College Football Conference Power Rankings for Week 12 of the 2016 season. Each of the top four leagues suffered a crushing defeat by one of its premier programs this past weekend.
Which Power Five conference sports the best collection of programs in the country, and which are lagging behind? It’s a fluid, though slightly more viscous, process as the month of November enters its third weekend, especially following one of the wildest Saturdays in recent history.
Sizing up the league pecking order is bigger than the trifle of regional bragging rights. It’ll directly impact the selections and rankings of the College Football Playoff committee, which will be tasked with deciding which league champion—or two—winds up on the outside looking in when the four berths are released in early December.
Week 12 College Football Conference Power Rankings
5. Big 12
Good news? The Big 12’s top three remaining teams, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, all won, setting the stage for an interesting race to the title. The bad? There’s not much redeeming value in the league’s other seven teams.
Could the Big 12 climb back into the playoff discussion? Anything is possible if top 10 teams keep falling the way they did in Week 11. The trouble with the Big 12 this year is that it lost its middle class, with Baylor and TCU failing to fulfill expectations and Texas sitting at 5-5 after Saturday’s home loss to West Virginia.
Washington cracked the top 4 last Tuesday. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived stay.
For much of the year, the Pac-12 had hung its hat on the Huskies, which was outclassed by USC in Seattle on Saturday. Now what? Well, U-Dub will still be the league’s highest ranked team since everyone else has suffered at least two losses, some of which could stunt upward mobility. Still, the conference is trending in the right direction, thanks to the resurgence of both traditional powers, such as Troy and Stanford, and relative newcomers, like Wazzu and Colorado. The Pac-12’s best non-conference win of the year? Probably looking at Cal over .500 Texas on Sept. 17.
Week 11 is not one that the Atlantic Coast Conference will remember fondly when the autopsy is done on the 2016 season.
The ACC’s top representative, Clemson, lost at home to Pitt. And Louisville almost followed the same script a few hours later versus Wake Forest before taking off down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Coastal Division was busy impersonating the SEC East, as frontrunners Virginia Tech and North Carolina lost to Georgia Tech and Duke, respectively. Sometimes parity can be a good thing for a league. In the case of the ACC, which needs strength at the top to bolster its national identity, this past weekend was a step in the wrong direction.
The SEC is eating its own, a perennial occurrence in a league littered with depth and talent, particularly in the West half.
Bama is in a class of its own. The battle to determine the league’s No. 2 team, and ultimately a New Year’s Six bowl berth, will be a very compelling one. LSU remained in the hunt by throttling Arkansas, while Auburn lost momentum—and a key game to Georgia. Ole Miss has life with true freshman quarterback Shea Patterson, while Texas A&M is doing its usual November swoon. The East comes down to Tennessee and Florida, both of whom stepped in the right direction with important wins over Kentucky and South Carolina, respectively.
1. Big Ten
The Big Ten clings to its top spot for now. But losing Michigan from the ranks of the unbeaten really hurts on a big picture level.
Part of the Big Ten’s firewall was that Ohio State and Michigan were elite programs destined to face one another without a blemish. But the Buckeyes lost to Penn State last month, and the Wolverines came up short versus Iowa last weekend. OSU has since regrouped, and the Nittany Lions are one of four members, along with Wisconsin, sporting a top 10 resume. But if neither Ohio State nor Michigan appears in the league championship game, now a distinct possibility, it’s going to put a small dent in the Big Ten’s image as a conference with a national title ceiling.