With the College Football season past the halfway point, it is time to rank the Power 5 conferences from best to worst.
No. 1, Big 10
The Big 10 has three teams in the Top 10 and five total in the Top 25. There is no doubt that it will get at least one team in the playoff. If Penn St. and Wisconsin are both undefeated going into the Big 10 championship, then it has a very good chance at getting 2 teams.
The elite coaches set the Big 10 apart from the rest as Meyer and Harbaugh are probably among the top five coaches in the game. Behind them, they have James Franklin who is proving to be capable of building a championship contender now that scholarship restrictions are lifted.
The conference has also established consistent winners in Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Michigan State’s Mike Dantonio.
Finally, the Big Ten has young up and coming coaches in Minnesota’s P.J Fleck and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm. With great coaches across the board, the Big Ten has the potential to dominate the college football landscape for the foreseeable future.
No. 2, SEC
After ruling the college football world for the entirety of the 2000s, the SEC has taken a step back.
Alabama is still by far the most dominant program in College Football, yet other traditional powerhouses such as LSU, Florida and Auburn have gone from perennial top 10 programs to very beatable teams typically ranked between 15 and 25. These teams still have unbelievable talent on their defensive lines and receiving cores, however, none of them have been able to find a reliable quarterback. Whether this is on the coaches or simply bad luck is unknown.
Until the majority of the SEC teams get championship caliber playmakers at the quarterback position, it will be difficult for them to re-establish themselves as college football’s unrivaled top conference.
No. 3, Big 12
The Big 12 will always struggle to be a great conference with only 10 teams and no conference championship game.
They have earned the No. 3 ranking because they have three teams with a legitimate chance at making the playoff in TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State pending an undefeated finish. The same cannot be said for the ACC or the Pac 12.
The Big 12 has always seemed like the playground of college football, a cute place where everyone throws touchdowns, plays no defense and everyone is happy.
If Tom Herman can turn around Texas, then the Big 12 can return to the feared conference it once was when Michael Crabtree, Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy held dominion over the college football’s top five.
Until then, the Big 12 will be limited by being somewhat top heavy and not having the potential resume builder that a conference championship game provides.
No. 4, ACC
The ACC is still a very formidable football conference, but it took a major step back in 2017.
The Atlantic Division, arguably the most feared sub-conference last year, has regressed mightily as Florida State and Louisville have fallen entirely out of the top 25.
Clemson is still a national title contender but, with a first-year starting quarterback, they appear much more beatable than they were last year.
On the Coastal Side, North Carolina went from a top 20 team to perhaps the worst team in the ACC after quarterback Mitch Trubisky left for the NFL.
Heading the Coastal is undefeated Miami and Virginia Tech with one loss. Any team in the ACC is not really a threat in the national championship race.
Although it is a down year for the ACC, it should improve when its teams and quarterbacks gain more experience.
No. 5, Pac 12
Rounding out the Power 5 conferences is the Pac 12, who has had an extremely disappointing year.
Unlike the ACC, the Pac 12 does not have the excuse of having inexperience as USC, Washington and Washington State all returned veteran quarterbacks with legitimate National Championship hopes.
USC’s Sam Darnold, the most exciting player since Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez has been an immense disappointment throwing countless interceptions and suffering an embarrassing defeat against arch-rival Notre Dame.
Washington’s Jake Browning has been uninspiring this year, crushing their National Championship in a humiliating loss to lowly Arizona State in which they only put up a measly 7 points.
Stanford has been the same team they have been since Andrew Luck left, consistent, and might get a cute bid to the Rose Bowl, but they still lack the all-around skill and speed to dominate a season from start to finish.
In order for the Pac 12 to return to the respected conference they once were, they must establish a dominant team capable of consistently competing with the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.
Until then, the Pac 12 will continue to occasionally submit apathetic teams to the playoff that are not truly taken seriously.
Texas is home to eleven football programs, with five belonging to Power Five conferences. But who is the best in this great football playing state? Check in every three weeks to find out.
