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 7 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 7 Power 5 Conference Rankings
1. Big 12
Key Wins: 5 TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Kansas State, Texas, Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech
The Big 12 made it through the weekend with all the favored teams winning in conference action. TCU (6-0) kept its record perfect with an impressive 26-6 win over Kansas State in Manhattan. Kenny Hill passed for 297 yards and ran for a score, and the defense limited the Wildcats to 216 yards of total offense.
Oklahoma earned a 29-24 decision over Texas at the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners (5-1) were up by 20 points in the second quarter, but the Longhorns rallied to take the lead with 8 minutes left in the game. Baker Mayfield tossed a touchdown pass to put OU back on top, and the defense made some stops in the final minute to preserve the win. Rival Oklahoma State had a much easier time improving to 5-1 by routing winless Baylor 59-16 in Stillwater. Mason Rudolph passed for 459 yards and 3 touchdowns, and wide receiver James Washington was the star of the day with 6 receptions for 235 yards and a score. The Cowboys travel to Austin to face Texas next Saturday!
West Virginia dug itself an 18-point hole against #24 Texas Tech, but QB Will Grier threw 4 touchdown passes in the second half as the Mountaineers (4-2) reeled off 29 unanswered points to pull out a 46-35 victory in Morgantown. Iowa State recorded its second straight win by shutting out Kansas 45-0 in Ames. The Cyclones (4-2) allowed the Jayhawks to gain just 106 yards and 5 first downs on the day.
In the playoff conversation: TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
2. Big Ten
Key Wins: 6 Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Indiana, Nebraska, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland
The Big Ten joined the Big 12 in having none of its ranked teams get upset over the weekend. Ohio State scored more than 50 points in a game for the fourth straight week, as the Buckeyes (6-1) blistered Nebraska 56-14 in Lincoln. OSU racked up 633 yards of total offense in moving to 4-0 in Big Ten play. Ohio State is hitting its stride after suffering an early-season loss to Oklahoma and appears to be the best team in the conference. The Buckeyes have a week off before hosting #2 Penn State in Columbus.
Tom Allen and his Indiana Hoosiers came up a play short in falling to #16 Michigan 27-20 in overtime in Bloomington. IU scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to force overtime, but the Wolverines (5-1) stopped the Hoosiers at the goal line to grab the victory. Wisconsin got 219 rushing yards from freshman Jonathan Taylor in its 17-9 win over Purdue in Madison. The Badgers dominated the stat sheet but turned the ball over 3 times. UW had to rely on its stout defense to pull out the victory to stay perfect at 6-0.
Michigan State improved to 5-1 by running over Minnesota in rainy conditions in Minneapolis. L. J. Scott ran for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Spartans. MSU held a 17-point lead going into the final quarter, but 3 turnovers helped the Golden Gophers to rally before falling short. Rutgers won its first Big Ten game since 2015 by beating Illinois 35-24 in Champaign.
Northwestern got its first league win of the year by running past Maryland 37-21 in College Park. The Wildcats (3-3) were led by Justin Jackson, who rushed for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns.
In the playoff conversation: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Key Wins: 6 Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, Texas A&M
Good Day: 1 Mississippi State
Key Losses: 6 Florida, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Missouri, Tennessee
Alabama continues to be the most consistent team in the country. The Crimson Tide (7-0) crushed Arkansas 41-9 in Tuscaloosa. Damien Harris ran the ball for 125 yards and 2 scores for the victors. Alabama’s defense recorded 5 sacks and limited the Razorbacks to 27 rushing yards on the night. Texas A&M moved to 5-2 by sneaking past Florida 19-17 at The Swamp. Christian Kirk and Kellen Mond made some big plays, but placekicker Daniel LaCamera was the hero for the Aggies with 4 field goals. The Aggies are trending upward heading into a three-game homestand, while the Gators (3-3) and Jim McElwain face more questions. Mediocre teams and poor offensive output with top ten recruiting classes will not cut it in Gainesville. The coaching seat is getting hotter by the week for McElwain!
Georgia rolled to 7-0 by piling up 696 yards of total offense in a 53-28 victory over Missouri in Athens. The Bulldogs’ secondary struggled early against the Tigers, but UGA relied on a balanced offense to put the game away in the second half. South Carolina improved to 5-2 with a 15-9 win over Tennessee in Knoxville. Both teams were challenged to generate much offense, and the Gamecocks won it with a goal-line stand in the final seconds. The woeful Volunteers travel to take on Alabama next Saturday.
Ole Miss took advantage of its first home game in over a month by blasting Vanderbilt 57-35 in Oxford. The Rebels (3-3) topped 600 yards in total offense in handing Vanderbilt its fourth straight loss. LSU upset #10 Auburn in Baton Rouge by erasing a 20-point deficit on the strength of its defense. LSU (5-2) held Auburn (5-2) scoreless in the second half and scored 13 points on special teams in the fourth quarter to earn a season-saving victory. Mississippi State snapped its two-game losing streak with an easy 35-10 win over BYU in Starkville.
