The Report Card: Week Eight Analysis of the Power 5 Conferences
A Weekly Look at the Power 5 Conferences and Independents
On October 31, 2017, 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. During the initial 3 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 8 of the 2017 season.
Report Card Criteria:
Good Day: 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.
Week 8 Power 5 Conference Rankings
Key Wins: 4 Alabama, Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU
Good Day: 1 Missouri
Key Losses: 4 Kentucky, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas
Alabama added to the misery of Tennessee fans by throttling the Volunteers 45-7 in Tuscaloosa. The top-ranked Crimson Tide outgained the Vols 604-108, and Alabama (8-0) netted 35 first downs to just 7 for UT. The Crimson Tide have won 11 straight in this series! The Vols scored their first touchdown in 13 quarters, but Butch Jones appears to be on his way out of Knoxville after another bad showing.
LSU defeated Ole Miss for the second straight season, piling up 593 yards of total offense in a 40-24 victory in Oxford. Derrius Guice ran for 276 yards and Danny Etling threw for 200 yards and 2 scores to lead the Tigers (6-2), who have won 3 straight games. The Rebels’ night got worse with the news that QB Shea Patterson was lost for the season to a knee injury.
Mississippi State won its second consecutive game by blowing past Kentucky 45-7 in Starkville. Nick Fitzgerald accounted for 3 TDs for the Bulldogs (5-2), and the Wildcats (5-2) saw their two-game winning streak snapped. Missouri got a much-needed 68-21 victory over Idaho in a non-conference clash in Columbia. The Tigers ended a five-game skid behind the arm of Drew Lock, who passed for 467 yards and 6 TDs.
Auburn improved to 6-2 by pounding Arkansas 52-20 in Fayetteville. The Tigers produced 629 yards of total offense, and the defense forced 3 turnovers. The Razorbacks are winless in four SEC contests, and Bret Bielema is facing the heat from unhappy fans.
In the playoff conversation: Alabama, Georgia
2. Big 12
Key Wins: 5 Oklahoma, TCU, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Texas, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas, Baylor
TCU put its dominant defense on display during a 43-0 beatdown of Kansas in Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs (7-0) held the Jayhawks to 4 first downs and 21 yards of total offense. Kenny Hill passed for 278 yards and 5 touchdowns for the victors, who go on the road for a showdown at #25 Iowa State this weekend. The Cyclones (5-2) jumped into the rankings after earning a 31-13 victory at Texas Tech. The defense forced 3 turnovers, and quarterback Kyle Kempt tossed 3 TD passes to pace the Cyclones.
Tenth-ranked Oklahoma State kept its Big 12 title hopes alive by leaning on its defense during a 13-10 win over Texas in Austin. The Cowboys entered the game averaging 611 yards of offense per game, but the Longhorns limited OSU to 428 yards for the game. The Cowboys needed a Ramon Richards interception in overtime to snatch the victory and improve to 6-1 on the year. West Virginia had a 25-point lead going into the fourth quarter against Baylor, but the Bears (0-7) made a furious rally that came up short on a failed two-point conversion attempt with 17 seconds left in the game. The #23 Mountaineers (5-2) were led by QB Will Grier, who threw for 375 yards and 5 touchdowns. West Virginia hosts Oklahoma State this Saturday in a game that will eliminate one team from the conference championship race.
Oklahoma fell behind by two scores to Kansas State in the first half, but Baker Mayfield rallied the Sooners to a 42-35 victory in Manhattan. Mayfield passed for 410 yards and was responsible for 4 touchdowns, as OU (6-1) kept its Big 12 and playoff championship hopes alive for another week. Rodney Anderson scored the winning touchdown with 7 seconds to play.
In the playoff conversation: TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
3. Big Ten
Key Wins: 6 Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Northwestern, Minnesota
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, Iowa, Purdue, Illinois
Penn State finally earned a signature win by trampling #19 Michigan 42-13 in Happy Valley. The #2 Nittany Lions (7-0) tallied 506 yards of total offense against the nation’s top-rated defense. Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley each scored 3 touchdowns for Penn State. The Nittany Lions travel to Columbus this Saturday for a marquee matchup with Ohio State.
Michigan State never led Indiana until scoring twice in the final 6 minutes to secure a 17-9 victory in East Lansing. The Hoosiers stymied the Spartans’ offense all afternoon until Brian Lewerke tossed a TD pass to Felton Davis for the go-ahead score. Michigan State (6-1) was able to rally by limiting Indiana to a trio of field goals for the game. Northwestern outlasted Iowa 17-10 in overtime in Evanston. The Wildcats (4-3) have won 2 straight games, while the Hawkeyes have dropped 3 of their last 4 contests.
Wisconsin rolled past Maryland 38-13 at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers are 7-0 for just the third time since World War II. Freshman Jonathan Taylor rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown to pass the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Rutgers won its second straight game by downing Purdue 14-12 in Piscataway. The Boilermakers scored a touchdown in the final minute of play, but the Scarlet Knights stopped the two-point conversion try to escape with a win.
Minnesota grabbed its first conference win by besting Illinois 24-17 in Minneapolis. Kobe McCrary ran for 153 yards and a touchdown to help the Golden Gophers snap a three-game losing streak, while the Fighting Illini suffered a fifth consecutive defeat.