No. 1, TCU
Going in to Stillwater and knocking off Oklahoma State was impressive, to put it lightly. The Horned Frogs under Patterson have a strong defensive identity, but the offense is not shabby by any means. Slowing down Oklahoma State’s offense is extremely difficult, but TCU was up to the task. They added another impressive win to their record after besting West Virginia. TCU is in the playoff hunt now, and they are deservedly the best in Texas.
No. 2, Texas Tech
I will admit it, I am biased here. I am a Texas Tech student, but I will try to set aside my bias and defend this rank. Beating Arizona State is a decent win, but breaking Houston’s home winning streak was the best win on the young year. Texas Tech had a shot at knocking off Oklahoma State, but fell just short in the upset bid in a 41-34 defeat. Crushing Kansas is not really impressive, but the team was finally able to win soundly. At times Tech has struggled to do that under Kingsbury, and this shows the team is developing. If the defense really is as improved as early returns indicate, this could be a good year for a program looking to get back to the glory days under Mike Leach.
No. 3, Texas A&M
The Aggies were a national laughingstock after blowing a 34-point lead at UCLA. The Aggies showed heart against Alabama, but were not seriously threatening the Tide. They have a streaky offense with Kellen Mond in his freshman season, but the defense has play-makers and Texas A&M has managed to close out two dogfights against Arkansas and South Carolina. Between A&M and Texas Tech there is very little separation. The Aggies fall behind the Red Raiders because of their collapse at UCLA, which is just an unfathomable choke.
No. 4, Texas
After a disappointing loss against Maryland at home, the Longhorns are showing some of the talent that their recruiting class rankings promised. While the Longhorns are struggling mightily on offense, the defense has been superb since the Maryland game. Sam Ehlinger might be the new answer at quarterback for Texas after leading a comeback victory over Kansas state. Tom Herman has his work cut out for him, but Texas is moving in the right direction.
No. 5, Houston
You thought I was just going to stick the Power Five teams this high up here didn’t you? Two words whenever Houston is mentioned: Ed. Oliver. This man among boys is the best defensive player in college football. I dare anyone to prove that statement false. I watched as Texas Tech triple-teamed him and he was still able to bring pressure. Houston struggles offensively, but Ed Oliver is good enough to change the game. The rest of the defense is not shabby either, and if the offense can improve Houston could be poised for a run at the AAC title.
No. 6, SMU
SMU has relied on a stellar offense for their success thus far. A deep receiving core led by Courtland Sutton have led the offensive attack. While SMU was dispatched by TCU in a 20-point defeat, the Mustangs put up a good fight early demonstrating the progress Chad Morris has made. SMU still has much more to prove, and losing to Houston showed they still are not ready to compete in the AAC.
No. 7, UTSA
Stunning Baylor earns them the seventh spot above the Bears. I would have loved to see the match-up against Houston, but Hurricane Harvey had other plans. UTSA is playing good football, and this could shake up to be one of the best years for the program.
No. 8, Baylor
Man, Baylor is really bad. The winless Bears under new Head Coach Matt Rhule have shown some signs of life, but the program is in shambles. I can’t say I am shaken up about the Bears’ collapse, considering the scandal under the previous regime led by Art Briles. Matt Rhule is trying to do things the right way, but it will be awhile before Baylor is even close to heights it reached just a few years ago.
No. 9, Texas State
A positive for this program are that they played Appalachian State close, and that is something to build on.
No. 10, Rice
Rice is in a rough state, but a win over UTEP gives them the nod to the 10 spot.
No. 11, UTEP
Sorry to anyone who is a big UTEP fan, but they are the worst in Texas as of now. Just an all-around struggling program, UTEP needs a drastic turnaround to leave the cellar of Texas football.
The 2017 season of college football is already promising to be a good one. With several teams poised to contend for the title and last year’s championship winner Clemson not yet in a position to defend its title, the top 25 looks like it could change at any moment.
With all this in mind, here is the JR Report’s way-too-early college football top 25.
