Let's talk non-conference games for a quick second. They're more important than they've ever been and are often the key to a successful season, both in terms of how individual teams perform and how conferences as a whole perform. It's no coincidence that the SEC has been seen as the most powerful conference the last three years and has put a team in the national championship game, even when said team has had the same number of losses as 3-4 other teams from other conferences.
For a while there the theory was that a big non-conference win could catapault you into the big game, ala Texas vs Ohio State in the mid 2000's. But now the reality is that a big win by someone in your conference can have positive ramifications on all members. Case in point: the SEC and ACC had nearly identical pre-bowl non-conference records last year, and a good case can be made that the ACC played a harder schedule. But in the big matchup between the two in the first week, Alabama pummeled Clemson and the SEC never looked back. And what happened out west? USC demolished Ohio State, but the rest of the Pac10 fell asleep against the Mountain West. Sorry, Trojans.
So how your conference does as a whole can certainly factor in to where your team stands - being ranked highly and winning as much as everyone else just doesn't cut it anymore. As such, in addition to the usual conference standings I post with my weekly rankings, we'll be going more in-depth with the conferences this season.
To tide you over until then (and because a reader asked nicely), here's more tables that you could ever want to deal with. (Also conveniently linked off the Conf vs Conf page in the Current BCS Stats section.)
linked lists of all non-conference games during the BCS era
1998 / 1999 / 2000 / 2001 / 2002 / 2003 / 2004 / 2005 / 2006 / 2007 / 2008
ACC / Big10 / Big12 / BigEast / Pac10 / SEC / CUSA / MAC / MtnWest / SunBelt / WAC