Ranking the Toughest Divisions in the FBS
Each year various, very credible, sources put out their toughest conferences. The drawback is, with few exceptions, teams play within divisions of conferences. The divisional and cross-divisional matchups in any given season are really the key to getting to the conference championship game. This will focus on the divisions and which will prove the most difficult for the winner. The divisional power rankings determine the most difficult road to a championship.
The rankings were comprised using the 2015 Preseason Rankings and running each team through their respective conference seasons. Win probabilities were accumulated to get the divisional contenders.
Conference Power Ratings
Easily the top 2 divisions will be the SEC-West and the Pac-12 South. In fact, a good chunk of the preseason top 25 will be from these two divisions. If a team can come out of these divisions undefeated, they will be one of the favorites to win the national championship.
The SEC-East, Big 12, and ACC-Atlantic round out the top 5. There is a large drop off from the top 2 divisions to the rest of the field; interestingly, two of the top nationally ranked teams, Oregon and Ohio State, are in the weaker of the divisional races and are heavy favorites to get back to their conference championship games. With strength of schedule being such a large issue in granting playoff berths, it will be interesting to see if there is any shift in the thinking of the committee.
Overall Conference Rankings with Major Contenders:
. East – Georgia, Missouri, Dark Horse: Tennessee
. West – Pick One! (All have a chance to make a run)
2. PAC 12
. North – Oregon, Stanford, Dark Horse: Washington
. South – UCLA, USC, Arizona State, Dark Horse: Arizona, Utah
3. Big 12
. TCU, Baylor, Dark Horse: Oklahoma, Kansas State
. Atlantic – Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, Dark Horse: NC State
. Coastal – Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech, Dark Horse: PITT, Miami
5. BIG 10
. East – Ohio State, Dark Horse: Michigan State
. West – Wisconsin, Dark Horse: Nebraska
7. Mountain West
. Mountain – Boise State, Air Force, Dark Horse: Utah State
. West – San Diego State, Dark Horse: Nevada
. East – Cincinnati, UCF, Dark Horse: East Carolina
. West – Navy, Memphis, Dark Horse: Houston
. East – Marshall, WKU, Dark Horse: Middle Tennessee
. West – Louisiana Tech, Rice, Dark Horse: UTEP
10. Sun Belt
. Georgia Southern, Louisiana-Lafayette, Dark Horse: Arkansas State
. East – Bowling Green, Ohio
. West – Northern Illinois, Toledo
The next in the series will provide some in depth probabilities of the contenders’ chances to win their divisions, their conference strength of schedules, and chances to make the playoffs.