College Football Conference Power Rankings for Week 9 of the 2016 season. The SEC maintains its cushion as the deepest of the Power Five leagues from top to bottom.
Which Power Five conference boasts the best collection of programs in the country, and which are lagging behind? It’s a fluid and ever-changing process, even as the second half of the season begins.
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 9 College Football Conference Power Rankings
5. Big 12
At long last, the Big 12 has an identity. Unfortunately, it’ll continue sporting it from the Power Five cellar.
The conference that not long ago had zero potential front men now has three, a genuine sign of progress. Idle Baylor and West Virginia, which hammered TCU, have yet to lose, and surging Oklahoma has won four in a row to resemble the contender it was supposed to be in the preseason. However, the drop-off after the top 3 is steep. Everyone from Texas and Texas Tech to Kansas State and Oklahoma State are one-dimensional, with only the Cowboys having a realistic shot of reaching the Top 25.
A most improbable season continues in Pac-12 country.
Up is down, down is up, and Washington, Washington State, Utah and Colorado are the teams to beat in each respective division. It’s Bizarro World, Pac-12 style. What the conference really needs now is 4-3 USC to continue rolling when it comes out of its break this week against Cal to add a little girth and depth to the South Division. One Pac-12 plus is a relatively high floor. True, Oregon State and Arizona are weak squads, but not quite Illinois, Virginia, Purdue, Rutgers or Kansas bad.
Quiet weekend in the Atlantic Coast Conference, as the league readies to stage the annual Clemson-Florida State clash of the titans.
Almost half of the conference was off in Week 8, including two of its marquee programs. Louisville did flex its muscles again, performing like a top 10 team at the expense of NC State. And North Carolina and Virginia Tech won going away to create some space and clarity in the Coastal Division. With six weeks left in the regular season, all 14 members remain mathematically alive for bowl eligibility, though Virginia and Boston College are distant longshots to participate in the postseason.
2. Big Ten
The top 10 still features three Big Ten schools, with Wisconsin lurking at No. 11. But Nebraska might be ready to get knocked down a peg in the next two weeks, and Ohio State isn’t what everyone assumed it was in the first half of the season.
The league lost some of its clout—and its case for two playoff teams—when the Buckeyes fell to Penn State Saturday night. Of course, conversely, the middle of the Big Ten continues to get stronger, as the Lions, Northwestern and even Maryland outshoot early season projections. The conference as a whole will benefit if the Huskers show well in upcoming road trips to Madison and Columbus that’ll define their role in a tight West Division race.
Alabama left no doubts where the balance of power rests in the league—and the country. But the Tide isn’t the SEC’s only hot program.
Bama beat Texas A&M, who actually led briefly in the third quarter, in a showing that could help earn the Aggies a major bowl berth in January. However, the West Division is also home to the resurgences of Auburn and LSU, who’ve been ascending ever since meeting Sept. 24 in Les Miles’ final game. Ole Miss and Arkansas were the Tigers’ victims, but a league can do a lot worse than the Rebels and the Hogs as its mid-level representatives. The SEC can padlock its top spot if the East Division’s two best schools, Tennessee and Florida, exit bye weeks refreshed and ready to go on a run.