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College Football Bowl Season, 2011-2012: Ranking the Conferences' Performances

We don’t treat bowl performances as definitive, for the same reason we would not credit the LSAT score of a student who studied feverishly for three months and then took six weeks off before the examination. Conditions are arbitrary. Teams are out of sync. It’s still fun, however, to see how the conferences fared. We’ll presume the SEC goes .500 tonight. Here are our rankings.

Southeastern Conference (6-3) Ability to perform at SEC speed proved formidable. The conference had no major BCS wins, because tonight’s title game will be an in-house affair. Scalps of Kansas State and Nebraska. One loss in overtime to a Top 15 Michigan State team. The only outside loss in regulation was Vanderbilt by a touchdown.

Big 12 Conference (6-2) Stats ranked Big 12 teams highly during the regular season. They backed it up. Oklahoma State edged Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, and the Big 12 went 3-0 overall against the Pac 12. The conference had five wins by 10 or more points. The only losses were the worst team, Iowa State, and as heavy under dogs, Kansas State.

Conference USA (4-1) Conference USA beat down its two BCS opponents, Penn State and Pittsburgh. Though, the teams wielding the sticks will be off to the Big East. Solid wins over Nevada and FIU. Their one loss, a 24-21 defeat to BYU in the Armed Forces Bowl, was not shameful.

Mid-American Conference (4-1) It was definitively time for some MACtion. MAC teams took out the Sun Belt champion and went 2-0 against the presumptuous Mountain West Conference. They scored at least 32 points in four of the five games. Their one loss was by five points to Purdue in the Pizza Bowl.

Big East Conference (3-2) West Virginia soiled Clemson’s soup and gleefully served it them before a modest audience. Wins against both the SEC and the Big 12. The Belk Bowl loss will wash away but the stink from SMU’s three-touchdown flattening of Pittsburgh will linger until the Panthers leave.

Big 10 Conference (4-6) Overtime wins by Michigan (Virginia Tech) and Michigan State (Georgia) made this campaign look far better. Legends are not made against UCLA and Western Michigan. Wisconsin looked admirable in defeat to Oregon. Penn State? Not so much.

Mountain West Conference (2-3) Boise State destroyed Arizona State. TCU beat Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl. Unfortunately, both will be moving on up to better conferences. The Air Force and San Diego State losses were razor thin.

Pac 12 Conference (2-5) Two BCS wins would have absolved some sins. Thanks to David Shaw’s conservatism, we can point out an 0-3 record against the Big 12, Arizona State getting run over by Boise State and UCLA being UCLA.

Atlantic Coast Conference (2-6) Which conference doesn’t deserve an automatic bid? The ACC hit for the ineptitude cycle, losing to the Big Ten, the Big East, the SEC (twice), the Big 12 and the Pac 12. ACC champ Clemson clearly placed its light under a bushel basket. We’ll also dock points for Florida State vs. Notre Dame being unwatchable.

Sun Belt Conference (1-2) The Ragin’ Cajuns nicked a close win in a de facto game, but the MAC and C-USA clearly outclassed the Sun Belt in the other two bowl games.

Western Athletic Conference (0-3) There’s a reason “WACtion” never gained traction. WAC teams went winless, dropping games to the MWC, C-USA and the MAC. At least the losses were not disasters.

[Photo via Getty]

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