1. Ohio State
Picking Ohio State over Alabama is a bold move, considering the Buckeyes’ last game where they lost 31-0 against Clemson.
With new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and both returners and new starters to bolster the offense, OSU is looking better than it has looked in a long time.
The Buckeyes also return seven of their defensive starters, who looked great in spring games. Ohio State has a chance to keep Alabama from winning a title, but will the Buckeyes be the ones to win it?
Even after losing several of their key starters, the Crimson Tide look great. Jalen Hurts looked amazing in the spring games, and so did his potential backup Tua Tagovailoa.
It’s an almost sure thing that the Tide are No.1 in the AP Poll, but it won’t last if they can’t hold up in the season opener against FSU. Their offense needs significant improvement with a better receiving corps and a more consistent pass attack.
Jalen Hurts is more than up to the task, but Ohio State will likely overtake the Tide in the polls.
3. Florida State
The Seminoles are looking great for the preseason. It wouldn’t be surprising if they’re ranked worse, but No. 3 is a good place for them. They will have a lot to prove in their first game against a first or second-ranked Alabama, but they’re ready for a dog fight.
Five-star running back recruit Cam Akers is prepared to take up the job that Dalvin Cook left for him, and safety Derwin James is finally healthy enough to tear up the field.
Quarterback Deondre Francois seems to have improved on the field, and as he gets more and more comfortable in his role, opposing teams have more to worry about.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Trojans live up to all the off-season hype. True, Sam Darnold is a Heisman-caliber quarterback and it’s unlikely that he’ll have a bad season, but the strength of schedule is a recurring question for USC.
USC played the spring game with plenty of injuries, so we didn’t get a good picture of how the offense is shaping up for 2017. The Trojans are a favorite for the college football playoff, but it remains to be seen where they can ascend to despite their poor schedule.
If the Trojans can get over all the injuries and come into the season at 100 percent, No. 4 is the perfect ranking for them.
5. Penn State
There’s no doubt that Penn State and its fans are still unhappy about being edged out of the playoff despite winning the Big Ten title.
With the trio of quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley, and redshirt sophomore receiver Juwan Johnson, the Nittany Lions will once again be a contender for the Big Ten championship.
The Nittany Lions have a lot to prove if they want to show that they deserve a place in the college football playoff, but this year’s team makes it look possible.
Although the Tigers lost star quarterback Deshaun Watson, they have some good players fighting for the position. In addition, the Clemson defense is one of the best defenses in the team’s history and will contend with Alabama for the best defense in the nation.
Clemson’s early schedule will be the perfect testing ground for the young team with games at Auburn and Louisville—there, we will see if the Tigers’ offense is reloaded enough to be a serious threat to FSU in the ACC.
Washington had a couple hiccups in the offseason like quarterback Jake Browning’s shoulder surgery and losing wide receiver John Ross to the NFL, but they are back and ready to compete.
Although the Huskies face tough opponents like Colorado, Stanford, and Washington State, they won’t face serious challenges beyond these teams until they play in the Pac-12 title game. Until then, they’ll stay on top of their side of the Pac-12 and likely in the top 10 nationally.
8. Oklahoma State
The offseason was the perfect storm for Cowboys fans: their biggest rival Oklahoma lost both legendary coach Bob Stoops and outstanding running back Joe Mixon.
In addition, quarterback Mason Rudolph and his receiving corps are one of the best offenses in the nation. With returning receiver James Washington and LSU transfer wide receiver Tyron Johnson, the Cowboys are prepared to take on the Sooners’ offense better than they have in a good number of years.
If the Cowboys can bolster their mediocre defense and stay dominant offensively, this could be the year that they beat Oklahoma for the Big 12 crown.
Despite Oklahoma’s recent misfortune, they’re still Oklahoma. Legendary coach Bob Stoops announced his surprise retirement last week, and many are wondering what this means for the Sooners.
Although star quarterback Baker Mayfield returns with his entire offensive line, the Sooners lost a lot of other offensive depth, such as wide receiver Dede Westbrook, running back Joe Mixon, and running back Samaje Perine.
