A Weekly Look at the Power 5 Conferences and Independents
On October 31, 2017, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will present its first 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. During the initial 3 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 not be ranked with the conferences. Below are the criteria and his rankings for week 3 of the 2017 season.
Report Card Criteria:
Good Day: A win over a non-Power 5 school is a good day.
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.
Week 3 Power 5 Conference Rankings
1. Big Ten
Key Wins: 2 Wisconsin, Purdue
Good Day: 7 Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota, Rutgers, Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern
Key Losses: 2 Illinois, Nebraska
Wisconsin overwhelmed BYU 40-6 in Provo. The Badgers held the Cougars to 192 yards of total offense. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed 18 of 19 passes for 256 yards and 4 touchdowns in the victory. Purdue recorded its biggest win in several years by beating Missouri 35-3 in Columbia. The Boilermakers’ defense was outstanding in holding the Tigers to 203 yards on the day.
Ohio State bounced back from its loss to Oklahoma by running past Army at the Horseshoe. Michigan was woeful on offense, but the defense was stout as the Wolverines defeated Air Force 29-13 at the Big House. Penn State and Iowa scored solid wins over group-of-five opponents ahead of their showdown in Iowa City this coming weekend. Minnesota beat Middle Tennessee to stay unbeaten, while Northwestern found some offense in a 49-7 win over Bowling Green. Rutgers got its first win of the season over Morgan State.
Illinois dropped its first game of the year in a 47-23 defeat at South Florida. Nebraska is at a crossroads in the third year of the Mike Riley regime in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers suffered a humbling loss to Northern Illinois at home to fall to 1-2. Nebraska showed improvement on defense, but 3 interceptions by the offense doomed the Huskers on Saturday. The fans are starting to become restless as this once-proud program seems far away from ending its conference championship drought that dates back to 1999.
In the playoff conversation: Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan
Key Wins: 2 Duke, Clemson
Good Day: 6 Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia, NC State
Key Losses: 3 Louisville, Pitt, Boston College
Clemson won its second primetime game in as many weeks by going on the road and downing Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the #14 Louisville Cardinals in dominating fashion. The Tigers played great on both sides of the ball in claiming a 47-21 win. Clemson has the best resume in the country and appears to be the best team in the land.
Duke moved to 3-0 with a home win over Baylor. Virginia Tech and Wake Forest both remain undefeated after big victories on Saturday over group-of-five foes. Syracuse, Virginia, and NC State each improved to 2-1 in 2017 with big wins against overmatched opponents. North Carolina finally got into the win column by defeating Old Dominion.
Boston College stayed with Notre Dame for a half before falling to the Fighting Irish by a score of 49-20. Pitt was pounded at home by #9 Oklahoma State 59-21. Both the Eagles and Panthers now sit at 1-2 on the year.
In the playoff conversation: Clemson
Key Wins: 4 Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Florida
Good Day: 4 Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, Auburn
Key Losses: 5 Missouri, Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina
The SEC had a decent weekend, but the gap between Alabama and the rest of the league is more apparent each Saturday. Alabama coasted past Colorado State 41-23 in Tuscaloosa. Auburn and LSU were supposed to be the top contenders to challenge the Crimson Tide for league supremacy this fall. Instead, both teams have major issues on offense. Auburn turned the ball over 5 times but survived a scare from FCS foe Mercer at Jordan-Hare Stadium. LSU was crushed 37-7 by Mississippi State in Starkville and looks to have the same offense as in recent years.
Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State look like the best teams in the SEC behind Alabama at this point in the season. MSU simply ran all over LSU. The Commodores scored a surprising upset of #18 Kansas State in Nashville on Saturday night to remain undefeated. Georgia rolled to an easy win over Samford. Georgia and MSU meet this weekend in Athens in a big contest for both squads.
Florida beat Tennessee in a battle of inept offenses in Gainesville. Neither team is worthy of Top 25 status. I cannot see the Gators or Vols beating out Georgia for the East Division title unless they make huge strides offensively in the weeks ahead. Kentucky moved to 3-0 and won its SEC opener over South Carolina in Columbia. SC lost star WR Deebo Samuel to injury for the rest of the season.
Texas A&M trailed Louisiana-Lafayette at halftime, but the Aggies scored 31 points after the break to get the victory. Both Missouri and Ole Miss lost non-conference games on Saturday. The Tigers were whipped by Purdue 35-3 at home, while the Rebels were kept off the scoreboard in the second half of a 27-16 loss to the Cal Bears in Berkeley.