In the playoff conversation: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Key Wins: 6 Virginia Tech, Louisville, Pitt, Boston College, Miami, Georgia Tech
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Duke, Florida State, Virginia, Syracuse, North Carolina, Wake Forest
Miami survived a stiff test from Syracuse to move to 6-0 on the season. Malik Rosier passed for 344 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Hurricanes, and the defense intercepted 4 Orange passes in the 27-19 win. Despite being ranked eighth in the country, Miami does not look like a top ten team at all. They were fortunate to beat both Georgia Tech and Florida State with last-minute plays. More will be known about the Canes when they face Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in November. Speaking of the Hokies, VT drilled North Carolina 59-7 in Blacksburg. Josh Jackson threw 3 touchdown passes for the Hokies (6-1), but the defense ruled the day. Virginia Tech’s defense scored twice and limited the Tar Heels to 172 yards of total offense.
Louisville kept Florida State winless at home behind the running and passing of Lamar Jackson. The Heisman Trophy winner racked up 334 total yards and 2 TDs to lead the Cardinals (5-3) to their first win in Tallahassee since 1952. The Seminoles (2-4) travel to Boston College (4-4) this Friday night. The Eagles won their second straight road game by topping Virginia 41-10 in Charlottesville. Anthony Brown connected on 19 of 24 pass attempts for 275 yards and 3 scores for BC.
Pitt picked up its first ACC win by beating Duke 24-17 in Durham. Darrin Hall ran for 254 yards and 3 scores for the Panthers. Georgia Tech earned a 38-24 decision over Wake Forest in Atlanta. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall rushed for 163 yards and 2 TDS for the Yellow Jackets.
In the playoff conversation: Clemson
Key Wins: 4 Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona, Washington State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 Utah, Oregon, USC, Cal, Colorado
Arizona State won for the second straight week as a significant underdog, as the Sun Devils whipped Utah 30-10 in Salt Lake City. ASU raced out to a 16-0 halftime lead and was never threatened by the Utes. The Sun Devils intercepted Utah QB Tyler Huntley 4 times en route to the surprisingly easy victory. Arizona State hosts USC this weekend in a key South Division game. Speaking of the Trojans, USC was pounded by Notre Dame 49-14 in South Bend. USC struggled at the line of scrimmage, as the Fighting Irish outgained the Trojans 377-76 on the ground. USC (6-2) still has aspirations of winning a PAC-12 title, but the College Football Playoff is now out of reach.
Arizona won its third straight game by outlasting Cal 45-44 in double overtime in Berkeley. The Wildcats (5-2) foiled a two-point conversion attempt by the Golden Bears to claim the victory. QB Khalil Tate was responsible for 3 TDs and over 300 yards of total offense. The Wildcats play host to #15 Washington State this Saturday night. The Cougars (7-1) rebounded from their first loss by shutting out Colorado 28-0 in Pullman. Washington State’s defense bottled up the Buffaloes and allowed just 174 yards for the game.
UCLA downed Oregon 31-14 at the Rose Bowl. Josh Rosen threw for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, as the Bruins improved to 4-3 on the year. Oregon has lost 3 straight games since the loss of QB Justin Herbert to an injury.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 1 Army
Key Losses: 1 BYU
Notre Dame destroyed USC 49-14 at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night in a playoff elimination game. The Fighting Irish dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and finished with more rushing yards (377) than the Trojans’ total yards of offense (336).
The physical Notre Dame defense held USC to just 76 rushing yards in the game. The Fighting Irish scored 21 points off of Trojan turnovers and continue to be one of the most opportunistic teams in the country. Tailback Josh Adams rushed for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns to pace Notre Dame. Adams (967 yards, 8 TD) should be in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
This was a signature win for Notre Dame on a big stage! I stated in the preseason that the Irish were the under-the-radar team that could crash the College Football Playoff. If Notre Dame (6-1) can run the table, they will be a playoff team! The upcoming schedule includes ranked opponents in NC State, Miami, and Stanford. In my opinion, the season finale at Stanford is the biggest hurdle for the Fighting Irish.
Army became bowl eligible by nipping Temple at Michie Stadium. The Black Knights (6-2) beat the Owls 31-28 in overtime when Temple missed a field goal, and this came after Army forced overtime with a touchdown pass on the final play of regulation. Darnell Woolfolk rushed for 132 yards and 3 touchdowns to pace the Black Knights, who accepted a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl after the game.
BYU fell to a dismal 1-7 with a 33-17 loss at East Carolina. The Cougars have lost 7 straight games for the first time in 49 years and will not make a bowl game this year. Tanner Mangum passed for 319 yards and 2 scores to lead the Cougars.
In the playoff conversation: Notre Dame
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. 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.
Based on week 8, if the College Football Playoff was today, the Selection Committee might pick…..
1- Alabama (22.5) versus 4- Clemson (20.75)
2- TCU (19.5) versus 3- Georgia (17.5)
On the outside…..
5-Penn State (17)
6-Michigan State (16.5)
9-NC State (15.5)
10-Washington State (15.5)
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 or resume. 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 via the eye test.
After week 8, the Top Ten Teams are…..
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Penn State