College Football Conference Power Rankings for Week 7 of the 2016 season find a widening gap in the Pac-12 and the Big Ten finding itself extremely top-heavy.
Which Power Five conference boasts the best collection of teams in the country, and which is pulling up the rear? It’s a fluid and ever-changing process, even as the halfway point in the season is approached.
The Big 12 proved itself to be as mercurial as ever – what with Kansas almost upending TCU and Oklahoma State needing a 17-point fourth quarter to outlast Iowa State.
On the other hand, the Big Ten and Pac-12 seem to be slotting themselves out. Both conferences have legitimate threats at the top of the standings, and some very healthy disappointments at the bottom.
Sizing up the league pecking order is much bigger than the triviality of regional bragging rights. It’ll directly impact the selections of the College Football Playoff committee, which will be tasked with deciding which league champion will wind up on the outside looking in when the four bids are released Dec. 6.
Week 7 College Football Conference Power Rankings
5. Big 12
The Big 12 remains the most mediocre Power Five conference. And, no, that’s not code for good depth from top to bottom.
The league doesn’t have a figurehead, and won’t unless Baylor or West Virginia, neither of whom played in Week 6, lives up to its unbeaten mark. Oklahoma might end up being the frontman, but the Sooners don’t play defense and have already lost to Houston and Ohio State … badly. Actually, no one plays D in the Big 12, save for Kansas State. Everyone except the Bears and Mountaineers have at least two losses, and statement non-conference wins are non-existent. Good news? Kansas and Iowa State helped bolster the league’s rear by putting scares into TCU and Oklahoma State, respectively.
The gap between Washington and everyone else is widening, but is that good or bad for the league as a whole?
As far as the College Football Playoff is concerned, it’s Huskies or bust after just six weeks of the 2016 season. Four of the league’s perceived powers, Stanford, Oregon, USC and UCLA, have plummeted from ranked in the preseason to unworthy of Top 25 consideration at this time. Now, teams like Colorado, Washington State and Utah have helped pick up some of the slack. And the Trojans could be turning the corner now that QB Sam Darnold is running the offense. But an upside down Pac-12 is not a good thing for the league’s overall health and reputation.
3. Big Ten
The Big Ten is top-heavy. Very top-heavy.
The Big Ten has two legitimate playoff contenders, Ohio State and Michigan, which is something the Big 12 and Pac-12 cannot say. And Wisconsin and Nebraska, both off in Week 6, are solid programs, with dreams of a New Year’s Six bowl invitation. After that foursome, though, there is a mass of average teams. Last year’s Big Ten Championship Game participants, Iowa and Michigan State, have been big disappointments, with the latter falling below .500 thanks to Saturday’s blowout home loss to BYU. Moreover, over half of the members, like Rutgers, Illinois and Purdue, are struggling to be considered among the top 50 programs in the FBS.
It was another good weekend for the Atlantic Coast Conference, which showcased the Florida State-Miami rivalry and picked up a couple of midseason non-conference wins, to boot.
The Noles and the Canes took center stage, as Clemson clubbed Boston College and Louisville had the week off. It was a nail-biter at Hard Rock Stadium signaling that FSU will still have some say in the ACC race and that Miami isn’t quite there yet. The league has clout up top, but is also improving on the second level. Virginia Tech is rising under Justin Fuente after upsetting a good North Carolina team in Chapel Hill. NC State defeated Notre Dame. And even Wake Forest is a win away from bowl eligibility after smothering Syracuse.
The SEC has finally revealed that second team capable of making a case for playoff inclusion.
Texas A&M will continue to rise north in the polls after handing Tennessee its first loss of the year. The Aggies are legit playoff threats, with top-ranked Alabama up in two weeks. But as usual, this league is no two-trick pony. LSU is already more formidable with Ed Orgeron as the helmsman. Tennessee has handled one of the ACC’s risers, Virginia Tech, by three touchdowns. And Auburn and Ole Miss are quietly coming on strong, winning the last three and two, respectively. Plus, don’t sleep on a quality Arkansas team, whose only losses were to the unbeaten Aggies and Tide.