In the playoff conversation: Alabama, Georgia
Key Wins: 6 Virginia, Miami, Syracuse, Boston College, NC State, Florida State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Clemson, Duke, Pitt, Louisville
Remember all that talk from the Eastern seaboard for the past year about the ACC being the best conference in college football? The conference has struggled all season long. When Syracuse stunned #2 Clemson on Friday night at the Carrier Dome, it brought the ACC to its humble knees. The Orange outplayed the Tigers in every phase of the game in pulling off a 27-24 upset that kicked off a crazy weekend that turned the College Football Playoff race upside down. Clemson struggled after QB Kelly Bryant left the game with an injury. Clemson is still an elite team with a strong playoff resume, but the Tigers must have a healthy Bryant in order to win out and reach the playoff.
Miami is the lone unbeaten team in the ACC, but the Hurricanes (5-0) needed a field goal in the final seconds to rally by Georgia Tech 25-24 at home. Miami does not have a signature win, and its toughest games (Virginia Tech, Notre Dame) are in November. For now, Clemson appears to be a much better team than Miami and the league’s best hope of reaching the playoff.
NC State moved to 6-1 with a 35-17 victory over Pitt on the road. The Wolfpack have won six straight games and have a bye before heading to South Bend to face #13 Notre Dame on October 28. Virginia may be the least-known 5-1 team in the nation. UVA defeated North Carolina 20-14 in Chapel Hill. The Cavaliers won just two games a year ago, and UVA has a winnable home game against Boston College on Saturday that could make the Cavs bowl eligible in October!
Florida State got its second win of the season by edging Duke 17-10 in Durham. The Blue Devils (4-3) have lost three straight games. Boston College picked up its first ACC win by stunning Louisville 45-42 on the road. Lamar Jackson was outstanding for the Cardinals (4-3), but the defense surrendered 555 yards to the Eagles.
In the playoff conversation: Clemson
Key Wins: 6 Stanford, USC, Cal, Arizona, Colorado, Arizona State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Washington, Utah, Oregon, Washington State, UCLA, Oregon State
The PAC-12 had a dreadful weekend that could leave the league on the outside-looking-in when the playoff field is announced in December. The conference has no undefeated teams. The only one-loss squad with a resume that is strong enough to get into the playoff is USC if the Trojans can win out. Washington and Washington State played poor non-conference opponents and needed to go unbeaten to get into the playoff. USC is the league’s lone hope at this point.
Speaking of USC, the Trojans gutted out a 28-27 thriller over Utah at The Coliseum on Saturday night. Despite turning the ball over 3 times and trailing by 14 points at halftime, USC (6-1) scored 21 points on long drives in the second half and foiled Utah’s two-point conversion attempt in the final minute to earn the win. The Trojans travel to South Bend this week for a Saturday night showdown with #13 Notre Dame. This game is essentially a playoff elimination game for both teams!
Stanford has quietly won four consecutive games after thrashing Oregon 49-7 in Palo Alto. Bryce Love rushed for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Cardinal are 5-2 and very much in the thick of the PAC-12 title race. Arizona got 230 rushing yards from quarterback Khalil Tate in taking down UCLA 47-30 in Tuscon. The Wildcats (4-2) tallied 605 yards of total offense and picked off Josh Rosen three times.
Cal started the wild weekend of conference upsets by blasting #8 Washington State 37-3 on Friday night. The Golden Bears (4-3) dominated the Cougars in every phase of the game from start to finish in ending a three-game losing streak. Cal forced 7 turnovers and kept WSU out of the end zone. Arizona State followed Cal’s lead by stunning #5 Washington 13-7 in Tempe on Saturday night. The Sun Devils (3-3) had allowed 30 or more points in 11 straight games before holding the Huskies scoreless for 54 minutes.
Colorado won its first conference game over Oregon State 36-33 in Corvallis. The Buffaloes (4-3) scored the game-winning touchdown with under two minutes to play to keep the Beavers winless in league play.
In the playoff conversation: USC
Key Wins: 0 none
Good Day: 1 Army
Key Losses: 1 BYU
Army moved to 5-2 on the season with a 28-27 victory over Eastern Michigan at Michie Stadium on Saturday. The Black Knights rushed for 413 yards to get within one win of bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season. Army stopped a two-point conversion attempt by the Eagles with under a minute to play to preserve the win. The Black Knights are a perfect 4-0 at home and play host to Temple next week.
BYU fell to 1-6 on the season after falling at Mississippi State 35-10 in Starkville. As has been the case most of the season, the Cougars struggled on offense in this contest. BYU generated just 8 first downs and 176 yards of total offense against the Bulldogs. The Cougars need to win out to gain bowl eligibility.
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 7, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1- Alabama (20) versus 4- Clemson (20.75)
2- TCU (18) versus 3- Georgia (17.5)
On the outside…..
6-NC State (15.5)
7-Michigan State (14)
8-Penn State (13)
10-Ohio State (12.25)
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 7, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Penn State
- Notre Dame