The Report Card : Week 6 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 6.
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 6 Power 5 Conferences Report Card
Key Wins: 4 Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Florida
Good Day: 2 Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Key Losses: 4 Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri
While undefeated Texas A&M had the weekend off, 4 other SEC playoff contenders took care of business. Alabama and Florida used stout defensive efforts to beat Arkansas and Missouri, respectively. Ole Miss lit up the scoreboard in torching New Mexico State. LSU threw the ball quite effectively for the first time this season in defeating South Carolina in Baton Rouge.
Much more will be known about the top SEC squads this weekend when Alabama visits Texas A&M and Florida travels to Death Valley to face LSU. Can the Aggies spread offense confound the Crimson Tide, or will Alabama be able to control the clock and grind out a road win? As for Florida, the Gators are tasked with slowing down Leonard Fournette and will have to find a way to score points on the road without their starting quarterback. No conference can match the 5 potential playoff teams the SEC features, but the list will narrow before the end of October as these teams begin to play each other. Just remember, Ole Miss controls its own destiny in the SEC West race.
In the playoff conversation: #6 LSU, #8 Florida, #9 Texas A&M, #10 Alabama, #13 Ole Miss
2. Big Ten
Key Wins: 7 Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 7 Maryland, Northwestern, Rutgers, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Purdue
The Big Ten lost a playoff contender when Michigan pitched a shutout against Northwestern in Ann Arbor. Iowa beat Illinois to quietly reach 6-0. The Hawkeyes are leading the Big Ten West race while barely drawing any national attention due to the strength of the top 3 teams in the Big Ten East. Ohio State struggled with lowly Maryland for a half, while Michigan State had to score a touchdown with under a minute to play to defeat hapless Rutgers.
Separation will begin in the Big Ten race this Saturday. Michigan State visits Michigan in a game that will determine which squad is a playoff contender. Michigan has all the hype right now, but the Wolverines rely on a stout defense and solid run game. If the Spartans can throw the ball on offense and their defense can force Michigan to pass more than it likes, Sparty could derail the Harbaugh-hype train. Meanwhile, Iowa travels to Evanston to battle Northwestern in a game that features the Big Ten West leaders. Both teams prefer to run the ball and play suffocating defense, but the edge goes to the Hawkeyes due to a better passing attack.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Ohio State, #7 Michigan State, #12 Michigan, #17 Iowa
3. Big 12
Key Wins: 5 TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 5 Kansas State, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa State
The Big 12 featured some thrilling, high-scoring contests over the weekend. TCU had to rally from a 3-score deficit in the second half to top Kansas State in Manhattan. Baylor torched Kansas to the tune of 66 points in Lawrence. The Bears have scored at least 56 points in their 5 games and continue to pass the eye test as perhaps the best team in the country. In what has become an October trend in recent years, a top ten-ranked Oklahoma team flopped in suffering an inexplicable loss to 1-4 Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State quietly moved to 6-0 with an overtime win in Morgantown over West Virginia.
The nation will get a better gauge of Baylor this weekend when the Bears host a decent West Virginia squad. Yet, Baylor does not face TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Oklahoma until November. So, the Big 12 race may remain a mystery for another month. With no championship game, it appears the Big 12 scheduled its best games down the stretch in hopes of getting its champion into the playoff.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Baylor, #3 TCU
Key Wins: 5 Washington, Arizona, Washington State, Arizona State, Utah
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 5 USC, Oregon State, Oregon, Colorado, Cal
The PAC-12 had a couple of surprising results over the weekend. Washington eliminated USC from all playoff talk by stifling the Trojans 17-12 at The Coliseum. Washington State made some noise by beating Oregon in overtime in Eugene, as the Ducks continue a swift fall from the ranks of the elite. Utah remained the only unbeaten PAC-12 team by surviving a stiff challenge from upstart Cal. The Utes were very fortunate to win this game at home, as Cal had 6 turnovers in the game and still had a chance to win it in the final minute.
The PAC-12 race will get some clarity this week when UCLA visits Palo Alto to take on Stanford. The winner stays in playoff contention. The Bruins had a week off after suffering a home loss to Arizona State, while Stanford looks like the best team in the PAC-12 since losing the season opener to Northwestern. The other key game in the league is resurgent Arizona State at Utah. This game is receiving little fanfare nationally, but the Sun Devils are very capable of upsetting the Utes. Utah relies on its rushing attack, while Arizona State has yielded just over 100 rushing yards in each of its last 2 games. Utah has a stout run defense but gives up a lot of passing yards, and the Sun Devils rank 29th in the country in passing offense. So, do not be surprised if there are no undefeated PAC-12 teams come Saturday night.
In the playoff conversation: #4 Utah, #15 Stanford, #18 UCLA
Key Wins: 5 Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Pitt
Good Day: 1 Duke
Key Losses: 6 Georgia Tech, Miami, NC State, Boston College, Virginia, Syracuse
The ACC had another lackluster weekend and some really bad football. Clemson followed up the big win over Notre Dame with an impressive victory over Georgia Tech. Florida State continues to be the most undeserving ranked team in the nation, as running back Dalvin Cook has almost single-handedly carried the team against inferior competition. The Seminoles needed Cook’s late heroics to rally past a mediocre Miami team at home. #25 Duke rolled past Army to go to 5-1 on the year. Also, lowly Wake Forest edged Boston College 3-0 in what was the worst college football game of the season. Syracuse suffered another loss for the ACC to a non-Power 5 team, as well, when former Ole Miss defensive backs coach Tom Allen and the South Florida Bulls took down the Orange.
In the playoff conversation: #5 Clemson, #11 Florida State
Key Wins: 0
Good Day: 2 Notre Dame, BYU
Key Losses: 1 Army
Notre Dame rebounded from the loss to Clemson with a nice win over unbeaten Navy in South Bend. The Irish can keep their slim playoff hopes afloat this week when Southern California comes to Notre Dame Stadium.
BYU outscored East Carolina for its fourth win of the season, while Army suffered its fifth loss of the year against a strong Duke team.
In the playoff conversation: #14 Notre Dame
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 this point in the season. Please note that this list is not a ranking of the 4 best teams or a projection of who will be the 4 playoff teams in December. Rather, it lists the teams with the top playoff resumes based on who they have played to this point in the season.
Based on week 6, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might go with…..
1- Alabama (SEC) versus 4-Michigan (Big Ten)
2- Stanford (PAC-12) versus 3-TCU (Big 12)
On the outside…..