U.S. News Rankings of Top Six Football Conferences

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I know, I know, academics and football go together as well as Alabama fans and IQ points, but today the U.S. News released its rankings of the top colleges in America.

You can see all the rankings here.

You’ll recall that the Texas Longhorns famously cited academics as a reason why they didn’t fit in the SEC. And one of the big reasons why Missouri received an SEC bid over West Virginia was, in fact, academics. (There were other reasons as well — Missouri is the much bigger state for instance, which makes more sense for the SEC Network — but given that presidents vote on expansion, the SEC could argue that expansion actually made them a better conference than before expansion).  

So it got me wondering, how do the realigned conferences stack up in terms of overall academic prestige?

So I checked out every football school’s overall ranking and then computed them as a conference average. Voila, the results:

1. ACC — 51.2

2. Big Ten — 57.5

3. Pac 12 — 81.75

4. SEC — 98.7

5. Big 12 — 113.1

6. Big East — 130.6

It probably won’t come as any surprise that the ACC’s 14 schools — I included Pitt and Syracuse — averaged a 51.2 — which is downright amazing — but how about the top level strength in the Pac 12? Four schools in the top 25? Wow. And how about the bottom half of the Pac12? Ouch. 

The SEC’s 14 team average is better than the Big 12’s 10 team average — in fact, if you put the top ten of the SEC against the top ten of the Big 12 to equalize the conference sizes, the SEC’s average is 80.28, which demolishes the Big 12’s 113.1 even more substantially. Even if you remove the top two SEC schools from the tally, Vanderbilt and Florida, the bottom 12 SEC schools are still better than the Big 12’s top ten. So that Texas academics argument? Yeah, like most things trotted out by the Longhorns, it’s complete crap.  

As for the worst of the major BCS conferences, that honor belongs to Memphis, a school that isn’t even ranked among the top national universities. (Boise State is ranked as the 62nd best regional school in the West, which probably makes it better than Memphis too.) If you don’t even think it’s fair to include the Big East as a major conference then West Virginia and Texas Tech are tied at 165 as the two worst academic schools in the top five conferences.

Here’s how all the conferences rank with the inclusion of their individual schools. (Please stop with your emails about how the U.S. News rankings are biased against your school. I’m sure these rankings aren’t perfect, but they’re infinitely better than having to listen to Texas fans talk about how their academics are too strong for the SEC. Newsflash, Longhorns, you’d be the ninth highest ranked school in the state of California and you’re ranked below Miami, which would make you the 8th best ACC school. Hook’em.).

ACC — Average of 51.2

8. Duke

24. Virginia

27. Wake Forest

30. North Carolina

31. Boston College

36. Georgia Tech

44. Miami

58. Syracuse

58. Maryland

58. Pittsburgh

68. Clemson

72. Virginia Tech

97. Florida State

106. North Carolina State


Big Ten: Average of 57.5

12. Northwestern

29. Michigan

41. Wisconsin

46. Penn State

46. Illinois

56. Ohio State

65. Purdue

68. Minnesota

72. Michigan State

72. Iowa

83. Indiana

101. Nebraska


Pac 12: Average of 81.75

6. Stanford

21. Cal

24. UCLA

24. USC

46. Washington

97. Colorado

115. Oregon

120. Arizona

125. Utah

125. Washington State

139. Arizona State

139. Oregon State


SEC — Average of 98.7

17. Vandy

54. Florida

63. Georgia

65. Texas A&M

77. Alabama

89. Auburn

97. Missouri

101. Tennessee

115. South Carolina

125. Kentucky

134. LSU

134. Arkansas

151. Ole Miss

160. Mississippi State


Big 12 — average 113.1

46. Texas

77. Baylor

92. TCU

101. Iowa State

104. Oklahoma

106. Kansas

139. Kansas State

139. Oklahoma State

165. Texas Tech

165. West Virginia


Big East — Average of 130.6

58. SMU

63. UConn

68. Rutgers

125. Temple

139. Cincinnati

160. Louisville

165. San Diego State

170. South Florida

174. Central Florida

184. Houston

Memphis (unranked)

Boise State (#62 regional western college)

To be fair Navy also isn’t ranked and would likely be a top 25 caliber school.

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.