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.
Below are the criteria and Jeff’s rankings for week 4 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 4 Power 5 Conference Rankings
Key Wins: 5 Washington, USC, Stanford, Utah, Arizona State
Good Day: 1 Washington State
Key Losses: 5 Oregon, Cal, Arizona, Colorado, UCLA
Washington finally played a quality opponent and came away with a 37-10 win over previously unbeaten Colorado in the rain in Boulder. The Huskies were up just 17-10 late in the third quarter when a pick-six gave them a two-score lead. UW added a pair of scores in the final quarter, but this game was not a blowout until the end. Washington looked solid, but the Huskies were helped by Colorado’s mistakes.
Stanford rushed for over 400 yards and had 4 takeaways in cruising past UCLA 58-34 in Palo Alto. Fifth-ranked USC was inconsistent on offense for much of the game, but the defense forced 6 turnovers in a 30-20 victory over Cal. It was the first road game for the Trojans, who extended their winning streak to 13 games dating back to last season. Utah took advantage of 5 Arizona turnovers to prevail with a 30-24 win in Tuscon in the PAC-12 opener for both squads. The Utes are 4-0 on the year.
Arizona State was a surprise winner over #24 Oregon in Tempe. The Sun Devils kept the Ducks’ high-powered offense off the field for more than 38 minutes and got a late field goal to pull the upset. Washington State improved to 4-0 by routing Nevada 45-7 behind 487 passing yards from Luke Falk. The Cougars play host to USC this coming Friday night in what should be a tight contest.
In the playoff conversation: Washington, USC
Key Wins: 4 Duke, Clemson, NC State, Georgia Tech
Good Day: 5 Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Virginia, Miami
Key Losses: 5 Pitt, Boston College, Florida State, North Carolina, Syracuse
Clemson gave an uninspired effort for most of the game, but the Tigers scored 4 touchdowns in the final frame to beat Boston College 34-7 in Death Valley. Duke used a late interception to clinch a win over rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils won the Victory Bell for the second straight season and now stand 4-0 on the season.
NC State scored the upset of the weekend in taking down #12 Florida State 27-21 in Tallahassee. FSU is 0-2 for the first time since 1989, while the Wolfpack are off to a 3-1 start to the season. Another ACC team not expected to get a road win this weekend was Virginia. The Cavaliers throttled Boise State 42-23 on the smurf turf in Boise in a game that was not nearly as close as the final score. At 3-1, UVA looks much improved under second-year coach Bronco Mendenhall and has a shot at reaching a bowl game this year.
Georgia Tech rushed for 436 yards and 5 scores as a team in beating Pitt 35-17 in Atlanta. Wake Forest remained undefeated (4-0) by edging Appalachian State on the road. Louisville crushed Kent State 42-3 at home, as Heisman winner Lamar Jackson set a school record for total touchdowns (88) in a career at UL. Miami was challenged at home by Toledo before pulling away late for a 52-30 victory.
Virginia Tech pitched a shutout against Old Dominion to remain perfect at 4-0. The twelfth-ranked Hokies host #2 Clemson at Lane Stadium this coming Saturday night. Syracuse had LSU on the ropes in Baton Rouge before the Tigers scored with under two minutes to play to pull out a narrow 35-26 win.
In the playoff conversation: Clemson
3. Big Ten
Key Wins: 3 Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska
Good Day: 2 Indiana, Ohio State
Key Losses: 5 Michigan State, Rutgers, Purdue, Iowa, Maryland
Penn State won the most thrilling game of the weekend on the final play to earn a dramatic victory under the lights at Kinnick Stadium over Iowa. Saquon Barkley had over 300 all-purpose yards in the 21-19 win, but his most important play was picking up the blitz on the game-winning touchdown toss. As I stated in my preseason report card, Barkley is the best player in college football.
Michigan was dominant on defense, and the offense was perfect in the red zone in a 28-10 win over Purdue in West Lafayette. The Boilers gave a great effort, but the Wolverines shut down Purdue’s offense in the second half. Nebraska got a much-needed win against Rutgers in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers continue to hurt themselves with turnovers, but the defense stepped up and limited the Scarlet Knights to 194 total yards. Ohio State was able to work on its passing game against UNLV. The Buckeyes had 7 passing touchdowns in the 54-21 win.
Tom Allen’s Indiana Hoosiers rolled up 467 yards of offense in routing Georgia Southern 52-17 in Bloomington. The defense created 3 takeaways and J-Shun Harris returned a punt for a touchdown in an all-around team win.
