How Important are Bowl Games in Comparing Conferences?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I found an interesting piece on about whether one should judge the quality of a conference based on the performance of its teams in bowls. "Experts" from's staff weigh in on the issue; one that I and media outlets fuel by putting up standings from the outcomes of bowl games.

I'm a true believer in Bill Parcell's "you are what you are (your record)" philosophy. Utah won every regular season game that was put before them. Whether or not someone thought they should be in a BCS bowl game is moot because everyone knew what their schedule was prior to the season, and they went out and beat every single team on that schedule. Then, the night before last, they went out and beat up on Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Does that mean that the Mountain West Conference is better that the SEC? Not really. But it does prove that Utah deserved to be in that game, and that they are in all likelihood a better team than Alabama.

As this issue relates to the Big East, one has to take a look at the conference's record in BCS bowl games. 3-1 in the last four years is nothing to sneeze at, especially when those wins come against an SEC, Big 12, and ACC conference team respectively. If one wants to compare the Big East to the ACC this year, then one would see that the Big East went 2-1 against the ACC in bowls, but lost in the all important BCS game. Do the two other bowls overcome the BCS loss? Do the comparison of conference records in bowls overall make a difference (4-2 for the Big East vs. 4-6 for the ACC)? Do the amount of teams placed in bowls by the conferences come in into play (six for the Big East, 10 for the ACC)?

In examining the Big 10's record in bowls this season, one would see that have not fared so well (1-5, with one game remaining). Are we to then think that the Big 10 is a poor quality football conference that should play second fiddle to all or most other conferences? We can't because the bowl games they have played are not comparable to other conferences' games all across the board. The Big 10 has already played one BCS game (PSU lost to USC in the Rose Bowl) even before they face another BCS challenge in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas. Michigan State played (and lost to) a Georgia team that was a preseason number one team coming out of the SEC.

All in all, there is no fair way to compare the conferences because there are too many variables to consider. It's fun to have this debate and I would certainly like to think that the Big East's relative success in the world of bowls has it's meaning, but I understand that it's not a meaning that I can take all the way to the bank. For now, all that I, other bloggers like me, college football fans, and sports writers can do, is use the bowl match-ups as fodder for comparison and analysis. Don't get me wrong though, it's fun to chuckle at bowl records for the Big 10 and ACC conferences.