The Big Eleventy is a made-up conference. Seasonal membership is at the mercy of the opinions of the sportswriters who have voted in the AP poll. The past two decades of college football seasons and polling are taken into consideration, and the teams that are ranked at least half the time make the cut.
FBS football conferences are often based on inaccurate membership quantities. The Big Eleventy membership is fluid as well, and that's how the name "The Big Eleventy" was chosen.
Each season I conduct a statistical comparison of all the members. However, as of 2021, the actual sport of college football is undergoing several large, sweeping changes.
We're still in the honeymoon phase with the Transfer Portal. And well within the shadow of the pandemic rules and changes. New NIL rules are in their infancy.
About a year back, a shocking wave of conference shakeups hit the news cycle. It appears the era of the super conference is now upon us, with Oklahoma and Texas' announcement of a departure to the SEC. It is rumored that ESPN (owned by Disney, or "The Mouse") may have facilitated the move through nefarious meddling.
The ACC, Big Ten and the Pac 12 have announced a very fierce but toothless alliance.
Without further ado, I give you the 2021 Big Eleventy:
THE REBEL ALLIANCE (The "B1G PACC")
This year's theme sort of fell in my lap. After the announcement of the "B1G PACC" Alliance, r/CFB generated a Star Wars Rebel Alliance flair. I asked TKP for help a few months ago to pare out some of the characters, and I received lots of support with this. Admittedly, I ended up focusing much more on the visual similarities than the themes of the characters.
ACC: Hokienator rolled a strike in the very first comment- "Obviously, Virginia Tech is ObiWan" became canon from the start. Miami and Virginia Tech were (at the time) eligible for this season, and Alum07 suggested the old Big East/ACC brothers would work thematically as Obi-Wan and Qui Gon Jinn. Turns out Sebastian and HokieBird were quite adaptable to holding lightsabers from a graphics standpoint as well
The Clemson Tiger and C3PO have the same eyes. The Seminoles logo bears a strong resemblance to Chirrut Imwe.
The B1G TEN: The sailor hat Wolverine logo was edited onto Chewbacca, and Bucky the Badger morphs into Wicket (the Ewok) easily, too (Jander75). Nien Numb bears an uncanny and brilliant resemblance to Brutus the Buckeye (gobble gobble chumps). Had Penn State re-entered this season, the Nittany Lion was likely to be a mashup of the mascot with a white-out version of Princess Leia.
The PAC 12: The most popular character brought up was Jar-Jar Binks.
He was suggested for Rich Rodriguez, Miami, UVA and Oregon. NerdMagic won that contest, as the mascot similarity to the Oregon Duck was too much to pass up. For USC I went with a Rebel in a helmet that doesn't cover the complete face- Wedge Antilles.
THE DARK SIDE (SEC)
In a quite unfortunate turn of events, Lincoln Riley went full Finn and deserted the First Order. This rendered the Gif form of his SEC "Order 66" Welcome party obsolete, but I'm sharing it because it's funny (and the kid looks just like him):
Oklahoma might have been a better visual match for Jabba the Hutt's "Sail Barge"; however, due to their hasty, impending SEC entrance, simply converting the Sooner wagon into a Sith wagon seemed more appropriate. The Texas Longhorn has similar features to General Grievous, so that's where the new baddies finished up.
The Alabama elephant bears a strong resemblance to an All-Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT). Aubie with an attitude works with a slapped-on Kylo Ren helmet and hood. For Florida, there were a few reptilian-looking baddies I could have gone with, however the old school Gator logo can be incorporated into a Sarlacc theme effortlessly.
Apologies to the national champs, but UGA looks like Jabba the Hutt. I originally had Darth Maul pegged for LSU, but vt357's advice "For LSU swap out Darth Maul for Savage Opress" was perfect.
The Horned Frog was likely to become a Trandoshan bounty hunter. Bounty Hunters are a reliable source of independent characters in the Star Wars universe, and Notre Dame dressed up as Bobba Fett was a classic conversion.
Lando Calrissian works as well, and gobble gobble chumps first made that connection to a Big Eleventy team. Pistol Pete to Lando was a natural transition. As the only football program remaining in the Big XII with money, Oklahoma State may very well have to be savvy and survivalist to stay in the Power Five.
For Boise State, a Group of Five team simply doesn't belong in the same universe as teams ranked half of the time, over a period as expansive as twenty years. Therefore, they are represented in the Star Wars universe as Lieutenant Worf.
2001: HAL SINGS "DAISY" ONE LAST TIME
The USA College Football Encyclopedia has the following long-winded title for the 2001 football season: "The Year of Helping to Heal a Nation, Cancellation in Pullman, and return of Miami's might". On a serious note, 2001 was a heavy year for humanity to process.
On a less serious (and quite petty) note, it seems appropriate to celebrate the official 20-year anniversary of Miami "bakness" with the announcement of their departure from the Big Eleventy.
There remain 18 members this season, as Oklahoma State, for the first time in history, has eclipsed the 50% mark over 20 seasons.
For the 2021 Big Eleventy, we bid adieu to all results from 2001.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
There were 21 teams with a shot at the Big Eleventy this season. TCU and Penn State had a shot at re-entry with just a couple of ranked weeks required; neither managed to do it. Miami had the Herculean task of remaining ranked pretty much every week this season and they failed to come even close to that. Oklahoma State was the only outsider that managed to make it in; getting a late start but staying ranked for the last 3/4 of the season to gain entry.