Michigan State hurt itself with 3 turnovers in a 38-18 loss to Notre Dame in East Lansing. The Spartans host Iowa this weekend in a battle of teams coming off of tough losses. Maryland was blasted by UCF 38-10 in College Park and lost its second quarterback to injury this year.
In the playoff conversation: Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State
Key Wins: 6 Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, LSU, Auburn
Good Day: 2 South Carolina, Tennessee
Key Losses: 5 Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Missouri
Alabama made a statement in its 59-0 bashing of Vanderbilt in Nashville. The offense racked up 677 yards and 8 touchdowns, but the defense was the story in this game. The Crimson Tide held the Commodores to 3 first downs and just 78 yards of total offense. Alabama looked like the best team in the country on Saturday, and they proved that Vanderbilt is not ready for primetime yet.
Georgia separated itself from the rest of the league as Alabama’s main threat for SEC supremacy by soundly thumping previously unbeaten Mississippi State 31-3 between the hedges in Athens. Georgia stymied the MSU offense all night long and was never challenged in improving to 4-0. Auburn found its legs on offense in a 51-14 blowout win over Missouri. The Tigers both ran and passed the ball effectively, and the defense was impressive in forcing 4 Mizzou turnovers.
Defense was optional in Arlington, where Texas A&M outlasted Arkansas 50-43 in overtime. Christian Kirk scored 3 times for the Aggies, who have won 6 straight over the Razorbacks.
Florida was uninspiring for the third consecutive game, but the Gators erased a two-touchdown deficit in the final quarter to stun Kentucky 28-27 in Lexington. A holding penalty on the Wildcats in the final seconds cost UK a chance at a chip-shot field goal that would have ended the 31-game losing streak to UF.
LSU, Tennessee, and South Carolina each won games against lesser competition on Saturday, but all three teams were outplayed by their opponents. Despite great recruiting classes year after year, Butch Jones fails to do anything with all that talent in Knoxville. The Volunteers were fortunate to hold off winless, group-of-five foe Massachusetts 17-13 at home. UT fans are restless, and Jones’ failure to elevate this program back to the top of the SEC East should have him looking for a new job at season’s end!
South Carolina woke up in the fourth quarter to rally past Louisiana Tech with a late field goal. The Gamecocks need to find playmakers on offense. LSU struggled mightily with Syracuse, but the Tigers scored with under two minutes left to hang on for a 35-26 victory.
In the playoff conversation: Alabama
5. Big 12
Key Wins: 4 TCU, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 3 Oklahoma State, Kansas, Baylor
TCU grabbed some national attention by shocking #6 Oklahoma State 44-31 in Stillwater. The Horned Frogs were in control of this contest from start to finish. TCU was very efficient on offense and dominated the time-of-possession battle, and the defense forced 4 turnovers. TCU is certainly a contender for the Big 12 championship after Saturday’s stellar performance.
Oklahoma had its hands full with winless Baylor in Waco. The Sooners racked up 625 yards of offense, and they needed every bit of that production to hold off the Bears. OU had issues defending the pass, as Baylor quarterback Zach Smith threw for 463 yards and 4 touchdowns on the afternoon. Kansas was scrappy for three quarters, but West Virginia scored 3 times in the final stanza to punctuate a 56-34 win in Lawrence. The WVU offense rolled up 635 yards on the day, but the defense has some work to do after giving up 564 yards to the Jayhawks.
Texas Tech quietly improved to 3-0 by getting a hard-fought 27-24 victory over Houston on the road. The Red Raiders piled up 521 yards of total offense, while the defense forced 5 Houston turnovers. Texas Tech gets a big challenge this weekend by hosting Oklahoma State.
In the playoff conversation: Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 1 Army
Notre Dame notched its biggest win of the season, taking advantage of 3 Michigan State turnovers during a 38-18 victory in East Lansing. The Fighting Irish were opportunistic and poised in winning a night game in a hostile environment. ND sits at 3-1 with games against Miami (Ohio) and North Carolina up next before a much-anticipated showdown with USC in South Bend in late October.
Army fell to 2-2 on the season with a 21-17 loss at Tulane. The Black Knights ran for 371 yards and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, but Army failed to complete a pass and tossed a pair of interceptions. The Black Knights gave up two touchdown runs of more than 70 yards, as well. Army looks to rebound this weekend at home against UTEP.
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 4, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1-Clemson (13.25) versus 4-Oklahoma (11.25)
2-Alabama (12) versus 3-USC (11.5)
On the outside…..
8-Penn State (7.5)
9-NC State (7)
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 4, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Penn State