10 struggled early in the BCS era before riding the wave of USC's emergence as one of the nation's dominant programs. The Pac-10's 2-5 mark last season represented the conference's first losing bowl record since 2002.
6. ACC (39-42), .481)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 2-3. 1999: 2-3. 2000: 1-4. 2001: 4-2. 2002: 4-3. 2003: 5-1. 2004: 3-3. 2005: 5-3. 2006: 4-4. 2007: 2-6. 2008: 4-6. 2009: 3-4.
Buzz: The ACC's dismal 2-10 record in BCS games has overshadowed the league's relatively sold 37-32 mark in non-BCS contests. The ACC actually was faring better in bowl games before Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College joined the league.
7. BIG TEN (38-43, .469)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 5-0. 1999: 5-2. 2000: 2-4. 2001: 2-4. 2002: 5-2. 2003: 3-5. 2004: 3-3. 2005: 3-4. 2006: 2-5. 2007: 3-5. 2008: 1-6. 2009: 4-3.
Buzz: After going 19-12 in bowl games through the first five seasons of the BCS era, the Big Ten has tailed off dramatically. Last season was the first the Big Ten had posted a winning bowl record since 2002.
8. WAC (19-24, .442)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 2-2. 1999: 2-1. 2000: 0-3. 2001: 0-2. 2002: 2-1. 2003: 3-1. 2004: 2-2. 2005: 1-2. 2006: 3-1. 2007: 1-3. 2008: 1-4. 2009: 2-2.
Buzz: Considering Hawaii and Boise State have played a combined eight bowls as WAC members that were home games, you'd think the WAC would have a better bowl record.
9. CONFERENCE USA (23-35, .397)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 1-2. 1999: 1-2. 2000: 2-2. 2001: 1-3. 2002: 2-3. 2003: 1-4. 2004: 3-2. 2005: 3-2. 2006: 1-4. 2007: 2-4. 2008: 4-2. 2009: 2-4.
Buzz: Conference USA has a remarkable number of bowl partners (six) for a league that isn't one of the six major conferences, and it therefore has played in more bowl games than the other non-major leagues.
10. MAC (13-20, .394)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 1-0. 1999: 1-0. 2000: 1-0. 2001: 2-0. 2002: 1-1. 2003: 2-0. 2004: 2-3. 2005: 1-1. 2006: 1-3. 2007: 0-3. 2008: 0-5. 2009: 1-4.
Buzz: The Big Ten isn't the only conference in the Midwest that has struggled in bowl games recently. The MAC has gone an astounding 2-15 in bowl games over the past four seasons. The MAC owes its impressive bowl record from early in the BCS era to former member Marshall, which went 5-1 in the postseason from 1998-2004 before leaving for Conference USA.
11. SUN BELT (5-8, .385)
Year-by-year record: 2001: 0-1. 2002: 1-0. 2003: 0-1. 2004: 0-2. 2005: 0-1. 2006: 1-1. 2007: 1-0. 2008: 1-1. 2009: 1-1.
Buzz: The Sun Belt routinely is rated as the nation's weakest conference, yet its recent bowl record is somewhat encouraging. The league is 4-3 in bowl games over the past four seasons and has won one bowl in each of those seasons.
12. INDEPENDENTS (4-10, .286)
Year-by-year record: 1998: 0-1. 2000: 0-1. 2002: 0-1. 2003: 0-1. 2004: 1-1. 2005: 1-1. 2006: 0-2. 2007: 0-1. 2008: 1-1. 2009: 1-0.
Buzz: Notre Dame's 2008 Hawaii Bowl victory over Hawaii ended the Irish's nine-game bowl skid, which included six losses in the BCS era. This season is the first time in the BCS era that each of the three major independents (Army, Navy and Notre Dame) is bowling in the same season.
BEST BCS RECORDS
NOTE: The years attached to each bowl game reflect the season and not necessarily the calendar year. For example, Alabama's victory over Texas is listed as the 2009 BCS championship game, though it actually took place on Jan. 7, 2010.
