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Sep
01
2015

Ranking the Power 5 Football Conferences going into 2015 with Playoff Analysis.

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Going into the 2015 season, perceived conference strength continues and will remain a very important component of the playoff selection. I don’t work for the playoff committee so I can start saying who I think are playoff contenders right now. As last couple of years have proved elite teams can reside in any conference.

Let me point out on my philosophy on these rankings – you’re most recent  OOC results count a lot, and you’ll see me reference that throughout the season.

We’ll give each conference a relative strength value 1-10.

1) SEC – 9

Let’s get this out of the way first. The SEC isn’t head and shoulders above the rest of college football anymore. Every single ranked SEC team lost OOC last season, and the conference went  3-5 against the ACC. That said the SEC still has a lot of quality teams. Only Vanderbilt and possibly Kentucky are truly bad teams. The SEC’s depth just edges out the Pac 12. Think of it this way. Their best teams aren’t the the best teams in the country, but their middle and bottom certainly are better than the Big 10, ACC, or Big 12 middle/bottom.

In the first week of the season the SEC has these notable OOC games  Alabama vs Wisconsin, South Carolina vs North Carolina, Arizona St. vs Texas A&M, and Auburn vs Louisville. If the SEC wants to start separating from the rest of the country especially the Pac 12, a sweep here would certainly help.

Playoff Contenders 

Alabama

Darkhorses

Georgia, Auburn

2) Pac 12 – 8.5

The Pac 12 is right on the heels of the SEC. They went a rock solid 6-2 during this past bowl season, but I do think the SEC is just a hair deeper. The Pac 12 lacks an dominant team at the moment, but they will have their opportunities starting this week. I do really like Oregon. Arizona St. vs Texas A&M is a great early measuring stick. There is Utah vs Michigan, Washington vs Boise St., Stanford vs Northwestern, and UCLA vs Virginia.

If Arizona St. beats Texas A&M, I could move the Pac 12 ahead of the SEC. It is that close.

Playoff Contenders

Oregon

Darkhorses

USC, Arizona St.

3) Big 10 – 7.5

Ohio State enters the season as the nation’s best team. They are the defending national champions. Michigan State is a top 10 team. The Big 10 is an improving if not deep conference, but they can make some noise early in the early in the year. The Buckeyes face Virginia Tech in week 1. They look like an lock for the playoff at this point.

Minnesota vs TCU, Michigan vs Utah, Stanford vs Northwestern, BYU vs Nebraska, and Alabama vs Wisconsin give the Big 10 plenty of chances to prove they’ve closed the gap on the SEC and Pac 12. The Big 10 doesn’t need to win every one of these games, but a 4-2 record would really open some eyes. Michigan vs Utah is a very intriguing game.

Playoff Contenders  

Ohio State

Darkhorses

Michigan St.

4) ACC – 7

I think the Big 10 and ACC are pretty similar. Not as deep as the SEC and Pac 12, but with several strong OOC results from 2014 that leaves them ahead of the Big 12. The ACC’s best teams FSU, Clemson, and Georgia Tech won’t be threatened by their week 1 opponents, but some other ACC teams have a chance to make early opening statements.

Louisville vs Auburn, North Carolina vs South Carolina, Virginia Tech vs Ohio State and Virginia vs UCLA dot the schedule. An 0-4 start in those games would give the ACC uphill climb the rest of the season, but if the ACC can take 2 out 3 in the games against Auburn, South Carolina, Ohio State then that would be a big lift to the conference. Should I count UVA vs UCLA? Not at the moment. The Hoos had no business scheduling that game.

Playoff Contenders

None

Darkhorses

Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson

5) Big 12 – 6.5

I love TCU. They are every bit a top 5 team. They absolutely steam rolled Ole Miss in the Chick Fil A Peach Bowl. That’s where the Big 12’s note worthy OOC wins began and ended. Each time the Big 12 went OOC to play a quality team, save the TCU’s win over Ole Miss, they lost. They were 6-11 against the rest of the Power 5.

Don’t tell us what you did 4 years ago. This isn’t a history lesson. What have you done recently? The Big 12 hasn’t done much. TCU is legitimate. Baylor is good but they lack quality OOC wins. The Big 12 has to prove they are deeper than 1 1/2 teams.

This week TCU plays a decent Minnesota team, but the Horned Frogs shouldn’t have much trouble here. Texas vs Notre Dame this week, is just the type win that the Big 12 badly needs.

Playoff Contenders

TCU

Darkhorses

Baylor

The Rest 

Notre Dame has the schedule and the early season ranking to be in the playoff hunt. If they lose to a mediocre Texas team, good luck playing their way back into playoff conversation. Boise State opens Washington. The Broncos are in the top 25, and a win there would help, but the can’t lose at any point this season.

Playoff Contenders 

NONE

Darkhorses

Notre Dame, Boise State

Current Playoff Teams

As my personal criticism of the playoff committee, I don’t think the top 4 seeds order should be released until the final rankings. The playoff committee’s inconsistent and ever changing criteria is causing unnecessary frustration and confusion. It’s one of the improvement points I’d have for them.

If I had a vote this is who I would put in the playoff right now.

In –  TCU| Ohio State | Oregon | Alabama

Just Missed – 5) Michigan State 6) USC 7) Georgia  8) Clemson


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