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Today in Meaningless Statistics

The media narrative on this week's FSU-Oklahoma game apparently is that the ACC needs an FSU win even more desperately than the Seminoles do. I don't really agree – a dominant Florida State is the quickest way to media respectability, but not necessarily the best. The ACC didn't really garner much respect when FSU was steamrolling over the conference, and the best way forward is for a couple of teams, the Seminoles included, to emerge organically, win their non-conference games and have gripping, high stakes games against one another. (I also don't think FSU s going to beat Oklahoma, but that's just me.)

But this little collection of statistics showing how bad the ACC made me pause:

A few forgettable numbers for you, courtesy of Schlabach:

  • Since Florida State beat Virginia Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, ACC teams are 6-47 against nonconference teams ranked in the top 10.
  • During that span, the conference is 1-32 against top five teams.
  • The ACC has lost 10 straight to top five teams, and 13 of the past 14 against top 10 opponents.

1-32! That's... wait a minute. The thing about top five teams is, they usually win their games. That's why they're top five teams. These stats are pretty meaningless without showing other conferences in comparison.

Now Carolina March is an intern-free organization, and I could only plod through ESPN's weekly scoreboard for so long before the flash animations ground everything to a halt, so I couldn't go back to 2000. I did get through 2008 however, and here's how things stack up.

The ACC is 2-9 against the top ten, and 0-6 against the top five. Those six losses consist of Florida State losing to Florida twice, Duke falling to top-ranked Alabama, Virginia Tech's loss to Stanford in the Orange Bowl and Ohio State and Florida both beating Miami.

The SEC, gold standard for football conferences, is 8-5 against the top ten, and 4-1 against the top 5. Three of those five big games were national championships, while the other two were this season's LSU vs. Oregon and Boise State vs. Georgia games. When the SEC is the lower-ranked team, they're still 6-5. 

The Big Ten is 3-10 against the top ten, and 0-7 against the top five, just as bad as the ACC. Worse, when you consider that two of their wins were by Ohio State, and probably will be vacated shortly.

The Pac-10/12 fares no better, having finished 3-10 against the top ten and 0-5 against the top five.  The Big 12-and-falling is 1-4 and 0-3, respectively, while the Big East is 0-6 and 0-2. Conference USA almost looks good by comparison, going 2-13 against the top ten and 1-6 against the top five. And don't even get me started on the MAC.

In short, all teams look bad against top five opponents. That's why they're top five opponents. Case in point: Oklahoma. They'll go to Tallahassee on Saturday looking for their first victory over a team in the top five since 1993.