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 6 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 6 Power 5 Conference Rankings
Key Wins: 6 NC State, Miami, Virginia, Syracuse, Clemson, Virginia Tech
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 Louisville, Florida State, North Carolina, Duke, Pitt, Wake Forest, Boston College
Clemson stayed perfect on the season by beating a good Wake Forest squad 28-14 in Death Valley. The Tigers played well on both sides of the ball, but QB Kelly Bryant left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury. His status is uncertain heading into a Friday night road trip to Syracuse. The Orange improved to 3-3 with a 27-24 home win over Pitt on Saturday. Syracuse has a dual-threat quarterback that will keep the Clemson defense on its toes.
North Carolina State announced its arrival as a challenger to Clemson for the Atlantic Division crown by taking down Louisville 39-25 on Thursday night. The Wolfpack (5-1) pose the biggest threat to Clemson’s effort to three-peat as ACC champs. Like NC State, Virginia (4-1) continues to be a surprise story. The Cavaliers defeated Duke 28-21 in Charlottesville to double their win total from a year ago.
Miami ended seven years of frustration by scoring the winning touchdown with six seconds left to defeat rival Florida State 24-20 in Tallahassee. The Hurricanes (4-0) are climbing in the national polls, but the loss of star running back Mark Walton for the rest of the year presents a challenge moving forward. Miami does not have another proven RB on the roster, so they will likely rely on underclassmen to fill Walton’s shoes.
Virginia Tech moved to 5-1 with a 23-10 win over Boston College in Chesnut Hill. North Carolina fell to 1-5 with a 33-10 setback against #21 Notre Dame. Worse, the Tar Heels now stand 0-4 at home in Chapel Hill.
In the playoff conversation: Clemson
Key Wins: 6 Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Ole Miss, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Florida, Texas A&M, Missouri
Alabama got a solid test from Texas A&M in College Station. The Crimson Tide (6-0) jumped out to a 24-3 lead before the Aggies made things very interesting in the second half. Kellen Mond continues to look better every week for TAMU, but 3 turnovers doomed any hopes the Aggies had of pulling off the upset. Auburn moved to 5-1 by cruising past Ole Miss 44-23 on The Plains. Kerryon Johnson ran for 204 yards and 3 scores in the victory.
Georgia used its strong ground attack and stout defense to overwhelm Vanderbilt 45-14 in Nashville. The Bulldogs (6-0) ran for 423 yards as a team, and the defense limited the Commodores to 236 total yards. Kentucky (5-1) struggled with a one-win Missouri team in Lexington, but the Wildcats found a way to pull out a 40-34 decision to get within a game of bowl eligibility.
South Carolina scored three defensive touchdowns in a 48-22 blowout of Arkansas in Columbia. The Gamecocks (4-2) gained some momentum heading into a tilt with Tennessee, while the Hogs (2-3) are slumping ahead of a date with #1 Alabama.
LSU defeated Florida 17-16 in a battle of two of the least-inspiring offenses in the country in Gainesville. The Tigers (4-2) followed up last week’s loss to Troy by playing somewhat better, but LSU fans still have to be concerned about the direction of the program. At Florida, it has to be apparent now that Jim McElwain is not the coach who will elevate the Gators (3-2) back to national relevance. He was hired as an offensive-minded coach three years ago, but the offense ranks #102 in the country despite talented recruiting classes on the roster.
In the playoff conversation: Alabama, Georgia
3. Big Ten
Key Wins: 6 Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State
Good Day: 1 Indiana
Key Losses: 6 Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Maryland, Nebraska
Michigan State pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the weekend by downing rival #7 Michigan 14-10 at the Big House. The Spartans won the turnover battle 5-0 in rainy conditions in Ann Arbor. Sparty (4-1) has now won eight of the last ten matchups with the Wolverines. Purdue outlasted Minnesota in a downpour in West Lafayette to get its first conference win. The Boilermakers (3-2) survived a storm delay and scored twice in the final 1:17 to secure the victory over the 3-2 Golden Gophers.
Wisconsin ran roughshod over Nebraska in a 38-17 win in Lincoln. The Badgers (5-0) got 249 rushing yards from freshman Jonathan Taylor in beating the Cornhuskers for the fifth straight time. Nebraska’s next opponent, Ohio State, belted overmatched Maryland 62-14 at the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes (5-1) limited the Terrapins to 6 first downs and 66 total yards on the day.
