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 5 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 5 Power 5 Conference Rankings
1. Big Ten
Key Wins: 6 Wisconsin, Penn State, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, Rutgers
Wisconsin had an off-day for the first time this season. The tenth-ranked Badgers overcame 3 turnovers to defeat Northwestern 33-24 in Madison. Wisconsin’s usually reliable run game was limited to 109 yards by the Wildcats, and the stingy defense gave up a pair of scores in the second half before hanging on with a late interception. Fourth-ranked Penn State forced 4 turnovers and got 3 touchdowns from wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton in running past Indiana 45-14 in Happy Valley. The Hoosiers held Saquon Barkley to 56 rushing yards, but the Heisman frontrunner returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and threw his first career touchdown pass late in the game.
Ohio State racked up 628 yards of total offense in its 56-0 shutout of Rutgers in Piscataway. Despite being down to its third-string quarterback due to injuries, Maryland improved to 3-1 with a 31-24 road victory over Minnesota. Ty Johnson rushed for 130 yards to help the Terrapins win their Big Ten opener. Maryland visits Ohio State this Saturday.
Nebraska looked better defensively for the second week in a row, as the Cornhuskers held Illinois to 199 total yards during a 28-6 win in Champaign. Tanner Lee tossed 3 touchdown passes for the visitors. Michigan State moved to 3-1 by defeating Iowa 17-10 in a defensive battle in East Lansing. The Spartans forced 2 turnovers and held the Hawkeyes to 19 rushing yards for the game. MSU travels to Ann Arbor to face in-state rival Michigan on Saturday night!
In the playoff conversation: Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan
Key Wins: 5 Clemson, Miami, Florida State, NC State, Georgia Tech
Good Day: 3 Louisville, Pitt, Boston College
Key Losses: 5 Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech
Clemson added to its sterling resume by stifling #12 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Saturday night. The Tigers were in control from the start and raced to a 24-3 lead heading into the final quarter. Clemson has the nation’s best playoff profile by far, with 3 wins over teams ranked in the top 15. Two of those victories came on the road, too!
Miami passed its first real test of the season by downing Duke 31-6 in Durham. The Hurricanes take their 3-0 record into Tallahassee this Saturday to face rival Florida State. The Seminoles finally got their first victory of the year, as FSU scored with under a minute to play to squeak past Wake Forest 26-19 in Winston-Salem. NC State improved to 2-0 in ACC play by topping Syracuse 33-25. The Wolfpack jumped out to a 26-7 halftime lead, then held on as the Orange made a furious second-half rally.
Georgia Tech’s vaunted rushing attack produced 403 yards in a 33-7 blowout of North Carolina in Atlanta. Pitt got its second win of the season by thumping Rice 42-10. Boston College moved to 2-3 following a 28-8 win over Central Michigan. Louisville is 4-1 after routing Murray State 55-10 behind the arm and legs of Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. The Cardinals travel to Raleigh on Thursday night for a showdown with 4-1 NC State in a key Atlantic Division contest.
In the playoff conversation: Clemson
3. Big 12
Key Wins: 3 Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 3 Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor
Texas continues to improve on defense! It showed in a big way as the Longhorns limited Iowa State to 10 rushing yards in a 17-7 victory in Ames. Texas used a strong rushing attack to control the ball for more than 40 minutes, while the defense picked off 3 Cyclone passes on the night. The Longhorns have a chance to take another step forward when they host Kansas State this Saturday.
Oklahoma State got back on track by winning a wild shootout with Texas Tech in Lubbock on Saturday night. The Cowboys produced 597 yards of offense, and they needed every yard to pull out a 41-34 conference victory over the Red Raiders. Mason Rudolph passed for 3 touchdowns, but it was his 16-yard TD run with just over two minutes to play that sealed the win.
Kansas State stands at 3-1 after its 33-20 victory over winless Baylor in Manhattan. The Wildcats rushed for 225 yards as a team, and the defense came up with a pair of key turnovers to keep the Bears from finally getting into the win column.
In the playoff conversation: Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State
Key Wins: 5 Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M
Good Day: 2 Kentucky, Arkansas
Key Losses: 6 Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Ole Miss, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina
Alabama wasted no time in letting Ole Miss know that the Rebels would not be leaving Tuscaloosa with their third win over the Crimson Tide in the last four meetings in this series. Alabama raced out to a 35-3 halftime lead and never looked back in cruising to a 66-3 win. Keith Ford scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lift Texas A&M past South Carolina 24-17 in College Station. The Aggies have won four straight games and play host to top-ranked Alabama this coming Saturday.
