The Report Card : Week 4 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 two 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 4 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 4 Power 5 Conference Rankings
Key Wins: 4 Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest
Good Day: 6 Louisville, Florida State, Virginia, Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia Tech
Key Losses: 2 Pitt, Georgia Tech
Clemson finally looked like a playoff-caliber team in the opening half of their win over Georgia Tech. Louisville routed Marshall 59-28 to set up a major showdown at Clemson on Saturday. The winner will have the inside track to winning the Atlantic Division and get a nice boost to its playoff resume. Florida State rebounded from the huge loss to Louisville by pounding South Florida with a strong rushing attack. North Carolina edged Pitt 37-36 in a key Coastal Division game in Chapel Hill.
Duke stunned Notre Dame in South Bend 38-35 for their first win over the Fighting Irish since 1958. The Blue Devils torched the Notre Dame defense to the tune of 498 yards of total offense. Wake Forest moved to 4-0 by beating Indiana in Bloomington. Heading into October, the Demon Deacons have more wins than traditional powers USC, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame combined. Virginia, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech each defeated non-Power 5 opponents, while Boston College trounced FCS team Wagner.
In the playoff conversation: #3 Louisville, #5 Clemson, #12 Florida State
Key Wins: 5 Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky
Good Day: 4 Alabama, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Mississippi State
Key Losses: 5 Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, South Carolina
The SEC started conference play with some high-profile matchups. Ole Miss stormed out of the gate and blew away Georgia 45-14 in Oxford. In my opinion, the Rebels remain the best team in the SEC outside of Alabama and are positioned to reach a New Year’s Six bowl for the third straight season. Texas A&M continued its strong start by rushing for 366 yards in dominating Arkansas at the line of scrimmage. The Aggies lead the SEC in rushing yards and get their shot at Alabama in October in Tuscaloosa. Tennessee beat Florida for the first time in more than a decade. The Volunteers travel to Georgia on Saturday in a game that could very well decide the SEC East race.
Kentucky opened league play with a win over South Carolina. Auburn took down LSU in a battle between offensively-challenged squads. Auburn won the game with 6 field goals, and LSU mismanaged the clock late in the game. Alabama rolled past Kent State, while Mississippi State rallied from a halftime deficit to defeat UMass. Missouri crushed Delaware State by 79 points, and Vanderbilt picked up its second win of the year by rallying to beat Western Kentucky in overtime.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Alabama, #9 Texas A&M
Key Wins: 5 Stanford, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Arizona State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 USC, Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Cal, Oregon State
Stanford was tested by UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. The Cardinal scored in the final minute to escape with a 22-13 victory over the Bruins. The league’s other playoff contender, Washington, had to go to overtime in Tuscon to defeat Arizona. With both Stanford and Washington surviving tests, they enter undefeated heading into their clash in Seattle on Friday night. The winner will emerge as the favorite to win the PAC-12 crown and have a shot at a playoff berth.
Utah put the league on notice by dropping USC in Salt Lake City. The Utes are 4-0 and might be the best team in the South Division. Colorado surprised Oregon in Eugene to improve to 3-1 on the year. The Ducks fall to 2-2 and have a lot of issues on defense. Arizona State won a shootout over Cal, while Oregon State lost at home to Boise State.
In the playoff conversation: #7 Stanford, #10 Washington, #18 Utah
4. Big Ten
Key Wins: 4 Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa
Good Day: 2 Minnesota, Purdue
Key Losses: 5 Penn State, Michigan State, Northwestern, Rutgers, Indiana
Michigan used a punishing rushing attack to wallop Penn State 49-10. Meanwhile, Wisconsin used a stout defensive effort to pound Michigan State 30-6 in East Lansing. The Wolverines and Badgers will tangle on Saturday in Ann Arbor in a top ten matchup that features 2 of the best defenses in the country.
Nebraska continued its perfect start by besting Northwestern to move to 4-0 on the year. The Cornhuskers are more than capable of challenging Wisconsin and Iowa for the West Division title. Iowa did not look impressive at Rutgers, but the Hawkeyes were solid defensively in their narrow 14-7 win. Minnesota and Purdue registered wins over Mountain West Conference opponents. Indiana threw 5 interceptions in a 33-28 loss to Wake Forest. The Hoosiers outgained the Demon Deacons 611-352 yards, but the 5 turnovers cost them the game.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Ohio State, #4 Michigan, #8 Wisconsin, #15 Nebraska
5. Big 12
Key Wins: 2 Baylor, West Virginia
Good Day: 3 TCU, Kansas State, Iowa State
Key Losses: 1 Oklahoma State
Baylor defeated Oklahoma State in the only conference game of the weekend. West Virginia earned an impressive 35-32 win over BYU in Morgantown. The Bears and Mountaineers are the lone undefeated teams in the Big 12 heading into October. With league play starting this coming weekend, the Big 12 has a very slim chance of producing a playoff team this fall.
TCU showed how dangerous its offense can be in a 33-3 rout of SMU. Kansas State pitched a shutout against Missouri State. Iowa State showed a pulse and grabbed its first win of the season in cruising past San Jose State 44-10.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 0 none
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 3 Notre Dame, BYU, Army
Notre Dame performed poorly on defense, again. The Fighting Irish surrendered 498 yards of total offense to Duke, as the Blue Devils stunned the nation by winning 38-35 in South Bend. I was in the stands at historic Notre Dame Stadium to witness Duke’s first win over the Irish in 6 decades. Notre Dame could not defend the rush or the pass, nor could they tackle Duke ball carriers. I was shocked that Notre Dame could not execute a fundamental part of the game like tackling, even though their defense struggled with that issue in previous losses to Texas and Michigan State. Unless the defense improves quickly, it could be a very frustrating year for Irish fans.
BYU was in another tight game but came up on the losing side of the ledger for the third time in four games. The Cougars fell 35-32 at West Virginia. Army suffered its first loss of the season by blowing a 20-6 lead late in the game. The Black Knights allowed Buffalo to come back for a 23-20 win in overtime.
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 4, 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 4 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss