The Report Card: Week 11 Analysis of the Power 5 Conferences
A Weekly Look at the Power 5 Conferences and Independents
On November 15, 2016 the College Football Playoff Selection Committee presented its third set of 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 11.
Report Card Criteria:
Good Day: Regardless of the score, a win over a non-Power 5 school is a good day.
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.
Week 11 Power 5 Conference Rankings
1. Big 12
Key Wins: 4 Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 4 Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech
Oklahoma spanked Baylor 45-24 in Norman to remain the Big 12 leader at 7-0 in the conference. The Sooners have won 7 straight games, while the reeling Bears have dropped 3 games in a row. In a battle of one-win squads in Lawrence, it was Iowa State emerging with a 31-24 decision over the host Kansas Jayhawks.
West Virginia moved to 8-1 with a 24-20 win over Texas in Austin. The Mountaineers host Oklahoma next weekend with a shot to take the lead in the Big 12 race with a victory. Oklahoma State remains in the mix for the league title after surviving an upset bid from Texas Tech in Stillwater. The Cowboys won 45-44 after the Red Raiders missed a PAT with under 2 minutes left in the game.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 6 USC, Stanford, Washington State, Colorado, UCLA, Utah
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Washington, Oregon, Cal, Arizona, Oregon State, Arizona State
USC dominated #4 Washington in Seattle to knock the Huskies from the ranks of the unbeaten teams. The Trojans won their sixth straight game while putting a serious dent in the PAC-12’s playoff hopes. Washington State rolled by Cal to take the lead in the North Division. With Washington’s loss, the Cougars are the only PAC-12 team without a league defeat.
Stanford torched Oregon for 52 points to move to 7-3 on the year. The Cardinal are playing as well as anyone in the conference and can only wonder what might have been if Christian McCaffrey had not missed several games in October. Utah picked up an impressive 49-26 win in Tempe over Arizona State. The 8-2 Utes can win the South Division by winning out.
Colorado blew by Arizona 49-24 in Tuscon to maintain the lead in the South Division. The Buffaloes face both Washington State and Utah to finish the season. Finally, UCLA picked up a much-needed victory over Oregon State at the Rose Bowl.
In the playoff conversation: #6 Washington
3. Big Ten
Key Wins: 7 Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan State, Nebraska
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Rutgers, Minnesota
Iowa pulled off a shocker at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday night by downing #2 Michigan with a field goal as time expired. The Hawkeyes smothered the Wolverines’ running game in claiming victory. Ohio State routed Maryland 62-3 to join Michigan atop the East Division standings at 6-1 in Big Ten play. Penn State escaped an upset bid from Indiana in Bloomington to join the Buckeyes and Wolverines in a three-way tie for first place in the East.
Wisconsin mauled Illinois 48-3 in Madison to stay on top of the West Division leaderboard. Northwestern put a 45-17 beatdown on Purdue, while Nebraska used a late touchdown to sneak by Minnesota 24-17 in Lincoln. Finally, Michigan State trounced Rutgers 49-0 in East Lansing in a game matching teams who entered the game winless in the conference.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Ohio State, #3 Michigan, #7 Wisconsin, #8 Penn State
Key Wins: 7 Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, Auburn, Vanderbilt
Alabama battered Mississippi State 51-3 in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide emerged from Upset Saturday as clearly the best team in the country. Ole Miss confirmed my belief that Texas A&M was not a top ten team by reeling off 23 fourth-quarter points to steal a win in College Station. Rebel fans got a glimpse of the future with the sensational debut of freshman quarterback Shea Patterson, who played with a veteran’s poise during the thrilling fourth-quarter comeback.
LSU blasted Arkansas in Fayetteville. The Tigers outgained the Hogs 390-81 in rushing yards to grab an easy 38-10 win. Georgia proved that Auburn was very overrated by holding the Tigers to a mere 164 yards of total offense in a 13-7 victory. The Bulldogs won this contest without scoring an offensive touchdown.