Florida found some offense in a 38-24 win over Vanderbilt in Gainesville. The Gators rushed for 5 touchdowns and churned out 467 yards of total offense in improving to 3-0 in SEC play. Unbeaten Georgia turned in a dominating performance against Tennessee during a 41-0 blowout in Knoxville. The Bulldogs rushed for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns, and the defense suffocated the Volunteers. UGA forced 4 turnovers and held the Vols to 142 yards of total offense. Following the worst home loss since 1905, Tennessee fans have lost all patience with Butch Jones. The coach better hope a bye week will cool off the hottest coaching seat in America.
Auburn’s offense was clicking on all cylinders for the second straight week in a 49-10 beatdown of Mississippi State. The Tigers pounded the helpless MSU defense to the tune of 511 yards to improve to 2-0 in the SEC. Arkansas got a much-needed win over New Mexico State in Fayetteville, while Kentucky survived a stiff challenge from Eastern Michigan in Lexington.
In Baton Rouge, it looks like the wheels are coming off the bus following a stunning home loss to Troy. The Trojans dominated this game, but a late rally by the Tigers made things interesting at the end. The LSU offense has shown no improvement from last season, and the athletic director held a meeting with the coaching staff earlier this week. It may be time to panic in Baton Rouge!
In the playoff conversation: Alabama, Georgia
Key Wins: 5 Washington State, Stanford, Washington, Oregon, UCLA
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Oregon State, USC, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado
Washington State proved it is a PAC-12 title contender by upsetting #5 USC on the Palouse on Friday night. The Cougars got 340 passing yards from Luke Falk in taking down the Trojans for the first time since 2002. The party may still be going on in Pullman, but WSU (5-0) still must face Washington, Stanford, and Colorado in the coming weeks.
Bryce Love ran for a school-record 301 yards in Stanford’s 34-24 win over Arizona State. Love has rushed for over 1,000 yards in just 5 games to put himself alongside Penn State’s Saquon Barkley at the front of the Heisman Trophy race. UCLA snapped a two-game skid by beating Colorado 27-23 at the Rose Bowl. Josh Rosen threw for 372 yards and a touchdown in the winning effort.
Washington was sluggish in the first half at Oregon State, but the Huskies ripped off 35 unanswered points after the break to cruise to a 42-7 win. The 5-0 Huskies will be big favorites in their next 4 games before they face Stanford, Utah, and Washington State in November. Oregon improved to 4-1 with a 45-24 win over Cal in Eugene. The bad news for the Ducks, however, is that starting QB Justin Herbert was lost for the season to an injury. The Ducks host Washington State on Saturday night.
In the playoff conversation: Washington, USC, Washington State
Key Wins: 0 none
Good Day: 2 Notre Dame, Army
Key Losses: 1 BYU
Notre Dame was impressive in blowing out Miami-Ohio 52-17 in South Bend. The Fighting Irish are 4-1 heading into a matchup with 1-4 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. After that game, ND gets a week off to prepare for a date with USC at historic Notre Dame Stadium. Back in the preseason, I stated my opinion that the Fighting Irish could be the off-the-radar team that could crash the CFP party. Notre Dame is dealing with injuries to QB Brandon Wimbush and star RB Josh Adams, but if they get healthy during the bye week and the Irish can take down USC, then the rest of the country might have to start taking Notre Dame seriously as a playoff team.
Army ended a two-game losing streak by beating UTEP 35-21 at Michie Stadium. The Black Knights pounded out more than 350 rushing yards in the victory. Yet, the big story was that Army QB Ahmad Bradshaw completed 3 of 5 passes for 80 yards and threw his first touchdown pass of the season. Army stands at 3-2 on the season.
BYU dropped to 1-4 after suffering a 40-24 setback at Utah State. The Cougars will try to right the ship when they host Boise State on Friday night.
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 5, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1-Clemson (18.75) versus 4-Oklahoma (11.25)
2-Alabama (14.5) versus 3-Georgia (13)
On the outside…..
6-Washington State (11)
8-Penn State (10)
10-NC State (8.5)
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 5, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Penn State
- Ohio State