The Report Card : Week 9 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 9.
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 9 Power 5 Conferences Report Card
Key Wins: 4 Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee
Good Day: 1 Arkansas
Key Losses: 5 Auburn, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Vanderbilt
Ole Miss captured a key road win at Auburn to stay in control of its own destiny in the SEC West race. Florida moved to within a win of clinching the SEC East crown by routing Georgia in Jacksonville. Texas A&M ended a two-game skid by taking down South Carolina in College Station. Tennessee cruised past Kentucky, while Arkansas scored an easy win over UT-Martin.
Heading into the final 4 weeks of the season, the SEC has 4 schools still in contention for a playoff spot. LSU is the only unbeaten team in the league but must play road games at Alabama and Ole Miss. Ole Miss will win the SEC West by winning out, while Florida needs only to beat Vanderbilt and South Carolina to win the SEC East. Additionally, the Gators must beat Florida State at the end of the season to stay in the playoff chase. Prepare for an exciting November as the SEC division races are settled on the field.
In the playoff conversation: #4 LSU, #7 Alabama, #11 Florida, #19 Ole Miss
Key Wins: 6 Stanford, Oregon, USC, UCLA, Utah, Washington
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 6 Washington State, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona
Stanford survived a Halloween scare on the road at Washington State to stay in the chase for a playoff spot. Oregon won a wild overtime shootout over Arizona State in Tempe. USC picked up a nice road win in Berkeley over Cal, while UCLA got an unexpected stiff test from Colorado at the Rose Bowl. Washington put a beatdown on Arizona, and Utah easily defeated Oregon State.
Entering the last month of the regular season, Stanford is the best team in the PAC-12 and the league’s best hope at having a playoff team. The Cardinal look like one of the four best teams in the country but must win out, beat Notre Dame in the season finale, and win the PAC-12 title game to have a shot at a playoff berth. Utah is the other one-loss league team, but the Utes have flaws at quarterback, wide receiver, and in the secondary. It is hard to imagine Utah beating Washington, Arizona, and UCLA in consecutive weeks.
In the playoff conversation: #9 Stanford, # 13 Utah
3. Big 12
Key Wins: 4 TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 4 West Virginia, Kansas, Texas Tech, Texas
TCU played its best game of the season in taking down a solid West Virginia team in Fort Worth. Oklahoma crushed Kansas 62-7 in Lawrence. Oklahoma State outscored Texas Tech 70-53 in Lubbock in a game where defense seemed optional at best. Iowa State absolutely dominated Texas, continuing a season of misery for the Longhorns.
Going into November, the Big 12 and SEC lead the Power 5 leagues with 4 playoff contenders each. In an effort to get a school into the playoff without a league title game, the Big 12 backloaded the schedule so that all 4 contenders play each other in November. Baylor is the best team in the conference and among the four best in America, but the Bears must win out with a freshman at quarterback after their Heisman Trophy candidate was lost to a neck injury. Oklahoma is a sleeper due to their loss to Texas. The Sooners could upset either TCU or Baylor down the stretch. TCU has a tremendous offense with quarterback Trevone Boykin, but the defense has to step up if the Horned Frogs are to beat either Baylor or Oklahoma.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Baylor, #5 TCU, #12 Oklahoma State, #14 Oklahoma
4. Big Ten
Key Wins: 5 Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 5 Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, Maryland, Minnesota
Iowa reached the 8-0 mark by overpowering lowly Maryland at Kinnick Stadium. Penn State pitched a shutout in Happy Valley over Illinois for their seventh win. Wisconsin grabbed their seventh win in running over Rutgers in Madison, while Michigan stopped a quarterback sneak at the goal line as time expired to beat Minnesota. Purdue notched its first Big Ten win of the year by knocking off Nebraska 55-45.
Going into the final month of the season, the Big Ten has 3 potential playoff teams. Ohio State has as much talent as any team in the land, but the Buckeyes must defeat Michigan State and Michigan to finish the regular season. The Spartans path is slightly easier in that they already beat Michigan, but it will be tough to beat the Buckeyes in Columbus. Iowa seems likely to reach the league championship game at 12-0 from the West Division, but the Hawkeyes would be big underdogs to either the Buckeyes or Spartans in Indianapolis.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Ohio State, #6 Michigan State, #10 Iowa
Key Wins: 7 North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Miami
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 7 Pitt, Wake Forest, Syracuse, NC State, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Duke
The ACC had the wildest weekend of any conference, and that is an understatement. Clemson won a high-scoring affair over NC State. Florida State beat up Syracuse with a backup quarterback to set up the ACC game-of-the-year against Clemson this Saturday. Georgia Tech followed up its big win over the Seminoles by losing to lowly Virginia in Charlottesville. North Carolina took the lead in the Coastal Division by beating Pitt on the road, coupled with Duke losing to Miami in Durham when the on-field and replay officials made a series of errors on the game’s final play that allowed the Hurricanes to score the winning touchdown. After reviewing the play for more than 9 minutes, the officials still made the wrong call, which cost Duke the Coastal Division lead.
With 4 weeks to play, the ACC’s playoff hopes depend on the result of Saturday’s showdown in Death Valley. If Clemson wins, they should run the table unbeaten and have a spot in the playoff. If Florida State prevails, the ACC could very likely be on the outside looking in during the College Football Playoff.
In the playoff conversation: #3 Clemson, #17 Florida State
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 0
Key Losses: 0
Notre Dame scored a clutch win in the fourth quarter over #21 Temple in Philadelphia on Saturday night to keep the Fighting Irish in the chase for a College Football Playoff berth. Notre Dame faces a 6-2 Pitt team this week, and the Fighting Irish visit #9 Stanford at the end of November. Thus, Notre Dame still has a chance to grab a playoff spot in the final month of the season.
In the playoff conversation: #8 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 9, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might go with…..
1- Clemson (ACC) versus 4- TCU (Big 12)
2- LSU (SEC) versus 3- Michigan State (Big Ten)
On the outside…..
With the first CFP rankings of 2015 set to be released tonight, it will be interesting to see which criteria the Selection Committee emphasizes the most at this point. The biggest debate is whether the CFP will rank the top teams based on the strength of their resumes to this point or the teams they feel are the best teams right now? Ohio State and Baylor look like playoff contenders but have weak resumes, while Iowa and Florida have strong resumes but do not appear to be among the four best teams in the country. The above list shows teams with the best resumes, and the list below shows teams who look like the best teams in the country. Tonight the Selection Committee will give fans an idea of which list they are weighing more heavily in their initial rankings. Also, will Baylor be ranked lower due to the season-ending injury to Seth Russell?
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 9 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Michigan State