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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 will not be ranked with the conferences. Below are the criteria and his rankings for week 5 of the 2016 season.
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.
Key Wins: 5 Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, Florida
Good Day: 3 Ole Miss, Auburn, Arkansas
Key Losses: 5 South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt
Tennessee beat Georgia in a wild finish at Sanford Stadium over the weekend. The Volunteers have a bad habit of falling behind early and rallying late in games, but that likely will doom them in upcoming contests against Texas A&M and Alabama.
Speaking of the Aggies, they earned a hard-fought victory over South Carolina in Columbia. Alabama took some time to get going on offense at home against Kentucky, but the Crimson Tide relied on a stout defense to secure a 34-6 win over the Wildcats. Alabama has to fix the inconsistency on offense to compete with the elite teams later on this year.
Ole Miss used an impressive running attack to compliment the always-strong aerial game in blazing past unbeaten Memphis 48-28. In spite of two quality losses, the Rebels look like a much better team than several squads ranked ahead of them, such as Tennessee.
LSU got a much-needed win in Ed Orgeron’s debut as head coach by whipping Missouri in Baton Rouge. Florida struggled to score points, but the fierce Gators defense dominated Vanderbilt in a 13-6 victory. Both Arkansas and Auburn cruised to huge wins over lesser opponents.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Alabama, #8 Texas A&M
Key Wins: 5 Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, NC State, Miami
Good Day: 2 Pitt, Boston College
Key Losses: 6 Louisville, Florida State, Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Syracuse
Clemson rallied late to topple Louisville in the marquee game around the country on Saturday night. Lamar Jackson was sensational for the Cardinals, but Deshaun Watson made key plays down the stretch as the Tigers prevailed 42-36 in Death Valley.
North Carolina pulled a shocker in Tallahassee, beating Florida State with a field goal as time expired. A preseason favorite to win the ACC and the national championship, the Seminoles now find themselves hoping to salvage the season and to spoil the title dreams of Miami or Clemson.
Virginia forced 6 turnovers and surprised Duke 34-20 in Durham. North Carolina State doubled up Wake Forest, while Miami picked up a 35-21 road win over Georgia Tech. Pitt and Boston College each won easily in non-league action. Syracuse was unable to stop Notre Dame’s offense in a 50-33 defeat.
In the playoff conversation: #3 Clemson, #7 Louisville
Key Wins: 7 Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State, Northwestern, Maryland, Penn State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 Wisconsin, Michigan State, Illinois, Rutgers, Iowa, Purdue, Minnesota
Michigan used a gritty defensive performance to knock off Wisconsin in a battle of undefeated teams at the Big House in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are a Top 5 team but need to be able to run the ball better to challenge Ohio State in November.
The Buckeyes hung 58 points on Rutgers in shutting out the Scarlet Knights in Columbus. Ohio State is the best team in the country right now, with a Heisman-worthy quarterback, an electric offense, and the best defense in the land. The Buckeyes defense has scored more points than they have allowed opponents to score through 4 contests.
Indiana pulled off the biggest upset of the weekend in knocking off #17 Michigan State in overtime. I was in attendance at this game to see former Ole Miss coach and current IU defensive coordinator Tom Allen push his unit to limit the Spartans to a mere 21 points.
Nebraska continues to rise in the West Division by beating Illinois to reach 5-0 on the season. Maryland routed Purdue, while Penn State needed overtime at home to defeat Minnesota. Finally, Northwestern clawed its way past Iowa 38-31 at Kinnick Stadium.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Ohio State, #4 Michigan, #12 Nebraska
Key Wins: 6 Washington, Cal, UCLA, Colorado, USC, Washington State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Stanford, Utah, Arizona, Oregon State, Arizona State, Oregon
Washington stamped itself as a legitimate playoff contender by routing Stanford in Seattle on Friday night. The Huskies were dominant in becoming the favorite to win the PAC-12 title. Utah suffered its first loss at California. The Utes still appear to be the best team in the South Division, but the offense must improve if they are to challenge UCLA for that crown.
UCLA rolled past Arizona at the Rose Bowl, while USC got a desperately-needed victory over Arizona State. Colorado crushed Oregon State to move to 4-1 on the season. The #21 Buffaloes are a major surprise out West. They get a chance to record their first-ever win over USC this Saturday at the Coliseum.
Oregon is in serious decline, as the defense surrendered 51 points in a blowout loss at Washington State. Just 2 years removed from playing for the national championship, the Ducks are 2-3 and fighting just to become bowl eligible.
In the playoff conversation: #5 Washington, #15 Stanford
Key Wins: 5 Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, TCU, Kansas
Baylor stayed undefeated by nipping Iowa State with a late field goal in Ames. The Bears trailed by two touchdowns entering the fourth quarter but reeled off 17 unanswered points to pull out a win. Considering that the Cyclones are 1-4, this was a poor outing by Baylor. The Bears may be 5-0, but they do not look as good as Oklahoma, TCU, or Oklahoma State in the conference.
West Virginia rallied in the second half to edge Kansas State 17-16 in Morgantown. Texas Tech blasted Kansas 55-19, while Oklahoma and TCU left their defenses at home in a 52-46 Sooners’ victory in Fort Worth. Despite two losses, Oklahoma remains the favorite to take home the Big 12 title, especially if they defeat Texas in Dallas this coming Saturday.
The Longhorns had another terrible showing on defense, as Oklahoma State ran away from Texas 49-31 in Stillwater. After consecutive losses in which the Longhorns have given up 99 points, Charlie Strong demoted his defensive coordinator and will run the defense for the rest of the season. With the power players at Texas demanding his job, Strong is on the hottest seat in America, prompting the university president to publicly support him this week. If Oklahoma beats Texas on Saturday, the wheels may come off the bus completely in Austin.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 1 BYU
Key Losses: 0 none
Notre Dame got back on the winning track by taking down Syracuse. The defense did not look sharp in allowing the Orange to put 33 points on the scoreboard, but DeShone Kizer passed for 471 yards and 3 touchdowns in the 50-33 victory. The Fighting Irish may have to rely on the offense scoring a ton of points to keep winning.
BYU picked up a 55-53 win over Toledo on Friday night in Provo. After quality losses to UCLA, Utah, and West Virginia, the Cougars really needed this one to keep alive their bowl hopes. BYU faces Michigan State, Mississippi State, Boise State, and Cincinnati in its next 4 games.
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 5, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1- Alabama (SEC) versus 4- Washington (PAC-12)
2- Ohio State (Big Ten) versus 3- Clemson (ACC)
On the outside…..
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 5 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
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!