College Rankings by Athletic Conference

Rankings for Conference USA and the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC.

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There are a great number of ways to compare universities and colleges. For many students, alumni, and applicants, one of the most meaningful comparisons is how a school measures up against the other schools in its athletic conference. Formed on the basis of rough parity—similar academic missions, student body enrollments, geographic proximity—these conferences enable universities to prove who's the best on the field of sport.

To help compare schools on this basis, we've set up conference ranking lists. These conference lists are based solely on the rankings the colleges earned in their respective America's Best Colleges categories. We extracted schools from seven of the major NCAA athletic conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Pac-10, and SEC) from our best colleges lists. We then regrouped them into the appropriate conference and placed the schools in order according to their best colleges rankings.

Our rankings primarily are derived from institutional academic data, so we can't say who's going to win the big game. But the lists do offer some fresh perspective on collegiate rivalries. For example, Northwestern University—which has had its share of struggles on the football fields and basketball courts—gets the better of perennial Big Ten powerhouses Ohio State and Penn State. Because our conference lists match up some schools that normally fall into separate categories in our America's Best Colleges rankings, Villanova and Providence are able to edge out Notre Dame and Pitt in this context. Of course, some schools always seem to end up on top: Texas leads the Big 12 list, and Duke wins the ACC.

  • You can see the conference-by-conference lists below.