Even though college football doesn’t technically have a preseason, the first four weeks of play aren’t anything like the rest of the season when league games dominate the schedule.
The best early-season, non-conference games are those which feature power-five conference teams squaring off in what feel like bowl matchups. These are the level of competition that the SEC and ACC will require members to participate in, at least once, starting in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Through four weeks of play this season, there have been 26 non-conference games between the 64 power-five programs (and Notre Dame), only four pitted one ranked team against another.
Here’s a look at how the power-five conferences fared against the best-of-the best in the 2014 early-season, preseason.
5. Big Ten
Record vs. Non-Conference, Power-Five Teams: 5-11 (31%)
In the plus column for the Big Ten in 2014 are Maryland’s win over Syracuse, Indiana’s triumph over No. 18 Missouri, Iowa’s win over Pitt, No. 24 Nebraska’s victory over Miami (Fla.) and Rutgers win over Washington State.
If not for the addition of Maryland and Rutgers this season, the Big Ten would have a mere three wins over power-five teams.
What you can say about the Big Ten is that it steps up to plate in scheduling early-season games against power-fives. Here’s the tally of non-league, power-five games for each of the 14-member conferences thus far in 2014: The Big Ten—16, the ACC—9 and the SEC—7.
With no regular-season games remaining between Big Ten members and power-fives from another conference, the league won’t have an opportunity to improve on its low mark.
4. Big 12
Record vs. Non-Conference, Power-Five Teams: 4-6 (40%)
The Big 12’s only triumphs out of conference in 2014 came via No. 4 Oklahoma’s win over Tennessee, TCU’s victory over Minnesota, West Virginia’s narrow win over Maryland and Iowa State’s upset of Iowa.
What makes the Big 12’s performance a bit more digestible is that it lost to four of its six games to top-ranked teams: No. 20 K-State fell to No. 5 Auburn, Oklahoma State lost to No. 1 Florida State, West Virginia fell short against No. 2 Alabama and Texas lost to No. 12 UCLA.
The Big 12, like the Big Ten, doesn’t have any games remaining against power-five, non-conference foes.
Record vs. Non-Conference, Power-Five Teams: 4-5 (44%)
The ACC deserves a lot of credit for the quality of its four wins against power-fives: No. 1 Florida State knocked off a pesky Oklahoma State squad in the opener, Boston College ran all over No. 9 USC, Virginia Tech upset No. 8 Ohio State and Duke destroyed Kansas.
As for the losses, they were quality as well: No. 16 Clemson fell to No. 12 Georgia, Syracuse got handled by Maryland, Miami lost to No. 24 Nebraska, Pitt fell to Iowa and Virginia nearly upset No. 7 UCLA.
The ACC is just one win shy of .500 this season, with eight opportunities remaining to improve its record: Florida State has Notre Dame on Oct. 18 and Florida on Nov. 29. Clemson has South Carolina on Nov. 29. Louisville has Notre Dame on Nov. 22 and Kentucky on Nov. 29. Syracuse has Notre Dame this Saturday. North Carolina has Notre Dame on Oct. 11. Georgia Tech has Georgia on Nov. 29.
Record vs. Non-Conference, Power-Five Teams: 5-2 (71%)
The all-powerful SEC has only lost twice to power-fives this season: No. 18 Missouri’s shocking loss to Indiana last weekend and Tennessee’s understandable loss at No. 4 Oklahoma in Week 3.
What’s most impressive is the fact that four of the five non-conference games featuring two ranked teams involved SEC programs that went on to win: No. 5 Auburn beat No. 20 K-State, No. 13 LSU beat No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 12 Georgia beat No. 16 Clemson.
The only such game without an SEC representative was No. 7 Michigan State at No. 3 Oregon.
The SEC still has a chance to capture the top spot with games remaining between Georgia and Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Clemson, Florida and Florida State and Kentucky and Louisville—all on Nov. 29.
Record vs. Non-Conference, Power-Five Teams: 6-2 (75%)
The winner of the 2014 college football preseason, the Pac-12’s only early missteps came via No. 9 USC’s shocking loss to Boston College and Washington State’s loss to Rutgers.
Though there are plenty of reasons for Pac-12 supporters to celebrate, it’s worth noting that of the six, non-league, power-five wins only one came against a ranked opponent—No. 3 Oregon’s comeback win over No. 7 Michigan State.
The other five wins came against unranked Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern.
The Pac-12’s opportunities to improve on its 6-2 mark and stay ahead of the SEC come down to a trio of dates with Notre Dame: Stanford travels to South Bend on Oct. 4, Arizona State hosts the Irish on Nov. 8 and USC closes out its regular season against Notre Dame at home on Nov. 29.