If you were to rank the conferences in a power ranking using whatever metric you chose, how would it look? Odds are you would place the SEC on top, because they are the SEC and anything lower than No. 1 would be uncivilized. But how would you rank the conferences after that? At this point, it may be safe to assume there is an argument to be made for and against just about every conference from No. 2 down to No. 5 among just the power conferences.
Overall, the ACC had itself a pretty decent weekend. Florida State was able to put a game on cruise control after coming alive against Ole Miss earlier in the week, and the conference picked up a pair of wins against the Big Ten with Pittsburgh defeating Penn State and North Carolina winning at Illinois. Clemson was sluggish but managed to avoid an upset as we continue to wonder just why Clemson is starting things off so slowly this season. But the losses took a toll on giving the ACC too much credit this week. Virginia Tech wasn’t able to bury Tennessee after taking a 14-0 lead in Bristol. North Carolina State lost on the road against East Carolina. Virginia traveled across the country and returned with an 0-2 record after losing at Oregon a week after being demolished at home by Richmond. The hits could keep on coming this week if the ACC is not careful. Miami visiting Appalachian State could be trickier than expected. Virginia is staring at a possible 0-3 at UConn (so long as the Huskies pay attention to the clock) and Duke has to travel to Northwestern, with the Wildcats now desperate for a win. Want a possible upset alert? How about Pittsburgh traveling to Oklahoma State? Speaking of the Big 12…
What’s up with the Big 12? We are two weeks in and already we have seen Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU take a loss (even if the Oklahoma State loss should never have happened). The margin for error in the Big 12 in the College Football Playoff picture was already pretty thin as it was heading into the 2016 season, but with Ohio State coming to town to play Oklahoma and Pittsburgh visiting Oklahoma State, the Big 12 is in danger of a couple more potential losses to some teams expected to compete for the Big 12 title. Meanwhile, Texas is off to a good start but they hit the road to play California. This will be a good test for the Longhorns, who have jumped up the rankings quickly this season. A loss to the Longhorns would drop them down to Earth a little bit. Could the Big 12’s best playoff hope after this weekend fall on Baylor running the table? Do you trust Jim Grobe to lead the Bears to a 12-0 record?
The hope for the Big Ten still falls on Ohio State and/or Michigan proving they are worth the hype. Neither has truly been tested yet, although that changes this week with the Buckeyes heading to Oklahoma. We’ll still have to wait a little longer for Michigan. Credit Wisconsin for getting the job done against LSU in the opener, but other than that there hasn’t been a tremendous amount to write home about for the Big Ten. Northwestern is 0-2 with home losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State. Penn State lost another in-state game on the road for a second straight season, this time against the ACC. Illinois also took a loss against the ACC. Iowa enters dangerous territory this week with mighty FCS giant North Dakota State looking to notch another victory against an FBS opponent. Nebraska will get a chance to boost the Big Ten a little bit this week at home against Oregon, and Michigan State travels to South Bend to face Notre Dame. To say this is an important week for the Big Ten is an understatement.
The season started off OK for the Pac-12, but the losses it took were tough to gloss over. USC was embarrassed by Alabama, and UCLA couldn’t finish the comeback against Texas A&M on the road. Meanwhile, Washington State is now 0-2 with losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State. Arizona was clipped by BYU, but Utah avenged that loss for the conference last night with a defensive stand to preserve the win. Overall, the Pac-12 turned in a good Week 2 despite a pair of losses to the Mountain West Conference on the road (Cal lost to San Diego State and Washington State’s road loss to Boise State). I’m still trying to figure out how Arizona trailed Grambling State 21-3 at the half (Arizona came back to win, 31-21). Some key games for the Pac-12 this week will see UCLA travel to BYU and Cal host Texas in addition to Oregon visiting Nebraska (and Colorado to Michigan). The biggest game, however, features USC hosting Stanford. Stanford is the team to beat in the Pac-12, but if USC chops them down, the Pac-12 could suddenly be on very thin ice in the playoff picture before getting into the bulk of the conference schedule.
Alabama aside, the SEC is still looking to gain some confidence points. Yes, the SEC won all the games it needed to this weekend, but Georgia being taken down to the wire by Nicholls State isn’t exactly going to go down as a quality win in anyone’s book. This is a conference that dropped seven games in the opening week and will later face some mismatches against ACC foes (Louisville-Kentucky, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida?), and we haven’t even touched on conference play yet. Alabama has looked to be the strongest team in the country and they travel to Ole Miss this week. Ole Miss cracked against Florida State but still figures to be Alabama’s toughest test yet, and the game is in Oxford. An Ole Miss victory turns the entire SEC playoff outlook on its side, because it is unlikely anyone else in the SEC has what ti takes to go undefeated. An ole Miss victory would mean Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss each have a loss before October. Do you trust Tennessee to go 12-0, or 13-0? Or Florida? No, of course you do not.
So this is a fun season for college football, because there is no dominant force, other than Alabama I suppose. Every conference has holes, from coast to coast. That’s what we have learned through just two weeks of the college football season. Let’s see which conference does the best job plugging those holes.