I am continuing my exploration into tiered college football resumes looking today at the SEC and ACC. Since I am not familiar with these conferences as I am the Big Ten, I will combine them into one article. I will finish with a combined look at the Big 12 and Pac-12. The SEC and ACC are the only other conferences with a team to have a positive point differential versus Tier 1 opponents (I bet you do not need to jump ahead to know what schools have done this). For the ease of including Notre Dame in my analysis, I am including them with the ACC after their one season of playing in a conference with the ACC.
Like my Husker Coaching Tiers article, I am using Bill Connelly’s SP+. A Tier 1 game is defined by the opponent SP+ being a top 10 ranking. Tier 2 is for ranks 11-25. Tier 3 is 26-75 and Tier 4 is 76+. A few differences with this analysis: time frame and bowl games. I am only looking at recent Big Ten history. I chose a first season of 2014 to correspond with the start of the CFP. This analysis also includes bowl games. In my first article I intentionally left out bowl games to focus on the strength of the relative strength of the schedules each coach faced in the regular season. Only FBS team are included in this analysis.
Clemson and Alabama join Ohio State as the only Power 5 schools to average a positive scoring margin against Tier 1 competition. Half of the schools that have manage to even win half of their Tier 1 games reside in the SEC with Alabama, LSU, and Georgia. All four of the recent Clemson-Alabama games of the playoff era were Tier 1 vs Tier 1 games resulting in two wins and two losses for each program in the Tier 1 category. As starting quarterback for the LSU Tigers, Joe Burrow put together an impressive 9-2 record against Tier 1 competition.
Florida, surprisingly, has struggled against Tier 2 opponents and has a worst win percentage against Tier 2 opponents than Tier 1 despite also having the fourth best win percentage overall in the SEC in the CFP era. The SEC has five total teams averaging a positive scoring margin against Tier 2 opponents, the best of all power conferences. The ACC’s playoff attendees all have a positive record against Tier 2 opponents.
Alabama has dominated its Tier 3 competition going unbeaten against opponents in that level. Their average margin of victory is nearly double that of the next closest team at an impressive 32.1. In the ACC, Clemson and Notre Dame stand above the rest of the competition averaging a double-digit margin of victory. Clemson’s two loses to this tier came against Georgia Tech in 2014 and Syracuse in 2017.
The SEC boasts an impressive six schools with unbeaten records against Tier 4 opponents compared to just two for the ACC. Notre Dame was close to joining the ranks of the perfect teams but its loss to the Blue Devils in 2016 accounted for one of Duke’s two Tier 2 wins in the playoff era.
You did not need this article to know that Clemson and Alabama have been dominant in the playoff era. I do think this method makes Alabama’s run even more impressive. Its worst loss was a loss to SP+ 14th rated Ole Miss team in 2014. This is Saban’s only loss to a team outside the top of SP+ in the playoff era. I do think this resume method further emphasizes how good these top teams are and how far the bottom teams have to go.