ESPN.com numbers guru Brad Edwards has an interesting piece here on how the Mountain West actually is stronger than the Big East based on the BCS's official system for calculating conference strength.
But that's not why we're interested. Edwards includes the BCS' ranking of conferences by three criteria. Writes Edwards: "Those criteria evaluate the strength of the league's best team, the strength of its lead pack and its overall strength from top to bottom. All data are derived from the final BCS standings, so bowl performance is not being considered."
The Pac-12 ranks third behind the SEC and Big 12 in Criterion 1: Average ranking of highest-ranked team (final BCS standings, 2008-10).
The Pac-12 ranks fourth behind the SEC, Big 12 and ACC in Criterion 2 (0.1 separate the Pac-12 and ACC): Average ranking of all teams (2011 conference membership) by the six BCS computers. The high and low rankings for each team are not discarded, as is the case when the BCS standings are calculated (BCS computers, 2008-10).
And the Pac-12 ranks fourth behind the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten in Criterion 3: Adjusted top-25 performance ranking (final BCS standings, 2008-10), which accounts for the number of top 25 teams in the conference, with weight given to where those teams ranked and an adjustment made for the number of conference members.
Sure many of you have thoughts on this, but the good news is the Pac-12 isn't the Big East or even the ACC.
You'll see that the ACC meets the first two criteria but doesn't reach the AQ standard on the third, while the Big East comes up short of the AQ standard on the first and third. Furthermore, the Big East ranks sixth in the second part, which means that it doesn't even achieve the level that's necessary for appeal.
While third- and fourth-place finishes won't inspire any chants of "Pac-12! Pac-12," at least the conference doesn't fall short by the very measures the AQ conferences established to protect themselves from the unwashed masses stuck outside the BCS gates.