Closing Numbers: The out of conference crunch
From 1978 to 2010, the Pac 10 was more than a conference. It was a symbol of stability, maintaining ten institutions without change for more than three decades. During the period, the college football landscape experienced multiple shifts and reformation, before settling with the alignments we see today.
For the purpose of this section, the old Southwest Conference is disbursed, and its members are placed in the Big XII, with the exception of Arkansas, where the win-loss totals are inclusive to the SEC. Also, I’ve allowed I-A independents to fall as they were. So as the final tabulation may reveal no games played between USC and the Big East, The Trojans did defeat the Orange in the 1990 Kickoff Classic, but Syracuse was operating as an Independent and not recorded. This would explain any difference in my figures and others that may be published elsewhere.
Out of conference win percentage 1978-2010
“USC and the 9 dwarfs” was one of the more common misnomers. It was perception built on Trojan popularity, and strengthened by others lacking visibility on a lesser stage. The perennial preaching was that a midget membership simply rode Southern California’s giant coattails of success. And for years, contrary to popular belief, the sermon was untrue.
Sixty percent of the league finished above .500 in games played against the other five major conferences. The combined overall winning percentage of .520 is attributed to a cumulative winning record against each conference, with the exception of one, the SEC.
Pac 10 membership went 22-34-5 (.360) in games played against SEC opponents. Of the 61 games, only 15 were played in Pac 10 venues. So as the numbers reflect Oregon State with a 0-4-1 mark, it’s also noted that not a single game was played in Corvallis. Similarly, Cal posted a mark of 1-3, winning the only game played in Berkeley.
Before some members could be bullied on the field, their athletic departments were bullied in scheduling. Some of that managed to changed in the BCS era, and so did the numbers.
Out of conference win percentage 2000-2010
When you flip forward to the new century, USC’s out of conference performance is undoubtedly superior to any other in college football. Inclusive in its 22-3 record against BCS opponents outside the Pac 10, is a combined record of 17-0 against the ACC (4), Big 10 (9), and SEC (4). The three losses came against Big XII competition, twice to Kansas State, and Texas in the Rose Bowl.
What may also be unmatched is the performance of Arizona. The Wildcats’ upset victory over Iowa catapulted the program in the top-25 of 2010. But that victory also spared the desert dogs the embarrassment of going winless outside the conference, though a lone victory is nothing to brag about.
The Pac 10 from 2000 forward, just as in the years before, combined for records above .500 against 4 of 5 BCS conferences. The 12-10 mark bettered the SEC on this grid, but members managed just 26-27 (.490) versus the Big XII.
You can’t think out of conference without the greatest intersectional rivalry surfacing. USC and Notre Dame, holding true to tradition, played in each of the 33 years of Pac 10 existence. And the closing numbers in the series reveals a battle fought to a draw, standing at 16-16-1*.
The rivals played evenly throughout the late 70s and 80s. The 90s was a decade of Irish domination, with power shifting to the Trojans in the 2000s. Each won nine games at home. Each won seven on the road. The tie occurred in the Los Angeles Coliseum in November 1994.
Next up: Intra-conference crunch
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