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The Report Card : Week 1 analysis of the Power 5 Conferences

The Report Card : Week 1 analysis of the Power 5 Conferences

A Weekly Look at the Power 5 Conferences and Independents

On November 3, 2015 the College Football Playoff Committee will present its first rankings of the season–rankings that will be based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, conference championships won and other factors.

Beginning this 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 and, as the season progresses, suggest which teams are most likely in the hunt for a playoff berth. The Independent schools will have a section but not be ranked with the conferences. Below are the criteria as well as his rankings for Week 1. 

Report Card Criteria:

TheReportCard_3Key Wins: Regardless of the score or whether a team is ranked or unranked, a win over a Power 5 team is a key win.

Good Day: Regardless of the score, a win over a non-Power 5 school is a good day. When conference play begins next week, a team who plays great but loses the game can be placed in this category.

Key Losses: 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. When conference play begins next week, a team who is upset or is outplayed by a significant margin will be placed in this category.

Week 1 Power 5 Conferences Report Card

1. SEC

Grade: ARecord: 12-1
Key Wins: 4Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, South Carolina
Good Day: 9Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Mississippi State, LSU,
Key Losses: 1Vanderbilt

The SEC scored 2 wins over ACC opponents and 1 each over foes from the Big Ten and Pac-12. By far, the SEC made the biggest national statement on opening weekend with 4 wins against Power 5 teams. Alabama and Texas A&M were the most impressive teams in gaining playoff momentum on the season’s first weekend. Vanderbilt suffered the SEC’s only blemish after a bad loss to Western Kentucky at home. LSU did not get to play the season opener due to weather. Eight SEC teams won games over non-Power 5 teams, as expected. As evidenced by a new record of 10 teams being ranked in the Top 25 this week, the SEC has the deepest conference and numerous playoff contenders.

2. Big 12

Grade: BRecord: 8-2
Key Wins: 1TCU
Good Day: 7Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State, West Virginia
Key Losses: 2Texas, Kansas

The Big 12 had 2 chances to make a statement on the national stage. TCU delivered a hard-fought win over a Minnesota squad that is expected to compete for the Big Ten West title. Texas was beaten up badly by Notre Dame, showing that the Longhorns are light years from returning to elite status. Meanwhile, Kansas suffered an ugly loss at home to FCS foe South Dakota State. The remaining 7 teams won games they were favored to win against non-Power 5 teams. Along with TCU and Baylor, Oklahoma showed the potential to be a playoff contender come December.

3. ACC

Grade: CRecord: 10-4
Key Wins: 0
Good Day: 10Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest, Duke, Syracuse, Boston College, Miami, Pitt, North Carolina State
Key Losses: 4Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

Like the SEC, the ACC had 4 opening weekend games against Power 5 teams. Unlike the SEC, the ACC did not win any of those contests. Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech all played respectable football, but at the end of the day not one of them claimed a win versus the SEC, Pac-12, or Big Ten. Thus, it was a weekend of missed opportunities for the ACC. I give a lot of credit to the ACC for playing 4 opening games against fellow Power 5 schools. Yet, the ACC  failed to quiet analysts who say it is the weakest Power 5 conference by going 0-4 in those contests. The ACC was the only Power 5 conference without a bad loss in week 1. On the other hand, it was the only conference without a signature win, too. At this point, the ACC appears to have 3 playoff contenders in Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech.

4. Pac-12

Grade: DRecord: 7-5
Key Wins:2UCLA, Utah
Good Day: 5Arizona, Oregon, USC, Oregon State, Cal
Key Losses: 5Washington, Stanford, Arizona State, Colorado, Washington State

The Pac-12 took a hit to its reputation on opening weekend. Stanford and Arizona State started the season ranked in the Top 25 and being regarded as Pac-12 title contenders. Both fell to unranked opponents from the Big Ten and SEC. Washington and Colorado lost to Mountain West Conference teams, and Washington State went down to an FCS foe that the Cougars were favored to beat by 31 points. Fortunately for the league, 5 teams won games in which they were the favorite, while UCLA and Utah picked up nice wins for the conference over Virginia (ACC) and Michigan (Big Ten). Despite a rough first weekend, the Pac-12 still looks like it has 6 to 8 very good teams who can compete for the conference championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff.

5. Big Ten

Grade: DRecord: 8-6
Key Wins:2Ohio St., Northwestern
Good Day: 6Iowa, Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, Rutgers, Illinois
Key Losses: 6Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue

The Big Ten took the biggest fall among Power 5 conferences in the first weekend of action. Just 9 months ago, the Big Ten featured the national champion, had 2 teams ranked in the top 5 in the final poll, and won 3 bowl games over ranked opponents, which was more wins over ranked bowl opponents than any other conference.

The Big Ten erased years of frustration with a sterling finish to 2014. Fast forward to September and the Big Ten finds itself back in the basement among major conferences after going 8-6 on opening weekend and suffering more key losses than any other league. ml…Ohio State looked like the best team in the country on Monday night, and Northwestern scored a nice upset over #21 Stanford. The Big Ten saw 6 of its teams win matchups where they were the favorites. Yet, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska missed out on getting big wins to start the season. The losses by Penn State and Purdue to Temple and Marshall, respectively, looked really bad for the league. However, on the strength of Ohio State and Michigan State, the Big Ten seems very likely to have a team in the College Football Playoff.

Independents

Grade:BRecord: 2-1
Key Wins: 2Notre Dame, BYU
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 1Army

Notre Dame and BYU made national statements with big wins over Texas and Nebraska, respectively. While the Longhorns and Cornhuskers have not been as great in recent seasons as in their days of being traditional powerhouse programs, these 2 wins are still wins over Power 5 schools. Army suffered a loss to FCS opponent Fordham at West Point. Notre Dame appears to be the Independent team who can make a serious push for a playoff berth.

Playoff Primer

This section is my guess at which teams or conference champions the Selection Committee would choose or leave out based on the body of work up to that point in the season. (For a look at the current standings within each individual conference, click here.)

Based on week 1, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might go with…..

1-Ohio State (Big Ten) versus 4-Notre Dame (Independent)

2-Alabama (SEC) versus 3-TCU (Big 12)

On the outside…..

5-Pac-12 champion

6-ACC champion

Stay tuned to The Rebel Walk each week to see how the Power 5 conferences and independents have fared. 

About The Author

Jeff Tetrick

Jeff is a college sports fanatic who was able to recognize many D1 team logos by kindergarten. Growing up, Jeff played football, baseball, basketball, and ran track/cross country. Jeff’s love for college sports was expanded while running track/cross country at Indiana University, where he earned a General Education degree and attended every sporting event possible when not running for the Hoosiers. A proud parent and husband, Jeff resides in Oxford. His wife is an Ole Miss graduate, and Jeff has a year of post-graduate studies at Ole Miss under his belt. Jeff and his family can be found at just about any Ole Miss sporting event throughout the year. Jeff follows the idea of God, Family/Friends, and Football as a way of life. Writing about Ole Miss sports plays to Jeff’s love affair with collegiate athletics perfectly!

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