The Big Ten Has Been College Football's Best Conference So Far


Paul Finebaum declared the Big Ten the nation’s best football conference. While Finebaum is a master of affect, he’s right, even if it is only Week 3. We ran some numbers. Here is a ranking of the Power 5 in order.


The sample of major, inter-conference matchups is small. The Big Ten has won them. Ohio State beat down Oklahoma in Norman. Michigan State handled Notre Dame in South Bend. Nebraska beat Oregon. Wisconsin beat LSU. That’s 4-0 for the Big Ten against Top 25 teams and 8-3 against P5/ND.

Four Big Ten teams – Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin – are in the Top 11. Ohio State proved themselves with their emphatic road win. Michigan hasn’t played anyone and showed vulnerability against Colorado. The jury is still out on Michigan State. Wisconsin has a brutal stretch coming up. We’ll see whether they are ranked afterward. Nebraska has looked interesting.

Depth may be an issue for the Big Ten. Iowa had a bad loss to FCS North Dakota State. Northwestern lost to both a MAC and an FCS team.

The SEC is 5-5 against P5 opponents. The SEC is 4-2 over ranked opponents. Though there isn’t really a “statement” win among them. Arkansas (TCU) and Texas A&M (UCLA) beat teams no longer ranked in overtime. Georgia beat UNC. Alabama crushed a USC team that just may not be very good.

This is still a deep conference. Eight SEC teams are ranked. Though Alabama (No. 1) is the only SEC team ranked in the single digits. LSU and Tennessee have disappointed so far. Right now it appears to Alabama and a swath of eight or nine-win teams below.


ACC teams have been busy padding their records. The conference is 10-8 against FBS teams so far (5-5 vs. P5) and 13-0 against FCS. ACC teams are 1-3 against Top 25 opponents outside the conference. Florida State coming from behind to beat Ole Miss is that one signature win.

Louisville has the most impressive win of the season, which happened in conference. Clemson has not looked as imperious as expected against actual opponents. One-score wins against Troy and a not very good Auburn team. Florida State has a strong win over Ole Miss, overshadowed by a horrific loss to the Cardinals.

Miami has sidled up to No. 15, without playing a Power 5 team. The rest of the conference is a muddle. But, hey, Wake Forest is both winning and scoring points.

PAC 12

Pac 12 teams have not really been tested. The conference has gone 3-0 against the Big 12 and 2-5 against the B1G, ACC, and SEC. Those two wins were Oregon over Virginia and Washington over Rutgers. The Pac 12’s biggest win outside the conference thus far is Cal over Texas. We’ll see whether USC’s debacle against Alabama says more about the Pac 12 or about USC.

Stanford has looked solid in wins over Kansas State and USC. They have a brutal stretch coming up: at UCLA, at Washington, Washington State, at Notre Dame that will tell us a great deal. The Huskies have played up to expectations so far…against Rutgers, Idaho, and Portland State.

BIG 12

The Big 12 looked underwhelming entering the season. The conference has, thus far, lived up to its billing. The Big 12 is 3-6 against P5/ND. They are 1-4 against Top 25 opponents. That one win was Texas over Notre Dame in overtime. At the top, Oklahoma lost showdowns with Houston and Ohio State. At the bottom, Kansas lost by double-digits to Ohio at home and by 36 at Memphis.

We suspect Oklahoma is among the 25 best teams. But, there isn’t a Big 12 team ranked right now on more than inertia. Texas rocketed up the polls after a Notre Dame win at home that does not look so momentous in retrospect. Baylor began ranked and has played Northwestern State, SMU, and Rice.