The Report Card: Week Nine 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 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 in the Committee’s rankings 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).
Click here for the Committee’s most recent rankings.
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 his ranking of the best teams in the country. The Independent schools have a section but are not ranked with the conferences.
Below are the criteria and his rankings for Week 9 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 9 Power 5 Conference Rankings
Key Wins: 6 Clemson, Virginia Tech, Pitt, Boston College, Miami, Wake Forest
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 NC State, Florida State, Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Duke
Clemson used its bye week to get QB Kelly Bryant healthy, and it showed in the Tigers’ 24-10 victory over Georgia Tech in Death Valley. Bryant passed for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for 67 yards to pace the Tigers. Clemson (7-1) got a tremendous effort from its defense, which limited the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack to 198 rushing yards! The Tigers travel to Raleigh to face #20 NC State this Saturday in a game that should decide the Atlantic Division champion. The Wolfpack (6-2) had a six-game winning streak snapped in a 35-14 loss to Notre Dame in South Bend. NC State was limited to 263 yards of total offense, and the defense struggled against Notre Dame’s running attack.
Virginia Tech cruised past Duke 24-3 in rainy conditions in Blacksburg. The Hokies (7-1) relied on a fierce defense that forced 2 turnovers and held the Blue Devils to 183 yards of total offense. VT goes on the road to battle #9 Miami on Saturday night. The Hurricanes improved to 7-0 by sneaking past North Carolina 24-19 in Chapel Hill. Miami continues to play underwhelming football against a weak schedule that has included zero ranked opponents, but they find a way to win games. Much more will be known about the Hurricanes when they host both Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in the next two weeks.
Boston College blew out Florida State behind the running of A. J. Dillon, who rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown in a decisive 35-3 win in Chesnut Hill. The Eagles (5-4) won their third straight contest, while the Seminoles fell to 2-5 on the year and are in jeopardy of missing out on a bowl game. The most staggering fact from this matchup is that FSU played 34 players who were four-star or five-star recruits, while the Eagles had just 2 such players in the game. The Seminoles are being outcoached and outplayed by opponents in a big way!
Wake Forest outscored Louisville 42-32 in Winston-Salem. WR Greg Dortch caught 10 passes for 167 yards and 4 TDs to lead the Demon Deacons (5-3), while Lamar Jackson tallied 491 yards of total offense and 4 scores in a losing effort. Pitt picked up its second straight win by downing Virginia 31-14 at home. Darrin Hall ran for 111 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers.
In the playoff conversation: Clemson
Key Wins: 5 Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Arkansas
Good Day: 1 Missouri
Key Losses: 5 Tennessee, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Florida, Texas A&M
Georgia put a 42-7 beatdown on Florida in Jacksonville that brought an official end to Jim McElwain’s tenure as Gators coach. Sony Michel rushed for 137 yards and 2 TDs for the Bulldogs (8-0), while the Gators continue to be a train wreck on offense despite top-ten recruiting classes. Readers of my column know that I called Jim McElwain a mistake-hire three years ago when I said Florida should have brought in Dan Mullen. I think the Gators will get it right this time and hire Dan Mullen.
On the subject of Mullen, Mississippi State scored an impressive 35-14 win over Texas A&M in College Station. The Bulldogs (6-2) got a big game from QB Nick Fitzgerald, who passed for 141 yards, ran for 105 yards, and totaled 3 touchdowns for the visitors. Kentucky notched a 29-26 win over Tennessee in Lexington. Benny Snell rushed for 180 yards and 3 scores for the Wildcats (6-2), while the Vols lost for the fourth straight time. Missouri routed UConn 52-12 in Storrs to earn its first road win.
Ole Miss got a nice performance from Jordan Ta’amu in his debut as the Rebels’ quarterback, but 3 costly turnovers led to 21 Arkansas points. Ole Miss never trailed until the final play of the game, when the Razorbacks kicked a field goal to steal a 38-37 win in Oxford. South Carolina won its third consecutive game by beating Vanderbilt 34-27 in Columbia. The Commodores have dropped five contests in a row, while the Gamecocks (6-2) sit in second place in the SEC East heading into a meeting with #2 Georgia this weekend in Athens.
In the playoff conversation: Alabama, Georgia
3. Big 12
Key Wins: 5 Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 5 West Virginia, Kansas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech
Iowa State knocked off a top-five team for the second time this season, as the Cyclones used a stout defense to take down previously unbeaten and fourth-ranked TCU 14-7 in Ames. The defense forced 3 turnovers to help push Iowa State (6-2) into a tie for first place in the Big 12 standings with heavyweights Oklahoma, TCU, and Oklahoma State. The Cyclones are 4-0 since former walk-on Kyle Kempt became the starting quarterback against Oklahoma and sit fourteenth in the national polls now.
Oklahoma recorded a 49-27 victory over Texas Tech in Norman. Baker Mayfield threw 4 TD passes and Rodney Anderson ran for 181 yards for the Sooners (7-1), as OU handed the Red Raiders their third loss in a row. Oklahoma State scored an impressive road win by dropping West Virginia 50-39 in Morgantown. WR James Washington caught 7 passes for 91 yards and 2 TDs to lead the Cowboys (7-1) to their fourth straight win.