The offense should still be explosive headed by Mayfield and Oklahoma will still have a good chance of winning the Big 12—now, they just have to try a little harder.
Auburn fans are excited this season, and rightly so—some are saying this is the Auburn team that can beat Bama for the first time since 2013.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been performing well in practice and in the spring game. With running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson behind him, the Tigers offense is ready to go.
With a stellar recruiting class and a reloaded defense, the Tigers will be a big contender in the top 10, even if they lose the Iron Bowl.
With the arrival of offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Tigers fans are cautiously optimistic about the 2017 season. A lot of this optimism stems from hopes about running back Derrius Guice. Guice is set up to be one of the best running backs in the nation next year.
The Tigers don’t have a running problem, and they definitely won’t have a defense problem after completely turning around the defense under defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
The main problem for LSU going into next season is quarterback Danny Etling. If he can show improvement next season, the Tigers will be another thorn in Alabama’s side in the SEC.
Jim Harbaugh’s team will likely be good once again, but the important question is whether they have the talent to be a top-10 team. With the way things are looking now, the answer is not quite.
Michigan lost 18 starters, but Harbaugh excels in turning a team of rookies into a high-caliber team. The Wolverines boast one of the top recruiting classes in the nation which has convinced many that while Michigan will be a different team next year, they will still be great as long as Harbaugh is in charge.
Wisconsin is a solid pick to play well every year. The Badgers, under new defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, look to dominate the Big Ten West via defense.
The Badgers also have the duo of solid quarterback Alex Hornibrook and wide receiver Jazz Peavy, so there is still the potential to make a major impact offensively.
Wisconsin won’t have a particularly difficult schedule, either. They only face Michigan as far as powerful Big Ten teams go, which should go as a big advantage for them staying on top of their division and staying ranked all season.
The well-known running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel return for the Bulldogs along with the passing attack from sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason.
The Dawgs’ defense is also nothing to joke around about. With 10 returning starters, the Georgia defense will be one of the best in the league. Along with Auburn and LSU, the Bulldogs are among the SEC teams with the capability of finally beating Alabama.
The only thing different between this year’s Miami team and last year’s will be the quarterback. With Brad Kaaya’s departure, the Canes are choosing between three potential replacements.
The Hurricanes have an impressive receiving and running game, as well as a stellar defense. If the quarterback choice meshes well with the rest of the offense, Miami will clinch the ACC Coastal division.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson returns to Louisville this season, and every season that he’s on the team is a season where the Cardinals will be good.
The biggest concern for the Cardinals is protecting Jackson. If they can improve their offensive line, Jackson won’t need to be worried about being sacked 46 times again this season.
Louisville may have a similarly disappointing season to last year’s 9-4 finish, but they will certainly start off strong.
With quarterback Keller Chryst injured and hoping to return before next season, the Cardinal have put some confidence in backup quarterback Ryan Burns. The Cardinal will have an uphill battle to remain relevant in 2017 with an early game against USC.
Stanford isn’t worried about things on the other side of the ball, and will tout one of the best defenses in the Pac-12.
USF is the AAC team receiving the most hype coming into the 2017 season led by dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate and star quarterback Quinton Flowers.
Charlie Strong has made great strides as the incoming coach for the Bulls making the offense is stronger than it has ever been. More importantly, the defense is also looking strong.
With the way things are going and the rise of the AAC, it wouldn’t be surprising to see USF as a top-10 team by the end of the season.
19. West Virginia
Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier already seems to be finding more success at West Virginia than he ever did for the Gators. He performed well during spring games and the hype is building in Morgantown.
Grier will benefit from a solid running back and wide receiver corps, so the offense isn’t the main worry for the Mountaineers.
The main concern is the defense, and if WVU can find its defensive stride they will be a contender for the Big 12 championship.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks has made some waves in Gainesville after he won the quarterback battle.
The Gators hope to clinch the SEC East, but they will face stiff competition from Georgia and a surprisingly strong Tennessee team.
