The Report Card : Week 2 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.
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 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 2.
Report Card Criteria:
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 2 Power 5 Conferences Report Card
1. Big Ten
Grade: A Record: 12-2
Key Wins: 3 Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa
Good Day: 9 Ohio State, Illinois, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana
Key Losses: 2 Maryland, Rutgers
What a difference a week makes in college football. The Big Ten rose from the basement in week 1 to the top performing conference this week. Michigan State recorded the first win of the year over a team ranked in the Top 10 by taking down Oregon on Saturday night. The Spartans made a statement that they are a serious playoff contender by notching the best win of the year, so far. Iowa and Michigan took down foes from the Big 12 and Pac-12, giving the Big Ten 3 wins over Power 5 teams this weekend. While Maryland and Rutgers suffered embarrassing losses, 9 other Big Ten teams won games they were expected to win to give the league a 12-2 mark in week 2. While the strength of the conference rests in its top 2 teams, it is evident that both Michigan State and Ohio State are good enough to play for a national championship.
2. Big 12
Grade: B Record: 8-2
Key Wins: 1 Oklahoma
Good Day: 7 TCU, Kansas State, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas
Key Losses: 2 Kansas, Iowa State
The Big 12 had a good weekend, headlined by Oklahoma’s thrilling comeback win over Tennessee in Neyland Stadium. While the Sooners struggled for 3 quarters, this is still a big win over a ranked SEC team on the road. Oklahoma remains in the picture with TCU and Baylor as the Big 12 squads most likely to be in the playoff hunt in December. While Baylor has given up too many points to inferior opponents and TCU is dealing with several injuries to defensive players, Oklahoma clearly has the best win by a Big 12 team under its belt at the moment.
Grade: B Record: 10-2
Key Wins: 1 Washington State
Good Day: 9 Utah, Washington, Colorado, Arizona, Cal, USC, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona State
Key Losses: 2 Oregon, Oregon State
After a rough opening weekend, the Pac-12 got back on track by winning 10 of 12 non-conference matchups on Saturday. However, the league missed a chance to validate itself even further when Oregon fell to Michigan State in the weekend’s premier game. Yet, the Ducks played a great game against a great team on the road. Oregon will still be in the running for a Pac-12 title and playoff berth down the stretch, along with UCLA and USC, both of whom have looked impressive through 2 games. Further, while the state of Oregon went 0-2 against the state of Michigan, Washington State rebounded from a perplexing season-opening loss to FCS Portland State to stun Rutgers in the final seconds in Piscataway, New Jersey to give the Pac-12 a 1-2 road mark against Big Ten teams on Saturday. If nothing else, the Cougars proved that the worst Pac-12 team is better than the worst Big Ten team.
Grade: C Record: 11-3
Key Wins: 1 Syracuse
Good Day: 10 Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Miami, Pitt
Key Losses: 3 Louisville, Virginia, Wake Forest
Through 2 weeks, the ACC is the lone Power 5 league without a single non-conference win over a Power 5 foe. With Virginia’s loss to Notre Dame, the ACC is now 0-5 in such games. In fact, the only Power 5 win by the conference this year came on Saturday when Syracuse beat Wake Forest in the ACC opener. Louisville’s loss to Houston further cements the ACC’s reputation as the weakest Power 5 league this year. Week 3 will offer the ACC numerous opportunities to raise its national profile. Pitt, Miami, North Carolina, Duke, and Virginia Tech all have games against Big Ten teams this weekend, and #14 Georgia Tech travels to #8 Notre Dame in the biggest game for the conference.
Grade: D Record: 9-5
Key Wins: 3 LSU, Georgia, Kentucky
Good Day: 6 Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A&M, Missouri, Florida, Auburn
Key Losses: 5 Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State
Did I mention what a difference a week makes in college football? One week ago, the SEC made an emphatic statement about being the best conference in America by going 13-1 with 4 non-conference Power 5 wins, while the Big Ten went 8-6 to claim residence in the Power 5 basement. Fast forward a week, and the Big Ten flexed its muscle in going 12-2 with 3 non-league Power 5 wins, while the SEC fell on hard times to end up in the week 2 Power 5 basement. Arkansas and Tennessee lost the preseason hype and big games on the national stage. Auburn, Florida, and Missouri just avoided suffering embarrassing losses to inferior teams. The SEC East appears to be the dysfunctional mess it has been for several years now, with Georgia holding the banner as the lone bright spot. However, the SEC West features no less than 4 playoff contenders at the moment in Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and LSU. The SEC will rebound and rise back to the top of the conference standings in time, but the bottom half of the league may not be as strong as perceived just a week ago.
Grade: B Record: 2-1
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 1 BYU
Key Losses: 1 Army
Notre Dame grabbed a second win over a Power 5 team on Saturday, rallying past Virginia in the final seconds to move to 2-0. Yet, the Irish suffered a crushing blow to their playoff hopes in losing quarterback Malik Zaire for the season with a broken ankle. The Irish are a very talented team, but it is hard to imagine Notre Dame being able to win more than 9 games now with their starting quarterback and tailback out for the year. A visit from #14 Georgia Tech on Saturday will tell a lot more about the future forecast for the Irish.
Meanwhile, BYU followed up a Hail Mary win over Nebraska with…..a Hail Mary win over Boise State. Seriously! BYU has pulled out 2 of the most thrilling wins of the year with a backup quarterback. Now, the Cougars get their first major test of the season against #10 UCLA on Saturday.
This section is our 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.
Based on week 2, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might go with …..
1-Ohio State (Big Ten) versus 4-TCU (Big 12)
2-Michigan State (Big Ten) versus 3-Alabama (SEC)
On the outside …..