A Weekly Look at the Power 5 Conferences and Independents
On November 8, 2016 the College Football Playoff Selection Committee presented its second rankings of the season based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, conference championships won and the eye test. The biggest unknown is how much weight each committee member places on those factors when ranking the teams. Further, during the initial two seasons of the playoff, the committee has leaned toward choosing teams with the best resume (most-deserving teams) as opposed to relying on the eye test (best teams).
Each week, The Rebel Walk’s Jeff Tetrick presents a national report card on the Power 5 conferences and independent schools. The aim is to rank and grade the 5 conferences based on the cumulative results of each league’s teams that weekend.
Jeff will offer a brief weekly summary for each conference, suggest which teams are in playoff contention, and offer a ranking of the best teams in the country. The Independent schools will have a section but will not be ranked with the conferences. Below are the criteria and his rankings for week 10.
Report Card Criteria:
Good Day: Regardless of the score, a win over a non-Power 5 school is a good day. A team who plays great but loses the game to a Power 5 school can be placed in this category.
Key Loss: A loss to a non-Power 5 team is a key loss. As well, a loss to a non-conference Power 5 school is a key loss because of the missed chance to make the claim that conference A is better than conference B. In conference play, a loss goes into this category unless the losing team played an exceptional game.
Week 10 Power 5 Conference Rankings
1. Big Ten
Key Wins: 7 Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 Northwestern, Nebraska, Maryland, Iowa, Purdue, Rutgers, Michigan State
Ohio State put on a clinic in a 62-3 thrashing of #10 Nebraska at the Horseshoe in Columbus. Michigan was just as dominant in dismantling Maryland 59-3 at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Penn State impressed the Selection Committee by undressing Iowa 41-14 at Beaver Stadium. Indiana held Rutgers to 1 of 16 third-down conversions in a 33-27 win in Piscataway. The Hoosiers are a win away from being bowl eligible for a second consecutive season.
Wisconsin used its stifling defense to grind out a 21-7 victory over Northwestern in Evanston to maintain control of the West Division race. Minnesota relied on a punishing ground attack to take down Purdue and keep pace with the Badgers at 4-2 in league games. Illinois lost the statistics battle by a wide margin, but the Fighting Illini found a way to hand Michigan State its seventh straight loss, as Illinois prevailed 31-27 in Champaign.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Michigan, #5 Ohio State, #7 Wisconsin
Key Wins: 5 USC, Stanford, Washington, Colorado, Washington State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA, Arizona
USC continues to be one of the hottest teams in the country, as the Trojans crushed Oregon 45-20 at the Coliseum. USC travels to Seattle this coming weekend to battle #4 Washington. The Huskies stayed undefeated at 9-0 by blasting Cal 66-27 in Berkeley. Washington has a clear path to the playoff if the Huskies can stay perfect.
Washington State joined its in-state rival as the only teams without a loss in league action by belting Arizona 69-7 in Pullman. The Apple Cup game between the Cougars and Huskies after Thanksgiving will likely determine the North Division championship.
Stanford has found its stride now that Christian McCaffrey is healthy. The Cardinal cruised past Oregon State 26-15 by piling up 425 yards of total offense. Meanwhile, Colorado stayed atop the South Division standings with an ugly 20-10 win over UCLA in Boulder. The Buffaloes were flagged for 8 personal-foul penalties, lost 4 turnovers, and struggled mightily on offense.
In the playoff conversation: #4 Washington
Key Wins: 7 Virginia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Wake Forest
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 Duke, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, Pitt, Virginia
Virginia Tech maintained its lead in the Coastal Division by escaping Durham with a 24-21 victory over Duke. Both Clemson and Louisville scored more than 50 points in recording dominant wins over Syracuse and Boston College, respectively.
North Carolina coasted to a solid 48-20 victory over Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill. Florida State found itself in a fight with North Carolina State in Raleigh. The Seminoles needed a fourth-quarter rally to prevail 24-20.
Miami won for the first time in more than a month and looked impressive in routing Pitt 51-28. Wake Forest used a pick-six to rally in the final quarter and score a 27-20 decision over Virginia. The Demon Deacons secured bowl eligibility with the win.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Clemson, #6 Louisville
Key Wins: 6 Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia
Good Day: 2 Ole Miss, Tennessee
Key Losses: 6 LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Florida, Missouri, Kentucky
Alabama compensated for another uninspiring offensive output by relying on its suffocating defense to defeat LSU 10-0 in Baton Rouge. Mississippi State pulled off a shocking upset over Texas A&M in Starkville. The Bulldogs have looked like an SEC East team all season, but they punished one of the worst run defenses in the nation by exploding for 365 yards in a 35-28 win that was not nearly as close as the final score.
