The Report Card : Week 3 Analysis of the Power 5 Conferences
A Weekly Look at the Power 5 Conferences and Independents
On November 1, 2016 the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will present its first rankings of the season based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents, conference championships won and the eye test. The biggest unknown is how much weight each committee member places on those factors when ranking the teams. Further, during the initial 2 seasons of the playoff, the committee has leaned toward choosing teams with the best resume (most deserving teams) as opposed to relying on the eye test (best teams).
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, suggest which teams are in playoff contention, and offer a ranking of the best teams in the country. The Independent schools will have a section but not be ranked with the conferences. Below are the criteria and his rankings for week 3 of the 2016 season.
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 Loss: 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 game.
Week 3 Power 5 Conference Rankings
1. Big Ten
Key Wins: 5 Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Nebraska
Good Day: 4 Wisconsin, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland
Key Losses: 2 Iowa, Illinois
The Big Ten looks like the best conference in the land right now, much like it did last season when the league featured 6 teams that won 10 or more games. Over the weekend, the Big Ten went 5-0 against Power 5 opponents. Ohio State destroyed Oklahoma in Norman, while Michigan State ran all over Notre Dame in South Bend. Nebraska topped Oregon in Lincoln, proving the Cornhuskers are a legitimate threat to win the West Division. Michigan fell behind early but roared back to take down Colorado, and Northwestern defeated Duke for its first win of the year.
Wisconsin had to rally late to beat Georgia State in Madison to improve to 3-0 and set up a showdown this weekend with Michigan State. Penn State, Rutgers, and Maryland picked up wins over non-Power 5 foes. Iowa was stunned at home by FCS heavyweight North Dakota State. Likewise, Illinois lost at home to Western Michigan.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Ohio State, #4 Michigan, #8 Michigan State, #11 Wisconsin
Key Wins: 4 Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, LSU
Good Day: 5 Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina
Key Losses: 5 Ole Miss, Auburn, Missouri, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Alabama survived the high-profile matchup with Ole Miss in Oxford. The Rebels had the Crimson Tide on the ropes, but a couple of key turnovers and a punt return touchdown allowed Alabama to escape with a victory. Despite a 1-2 record, Ole Miss remains a top ten team who very well could be 3-0 at this point. The Crimson Tide are 3-0 but have some issues on offense that could cost them a game down the line.
LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M opened league play with wins at the expense of Mississippi State, Missouri, and Auburn, respectively. Arkansas looked strong in pounding Texas State. Tennessee was dysfunctional in hanging on to beat Ohio. South Carolina picked up a solid win over East Carolina. Kentucky secured its first win of the season, while Vanderbilt produced very little offense in losing to Georgia Tech.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Alabama, #10 Texas A&M, #12 Georgia
Key Wins: 3 Stanford, Cal, UCLA
Good Day: 6 Washington, Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon State, Washington State, Utah
Key Losses: 3 USC, Colorado, Oregon
Stanford was in complete control of their methodical win over rival USC. Christian McCaffrey ran wild against the Trojans. At 1-2, the usual preseason hype around USC has turned to frustration for Trojan fans with a tough schedule still ahead. Cal turned some heads with their upset of Texas, putting up 50 points on the Longhorns. UCLA earned a hard-fought 17-14 win over BYU in Provo.
Washington rolled to another big win. The Huskies visit Arizona on Saturday, which could prove to be a trap game if the Huskies are caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Stanford. Utah improved to 3-0 by beating San Jose State, while both Oregon State and Washington State got their first wins of the year. The Arizona schools defeated non-Power 5 teams. Colorado put a fight but fell to #4 Michigan. Oregon made just 1 of 5 two-point conversions in a 35-32 loss at Nebraska.
In the playoff conversation: #7 Stanford, #9 Washington
Key Wins: 3 Louisville, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech
Good Day: 5 Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State
Key Losses: 6 Florida State, Duke, Boston College, Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse
Louisville announced its arrival to the nation by blasting Florida State 63-20. The Cardinals dominated the game from the onset, with Lamar Jackson putting on a show against a talented Seminoles defense. I was in attendance at Cardinal Stadium and came away most impressed by the Louisville defense. The Cardinals held Dalvin Cook to 54 rushing yards and harassed Deondre Francois into completing just 7 of 18 passes on the day. Louisville is a serious threat to dethrone Clemson as ACC champs. The Cardinals and Tigers meet in 2 weeks at Clemson.
Clemson came to life on offense in their 59-0 win, while Miami put up 45 points in routing Appalachian State. Wake Forest, NC State, and North Carolina defeated FCS foes. Georgia Tech won big over Vanderbilt, and Virginia Tech won a league battle with Boston College. Duke lost at Northwestern to fall to 1-2 on the season. Pitt came up a touchdown short against Oklahoma State. Both Syracuse and Virginia were beaten by American Conference teams.
In the playoff conversation: #3 Louisville, #5 Clemson, #13 Florida State
5. Big 12
Key Wins: 1 Oklahoma State
Good Day: 4 Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech, TCU
Key Losses: 4 Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas
The Big 12 had a really bad weekend, once again. Texas was exposed as a fraud in falling to Cal on the road. The Longhorns surrendered 50 points in losing a shootout with the Bears. The Big 12’s other flagship program, Oklahoma, was humiliated 45-24 at home by Ohio State. The Buckeyes jumped on the Sooners early and never looked back in dropping Oklahoma to 1-2 on the year. The losses by the Longhorns and Sooners all but officially ended the playoff dreams of the Big 12 just 3 weeks into the season.
Kansas State, Baylor, and Texas Tech put up a ton of points in wins over non-Power 5 opponents. Oklahoma State rebounded from a stunning loss to Central Michigan to score the biggest victory of the weekend for the Big 12 in a 45-38 thriller over Pitt. TCU opened conference play with 41-20 victory over Iowa State. Kansas was defeated soundly on the road at Memphis by a score of 43-7.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 0 none
Good Day: 1 Army
Key Losses: 2 Notre Dame, BYU
Notre Dame dropped out of the playoff discussion with its second loss of the season. Michigan State ran the ball at will against the Notre Dame defense in jumping out to a 36-7 lead. BYU dropped another tight game against a PAC-12 foe. The Cougars fell at home 17-14 to UCLA. Meanwhile, Army improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1996 by blitzing UTEP 66-14 in El Paso. The Black Knights ran for 426 yards and put up 600 yards of total offense, while they held the Miners to just 254 yards of total offense. Army is capable of winning their next 5 contests, which means the Black Knights could be 8-0 heading into November when they face Air Force, Notre Dame, and Navy.
In the playoff conversation: none
This section is our guess at which teams the Selection Committee would choose 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. Rather, it lists the teams with the top playoff resumes. In other words, these are the most deserving teams for a playoff spot based on their schedule to date.
For example, at the end of the 2015 season Ohio State and Stanford were better teams than Oklahoma and Michigan State. Yet, the Sooners and Spartans had better resumes than the Buckeyes or Cardinal. Thus, they were correctly rewarded with playoff spots based on the Selection Committee’s criteria.
Based on week 3, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1- Alabama (SEC) versus 4- Stanford (PAC-12)
2- Ohio State (Big Ten) versus 3- Louisville (ACC)
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 the best teams in college football.
After 3 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M