A look at hierarchy within the new B1G

Since the move to the B1G next season was made official, I have been wondering about general comparisons and how the four PAC schools might fit in amongst our new conference compatriots. How does the new conference break down into hierarchical tiers and where do the four PAC schools, especially UW, fit into this?

There is certainly a lot of history between both of the conferences, so I initially looked at a handful of all-time stats for some historical context. There have been a lot of changes amongst the conference compositions over the last century+ so I just grabbed the current B1G roster with the addition of the four PAC schools joining next year. After a look at some all-time stats, I went back and did the same for just the playoff era, the 2014 through 2022 seasons, to get a better idea of current pecking orders and recent success, or lack thereof.

The charts below are ranked from best to worst and I color coded them (sorry if that makes it hard for anyone to read) to illustrate some general tiers. These are totally subjective/arbitrary other than trying to create groupings of similar results (example: grouping winning percentages in the high 60s to low 70s together).

All-Time Stats


All-Time Winning %

There are roughly three clear tiers here with Ohio St, Michigan, USC, Penn St, and Nebraska in the top grouping with the three other PAC schools fitting into the middle tier. I don’t think there is much of note here, everyone is where you would expect them, although I was a little surprised that MSU and UCLA had the same overall percentage as UW. Let’s call it a recency bias of the last 20 years, but I cannot remember the last time UCLA was actually good aside from a decent season here or there.

Total Conference Championships

Again, the top tier is very clear and obvious with Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio St, and USC all clumped together with a large gap to the next tier. The second tier again contains the rest of the PAC schools. I think you could argue that this second tier is a little large and too inclusive, but there isn’t a clear cutoff with a basically linear gradiant here. There is a theme developing already, though, which is a rather stronger peer equivalency between UW, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.

Total National Championships

Pretty straightforward, once again, with those you would expect clumping together at the top. Outside of that first tier, I don’t know that this stat is all that relevant. And I think you could argue that all-time national championships is rather irrelevant since all but one of these was more than 10 years ago.

All-Time Bowl Record and Win %

I clumped these together because overall bowl record is a little tricky to sort and evaluate; the chart is sorted by bowl win %. The main thing you can pull from the overall bowl record is just how many times a team is making it to post-season play, indicating a long history of above average to superior play. It generally correlates with overall record and conference championships. Trying to define tiers within the bowl win % is a little tough given the tight gradient here, which I think comes, in part, from low sample sizes for a lot of the schools (10-20 bowl appearances for some vs 40 or 50 for others). UW has been to plenty of bowls, historically, but has been less than impressive from a performance perspective, only winning half of them.

All-Time End of Season AP top 25

We could look at the AP, coaches, or CFP poll here, but the AP poll stats are readily available and cover a large number of years. I also don’t think it matters too much when doing a comparison as long as you are comparing within the same set of data. Looking at the numbers, there are a few distinctive tiers here, maybe more so than some of the other categories. Michigan and Ohio St pull ahead, USC is in that second tier, and UW and UCLA ride along together in tier 3, right there with Wisconsin and Michigan State.

All-Time Takeaways

First, I had no idea before doing this that UW and UCLA were so close in terms of these stats. I graduated from UW in 2007 and UCLA has been mediocre to not great for as long as I can remember. I think there is a good argument to be made that Michigan State and Wisconsin are good representative siblings for UW and UCLA within the traditional Big 10 members. If we expand that, then you can bring in Nebraska or Penn State as maybe the next closest equivalent programs.

Now let’s look at the Playoff era: the nine seaons spanning 2014 through 2022


Playoff Era Winning %

There are a number of big differences when we just look at the last 9 years. Wisconsin and Oregon are big movers up, while USC and Nebraska take big drops down. UW is fairly consistent (I will note that we get a helping hand looking at this time period since we skip out on the Willingham disaster and the Sark era being that 2014 was Petersen’s first year). But in general, the recent pecking order looks fairly consistent when compared to the historical stats.

Playoff Era Conference Championships

We only have 9 seasons worth of data, but there is a clear winner here: Ohio State. The rest of the conference champs basically come from the traditionally above average to good schools. I don’t think there should be any surprises here.

Playoff Era National Championships

There is only one, which just speaks to the absolute dominance of the SEC. Maybe strengthening the B1G with the better PAC teams will lead to that whole iron sharpens iron thing. Or, maybe the B1G starts cannibalizing itself each year the way the PAC did. Someone has to start beating the SEC though. Lumping in playoff births: bringing in UW and Oregon gives the B1G two more playoff appearances. It will be interesting to see how many teams from each conference get into the expanded playoff.

Playoff Era Bowl Record and Win %

Again, small sample sizes here and a lot of mediocrity with only a few schools taking care of business. This stat doesn’t take into account which bowls or the quality of opponent, so perhaps not all that useful of a benchmark, especially given the explosion of basically meaningless bowls the last 15-20 years. The PAC schools fall way behind though, with none having a winning bowl record during the playoff era.

Playoff Era End of Season AP top 25

There are pretty clear tiers here with a big chunk of bottom feeders within the B1G. The PAC schools generally hold their own in terms of finishing seasons as well regarded teams.

Playoff Era Takeaways

I would say that USC, UW, and Oregon add three strong and competitive teams to the mix. There is no reason to think that all three of those schools won’t be serious contenders for conference championships going forward. UCLA falls in the bottom half or bottom third for all of these categories and just doesn’t feel like a serious challenger based on recent history. UCLA’s addition has always been a bit of a headscratcher and seems much more like they were just being included with USC to ensure capturing the entire LA market. Also, the historic trend of UCLA and UW being peers does not hold when looking at recent on-field performance. In fact, and you all are gonna hate this, Oregon is a much better comparison these past 9 season: very similar win %, 3 vs 2 conf championships, similar bowl record, 5 vs 4 end of season top 25 rankings. The closest B1G school to UW would be Penn State.

That final conclusion of UW, Oregon, and Penn State being siblings in the new BIG "IranoutoffingersholdonwhileItakemyshoesandsocksoff" is a little bit of a surprise and maybe a touch comforting. I bet if you asked most people they would have said Oregon and Penn State were both superior to UW, but, at least on these overall season stats, they are surprisingly close. I would much rather be compared to those two schools than the warning example that is Nebraska.