Ole Miss picked up a win over Georgia Southern in Oxford. Unfortunately, the Rebels lost Chad Kelly to a season-ending knee injury, which means freshman Shea Patterson will play and give Rebel fans a glimpse of the future. Auburn struggled all afternoon, but the Tigers escaped with a win over Vanderbilt on The Plains.
Arkansas physically dominated overrated Florida in Fayetteville. The Hogs outgained the Gators 223-12 in rushing yards in cruising to an easy win. Georgia got a late field goal to defeat Kentucky in Lexington. South Carolina picked up its fifth win of the year by beating Missouri. Tennessee won its first game since October 1 by crushing FCS team Tennessee Tech.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Alabama
5. Big 12
Key Wins: 5 TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Texas
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas, Texas Tech
A mediocre TCU team put a 62-22 beatdown on overrated Baylor. The biggest mystery coming out of this game is why Baylor remains ranked in the AP Top 25 poll? The Bears will likely suffer another beating at the hands of Oklahoma this coming weekend. The Sooners moved to 6-0 in league play by downing Iowa State in Ames.
Oklahoma State improved to 7-2 by picking up a nice win in Manhattan over Kansas State. The Cowboys and Sooners could be headed towards a season-ending showdown in Norman for the Big 12 title. West Virginia sits at 7-1 after pounding Kansas in Morgantown. Texas ran for more than 400 yards to overcome another poor defensive effort in a 45-37 victory over Texas Tech.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 1 BYU
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 2 Army, Notre Dame
Navy put Notre Dame’s bowl hopes in jeopardy by beating the Fighting Irish 28-27 in Jacksonville. Notre Dame stands at 3-6 now and needs to win out to reach a bowl game. The Fighting Irish must beat Army, Virginia Tech, and USC to go bowling in December.
Army fell short of clinching bowl eligibility, as Air Force handed the Black Knights a 31-12 setback at West Point. Army gets a chance for its sixth win this week against Notre Dame in San Antonio.
BYU improved to 5-4 with a great defensive effort in routing Cincinnati 20-3 on the road.
In the playoff conversation: none
This section is our guess at which teams the Selection Committee would choose based on the body of work up to this point in the season. Please note that this list is not a ranking of the 4 best teams. Rather, it lists the teams with the top playoff resumes. In other words, these are the most deserving teams for a playoff spot based on their schedule to date.
For example, at the end of the 2015 season Ohio State and Stanford were better teams than Oklahoma and Michigan State. Yet, the Sooners and Spartans had better resumes than the Buckeyes or Cardinal. Thus, they were correctly rewarded with playoff spots based on the Selection Committee’s criteria.
Based on week 10, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1- Alabama (SEC) versus 4- Washington (PAC-12)
2- Clemson (ACC) versus 3- Michigan (Big Ten)
On the outside…..
With the release of the second set of rankings on Tuesday night, here are my observations. I am dismayed by the inconsistency of the Selection Committee (SC). Last week, Texas A&M was placed ahead of Washington due to a supposedly better resume, although the Aggies resume ranks 8 spots lower than the Huskies. This week, the SC put Washington ahead of Ohio State due to a supposedly better resume, even though the Buckeyes resume is 2 spots higher than the Huskies.
After losing to a bad Mississippi State team, Texas A&M only fell 4 places in the rankings. The Aggies defense ranks 95th in the country and was exposed by a less-talented Bulldogs team that will not qualify for a bowl game. LSU kept #1 Alabama in-check deep into the fourth quarter before dropping a 10-0 decision. Despite giving the Tide their toughest test to date and being the first team to hold Alabama to less than 33 points this season, LSU fell 12 spots and nearly dropped out of the rankings.
Finally, the SC claims to evaluate the teams each week by watching the games. If that is true, it amazes me that the SC would move Colorado up from 15 to 12 in the rankings after the embarrassing performance by the Buffaloes in a 20-10 home win over a 3-6 UCLA team. Colorado’s inept offense produced 1 touchdown and 2 field goals and turned the ball over 4 times. The Buffaloes were flagged for 8 personal fouls, and the only highlight of the night was a punt return touchdown in the final 5 minutes of the game. Yet, Colorado is ranked ahead of teams like Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Utah, West Virginia, Florida State, Nebraska, USC, Washington State, and LSU. USC already beat the Buffaloes, and Washington State and Utah will defeat them in the next 3 weeks.
Top Ten Teams
This section is our view of the top ten teams in the country at this point in the season. This list is not based on the AP poll or exclusively on a team’s record. Thus, a one-loss team may be ranked higher than an undefeated team. This ranking is based on our view of the best teams in college football.
After 10 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Penn State