21. Kansas State
The Wildcats are shaping up well, and all three avenues of offensive playmaking are wide open. Dual-threat Jesse Ertz should be cleared after his shoulder surgery, and he’s got a deep corps of receivers and running back Alex Barnes as options.
Kansas State also returns a significant amount of defenders, and they will prove to be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12. They’re an outlier like West Virginia and TCU, but they have upset potential for opponents such as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
2016 was a year of disappointment for the Ducks after they dipped below five wins for the first time since 1991 and had their first losing season since 2004. It was a wakeup call for Oregon, and with incoming coach Willie Taggart the Ducks are looking to climb their way back to the top again.
Oregon is an iffy choice for the top 25 at this point, but they have the tools they need to stage a comeback in 2017. With a surprisingly strong recruiting class, the Ducks will rack up at least seven wins and will remain hovering around the rankings all season.
23. Washington State
The Cougars look great coming into the 2017 season headed by quarterback Luke Falk. Falk has a great spread of receivers to pass to, as well as a strong running corps.
Washington State should field a good defensive line as well, and the Cougars are set up to be good competition for their in-state rivals, Washington.
Vols quarterback Quinten Dormady shined during the spring game, and Tennessee is looking good on both sides of the ball for 2017.
Tennessee faces stiff competition in the SEC East against Georgia and Florida. They have upset potential, however, and will be looking to try for the SEC East crown.
After a disappointing decline for the Longhorns’ football program, head coach Tom Herman is looking to turn it around with a complete program overhaul. Herman’s recruiting and redesigning has brought new life to Austin.
The Longhorns are looking to retake their place as one of the strongest college football programs, and although a change like that doesn’t happen overnight, they will be contenders to edge into the top 25 next season.
“26”. TCU, Virginia Tech, Boise State
These three teams are right on the edge of the top 25, and could very well see their names on the list when the first polls are published.
Along with Oregon, the Texas Longhorns were one of 2016’s most disappointing teams. It doesn’t take a genius to see the program is worn out. Under head coach Charlie Strong, the Longhorns didn’t have a single winning season. The program is simply falling apart—the office was old and gaudy, the staff was lacking depth, and the locker rooms and training rooms simply weren’t up to snuff.
The Charlie Strong era was not the only rough patch; the Longhorns have been struggling for a while. They may have had winning seasons, but Texas hasn’t won 10 plus games in eight years. Both Strong and the famous Mack Brown weren’t able to deliver nearly as well as was hoped. It’s difficult to turn around a program after three straight losing seasons, but coach Tom Herman might be just the man for the job.
One only needs to look at Herman’s achievements during his tenure at Houston to see that he knows his stuff. He walked into a program that hadn’t won more than eight games in three years and immediately led them to a 13-1 campaign, beating Florida State University in the Peach Bowl. They also beat Louisville twice and had a win over Oklahoma. In his Herman’s second season, the Cougars went 9-4.
I don’t know how quickly Herman’s changes will affect the program, because there’s so much to be done. He’s (literally) ripping up the floors in Austin. He’s trying to change the culture, and he’s hiring the right people to help him do it.
It’s a tall order for Herman. The biggest problem he’ll run into is University of Texas’ complete lack of recruiting prowess. UT’s name has a fraction of the weight it used to carry, and a high-performance high school player isn’t going to want to commit to a losing program. Herman can make all the changes he wants, but without dedicated, talented players, he isn’t going to go anywhere fast. To make big time players come to his school, Herman needs to make it look infinitely more appealing.
This is the ultimate program overhaul, and it’s hard to imagine it getting fully off the ground anytime soon. Herman might not even be at Texas to see the finished product. He could take too long in realizing his goal and lose his spot at Texas—it’s happened at other programs.
Texas won’t be anywhere near their former strength in the next five years. It’s happened faster before, but I think the Longhorns are too deep in the hole to see noticeable changes anytime soon. We might see Texas get a few Top 25 votes and some surprising wins, but at best, they’ll barely break the .500 mark for the next two years or so.