The current AP and Coaches polls have 6 SEC teams (Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Florida) in the top 25, with both Auburn and Texas A&M receiving votes, despite that conference having an absurdly weak nonconference schedule. Meanwhile, the "down" ACC has the same number of ranked teams (4) as the B1G. Now that we are 75% of the way through the year, it's a good time to look back at the nonconference results and see which conferences deserve the level of respect they get. So here are all of the nonconference wins by each conference over any team that is ranked in one of the polls:
Big Ten (5):
Texas (Maryland), Utah State (MSU), Boston College (Purdue), Fresno State (Minnesota), Iowa State (Iowa)
Not a bad list, although the Big Ten might lead the nation in embarrassing losses too, as there are division contenders with losses to Akron and Eastern Michigan. Also there is Rutger.
None, as Clemson's win over Texas A&M no longer applies. Syracuse could add one with a win over Notre Dame though. Fingers crossed.
Big 12 (2):
Boise State (Oklahoma St.), NC State (West Virginia)
Considering that it plays a 9 game round robin schedule, the Big 12 as a group plays a relatively decent nonconference schedule that also included wins over teams such as USC and Tennessee. Also that once-embarrassing Oklahoma win over Army in OT might make this list soon.
PAC 12: (1)
Michigan State (Fightin' Herms)
The MSU win is a lone bright spot, as the PAC 12 lost in almost all of its opportunities against good teams. UCLA played three opponents that are currently ranked, and unfortunately UCLA sucks. Notre Dame beat Stanford and will likely beat USC, who also lost to Texas. BYU is also a popular opponent that is not up to its usual strength. At least Colorado beat Nebraska by 5, so they are equally as good as Ohio State.
(Ok, the OSU game was in Columbus, so that makes Colorado better.)
Pretty embarrassing, especially given that they have 4 nonconference games per team. Granted, a bunch of those games haven't been played yet, but the only ranked nonconference opponent left on anyone's schedule is Clemson vs. South Carolina. Good luck with that.
It's kind of an amazing result: the Big Ten has more wins over ranked nonconference opponents than the other four P5 conferences combined. While the polls don't really mean anything anymore, the Big Ten's big lead in this department also existed last week for the CFP rankings; Utah State wasn't in their top 25, but Virginia (lost at Indiana) was. Caveat: Of course, it's hard to have too many wins over ranked opponents, as losses tend to make those opponents unranked.
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of looking backward by voters or committee members, as LSU is still getting the benefit of what was thought to be a "big win" over Miami, just as Virginia Tech was still ranked after losing to Old Dominion because their win over Florida State was overvalued for weeks. Meanwhile, CFP voters look at things like wins over P5 teams with winning records, which is ridiculous when many of those teams are playing teams like Furman, Liberty, and the Citadel to get those winning records. For as much grief as Washington State gets for scheduling home games against Eastern Washington and San Jose St., and playing @Wyoming, the 9th conference game makes their schedule at least as tough as any in the SEC, where virtually every team has three cupcakes. At least Wazzu played a road game.
It's hard to look at this and think that teams should ever schedule difficult nonconference opponents. In fact, conferences have an incentive to game the system (much like basketball with RPI) and work together to all schedule mediocre-to-bad teams, and run up the nonconference records, just to have more teams in the conference with winning records. It's unfortunate, because those are some of the most entertaining games, but I fear that that's where we may be headed.