The Report Card : Week 3 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 3.
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 3 Power 5 Conferences Report Card
Grade: A Non-Conference Record: 5-1
Key Wins: 4 Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia, Florida
Good Day: 6 Texas A&M, Tennessee, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Alabama
Key Losses: 4 Auburn, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky
While 5 SEC teams lost on Saturday and the league got no marquee non-conference wins, nobody made a bigger splash on the national stage this weekend than the SEC. Ole Miss delivered the shot heard around the college football world in taking down mighty Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Rebels earned the biggest win in college football so far this year and were awarded a #3 ranking in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll. Ole Miss, LSU, and Georgia all made major statements about being College Football Playoff challengers, much like Texas A&M did in week 1. Of course, Nick Saban has plenty of time to regroup and should keep Alabama in the mix, too.
The SEC boasts 5 legitimate championship contenders! Auburn and Arkansas, a pair of squads who received enormous preseason hype, have seen the wheels completely come off the bus after week 3 losses. Likewise, South Carolina’s season seems to be unraveling, much to the chagrin of Steve Spurrier.
Grade: A Non-Conference Record: 10-0
Key Wins: 3 UCLA, Stanford, Cal
Good Day: 8 Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Washington, Colorado, Arizona State, Oregon State, Washington State
Key Losses: 1 USC
The only loss suffered by a Pac-12 team over the weekend was to another Pac-12 school. Yet, Stanford’s big win over #6 USC at The Coliseum on Saturday night put a chink in the armor of the conference. While the Pac-12 rivals the SEC for best conference honors in 2015 with at least 4 playoff-caliber teams, 3 of those squads (USC, Oregon, Stanford) already have a September loss.
Unbeaten UCLA is the clubhouse leader at the moment with nice non-conference wins over Virginia and BYU. Arizona and Utah appear capable of challenging the favorites in the league and are considered dark horse playoff candidates right now with 3-0 starts. With a huge weekend of conference games on the slate, this list of possible playoff teams for the Pac-12 may be down a team or two by this time next week.
3. Big Ten
Grade: B Non-Conference Record: 9-3
Key Wins: 3 Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State
Good Day: 7 Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota
Key Losses: 4 Nebraska, Illinois, Purdue, Rutgers
The Big Ten had a solid weekend, headlined by Northwestern and Iowa grabbing wins over a pair of ACC opponents to each move to 3-0 on the year. Penn State claimed victory over Rutgers in the first conference matchup of the season, while 7 Big Ten teams won games they were favored to win on Saturday. Ohio State struggled mightily on offense and needed a late pick-six to squeak by Northern Illinois of the Mid American Conference.
Of the league’s 3 losses to ACC teams, 2 of them were suffered by Big Ten bottom-dwellers Purdue and Illinois. Nebraska rallied from a 23-point deficit only to lose to Miami in overtime in the other Big Ten-ACC contest. While Michigan State and Ohio State continue to carry the banner for the conference’s playoff hopes, Northwestern and Iowa are quietly providing a boost to the league’s overall reputation.
4. Big 12
Grade: C Non-Conference Record: 5-2
Key Wins: 1 Texas Tech
Good Day: 4 Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Key Losses: 2 Texas, Iowa State
It was a quite weekend for the Big 12 Conference. With no high-profile games and 3 teams who had the weekend off, the only noise made by the league came from Texas Tech. In Fayetteville, the Red Raiders handed Arkansas another humbling defeat to improve to 3-0 for the season. Preseason favorite TCU surrendered too many points to non-Power 5 foe SMU, raising concerns about the Horned Frogs, who already are without 5 defensive starters for the rest of the season due to injuries. Similar to TCU and Baylor, Oklahoma gives up a lot of points on defense but can outscore opponents with the new Air Raid offense. These 3 teams are the only hope for a playoff berth for the league.
Days after firing their athletic director, traditional power Texas continued its miserable week by losing in ugly fashion in Austin. The Longhorns rallied from a 21-point fourth quarter deficit against California only to miss an extra point that would have sent the game to overtime. Iowa State joined Arkansas on the dubious list of Power 5 teams who have lost to Toledo this season.
Grade: D Non-Conference Record: 7-3
Key Wins: 6 Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida State, Clemson
Good Day: 3 Syracuse, Virginia, North Carolina State
Key Losses: 5 Georgia Tech, Duke, Pitt, Louisville, Boston College
After 3 weeks of play, the ACC remains the only conference without a single significant non-conference win. As well, the league offers no team with a strong playoff resume. Florida State and Clemson are the only potential playoff teams in the ACC, but neither of them look the part right now. The Seminoles relied on a late defensive touchdown to hold off Boston College, while Clemson struggled tremendously to beat an 0-3 Louisville team by a field goal. Georgia Tech was completely overmatched by a Notre Dame team missing 6 starters in the ACC’s most high-profile game of the weekend. Duke was stymied by Northwestern in the only other game where the ACC had a shot at enhancing its reputation. As of now, Miami’s win over an average Nebraska team is the league’s best win of the season.
With a large gap existing between the ACC and the other Power 5 conferences, the odds of the league getting a team into the College Football Playoff are slim.
Grade: C Record: 2-1
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 1 BYU
Key Losses: 1 Army
Notre Dame recorded its third win over a Power 5 team in as many weeks by throttling #14 Georgia Tech in South Bend. Like Ole Miss and Michigan State, the Irish have made the biggest statement so far about being worthy of a College Football Playoff berth. With 6 injured starters out for the season, Notre Dame’s body of work to date is very impressive.
BYU ran out of magic in a 1-point loss to #10 UCLA at the Rose Bowl late Saturday night. While the Cougars playoff hopes were likely dashed by the Bruins, this team can still have a special season. Meanwhile, Army played well enough to get its first win of the year but fell to Wake Forest on a late field goal at West Point.
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 3, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might go with…..
1-Ole Miss (SEC) versus 4-TCU (Big 12)
2-Michigan State (Big Ten) versus 3-Notre Dame (Independent)
On the outside…..
5-Ohio State (Big Ten #2)
6-Texas A&M, LSU, Georgia, Alabama (SEC #2)
7-UCLA, Stanford, Oregon (Pac-12)
8-Florida State, Clemson (ACC)