The Report Card : Week 7 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 7.
Report Card Criteria:
Good Day: Regardless of the score, a win over a non-Power 5 school is a good day. A team who plays great but loses the game to a Power 5 school 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. In conference play, a loss goes into this category unless the losing team played an exceptional, close game.
Week 7 Power 5 Conferences Report Card
1. Big 12
Key Wins: 4 TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas Tech
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 4 Iowa State, West Virginia, Kansas State, Kansas
The Big 12 saw all 4 of its league games won by the favored teams. Baylor torched a solid West Virginia team 62-38 in Waco. The Bears look like the best team in the country. They have the top offense in college football, have scored at least 56 points in all 6 games, have no key players injured, and they have the best defense in a basketball-on-grass conference. While the Bears defense does not rank anywhere among the nation’s top units, they have enough defense to win the Big 12. If they reach the playoff, it is worth considering whether any team in the country can slow down the Baylor offense or outscore the Bears.
TCU stayed undefeated by walloping Iowa State. Oklahoma followed up a bad loss to Texas by annihilating Kansas State 55-0 in Manhattan. The Sooners made a major statement that they are not to be counted out of the Big 12 race just yet. Texas Tech played poorly and was fortunate to escape Lawrence with a victory over winless Kansas.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Baylor, #4 TCU, #14 Oklahoma State, #17 Oklahoma
2. Big Ten
Key Wins: 6 Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Nebraska
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 6 Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota
The Big Ten had 2 teams eliminated from playoff consideration but had the 2 most thrilling finishes in college football last weekend. Michigan State took down rival Michigan in Ann Arbor on the game’s final play with the most improbable ending. The Wolverines botched a punt snap, which the Spartans scooped up and returned 38 yards for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. Sparty may have been lucky, but MSU is 7-0 and right in the thick of the national title race ahead of a November showdown with #1 Ohio State.
Speaking of the Buckeyes, they played their best game of the year in routing Penn State 38-10 in Columbus. With Urban Meyer realizing his season-long mistake and giving the quarterback job to J. T. Barrett, look for the Buckeyes to get on a roll before the November 21 battle with the Spartans.
Iowa assumed complete command of the Big Ten West race by crushing Northwestern 40-10 in Evanston. The Hawkeyes have a favorable schedule ahead and could very well be 12-0 going into the Big Ten title game. While they do not have the talent to beat the Buckeyes or Spartans, Iowa will provide a nice resume boost to the Big Ten champ. Meanwhile, Rutgers rallied from a 25-point deficit to beat Indiana on a last-second field goal 55-52 in Bloomington in perhaps the most exciting shootout on Saturday.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Ohio State, #7 Michigan State, #12 Iowa
Key Wins: 5 Stanford, Utah, Washington State, Arizona, Oregon
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 6 UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State, Colorado, Washington, USC
Stanford made the biggest statement out West last weekend by dismantling #18 UCLA 56-35 in a game that was not as close as the final score. Along with Baylor and Ohio State, Stanford appears to be one of the teams best-suited to win the national championship, despite a loss in the season opener to Northwestern. The Cardinal have a dominant offensive line, a Heisman Trophy candidate at tailback, a senior quarterback who is a winner, and a good defense. Known as a great running team, Stanford actually has the most balanced offense in the nation, averaging 226 yards per game on the ground and 224 yards per game through the air.
Utah survived a test from Arizona State to remain the only undefeated team in the PAC-12. The Utes have rode a solid run game, good run defense, and great special teams play to a 6-0 start. However, Utah has a suspect secondary, up-and-down quarterback play, and lacks weapons at wide receiver. If USC can finds its passing attack this week, the Trojans have the talent to end Utah’s perfect season.
Arizona quietly improved to 5-2 by beating Colorado and could be a spoiler in the PAC-12 South race. Washington followed up a road win over USC with a home loss to Oregon. USC gave a valiant effort but ultimately fell to rival Notre Dame in South Bend 41-31.
In the playoff conversation: #3 Utah, #10 Stanford
Key Wins: 6 Clemson, Florida State, Pitt, Miami, Virginia, North Carolina
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 6 Boston College, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Wake Forest
Clemson maintains its spot at the top of the ACC rankings. The Tigers beat Boston College to move to 6-0 on the year. If Clemson can win a trap-game at Miami this weekend, as expected, the Tigers will remain on the lightest path to a playoff berth. Clemson and Florida State should both be undefeated when they meet in Death Valley in 2 weeks. Yet, the winner of that game really needs Duke, North Carolina, or Pitt to be ranked by the time of the ACC title game in December to boost its playoff profile.
Florida State cruised by Louisville, while Pitt improved to 5-1 with a victory at Georgia Tech. North Carolina is 5-1, also, after routing Wake Forest on Saturday. Duke, Pitt, and UNC will face each other in the next 4 weeks to decide the Coastal Division winner.
In the playoff conversation: #6 Clemson, #9 Florida State
Key Wins: 5 Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, Auburn, Georgia
Good Day: 1 Mississippi State
Key Losses: 6 Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Ole Miss
The SEC lost a playoff contender when Ole Miss fell to Memphis, and the playoff hopes of both Florida and Texas A&M were dented in losses over the weekend. LSU is now the only unbeaten SEC squad after 7 weeks of play. LSU and Alabama separated themselves from the rest of the SEC field with wins over the Gators and Aggies, respectively. The November 7 showdown between the Tigers and Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa looks to have national title implications on the line.
However, Ole Miss remains the wildcard in the SEC West race that can derail the title hopes of both Alabama and LSU by winning out. The Rebels have to take down LSU, Texas A&M, and 3 other West foes to win out. Yet, if the Rebels do in fact win the next 5 games, Ole Miss will play in the SEC championship game. Simply put, the road to Atlanta goes through Oxford. Without question, the most exciting conference championship chase will be played out in the SEC West over the course of the next 6 weeks. Buckle up for a wild ride!
In the playoff conversation: #5 LSU, #8 Alabama, #13 Florida, #15 Texas A&M
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 2 Army, BYU
Notre Dame thrust itself back into playoff consideration with a 41-31 takedown of intersectional rival USC in South Bend. If the Fighting Irish can get to the season finale at Stanford at 10-1, then they have a shot to reach the playoff.
Army picked up its second win of the year by beating Bucknell at West Point. BYU won its third consecutive game when the Cougars defeated Cincinnati in Provo on Friday night.
In the playoff conversation: #11 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 7, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might go with…..
1- LSU (SEC) versus 4- TCU (Big 12)
2- Iowa (Big Ten) versus 3- Utah (PAC-12)
On the outside…..
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. Thus, a one-loss team may be ranked higher than an undefeated team. This ranking is based on our view of which teams are playing the best football now, who have a good playoff resume, and who are capable of reaching the College Football Playoff.
After 7 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Notre Dame
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!