1. SEC (14-5, .737)
Wins: 1998 Orange (Florida over Syracuse), 1998 Fiesta/BCS championship (Tennessee over Florida State), 2001 Orange (Florida over Maryland), 2001 Sugar (LSU over Illinois), 2002 Sugar (Georgia over Florida State), 2003 Sugar/BCS championship (LSU over Oklahoma), 2004 Sugar (Auburn over Virginia Tech), 2006 BCS championship (Florida over Ohio State), 2006 Sugar (LSU over Notre Dame), 2007 BCS championship (LSU over Ohio State), 2007 Sugar (Georgia over Hawaii), 2008 BCS championship (Florida over Oklahoma), 2009 BCS championship (Alabama over Texas), 2009 Sugar (Florida over Cincinnati). Losses: 1999 Orange (Alabama to Michigan), 1999 Fiesta (Tennessee to Nebraska), 2000 Sugar (Florida to Miami), 2005 Sugar (Georgia to West Virginia), 2008 Sugar (Alabama to Utah)
Buzz: The SEC has won the past four national titles and was a combined 7-1 in BCS games during that stretch.
2. PAC-10 (9-5, .643)
Wins: 2000 Rose (Washington over Purdue), 2000 Fiesta (Oregon State over Notre Dame), 2001 Fiesta (Oregon over Colorado), 2002 Orange (USC over Iowa), 2003 Rose (USC over Michigan), 2004 Orange/BCS championship (USC over Oklahoma), 2006 Rose (USC over Michigan), 2007 Rose (USC over Illinois), 2008 Rose (USC over Penn State). Losses: 1998 Rose (UCLA to Wisconsin), 1999 Rose (Stanford to Wisconsin), 2002 Rose (Washington State to Oklahoma), 2005 Rose/BCS championship (USC to Texas), 2009 Rose (Oregon to Ohio State).
Buzz: The Pac-10's successful BCS history makes it puzzling that this season marks the first time since 2002 that the league has earned multiple BCS bids. Of course, the Pac-10 owes much of its success to USC. The Trojans are 6-1 in BCS games, while the rest of the league is 3-4 and hasn't won a BCS contest since 2001.
3. (tie) MWC (2-1, .667)
Wins: 2004 Fiesta (Utah over Pittsburgh), 2008 Sugar (Utah over Alabama). Loss: 2009 Fiesta (TCU to Boise State).
Buzz: The bad news attached to this impressive record is that both MWC teams to play in a BCS game are on their way out of the conference. Perhaps incoming member Boise State can continue the MWC's recent BCS tradition.
3. (tie) WAC (2-1, .667)
Wins: 2006 Fiesta (Boise State over Oklahoma), 2009 Fiesta (Boise State over TCU). Loss: 2007 Sugar (Hawaii to Georgia)
Buzz: Both teams to earn BCS bids from the WAC are on their way out of the league. Unlike the MWC, the WAC isn't making up for those losses by adding other schools with BCS experience.
5. BIG EAST (6-6, .500)
Wins: 2000 Sugar (Miami over Florida), 2001 Rose/BCS championship (Miami over Nebraska), 2003 Orange (Miami over Florida State), 2005 Sugar (West Virginia over Georgia), 2006 Orange (Louisville over Wake Forest), 2007 Fiesta (West Virginia over Oklahoma). Losses: 1998 Orange (Syracuse to Florida), 1999 Sugar/BCS championship (Virginia Tech to Florida State), 2002 Fiesta/BCS championship (Miami to Ohio State), 2004 Fiesta (Pittsburgh to Utah), 2008 Orange (Cincinnati to Virginia Tech), 2009 Sugar (Cincinnati to Florida).
Buzz: The Big East never has earned multiple BCS bids in one season. Former Big East members Miami and Virginia Tech have accounted for six of the Big East's 12 BCS appearances.