Texas drubbed winless Baylor 38-7 in Waco. The Longhorns forced 3 turnovers and held the Bears to 249 yards of total offense. Texas (4-4) travels to Fort Worth to take on #10 TCU this Saturday. Meanwhile, Kansas State got past in-state rival Kansas 30-20 in Lawrence. The Wildcats (4-4) were paced by Alex Barnes, who ran for 128 yards and 2 scores.
In the playoff conversation: Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State
4. Big Ten
Key Wins: 7 Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern, Maryland
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 7 Indiana, Penn State, Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota, Rutgers
Ohio State seized control of the Big Ten East race by rallying past Penn State at The Horseshoe in Columbus. Quarterback J. T. Barrett connected on his final 16 passes of the game, as the Buckeyes erased an 18-point deficit to pull out a thrilling 39-38 victory. Barrett has to be considered a frontrunner for the Heisman after this showing, and he has 25 TD passes with just 1 interception on the season. Ohio State (7-1) let Saquon Barkley return the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but the Buckeyes held him to just 44 rushing yards on 21 carries the rest of the day. Penn State (7-1) is on the outside of the playoff race and needs help to sneak back into it.
Wisconsin is the only unbeaten team in the league after dispatching Illinois 24-10 in Champaign. The Badgers (8-0) were not very inspiring on offense, but the defense forced 3 turnovers to thwart any ideas the Fighting Illini had of pulling off an upset. Nebraska moved to 4-4 on the year by winning a 25-24 slugfest over Purdue in West Lafayette. Tanner Lee threw for 431 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Cornhuskers, while the Boilermakers lost their third straight contest.
Maryland used a couple of big special teams plays to rally past Indiana 42-39 in College Park. Ty Johnson rushed for 91 yards to lead the Terrapins. In Ann Arbor, freshman QB Brandon Peters finally got a chance to play and made the most of his opportunity in leading Michigan past Rutgers 35-14. Peters passed for 124 yards and a touchdown in his debut, as the Wolverines improved to 6-2.
Northwestern won its third straight game by outlasting #16 Michigan State 39-31 in triple overtime in Evanston. Clayton Thorson threw for 356 yards and 2 TDs to lead the Wildcats (5-3), while Brian Lewerke passed for 445 yards and 4 scores in a losing cause. Iowa scratched out a 17-10 victory over Minnesota in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes (5-3) limited the Golden Gophers to 281 yards of total offense.
In the playoff conversation: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Key Wins: 6 Arizona, Stanford, USC, Washington, Colorado, Oregon
Good Day: 0 none
Key Losses: 6 Utah, Cal, Washington State, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State
Surging Arizona won its fourth straight game by blasting #15 Washington State 58-37 in Tuscon. Since Khalil Tate took over quarterback duties, the Wildcats (6-2) are 4-0 and averaging 9.37 yards per play. Tate was electric against the Cougars, running for 158 yards and passing for 275 yards and accounting for 3 touchdowns. It is a mystery to me as to why Tate is not being mentioned as a Heisman favorite! Tate has half as many carries as Penn State’s Saquon Barkley ( 69 vs 138), yet he has more rushing yards ( 926 to 801) and a win over a ranked opponent. Tate will get a chance to become a household name when the Wildcats travel to take on #17 USC on Saturday night.
Speaking of the Trojans, USC hammered Arizona State 48-17 in Tempe behind the play of Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones. Darnold threw for 266 yards and 3 TDs, while Jones rushed for 216 yards and 2 scores. The winner of the USC-Arizona game this weekend will take sole possession of first place in the South Division.
Stanford played poorly for 59 minutes without an injured Bryce Love, but the Cardinal (6-2) scored in the final minute to pull out an ugly 15-14 win over Oregon State in Corvallis on Thursday night. Myles Gaskin rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown to lead Washington (7-1) past UCLA 44-23 in Seattle.
Oregon ended a three-game losing streak by topping Utah 41-20 in Eugene. Royce Freeman rushed for 139 yards for the Ducks (5-4), while Utah suffered its fourth straight defeat. Colorado got a much-needed win over Cal in Boulder to keep its bowl hopes alive. The Buffaloes (5-4) were led by RB Phillip Lindsay, who ran for 161 yards in the 44-28 victory.
In the playoff conversation: none
Key Wins: 1 Notre Dame
Good Day: 1 BYU
Key Losses: 0 none
Notre Dame boosted its resume with its second consecutive win over a team ranked in the top 15 at Notre Dame Stadium. The Fighting Irish relied on a powerful running game to wear down the Wolfpack, with Heisman hopeful Josh Adams torching NC State for 202 yards and a touchdown in the 35-14 victory. The defense limited the Wolfpack to 263 yards of total offense and scored a TD on a pick-six.
Notre Dame (7-1) has a top ten resume now, and the Irish face Wake Forest, #9 Miami, Navy, and #18 Stanford in November. I think Notre Dame will win out and crash the College Football Playoff, keeping out both the Big 12 and PAC-12. This team is as good as any team in the country! Josh Adams absolutely should be at the top of the Heisman Trophy list with Bryce Love, Khalil Tate, and J. T. Barrett.
Army (6-2) had the weekend off, while BYU (2-7) snapped a seven-game losing streak by thumping San Jose State 41-20 in Provo. Tanner Mangum passed for 283 yards and 3 touchdowns to pace 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- Ohio State (19.25)
2- Georgia (20) versus 3- Clemson (22.75)
On the outside…..
5-Notre Dame (18.5)
8-Oklahoma State (17)
9-Penn State (17)
10-Iowa State (20.5)
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
- Oklahoma State