In the playoff conversation: Alabama
4. Big 12
Key Wins: 2 Oklahoma State, Texas Tech
Good Day: 4 West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma, TCU
Key Losses: 4 Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State
Oklahoma State has not faced stiff competition through three weeks of action, but the Cowboys look as good as any team in the land. OSU hammered Pitt 59-21 to notch its second road win in three games. QB Mason Rudolph threw for 497 yards and 5 touchdowns in the win. Rival Oklahoma kept pace with the Cowboys by belting Tulane 56-14 in Norman. Baker Mayfield threw 4 touchdown strikes for the second-ranked Sooners, and the defense pitched a shutout for the final three quarters.
Texas Tech improved to 2-0 by defeating Arizona State in a 52-45 shootout in Lubbock. Quarterback Nic Shimonek tossed the ball for 543 yards and 6 touchdowns for the Red Raiders. SMU hung with #20 TCU until the final quarter of the Horned Frogs’ 56-36 win in Fort Worth. Iowa State ran over Akron, while West Virginia put up 59 points in an easy romp over Delaware State.
Texas gave #4 USC the biggest scare of the weekend before the Trojans were able to pull out a 27-24 win in overtime at the Coliseum. The Longhorns played well on defense for the first time in recent memory and seem to have found their quarterback of the future. Kansas State dropped its first game of the season at Vanderbilt. Kansas was beaten 42-30 by Ohio, extending the Jayhawks’ road losing streak to 42 games. Baylor is 0-3 after suffering a 34-20 loss to the Duke Blue Devils in Durham.
In the playoff conversation: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Key Wins: 3 Cal, USC, Washington State
Good Day: 5 Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Utah
Key Losses: 4 Stanford, UCLA, Oregon State, Arizona State
Fourth-ranked USC got a stiff test from Texas in Los Angeles, but the Trojans showed some resolve by tying the game with a late field goal and winning it in overtime. Teams with championship aspirations find ways to win close games, and USC displayed some moxy in pulling out a big victory.
Washington State opened up conference play by pounding Oregon State 52-23 in Pullman behind 6 touchdown passes from Luke Falk. Cal continues to be a surprise team, as the Bears beat Ole Miss 27-16 to remain undefeated. Washington routed Fresno State in Seattle to move to 3-0. The Huskies have not been tested through three outings, but this team is as good as last year’s squad that made the College Football Playoff. Oregon is on the rise thanks to an explosive offense and a much-improved defensive unit. The Ducks blew out a good Wyoming team 49-13 in Laramie.
Utah is 3-0 after thumping San Jose State 54-16 in Salt Lake City. Likewise, Colorado is unbeaten after recording a 41-21 win against Northern Colorado in Boulder. Arizona lit the scoreboard up during a 63-16 victory over winless UTEP in El Paso.
Stanford lost its second straight game on the road. The Cardinal were outplayed physically by San Diego State in a 20-17 loss. Stanford turned the ball over 3 times, lacked a passing attack, and only ran 43 plays for the game. Riley Ferguson upstaged Josh Rosen in Memphis, as the Tigers shocked #25 UCLA 48-45 in a contest that featured nearly 1,200 yards of total offense. Todd Graham’s coaching seat got hotter following a 52-45 loss at Texas Tech to drop ASU to 1-2.
In the playoff conversation: Washington, USC
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 2 BYU, Army
Notre Dame rushed for 515 yards in rolling past Boston College 49-20 in Chesnut Hill. The Fighting Irish need to improve passing the ball to beat better competition, but the ground game is strong. Notre Dame gets its second big test of the season this weekend at Michigan State.
BYU was walloped by #10 Wisconsin in Provo. The Cougars produced just 192 yards of total offense in the 40-6 loss to fall to 1-3 on the year. Army hung with #8 Ohio State in the first half, but the Black Knights did not have the athletes to keep up with the Buckeyes. Army dropped to 2-1 with the 38-7 defeat in Columbus.
In the playoff conversation: Notre Dame
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. 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.
Based on week 3, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1-Clemson (ACC) versus 4-USC (PAC-12)
2-Oklahoma (Big 12) versus 3-Alabama (SEC)
On the outside…..
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 or resume. 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 via the eye test.
After week 3, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Penn State
- Oklahoma State
- Ohio State