The Report Card: Week 9 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 presented 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 9.
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 9 Power 5 Conference Rankings
1. Big Ten
Key Wins: 6 Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota, Indiana
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, Maryland
Wisconsin notched its third win over a team ranked in the top eight by taking down Nebraska in overtime in Madison on Saturday night. The Badgers have faced a difficult schedule and are the best two-loss team in the country.
Ohio State was tested by a resurgent Northwestern team at the Horseshoe but prevailed 24-20. Michigan defeated rival Michigan State for just the second time in the past nine meetings. Penn State continued its climb towards relevancy by blowing out Purdue on the road.
Indiana improved to 4-4 by besting Maryland in Bloomington. The Hoosiers rushed for 414 yards against the Terrapins. Minnesota used a strong rushing attack and stout defense to top Illinois in Champaign. At 6-2, the Golden Gophers are a surprise in the Big Ten West.
In the playoff conversation: #3 Michigan, #6 Ohio State, #8 Wisconsin
Key Wins: 4 Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky
Good Day: 2 Texas A&M, Mississippi State
Key Losses: 4 Ole Miss, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri
Auburn ran for 307 yards in beating Ole Miss in Oxford. Few expected the Tigers to be 6-2 and in the thick of the SEC West race heading into November. Both Texas A&M and Mississippi State picked up non-conference wins ahead of their meeting in Starkville this coming Saturday.
In the SEC East, Florida used its top-notch defense to cruise past Georgia and maintain the division lead. Kentucky defeated Missouri and sits just a game behind the Gators in the East. As weak as the SEC East has been for years, it is still a shock to see the Wildcats in second place going into November.
Finally, South Carolina upset Tennessee to hand the Vols a third consecutive loss. The wheels are coming off the bus in Knoxville, and it is hard to imagine Butch Jones keeping his job beyond this season. The Volunteers were highly ranked to start the season, but 4 straight top ten recruiting classes have yielded few results on the field. With loads of talent in Knoxville, there is an obvious lack of coaching and development of those athletes.
In the playoff conversation: #1 Alabama, #4 Texas A&M
Key Wins: 5 USC, Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Washington State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Cal, Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon State
USC continued its mid-season resurgence by blasting California. With Christian McCaffrey back in the lineup, Stanford got back on track and took down Arizona in Tuscon. Oregon gave up a ton of points, once again, but the Ducks offense was sensational in a victory over Arizona State.
Washington moved to 8-0 by passing its first real test of the season. The Huskies used a late punt return touchdown to slide past #17 Utah in Salt Lake City 31-24. Washington will be a playoff team if they win out, though they have tricky road trips to Berkeley and Pullman on the horizon.
Washington State escaped with a narrow win over Oregon State. The Cougars are unbeaten in PAC-12 play and a serious challenger to rival Washington for the North Division crown.
In the playoff conversation: #5 Washington
Key Wins: 5 Virginia Tech, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Boston College
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 Pitt, Virginia, Duke, Florida State, NC State, Miami, Wake Forest
Clemson scored an enormous win in Tallahassee over Florida State. The Tigers rallied to win in the fourth quarter in what was the toughest remaining game on its schedule. Clemson will be a big favorite in each of its November games and has a clear path back to the College Football Playoff.
Louisville needed a touchdown in the final seconds to rally past Virginia in Charlottesville. The Cardinals need chaos in other conferences to have any shot at a playoff spot. Virginia Tech beat Pitt to maintain its lead in the Coastal Division race.
Georgia Tech edged Duke for its fifth win of the season. Boston College got a surprising road victory over NC State. Miami lost its fourth straight game by blowing a 20-point lead in falling to Notre Dame in South Bend. Finally, Army downed Wake Forest in Winston-Salem to keep the Demon Deacons from becoming bowl eligible.
In the playoff conversation: #2 Clemson, #7 Louisville
5. Big 12
Key Wins: 5 Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Kansas, TCU, West Virginia, Iowa State, Baylor
Continuing a season-long theme, the Big 12 had a really bad weekend when both of its undefeated teams went down in flames. West Virginia suffered its first loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The Mountaineers turned the ball over 3 times in the 37-20 defeat. Meanwhile, Baylor ran 96 plays and put up 624 yards of total offense against Texas. Yet, the Bears somehow lost to the underachieving Longhorns 35-34 in Austin, ensuring Charlie Strong of another week of employment on The Forty Acres.
Oklahoma continues to prove it is the best team in the worst conference in America. The Sooners crushed Kansas to move to 5-0 in league play. Kansas State defeated Iowa State, while Texas Tech shocked TCU in double overtime in Forth Worth.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 2 Army, Notre Dame
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 0 none
Notre Dame kept its bowl hopes alive by winning a wild game over Miami in South Bend. The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 20-0 lead, only to see Miami rally for 27 unanswered points. Notre Dame then scored 10 points in the final minutes to secure a 30-27 win. With a record of 3-5, the Fighting Irish still have a shot at becoming bowl eligible.
Army picked up a surprise win on the road against an ACC opponent. The Black Knights racked up 238 rushing yards in defeating Wake Forest 21-13. Army stands one win away from reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2010 and for just the sixth time in school history.
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 9, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1- Alabama (SEC) versus 4- Washington (PAC-12)
2- Clemson (ACC) versus 3- Michigan (Big Ten)
On the outside…..
With the release of the first set of rankings on Tuesday night, here are my observations. I am puzzled by the Selection Committee (SC) placing Texas A&M ahead of Washington. The resume, statistics, and eye test point to the Huskies being the better team. Teams ranked too high by the SC include Auburn (9), Florida (11), Penn State (12), LSU (13), and Colorado (15). Teams ranked too low by the SC include Utah (16), North Carolina (21), Oklahoma (14), Oklahoma State (18), and West Virginia (20). The Big Ten, SEC, and ACC are the top 3 conferences, in that order. There is a large gap between those leagues and the PAC-12 and Big 12, in my view. Yet, the SC seems to be putting the PAC-12 and Big 12 closer to the ACC than they should be this year.
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 9 weeks of action, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Texas A&M
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!