In the dumpster fire that is the SEC East, Florida won a sloppy, turnover-filled contest with South Carolina in Gainesville to maintain its lead in the division. Both Tennessee and Kentucky were awful on defense in the Volunteers’ 49-36 win in Knoxville. The teams combined for 5 turnovers and 1234 yards of total offense. Lastly, Missouri scored its first league win over Vanderbilt.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Alabama
Key Wins: 7 Duke, Louisville, Pitt, NC State, Florida State, Miami, Georgia Tech
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 North Carolina, Wake Forest, Clemson, Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Pitt started the trend of upsets on Saturday by knocking off Clemson. The Panthers kicked a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to stun the Tigers in Death Valley. Duke pulled off an improbable upset of #17 North Carolina in Durham. The Blue Devils are a mere 4-6 but own bragging rights over their archrivals for the next 365 days.
Florida State bounced Boston College 45-7 in Tallahassee. The 7-3 Seminoles remain in the hunt for a major bowl bid. Louisville seemed to be sleepwalking for until the fourth quarter against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons held a 12-10 lead with 11 minutes to go, but the Cardinals finished with a flurry by scoring 34 unanswered points. The final score of 44-12 does not indicate how much Louisville struggled with the Demon Deacons. I was in the stands watching as Wake Forest kept Heisman frontrunner Lamar Jackson in check until the final stanza.
Georgia Tech went into Blacksburg and upset #14 Virginia Tech 30-20. The Yellow Jackets created 4 takeaways in securing a sixth win and bowl eligibility. North Carolina State moved to within a win of becoming bowl eligible by defeating Syracuse 35-20 at the Carrier Dome. Miami earned its sixth win by taking down Virginia 34-14 in Charlottesville.
In the playoff conversation: #4 Clemson, #5 Louisville
Key Wins: 2 BYU, Notre Dame
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 1 Army
Notre Dame picked up its fourth win of the season to keep its fragile bowl hopes alive for another week. The Fighting Irish cruised past Army 44-6 by limiting the Black Knights to 10 first-downs and 242 yards of total offense. Notre Dame needs to beat Virginia Tech and USC to reach bowl eligibility, while Army can clinch a bowl berth by defeating Morgan State at home next weekend.
BYU earned its sixth win and secured a bowl bid by drubbing Southern Utah 37-7 in Provo. The Cougars have accepted an invitation to play in the Poinsettia Bowl.
In the playoff conversation: none
This section is our guess at which teams the Selection Committee (SC) 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 rewarded with playoff spots based on the SC’s criteria.
Based on week 11, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1- Alabama (SEC) versus 4- Michigan (Big Ten)
2- Ohio State (Big Ten) versus 3- Clemson (ACC)
On the outside…..
The Selection Committee has the 8 teams with the best chance of making the playoff in the top 8 places. Although I would put Wisconsin ahead of Washington, the SC has set the stage for the most deserving teams to play their way into the final four.
I do not see a team outside of the top 8 with a shot at making the playoff. There is no playoff path for these teams unless upsets occur in the next 2 weeks. If things play out as I expect, it is reasonable to see a playoff featuring Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Wisconsin. I feel this is the year where a non-league champ (Ohio State) and a two-loss champ (Wisconsin) make the field. Obviously, I foresee the Big Ten being the first conference to get 2 teams into the playoff. As well, I predict that a pair of power 5 leagues will be left out, with both the Big 12 and PAC-12 sitting on the sidelines, due to my belief that Washington will lose again.
Of course, upsets in the next few of weeks can change everything, as we just witnessed this past Saturday. Penn State could beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and earn the fourth playoff spot, but I give the edge to the Badgers. Louisville is the team who needs an upset or two to work its way into the field. The Cardinals lack the resume but pass the eye test as a top 4 team.
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 11 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Penn 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!