The Report Card : Week 6 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 will not be ranked with the conferences. Below are the criteria and his rankings for week 6.
Report Card Criteria:
Key Win: Regardless of the score or whether a team is ranked or unranked, a win over a Power 5 team is a key win.
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 6 Power 5 Conference Rankings
Key Wins: 5 Alabama, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, South Carolina
Alabama dominated Arkansas from start to finish in Fayetteville. The Crimson Tide physically whipped the Razorbacks in each phase of the game en route to a 49-30 victory. Alabama looks to be on its way to another SEC championship and college football playoff appearance.
Texas A&M took down overrated, under-coached Tennessee in College Station, although the Aggies blew a 21-point lead and needed 2 overtime periods to secure the win. It seems odd that the Aggies forced 7 turnovers but barely managed to win the game. Tennessee has fumbled the ball 21 times in 6 games, but they have lost only 8 of those fumbles. The Volunteers rank #97 in the nation in turnover margin. It is shocking that this team is ranked in the top 20, lacks discipline, struggles with fundamentals, and has won 5 games. Aside from luck, the Vols should be 1-5 right now. Alabama will make them pay for every mistake this coming Saturday.
Auburn seems to have found some life on offense. The Tigers roared past Mississippi State 38-14 in Starkville. Kentucky improved its record to 3-3 by beating Vanderbilt 20-13 in Lexington. Georgia doubled up South Carolina in Columbia to reach 4-2 on the season. LSU and Florida were slated to play in Gainesville, but Hurricane Matthew caused the game to be postponed.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Alabama, #6 Texas A&M
2. Big Ten
Key Wins: 5 Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue, Penn State, Iowa
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Indiana, Rutgers, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan State
Ohio State was challenged by Indiana at the Horseshoe, but the Buckeyes won 38-17 behind the running of J.T. Barrett and a stout defense. Former Ole Miss coach Tom Allen got a great effort from his Hoosier defense, limiting the Buckeyes to 93 passing yards on the day. However, Ohio State’s defense was even better in holding IU to 281 total yards.
Michigan put on a clinic in crushing Rutgers 78-0 in Piscataway. The Wolverines scored 9 rushing touchdowns, but the more incredible stat is that the defense held Rutgers to 2 first downs and 39 yards of total offense for the game. It is clear at the halfway point of the season that both Michigan and Ohio State are good enough to win the national title.
Purdue notched its first road win since 2014 by beating Illinois in overtime in Champaign. Penn State rolled past Maryland 38-14, while Iowa slugged its way past Minnesota 14-7 in a defensive battle. Michigan State surprisingly lost its third straight game, falling at home 31-14 to BYU. The Spartans have struggled to replace the talented senior class from last year and are in a major rebuilding mode at this point.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Ohio State, #4 Michigan, #10 Nebraska
Key Wins: 7 Florida State, Clemson, Pitt, Virginia Tech, NC State, Wake Forest, Duke
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Miami, Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Syracuse
Florida State salvaged its season by taking down rival Miami 20-19 on the road courtesy of a blocked PAT late in the game. The Seminoles still have the talent to win 9 or 10 games and to reach a New Year’s Six bowl. Clemson seems to have found its stride in recent weeks, as the Tigers moved to 6-0 by belting Boston College 56-10 in Chestnut Hill. Deshaun Watson is playing like a Heisman Trophy candidate, and the defense is among the best in the country.
Virginia Tech upset North Carolina in a downpour in Chapel Hill. The Hokies are 4-1 and leading the Coastal Division standings. Wake Forest beat Syracuse 28-9 to get to 5-1 on the year and to move within a game of becoming bowl eligible. The Demon Deacons and Hokies have been ACC surprise stories in the first half of the season.
Pitt used a late field goal to edge Georgia Tech 37-34. In non-league contests played in heavy rain, Duke defeated Army 13-6 in Durham, while NC State sloshed its way by Notre Dame 10-3 in Raleigh.
In the playoff conversation: #3 Clemson, #7 Louisville
Key Wins: 6 Washington, USC, Oregon State, Utah, Washington State, Arizona State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Oregon, Colorado, Cal, Arizona, Stanford, UCLA
Washington put a 70-21 beatdown on rival Oregon to end a 12-year drought against the Ducks. Oregon is a disappointing 2-4 thanks largely to a defense than ranks #126 in total defense. As for the Huskies, they are clearly in the driver’s seat to win the PAC-12. Can the Huskies run the table and reach the college football playoff in spite of a horrible non-conference schedule? Washington likely needs to be undefeated to earn a playoff spot, as Louisville and Michigan both may be 11-1 at season’s end. Road games against Utah, Cal, and Washington State will be quite a challenge for the Huskies.
Washington State ran away from Stanford in Palo Alto, ending any chance for the Cardinal to repeat as PAC-12 champs. The Cougars are capable of competing with Washington for the North Division crown. USC handed Colorado its first league loss at the Coliseum, while Oregon State got its first conference win by tripping up Cal in Corvallis.
Utah moved to 5-1 by beating Arizona. The Utes look like the best team in the South Division and a squad that can knock off Washington later in the season. Arizona State is a surprising 5-1 team after beating UCLA 23-20. The Sun Devils are the biggest threat to Utah in the South Division and host the Utes in November.
In the playoff conversation: #5 Washington
5. Big 12
Key Wins: 4 Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 4 Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech, Iowa State
Baylor and West Virginia remain undefeated, as both had a bye week. Neither team has played much competition to this point in the season, and the eye test says that Oklahoma looks like the team to beat in the Big 12 race. The Sooners have a pair of non-conference losses, but OU sits at 2-0 in league action after besting Texas 45-40 at the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns surrendered 672 yards of total offense to the Sooners, despite Charlie Strong taking over the defense last week. Strong’s hot seat has reached a boiling point after 3 straight losses and a defense that ranks #115 in the country.
Kansas State got past Texas Tech 44-38 in Manhattan. TCU had to rally late to slip by Kansas 24-23 in Lawrence. The Jayhawks missed a field goal as time expired that would have given Kansas just its second win of the year. Likewise, Iowa State blew a 10-point lead in falling 38-31 at Oklahoma State. Both the Cyclones and Jayhawks have 1 win currently, and the best chance for either team to get that second victory is when they face each other in Lawrence in November.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 1 BYU
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 2 Notre Dame, Army
Notre Dame added to its season of misery by losing 10-3 at North Carolina State. The Fighting Irish are a dismal 2-4 at the midway point of the season. Notre Dame needs to win 4 of its final 6 games just to qualify for a bowl game. This is not the season that Irish fans envisioned back in August when Notre Dame was a favorite choice to reach the college football playoff.
BYU scored a big victory in East Lansing on Saturday. The Cougars throttled Michigan State 31-14 to move to 3-3 on the season. BYU greatly increased its bowl hopes by upsetting the Spartans. Meanwhile, Army suffered its second straight loss on the road at Duke. The Black Knights were held to just 165 yards on the ground and lost 3 turnovers in the 13-6 defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils.
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 6, 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…..
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 6 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
- Florida State
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!