A new twist on ranking the conferences

The Big 12 Conference likes to boast that it has five ranked teams. To that, we say: Get real.

The Big East notes that it's 26-7 against nonleague teams. Uh, so what?

For purposes of helping arbitrate barroom arguments from Texarkana to Tumwater, we put each football conference this week under the glare of a different metric.

Say hello to REALRANK - Ratings Edified About Leagues Reassessed According to Nonleague Kachet. (OK, so we had to take some liberties with the acronym.)

All this, of course, is about the debate over which leagues are best in college football. For instance, SEC fans know their conference is best just because, well, it's got the best football, along with the most chippy little melodramas among the coaches and the most mea culpas about their officials emanating from the league office. And who cares about that Alabama-Utah Sugar Bowl last year?

Anyway, we crunched some numbers, with a bit of a twist. In this rating, you get credit not only for strength of schedule, you also get dinged for scheduling too many indigent programs - like ones that don't have a band, a trainer or a school president. In other words, intent is part of the deal. No chest hair, no credit.

Some terms you'll need to know:

RART: Record against ranked teams outside the conference. We broadened "ranked teams" to include the AP Top 25, plus its 16 others receiving votes, providing a bigger glimpse of nonleague performance against 41 solid teams.

GSQ: Get serious quotient. When one of your league members flops miserably - as in Indiana's 47-7 loss to Virginia - you risk a citation here.

Weenie Index: The inclination of a league to show no pride and drop down to schedule FCS teams.

We don't claim that the system accounts completely for bad losses, but we'll try to expose those as much as possible. What, you think the BCS is perfect?

To our rankings:

1. SEC

In the AP Top 25: Alabama (1), Florida (2), LSU (9), South Carolina (23)

RART: 2-3

GSQ: The SEC East doesn't have a win against the 41 teams receiving AP votes. In fact, it only has played one game against that group.

Weenie Index: Sizzling. Ten SEC teams play an FCS program.

Summary: We get that Alabama and Florida are good. But the league is still too incestuous.

2. Pac-10

In the AP Top 25: Southern Cal (4), Oregon (12)

RART: 5-5

GSQ: Arizona State followed up Idaho State with Louisiana-Monroe.

Weenie Index: Cool, with four FCS opponents, five fewer than the next-lowest BCS conference.

Summary: Not only is it the only BCS league to play nine conference games, it has the best record against the sort-of-elite 41.

3. ACC

In the AP Top 25: Miami (8), Georgia Tech (11), Virginia Tech (15)

RART: 4-7

GSQ: Virginia and Duke did an ignominious 1-2 on opening day, losing to FCS teams.

Weenie Index: Roaring, with 14 FCS opponents. Take a bow, North Carolina, N.C. State and Duke, with two apiece.

Summary: Nips the Big Ten because of a slighter better underbelly.

4. Big Ten

In the AP Top 25: Iowa (7), Penn State (13), Ohio State (18)

RART: 3-7

GSQ: Penn State's nonleague schedule is Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois. Hello, 4-0.

Weenie Index: Boiling, with nine FCS teams.

Summary: Yesterday's conference.

5. Big 12

In the AP Top 25: Texas (3), Oklahoma State (14), Texas Tech (21), Kansas (24), Oklahoma (25)

RART: 0-8

GSQ: You read it right. The league doesn't have a nonconference victory against the AP 41.

Weenie Index: Bubbling. Nine FCS teams, with Kansas State's Bill Snyder, naturally, playing two.

Summary: With no chops outside the league, might be the nation's most fraudulent conference.

6. Big East

In the AP Top 25: Cincinnati (5), Pittsburgh (20), West Virginia (22).

RART: 2-3

GSQ: League-leading Pitt's only loss is to 3-4 N.C. State.

Weenie Index: Steaming. Rutgers and South Florida (two each) lead the parade of 10 FCS opponents.

Summary: At each level, the league seems to trail its big-conference brethren.

7. Mountain West

In the AP Top 25: TCU (10), BYU (16), Utah (19)

RART: 1-7

GSQ: New Mexico (0-6) looks hellbent for a winless season.

Weenie Index: Moderate, with six FCS foes.

Summary: Nice at the top, but little below.

8. WAC

In the AP Top 25: Boise State (6)

RART: 1-10

GSQ: Should Boise State, in a perennial fight for national notice, be scheduling FCS Cal-Davis?

Weenie Index: Warm, with seven from FCS.

Summary: Boise State, meet Gonzaga basketball.

9. Conference USA

In the AP Top 25: Houston (17)

RART: 2-17

GSQ: After winning the Texas Bowl convincingly last year, Rice is 0-7.

Weenie Index: Perking with nine FCS foes.

Summary: Little oomph; only Houston and Tulsa have fewer than three losses.

10. Sun Belt

In the top 25: None

RART: 0-12

GSQ: Arkansas State took unbeaten Iowa to the wire in a three-point loss; Middle Tennessee nipped Maryland.

Weenie Index: At last, some honor: only three FCS foes.

Summary: No bell-cow team, but better overall than the MAC.

11. MAC

In the top 25: None

RART: 0-15

GSQ: Ball State, unbeaten until its league-title game last year, is 0-7.

Weenie Index: Simmering. Nine FCS opponents, proving there's a food chain at every level.

Summary: Central Michigan (6-1) represents quality, but three winless teams bring down the MAC.