Going forward, only two teams have the chance to change membership next season. TCU will have to be ranked pretty much all next year to make it in. And Virginia Tech would remain in as long as they can make an appearance in the poll (which has lately been their standard). Of course, after that, well...
The Hokies only need to be ranked 1 week next season for 2022 inclusion. But with a rebuild projected, that's kind of a tall task. It's a very real possibility that next season they will be on the outside looking in, and that's not even considering the 10-win season streak will begin to roll off the year after that (2023).
The Percentage of Time ranked chart shows where all 18 teams currently stand as members. It's perhaps a little shocking that Alabama and Clemson rank closer to the middle of the pack than the top. Bear in mind, The Great Saban's reign of unholy terror only began (ironically as a victory over the good guys in the CFA Kickoff) in 2009. And Dabo's shortly thereafter in 2011 (You know what, Virginia Tech should really find a way to use some of that kingmaker magic on itself).
Big Eleventy teams are ranked almost 3.5x more than the FBS average. Ranking in the top ten is closer to 5x higher, time in the top 5 is closer to 6x higher, and most of the teams that have ascended to a No. 1 rank come from the Big Eleventy as well.
Virginia Tech has a respectable presence in both the top ten and top five, but most of that time highly ranked was back in the aughts.
VS TOP TEAMS
The Bowl Wins chart shows several teams with >20 games in the past 20 seasons, thanks to the advent of the 4-team playoff. Of playoff teams, only Washington and Michigan State have come from outside of this group.
Notre Dame's relatively poor showing in bowl games is hardly shocking, as they easily have the most favorable bowl arrangement in the FBS (they are almost always overmatched in their bowl games). Michigan's terrible recent bowl record is kind of surprising. If you factor in Danny Coale catching that damn ball, it's downright atrocious.
The odds of any Ranked team losing to any opponent is ~30%. For top ten teams, the likelihood drops to <25%. Top 5 teams lose only about 20% of the time. And the number one team in the country only loses around 10% of the time.
Virginia Tech has been fantastic at playing against other teams with a ranking at nearly a coin flip, but inside the top ten those odds drop sharply.
FULL SEASON COMPARISONS
This chart is probably the most confusing; apologies. For the first comparison, FULL SEASONS RANKED, these are the number of years that each team was ranked for the entire season in the first column. In the second column, this is the number of seasons that the team made it through the season without being ranked once.
For the rest of these comparisons, the first column is how many times each team FINISHES in the listed category; the second column is how many times they STARTED there.
You can determine which teams are "underrated" and "overrated"; however the Big Eleventy is comprised solely of teams who are highly ranked a lot of the time. So "underranked" teams really aren't represented well here, and typically the "overranked" teams are those currently struggling.
Virginia Tech has managed to go unranked only once in the past 20 seasons. The Hokies have never started the season in the top 5, and the only top 5 finish was now over 20 years ago.
Boise State performs exceptionally well against the top teams they face, and the arbitrary Round Robin is no exception: they're batting 0.700 against Big Eleventy teams. What's jarring is just how seldom they play top teams, basically they average one Big Eleventy opponent every other season. This is both an indictment of Group of 5 team strength of schedule, and an impressive reminder of how consistently they step up when given the opportunity.
Virginia Tech used to fare respectably in the Round Robin. Most of the teams who have dropped out in recent seasons (Nebraska, Tennessee, and Miami) are a big reason Tech sank right to the bottom of this comparison. But it's nothing but sugarcoating to fail to mention that Virginia Tech has failed way more often than even odds would dictate when playing in big games.
In an independent assessment of recruiting over the past 20 years, you would probably not come to the same conclusion that Ohio State is the top recruiting team using solely the 247Sports Composite. This is because much of the early composite is riddled with data glitches, and Ohio State especially is missing much of their pre-2010 class data. (Kentucky, and several G5 teams have this same issue).
I've converted and patched the Rivals database over the missing 247Sports Composite data all the way up to 2012 to correct this. The recruiting data for this season's chart was made using that patched version of the Composite database I've generated.
The idea that Ohio State actually has the most Blue Chip recruits over the past 20 seasons might actually come as a bit of a surprise. However, the fact that USC and Alabama have the highest recruit average over the past 20 seasons (considering their dynasties have each lasted only part of this time) is intriguing. Both programs received loss-of-scholarship penalties since 2002, and smaller class sizes seemed to raise the average.
In any case, there is a high degree of overlap among high-recruiting teams and high-performing teams but recruiting well is not a guarantee of greatness.
Virginia Tech has not been among the most attractive programs to recruits; solidly middle of the pack in the Power 5. (Behind most SEC teams; top third of the ACC).
METRICS & "THE BELT" (LINEAL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP)
I started using "The Belt" for comparison several years back, which was founded as more of a tongue-in-cheek anti-BCS statement. The Metric Comparison is a combination of the SP+ (which has been retroactively calculated well past 20 years ago now), and the FEI (back to 2005, the SRS is used before that).
Virginia Tech's offense has been the worst in the Big Eleventy every season, as is tradition. The defense, once third best, is starting to fall off a bit now as well.