6. BIG TEN (10-11, .476)
Wins: 1998 Rose (Wisconsin over UCLA), 1998 Sugar (Ohio State over Texas A&M), 1999 Rose (Wisconsin over Stanford), 1999 Orange (Michigan over Alabama), 2002 Fiesta/BCS championship game (Ohio State over Miami), 2003 Fiesta (Ohio State over Kansas State), 2005 Fiesta (Ohio State over Notre Dame), 2005 Orange (Penn State over Florida State), 2009 Rose (Ohio State over Oregon), 2009 Orange (Iowa over Georgia Tech). Losses: 2000 Rose (Purdue to Washington), 2001 Sugar (Illinois to LSU), 2002 Orange (Iowa to USC), 2003 Rose (Michigan to USC), 2004 Rose (Michigan to Texas), 2006 BCS championship game (Ohio State to Florida), 2006 Rose (Michigan to USC), 2007 BCS championship game (Ohio State to LSU), 2007 Rose (Illinois to USC), 2008 Rose (Penn State to USC), 2008 Fiesta (Ohio State to Texas).
Buzz: The Big Ten is 1-2 in BCS championship games and is a combined 0-5 in BCS games against USC. But the league has an impressive 9-4 record in its other BCS contests.
7. BIG 12 (7-10, .412)
Wins: 1999 Fiesta (Nebraska over Tennessee), 2000 Orange/BCS championship game (Oklahoma over Florida State), 2002 Rose (Oklahoma over Washington State), 2004 Rose (Texas over Michigan), 2005 Rose/BCS championship game (Texas over USC), 2007 Orange (Kansas over Virginia Tech), 2008 Fiesta (Texas over Ohio State), Losses: 1998 Sugar (Texas A&M to Ohio State), 2001 Rose/BCS championship game (Nebraska to Miami), 2001 Fiesta (Colorado to Oregon), 2003 Sugar/BCS championship game (Oklahoma to LSU), 2003 Fiesta (Kansas State to Ohio State), 2004 Orange/BCS championship game (Oklahoma to USC), 2006 Fiesta (Oklahoma to Boise State), 2007 Fiesta (Oklahoma to West Virginia), 2008 BCS championship (Oklahoma to Florida), 2009 BCS championship game (Texas to Alabama).
Buzz: The Big 12 would have a .500 record if you threw out Oklahoma's 2-5 mark in BCS championship games. Of course, throwing Oklahoma out of the equation also would take away one of the Big 12's two BCS championships.
8. ACC (2-10, .167)
Wins: 1999 Sugar/BCS championship (Florida State over Virginia Tech), 2008 Orange (Virginia Tech over Cincinnati). Losses: 1998 Fiesta/BCS championship (Florida State to Tennessee), 2000 Orange/BCS championship (Florida State to Oklahoma), 2001 Orange (Maryland to Florida), 2002 Sugar (Florida State to Georgia), 2003 Orange (Florida State to Miami), 2004 Sugar (Virginia Tech to Auburn), 2005 Orange (Florida State to Penn State), 2006 Orange (Wake Forest to Louisville), 2007 Orange (Virginia Tech to Kansas), 2009 Orange (Georgia Tech to Iowa).
Buzz: The ACC's 2-10 BCS record is dreadful enough even when you don't consider the irony that one of the victories came over Virginia Tech, a Big East member that has since joined the ACC. No wonder the league hasn't received multiple BCS bids in a season.
9. INDEPENDENTS (0-3, .000)
Wins: None Losses: 2000 Fiesta (Notre Dame to Oregon State), 2005 Fiesta (Notre Dame to Ohio State), 2006 Sugar (Notre Dame to LSU).
Buzz: No team has struggled as much on the BCS stage as Notre Dame. The Irish have been outscored 116-43 in their three BCS games, and each of the three contests was decided by at least 14 points.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.




 

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