Indiana improved to 3-2 by routing Charleston Southern 27-0 in Bloomington. Freshman Peyton Ramsey passed for 321 yards in his debut as a starter, and the Hoosier defense recorded its first shutout since 1993.
Penn State’s defense was the story of the day in a 31-7 victory over Northwestern in Evanston. The Nittany Lions (6-0) forced 3 turnovers and held the Wildcats to 265 yards of total offense. Iowa (4-2) got its first league win by rolling past Illinois 45-16 in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes scored 17 points off of 4 Fighting Illini turnovers.
In the playoff conversation: Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State
Key Wins: 5 USC, Washington, Stanford, Washington State, Arizona
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Oregon State, Cal, Utah, Colorado, Oregon
Stanford got 152 rushing yards from Bryce Love during a 23-20 win over Utah in Salt Lake City. The Cardinal (4-2) won the turnover battle 2-0 with a pair of interceptions that contributed to the Utes’ first loss of the season. USC had an easy time with Oregon State at the Coliseum. The Trojans (5-1) were led by Sam Darnold, who threw for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Washington State rolled past Oregon 33-10 in Eugene. The eleventh-ranked Cougars got 3 touchdown tosses from quarterback Luke Falk, but the defense continues to be a huge reason why WSU is in the hunt for a PAC-12 title and playoff berth. The Cougars are ranked #11 in the country in total defense, and it showed as they held the Ducks’ potent offense to just 277 yards on the day. Mike Leach’s team will always put up points, but I am most impressed with the championship-caliber defense.
Washington remains undefeated after drubbing Cal 38-7 in Seattle. The Huskies (6-0) were efficient on offense, but the defense was downright dominant in holding the Bears to 93 total yards and 9 first downs on the night. Arizona was an unexpected winner over Colorado in Boulder. Backup quarterback Khalil Tate rushed for 327 yards and totaled 5 touchdowns as the Wildcats (3-2) won their first league game of the year 45-42. Tate set an FBS record for rushing yards by a QB, and I will venture to say that he is now the starting QB for Arizona!
In the playoff conversation: Washington, USC, Washington State
5. Big 12
Key Wins: 4 Iowa State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 4 Oklahoma, Kansas State, West Virginia, Kansas
Iowa State delivered the biggest upset of the season to date by stunning #3 Oklahoma 38-31 in Norman. Backup quarterback Kyle Kempt threw for 343 yards and 3 scores as the Cyclones rallied from a 24-10 deficit and dealt a major blow to the Sooners’ playoff hopes. Oklahoma was a 31-point favorite, but ISU pounded the porous OU defense on the way to beating the Sooners for the first time since 1990.
TCU earned a nice win over #23 West Virginia in Fort Worth to move to 5-0 on the season. The Horned Frogs are the only undefeated team in the Big 12. TCU has a productive offense, but the defense is the unit that makes the Frogs a legitimate playoff contender.
Texas dominated the stat sheet but needed two overtimes to take down Kansas State 40-34 in Austin. The Longhorns (3-2) racked up 546 yards of offense against the Wildcats (3-2), who are traditionally a strong defensive team under Bill Snyder. Texas Tech scored early and often in blasting Kansas 65-19 in Lawrence. The Red Raiders accumulated 603 yards of total offense and scored at least 2 touchdowns in every quarter in moving to 4-1 on the year.
In the playoff conversation: TCU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 1 Army
Key Losses: 1 BYU
Notre Dame was without the services of starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush, but it hardly mattered as the Fighting Irish cruised to a 33-10 win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Josh Adams ran for 118 yards and a touchdown for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish head into their bye week at 5-1 and have two weeks to prepare for USC’s visit to South Bend.
Army stands at 4-2 following a 49-12 thumping of Rice at Michie Stadium in West Point. The defense forced 6 turnovers, and the ground game pounded out 418 yards against the Owls. BYU’s season of misery continues after suffering a 24-7 loss to Boise State in Provo. The Cougars are 1-5 and off to their worst start since 1970. BYU features one of the worst offenses in the nation, and the next challenge on the schedule is a road trip to Mississippi State.
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 6, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1-Clemson (21.25) versus 4-TCU (15)
2-Alabama (17.5) versus 3-Georgia (16)
On the outside…..
5-Washington State (14)
6-Penn State (13)
8-NC State (12.5)
9-Michigan State (11)
10-Wisconsin and Washington (10.5)
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 6, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Washington State
- Penn State
- Ohio State