Sometimes, the SEC just has to take an L and get the next one.
The South might snag an eighth consecutive BCS title, but the league barely ranks No. 2 in the "Fun with Numbers" formula for nonconference performance for the power conferences through three weeks.
Taking the lead of Oregon, which stomped ACC and SEC teams Virginia and Tennessee by a combined 118-24, the Pac-12 did not spare any points in its commanding nonconference lead that accentuates the league's depth.
Bob Stoops would be proud, though his conference needs to rally a bit.
With a 23-4 start, the Pac-12 is on pace for its most nonconference wins, bowls included, in the league's history.
The Pac-12 scored 32 nonconference wins in 2002 and 29 last year. This year, the league has nine nonconference regular-season games remaining -- 10 if Colorado can reschedule with Fresno State -- plus a full slate of bowl games to eclipse those numbers.
The FWN formula to determine nonconference success stretches beyond win-loss record, which is why the ACC almost took the No. 2 spot (and arguably had more nonconference success than any league because of the banner wins over Georgia and Florida).
Here's the breakdown of the point system.
• Win percentage (100 percent would equal 100.0 points)
• One point per win
• 20 points per win over a top-10 team (based on AP ranking at time of game)
• 10 points per quality win (teams ranked 11-25 or with a respectable rep, to the point you would say, well, that's a résumé-builder)
• Minus-10 per quality loss
• Minus-20 per bad loss
Sounds easy enough. It's not exactly RPI- or BCS-complex, but it's digestible.
Talk about an inexact science. The truest way to match conference superiority is for every team to play each other. The nonconference slates of some marquee programs still haven't taken flight (Southern California and Oklahoma have yet to play Notre Dame, for example).
But this is an attempt to accurately portray where conferences stand now.
Minimizing bad losses is huge. The Big Ten and Big 12 dropped a few duds that hurt their rankings.
1. Pac-12: 88.2 points
(85.2 pct + 23 wins + 30 for quality wins – 30 for quality losses – 20 for bad loss)
Quality wins: Wisconsin, Nebraska, Boise State
Quality losses: Northwestern, Ohio State, Auburn
Bad loss: Eastern Washington
Buzz: Oregon State's curious loss to EWU compromised an otherwise sterling performance by the Pac-12. The other three losses were expected, with Cal losing to two Big Ten standouts and Auburn edging the rebuilding Washington State. The Pac-12 didn't have the most difficult nonconference schedule of the bunch, but clearly it's maximizing potential. Knocking off three Big Ten teams last weekend sealed the top ranking.
2. SEC: 60.7
(78.6 pct. + 22 wins + 30 for QWs – 50 for QLs – 20 for BL)
Quality wins: TCU, Virginia Tech, Texas
Quality losses: Clemson, Miami, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Louisville
Bad loss: Western Kentucky
Buzz: Pretty clean performance from the SEC,but the league's score would have improved by 30 points had Florida limited turnovers against Miami. Georgia's loss is understandable -- this could be Clemson's year. Tennessee's loss to Oregon and Kentucky's to Louisville were expected. Losing to WKU was not the debut Mark Stoops had in mind at UK.
3. ACC: 46.0
(75.0 pct. + 21 wins + 20 for Top 10 W + 10 QW – 60 for QLs – 20 for BL)
Quality wins: Georgia, Florida
Quality losses: South Carolina, Oregon, Alabama, Northwestern, USC, Penn State
Bad loss: Louisiana-Monroe
Buzz: Florida was ranked No. 12 when Miami knocked off the Gators. If the Gators were two spots better, the ACC would have 10 extra points and inch toward the No. 2 spot overall. Clemson's and Miami's wins spoke loudest in nonconference play. Louisiana-Monroe's win over Wake? Not so much. Otherwise, every ACC loss was against either a ranked team or a traditional power.
4. Big Ten: 25.8
(77.8 pct. + 28 wins + 20 for QW* – 60 for QLs – 40 for BLs)
Quality wins: Notre Dame, California (*score altered, see below)
Quality losses: UCLA, Washington, Arizona State, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois, Cincinnati
Bad losses: Navy, Central Florida
Buzz: Lot of close calls here. Cal, coming off a 3-9 season, is debatable as a quality win, though we'll give Northwestern and Ohio State five points apiece instead of 10 for beating Cal's high-powered offense on the road. UCF is still a bad loss on paper. However, the Knights are surging and, in fact, might be more of a quality loss than American Athletic Conference counterpart Cincinnati. Save a few duds, a strong performance from the Big Ten. The Wisconsin-Arizona State game would have changed things, of course.
5. Big 12: -4.4
(69.6 pct. + 16 + 10 QW – 40 for QLs – 60 for BLs)
Quality win: Mississippi State
Quality losses: LSU, Ole Miss, BYU, Iowa
Bad losses: Rice, Northern Iowa, North Dakota State
Buzz: The Big 12 is better than this. Oklahoma can beat several Top 25 teams but hasn't played any yet. It's not Oklahoma State's fault Mississippi State is down. Baylor is dangerous but hasn't been tested. Texas did the Big 12 no favors. Kansas is ... well, Kansas. Gotta beat Rice. The loss to Northern Iowa might be worst of Paul Rhoads' tenure at Iowa State. The Big 12 must count on deferred gratification.