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 2 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 2 Power 5 Conference Rankings
1. Big 12
Key Wins: 2 Oklahoma, TCU
Good Day: 4 Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas, West Virginia
Key Losses: 3 Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor
Oklahoma scored the biggest win of the young season by exposing #2 Ohio State in Columbus. The Sooners torched the Buckeyes secondary for 386 yards and 3 touchdowns in the 31-16 win. The Oklahoma defense was dominant in not allowing Ohio State to generate any sort of passing game and holding the Buckeyes to a single touchdown on the night.
TCU served notice that it is a Big 12 title contender by using a stout defense to beat up Arkansas 28-7 in Fayetteville. The Horned Frogs ran the ball well and held the Razorbacks to 9 pass completions on the day. Iowa State had a ten-point lead over rival Iowa in Ames, but the Cyclones could not hold on and lost 44-41 in overtime. As a league, the Big 12 was 2-1 versus Power 5 foes on Saturday.
Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia each scored at least 44 points and rolled to huge victories over group-of-five opponents. Kansas was overwhelmed at home 45-27 by Central Michigan. Baylor suffered its second straight shocking loss in Waco to start the season, falling 17-10 to UTSA. Matt Rhule is having a difficult beginning to his tenure with the Bears.
In the playoff conversation: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Key Wins: 3 Oregon, USC, Utah
Good Day: 5 Cal, UCLA, Washington, Colorado, Washington State
Key Losses: 4 Stanford, Arizona, Oregon State, Arizona State
USC made a statement by handling business against nemesis Stanford. The Trojans ran the ball effectively and protected Sam Darnold, allowing the star quarterback to throw for 4 touchdowns. USC has an arsenal of weapons at the skill positions. The Trojans passed their first big test of the season and look like a legitimate national title contender.
Oregon continued its climb back to national relevance by beating Nebraska 42-35 in Eugene. The Ducks have displayed an explosive offense through two weeks of action. Utah claimed its seventh straight win over rival BYU in Provo. UCLA followed up its win over Texas A&M by pounding Hawaii behind 5 touchdown passes from QB Josh Rosen. Washington, Colorado, and Cal scored wins against overmatched foes. Washington State needed a late, three-touchdown rally against Boise State to tie the game. Then the Cougars won a wild affair in triple overtime, long after most college football fans were in bed for the night.
Oregon State was blown out at home by Minnesota. Arizona and Arizona State both lost at home to Houston and San Diego State, respectively, further putting hot-seat pressure on coaches Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham.
In the playoff conversation: Washington, USC, Stanford
Key Wins: 2 Georgia, South Carolina
Good Day: 8 Ole Miss, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Vanderbilt, LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M
Key Losses: 3 Arkansas, Auburn, Missouri
The SEC went 1-2 against Power 5 opposition on Saturday. Georgia notched a significant win by going to South Bend and defeating #24 Notre Dame with a late defensive stop. The Bulldogs shut down the ND run game and controlled the clock in improving to 2-0. Auburn produced just 117 yards of total offense in a 14-6 loss to #3 Clemson in Death Valley. The Tigers have a very good defense, but AU will not win many games unless the offense improves before SEC play gets underway. Likewise, Arkansas had a dismal offensive showing in a 28-7 loss to TCU at home. The Razorbacks have issues in the passing game and kicking game that must be fixed fast.
Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU were winners on Saturday against FCS competition. The Rebels got a record-setting performance from Shea Patterson in a win over UT-Martin. LSU, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee cruised to big wins, while the Aggies and Wildcats struggled a bit before getting closer-than-expected victories.
Alabama walloped Fresno State 41-10 in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State was impressive in routing Louisiana Tech on the road 57-21. South Carolina opened conference action with a convincing 31-13 whipping of Missouri in Columbia.
In the playoff conversation: Alabama
4. Big Ten
Key Wins: 4 Indiana, Penn State, Iowa, Minnesota
Good Day: 6 Purdue, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Michigan State, Maryland
Key Losses: 4 Northwestern, Rutgers, Ohio State, Nebraska
The Big Ten went 4-3 versus Power 5 schools on Saturday. Indiana handed Tom Allen his first victory as head coach of the Hoosiers by winning all three phases of the game en route to a 34-17 decision over Virginia in Charlottesville. Penn State is playing as well as any team in the land, as the Nittany Lions smothered rival Pitt 33-14 in Happy Valley. Iowa showed some resilience in rallying past rival Iowa State on the road in a 44-41 overtime win. P. J. Fleck has Minnesota rowing the boat in the right direction, as the Golden Gophers improved to 2-0 by blasting Oregon State in Corvallis by a final count of 48-14.
Ohio State continues to be unable to throw the ball downfield, and Oklahoma made them pay for it in upsetting the Buckeyes 31-16 in Columbus. Were it not for a couple of early turnovers, the Sooners might have won by a much larger margin! Northwestern was completely dominated by Duke in a 41-17 loss in Durham. Nebraska fell behind 42-14 at halftime against Oregon with a horrible defensive effort. The Cornhuskers awoke in the second half to get within a touchdown before falling short of an improbable comeback. Rutgers made too many errors in a home loss to Eastern Michigan. The Scarlet Knights will be fortunate to win a game or two this season.
Purdue got its first win of the year in defeating Ohio 44-21. Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Michigan State were winners against group-of-five opponents. Maryland scored a lopsided 63-17 victory over FCS foe Towson to move to 2-0 on the year.
In the playoff conversation: Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State
Key Wins: 4 Clemson, Duke, Louisville, Wake Forest
Good Day: 3 Virginia Tech, NC State, Georgia Tech
Key Losses: 5 North Carolina, Pitt, Boston College, Virginia, Syracuse
Clemson has some work to do on offense, but the Tigers have a phenomenal defense. Clemson took down #13 Auburn 14-6 by registering 11 sacks and limiting AU to 117 yards of total offense. Clemson gets another big test Saturday night against Lamar Jackson and Louisville at Cardinal Stadium. It will be fun to watch Jackson go against that fierce Tiger defense! Jackson accounted for 6 touchdowns and over 500 yards of total offense in a win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Duke looked outstanding in pummeling Northwestern 41-17. Wake Forest opened ACC action with a 34-10 win at Boston College. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech rolled to easy wins over FCS schools. NC State got its first win of the year by beating Marshall.
Pitt put up a good fight, but Penn State was too strong for the Panthers. Virginia could not keep up with Indiana in suffering a 34-17 defeat at home. Syracuse lost at home to Middle Tennessee State and may be in for another long season.
In the playoff conversation: Clemson, Louisville
Key Wins: 0 none
Good Day: 1 Army
Key Losses: 2 Notre Dame, BYU
Notre Dame missed an opportunity to thrust itself into the playoff race by falling to #15 Georgia 20-19 in South Bend. The Fighting Irish were not able to run the ball or slow down Georgia’s ground game. Army moved to 2-0 with a 21-17 victory over Buffalo at West Point. The Black Knights scored twice in the fourth quarter to secure the win. Army was able to rally from a ten-point deficit by holding the Bulls to 48 total yards in the second half. Meanwhile, BYU dropped to 1-2 on the season with a tough 19-13 loss to rival Utah at home in Provo. The Cougars tossed 3 interceptions and were limited to 63 rushing yards in defeat. Up next for BYU is a home date with #10 Wisconsin.
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 2, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1-Oklahoma (Big 12) versus 4-USC (PAC-12)
2-Alabama (SEC) versus 3-Clemson (ACC)
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 2, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Penn State
- Ohio State
- Oklahoma State