College Football Conference Power Rankings for Week 8 of the 2016 season find two Power Five conferences separating themselves from the pack.
What a wild day of football this past Saturday provided. Clemson and Ohio State proved that they could win on a day where defeats seemed imminent. Meanwhile, Alabama flexed its muscles in a big way, reminding the world who the best team on the Third Saturday in October is.
Sizing up the league pecking order is 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 8 College Football Conference Power Rankings
5. Big 12
The Big 12 is still being haunted by a rough September.
The conference, which saw supposed heavyweights like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, go down in the opening month, is still dealing with a reputation problem. It’ll likely be an issue when delivering a member to the College Football Playoff. The good news? The Big 12’s remaining undefeated teams, Baylor and West Virginia, are still perfect. And both looked good Saturday, particularly the Mountaineers in a blowout of Texas Tech. The Sooners and the Longhorns rolled as well, which is important for a league dealing with an identity crisis.
All in all, a pretty good week for the Pac-12, even as kingpin Washington rested on a bye week.
The Huskies were idle in Week 7, giving others, such as USC, Colorado and Washington State, an opportunity to bask in spotlight. The Trojans are beginning to peak under Clay Helton, having now won three straight games. The Buffs and the Cougars are improbable contenders in the South and North Division, respectively. Even Stanford, sans any help from the offense, broke through with a win over Notre Dame in South Bend. The Cardinal, UCLA and Oregon have been disappointments, but other league members are tugging more of the weight.
The ACC has dropped a spot in the standings after its top programs played poorly in Week 7. It’s a well-earned demotion.
Clemson. Louisville. Florida State. Bleh. None of the league’s three marquee programs performed like a top 10 team in Week 7, barely getting by NC State, Duke and Wake Forest, respectively. Additionally, Miami lost for a second straight week, and Virginia Tech ruined its return to the Top 25 by bowing meekly to a second-rate Syracuse squad. ACC surrogates will suggest that the conference is deeper than anyone anticipated, but what occurred Friday and Saturday actually hurt the conference’s hopes of sending two teams to the College Football Playoff.
2. Big Ten
The Big Ten boasted four top 10 programs a week ago. Very impressive. But the league needs more help beyond Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska to make a case for moving a rung higher.
The Buckeyes and the Badgers both made statements in their overtime affair, which was won by the former on the road. And the Huskers did well to avoid a trap game with Indiana. However, the Big Ten remains extremely soft in the midsection. Who’s poised to pick up the slack now that Iowa and Michigan State are down considerably from a season ago? Penn State, which was off, and Northwestern, which hammered the Spartans, are possible contenders. The Lions host Ohio State this week, while the Cats have finally found their rhythm on offense.
Like it or not, everyone else is chasing the SEC … still.
The SEC has had its ups and downs in 2016, yet no one else features as many quality programs under one roof. It has the best overall team, Alabama, and more than half of its 14 members are ranked in the Top 25 again this week. Half. No one else will be even close to half when the polls are released. As has often been the case, the balance of power rests in the West Division, as Texas A&M, Arkansas, LSU and Auburn continue to improve. The East? Shaky at best, especially now that Tennessee, the one-time frontrunner, has dropped consecutive games to the Tide and the Aggies.