College Football Standings
NCAA Football Standings
College football standings usually break down according to the conference the team plays in. I’ve noticed that certain newbie fans get a little confused about the standings in the conferences with two divisions, because they assume two unbeaten teams in the same division might be on a collision course in the conference title game. With that in mind, here’s how to read college football standings and know where your team stands at any point in the season.
In the past 20 years, several conferences have grown beyond the ability for each team in the conference to play every other team in the league every single year. In those cases, the leagues have been divided into two different divisions. The two most famous examples of the two-division conference are the SEC and the Big 12.
Big 12 Conference Formation
Twenty years ago, what we now know as the Big 12 Conference was (more or less) two different conferernces: the Big 8 Conference and the Southwest Conference. When the Arkansas Razorbacks, the only school in the Southwest Conference not located in Texas, left the Southwest Conference for the Southeast Conference (more famously known as the SEC), the remaining teams faced a dilemma. Not only was Arkansas a tradition regional powerhouse in football, but it was a national powerhouse in mens basketball.
The Southwest Conference, still rocked by the recruiting scandals that had almost destroyed the program at previously-strong SMU and had hampered attempts at development at TCU, was on its last leg. The University of Texas was undergoing a temporary decline and, with the Razorbacks gone, the prestige of the conference was at an all-time low.
Four of the teams – Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor – decided to join the Big 8 Conference. They created the new Big 12 Conference, but with twelve teams in one league, that would have filled up the schedule with no room to add non-conference games. So it was decided to have a North Division and a South Division to the Big 12. The two southernmost schools, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, would join the four Texas schools in the Big 12 South.
The Big 12 schedule includes a team playing all 5 rival teams in their division every year, along with 3 of their 6 rival teams in the other division. Who these three teams are alternates every other year. So if OU played Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas one year, it would play Colorado, Iowa State and Kansas State the next year. The standings of the Big 12 and therefore the eventual champion would consist of the outcome of these 8 games. Sometimes, the schedule will favor one team or another, since OU might play a tougher group of interdivision opponents than Texas one year.
Over the years, the Big 12 South Division has come to dominate the football of the Big 12, with the south champion usually routing the north division champ in the title game. It should be mentioned that this wasn’t always the case, since Nebraska and Colorado were national powers at the time of the formation of the Big 12.
SEC Conference Standings
Until 1991, the Southeastern Conference consisted of ten football programs: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Louisiana State (LSU), Mississippi and Mississippi State. In 1991, the aforementioned Arkansas Razorbacks bolted the SWC for the SEC, along with South Carolina, which was a major independent from 1971 to 1991, after playing in the ACC for nearly 20 years in the 50s and 60s.
Like the Big 12, the SEC decided to divide into two divisions: in this case the SEC East and the SEC West divivions. Like the Big 12, the SEC yearly schedule consisted of the 5 games against the division and 3 games against the other division. After 8 games, whoever was higher in both divisions’ conference standings would be declared that division’s winner and go on to play in the SEC Championship Game.
The SEC East these days consists of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The SEC West consists of LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi and Mississippi State. Over these past 20 years, the West tends to be represented by LSU, Alabama or Auburn in the SEC Title Game, while the East tends to be represented by Florida and, less frequently these days, Tennessee. Arkansas has struggled to be the football power it was in the Southwest Conference, perhaps because the SEC is such a tough football conference, but also because Arkansas lost a major source of recruiting talent in Texas, when it stopped playing 8 Texas teams a year.
BCS Football Standings
Otherwise, most college football standings are pretty self-explanatory. You’ll be able to pick up a paper on most Sundays and Mondays in the fall and see a page on the inside of the sports page listing the college football standings for the major conferences, as well as a good number of minor college football standings. Now you’ll know exactly what the division standings are all about.
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