Was The ACC The Nation's Best College Football Conference in 2014?


Conventional wisdom, eyeballs and recruiting rankings suggest the SEC is the superior conference. However, looking at non-conference performance this season. That wasn’t the case. Inter-conference collisions are rare, meaning data is imperfect and limited. But, perusing the non-conference results for 2014, the nation’s most impressive conference was the oft-maligned ACC.

Here’s a ranking of the Power 5 conferences. We tabulated their records against other Power 5 teams and Top 50 teams using Sports Reference’s SRS rankings. We also noted non-conference losses to teams outside the SRS Top 60. (We see you, Big Ten) Notre Dame was lumped in as a Power 5 team.


Power 5: 10-7
Top 50 Record: 7-6
Wins: GT vs. UGA (No. 5), VT vs. OSU (No. 7), BC vs. USC (No. 14), FSU vs. ND (No. 33), Louisville vs. ND (No. 33), FSU vs. Fla (No. 34), Clem vs. SC (No. 43)
Losses: Clem vs. Geo (No. 5), UVA vs. UCLA (No. 15), Syr vs. ND (No. 34), UNC vs. ND (No. 34), BC vs. CSU (No. 36), UVA vs. BYU (No. 46)
Outside Top 60 Losses: 1

The ACC went 7-6 vs. Top 50 non-conference opponents. Second best winning percentage, but four more games than the Pac 12 and a tougher slate. That included three Top 15 SRS wins against Georgia, Ohio State and USC, more than the other four Power 5 conferences combined. The ACC had a 3-1 mark over Top 50 SEC teams.

Power 5: 8-3
Top 50 Record: 5-4
Wins: Ore vs. MSU (No. 12), ASU vs. ND (No. 33), USC vs. ND (No. 33), UCLA vs. Tex (No. 44), UCLA vs. UVA (No. 45)
Losses: Stan vs. ND (No. 33), Col vs. CSU (No. 36), USC vs. BC (No. 39), Cal vs. BYU (No. 46)
Outside Top 60 Losses: 1

The Pac 12 took care of business, with an 8-3 mark against Power 5 opponents. However, that schedule was not terribly demanding. Oregon’s win over Michigan State was the one game the Pac 12 played against a Top 30 team. The only real letdown loss was BC over USC.


Power 5: 5-6
Top 50 Record: 5-5
Wins: Aub vs. KSU (No. 13), LSU vs. Wisc (No. 19), OM vs. Boise (No. 26), Geo vs. Clem (No. 28), Ala vs. WVU (No. 31)
Losses: Geo vs. GT (No. 9), Fla vs. FSU (No. 10), Tenn vs. Okla (No. 16), Ken vs. Lou (No. 23), SC vs. Clem (No. 28)
Outside Top 60 Losses: 2

The SEC East was woeful outside the conference, notably the champion Missouri lost to Indiana at home. There was also Vanderbilt. The SEC West played well, going 4-0 against Power 5 opponents. But those teams scheduled only four Power 5 opponents combined. We see you, Texas A&M and Mississippi State.

Big 12

Power 5: 4-6
Top 50 Record: 2-7
Wins: Okla vs. Tenn (No. 37), TCU vs. Minn (No. 38)
Losses: WVU vs. Ala (No. 2), KSU vs. Aub (No. 8), OkSt vs. FSU (No. 10), Tex vs. UCLA (No. 15), TT vs. Ark (No. 17), Kan vs. Duke (No. 41), Tex vs. BYU (No. 46)
Outside Top 60 Losses: 1

The Big 12 did not fare well against Top 50 opponents, going 2-7. But, four of the losses came against Top 15 SRS teams by less than one touchdown as underdogs. The main absence is a signature win. Much has been made about TCU beating Minnesota. That’s arguably the Big 12’s best non-conference win.

Big 10

Power 5: 6-11
Top 50 Record: 4-9
Wins: Ind vs. Miz (No. 21), Neb vs. Mia (No. 30), NW vs. ND (No. 33), Iow vs. Pitt (No. 49)
Losses: MSU vs. Ore (No. 1), Minn vs. TCU (No. 4), Wisc vs. LSU (No. 22), MD vs. WVU (No. 31), Mich vs. Utah (No. 32), Pur vs. ND (No.33), Mich vs. ND (No.33), Ill vs. Wash (No. 35)
L- OSU vs. VT (No. 42)
Outside Top 60 Losses: 4

The Big Ten has a reputation. This year, it was deserved. MSU and Wisconsin had a chance to make early statements and did not. Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech by two touchdowns at home. Four teams lost non-conference games to teams ranked outside the Top 60. Looking at the wins… Indiana’s win over Missouri was fluky. Northwestern caught a worn down Notre Dame team in overtime. The other Top 50 wins were over 6-6 Miami and Pitt teams. An 0-5 mark against Top 50 SRS outside the conference for the supposedly stronger B1G East.

[USA Today Sports]