[Ed - Prof: Bumped for general diary-worthiness]
This is a follow-up to an earlier forum post with the US News ranking UM the #28 school in the country. (I know, it's a very flawed and simplistic tool, but it's also the most famous by far.) I've always wondered just how much better the Big 10 was than, say, the SEC overall, and the rankings let us measure all of the BCS conferences. I only look at football, so the Big East doesn't get the benefit of very excellent but basketball-only schools (Notre Dame, Georgetown, etc. etc.). (For the record, I already have TAMU in the SEC. Seems to be a foregone conclusion, and if we're arguing who's better, might as well do it looking ahead and not backwards. OU, OSU(NTOSU), and TTU might cause some re-jiggering.)
AVERAGE RANKING, ALL SCHOOLS:
This is just a mathematical average of the USNWR ranking for each school in the conference:
ACC 49 (best)
BIG TEN 56
PAC 12 79
BIG EAST 105
BIG XII 124 (worst)
This isn't really a great measure, because schools can be bunched in the middle versus at the top, but as an overall measure, clearly the ACC and Big Ten are the best two academic conferences. For all of its quality in its top 4 schools, the Pac 12 is dragged down by some really pathetically crappy party schools. The Big XII by far lags behind.
To get a sense of distribution of the schools' qualities, I looked at the average Top 5 and Bottom 5. No surprises here:
Average Ranking, Top 5 Schools:
PAC 12 23
BIG TEN 34
BIG EAST 69
BIG XII 82
This means the Pac 12 and ACC have the best group of top schools, with the Big Ten back quite a bit, but the others dropping precipitously behind. Again Big XII sucks.
Average Ranking, Bottom 5 Schools:
BIG TEN 77
PAC 12 127
BIG XII 127
BIG EAST 150
This just means our worst 5 schools are better than the worst 5 from any other conference. Note that our worst five (avg. 77) are still, on average, better than the Big XII's best 5 (avg. 82)!!! No wonder we don't want Oklahoma. And as bad as the Big XII is overall, its worst five are about the same as the Pac 12's worst five. The Big East has by far the worst group of five schools of anyone. That would drop even more if you took locations of the schools into account (see: West Virginia) (but but see: South Florida).
GRADED RESULT, ALL SCHOOLS:
To get a more fair measure of the conferences based on the distribution of schools' rankings, I "graded" the conferences with a rigid mathematical formula. Each conference received 10 points for each school in the Top 10; 8 points for each school ranked 11-20; then 6 points down to 1 point for each school, respectively, ranked 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-75, 76-100, and 101-125. No points for schools ranked 126 or worse. So conferences with proportionately more "high" (good) rankings will get scored better, with a bonus for top-rated schools. Then I divided each conference's total points by the number of schools, so it's a fair comparison (no extra points just by having more schools). The results:
ACC 4.5 (best)
BIG TEN 3.4
PAC 12 3.2
BIG EAST 1.8
BIG XII 1.4 (worst)
So by this more telling methodology, the ACC is by FAR the best overall academic conference; the Big Ten just nudges out the Pac 12 (because our middle- and low-ranked schools overall make up for the fact that the Pac 12 has the best "top 4" of any conference but among the worst "Bottom 5"). The SEC and Big East are about the same, lagging way behind, and the Big XII brings up the rear. Again.
So my conclusion: While I might have guessed the SEC would be deal last here, in fact, the Big XII clearly is dead last.