Supremacy chatter: One thing I think I know about each Power 5 conference after six weeks
Six weeks is a long time.
Some jobs don’t last that long. Even some marriages don’t last that long. But at the very least, things should be learned in six weeks.
Maybe you learned that that marriage was probably not the best idea, or that that job wasn’t for you.
In six weeks, I’d like to think that I learned at least one thing about each Power 5 conference. And if not, I’m sure the next six weeks will show me just how wrong I was.
But for now, here’s something I think I know about each Power 5 conference.
ACC — Clemson is punishing the ACC like Alabama punishes the SEC
What happens when you punish emerging conference foes and crush all of their hopes and dreams? Well, you’re a bully. Clemson, like Alabama, is a bully.
When Louisville hosted College GameDay and Rick Pitino squeezed into Lamar Jackson’s jersey (his last hurrah), Clemson rolled in and pounded the Cardinals. When unbeaten Virginia Tech hosted GameDay two weeks later for its matchup against Clemson, what happened? Oh, the Tigers won easily there, too.
With Florida State not what we thought it could be — the Deondre Francois injury is a big reason for that — Clemson is clearly the best team in the conference. Frankly, it doesn’t look very close. It might be hurting the conference’s depth that Clemson has been so dominant.
But that’s not Dabo Swinney’s problem.
Big Ten — It’s basically exactly what we thought it would be
So picture this scenario. The B1G started the season with four ranked teams. In all likelihood, all of them will be within 10 spots of their preseason Associated Press rankings. No new B1G teams have joined the Top 25 all season.
Did we expect a young Michigan team to potentially struggle a little out of the gate? Sure. Did we expect Ohio State to have a learning curve with essentially a new offensive coaching staff? I did.
Penn State was expected to be undefeated at this point, as was Wisconsin. The B1G’s lone remaining unbeatens have only legitimized their Playoff credentials by winning most of their games convincingly.
Sure, Purdue is better than many expected while Nebraska is worse than many expected. But the B1G had a clear top four (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin), a clear bottom two (Illinois, Rutgers) and a middle of the pack that looked like a weekly crapshoot. That hasn’t changed much at all.
Big 12 — TCU is the only safe bet … I guess?
After watching Oklahoma dominate Ohio State, I was a believer. But after the Sooners laid an unthinkable egg against Iowa State on Saturday, I don’t know what to believe.
What I do believe is that TCU is for real. Kenny Trill and the Horned Frogs won at Arkansas, at Oklahoma State and home against West Virginia on Saturday. That’s a real-deal slate. Believe it or not, TCU and Texas were the only Big 12 teams to start off 2-0 in conference play.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have significant defensive issues that need to be addressed while preseason contenders like Kansas State can’t even beat Vanderbilt. Woof.
The Big 12 might have the least week-to-week consistency among its contenders, which makes it difficult to evaluate from a strength standpoint. That, plus a 4-6 mark vs. Power 5 foes in non-conference play is holding me back from determining the Big 12 as “strong.”
Pac-12 — Washington makes me want to fast forward a month to figure out the Pac-12
My preseason prediction to win the Pac-12 and make it to the College Football Playoff was Washington. Through six weeks, that looks like a solid guess. Or does it?
Just like last year, the Huskies had a cupcake-loaded start to its schedule. Besides beating Rutgers in non-conference play — and actually struggling for a bit — Washington’s three other Power 5 wins came against three teams that don’t have a Pac-12 win yet.
This is 2016 all over again for Washington, and it likely will be the same story heading into the first College Football Playoff poll. The Huskies will probably be the Pac-12’s top representative with its best win being … at home vs. UCLA? That’s not a very strong argument.
The Pac-12 disrespect card will be played again if Washington is undefeated and outside of the top four when that first poll comes out. Pac-12 fans might have a point. It had a 6-2 non-conference record vs. Power 5 opponents, including a 2-0 mark vs. the SEC.
Fortunately, Washington ends the season at Stanford, vs. Utah and vs. Washington State. Then it has a potential Pac-12 Championship vs. USC. This will all sort itself in a few weeks.
SEC — It’s a three-horse race … and it isn’t the power conference
Breaking news, right? Alabama, Auburn and Georgia are good. The rest of the SEC is not on their level. Shocking.
But more shocking — at least for some SEC fans — is that clearly, the SEC is not the true power conference in 2017.
If it were, it would have more than three teams ranked inside the Associated Press Top 25 (assuming Florida falls out after losing at home vs. LSU). If it were, it wouldn’t have gone a pedestrian 6-6 vs. Power 5 teams in non-conference play. If it were, half of the conference’s coaches wouldn’t be on the hot seat.
The SEC has no 2017 argument to make to boast its conference supremacy. At least not after six weeks. There’s loads of parity, which is great from an entertainment standpoint, but not so great from a supremacy standpoint. It looks even worse that preseason Top-25 teams like LSU and Tennessee haven’t come close to meeting high preseason expectations.
Ironically enough, though, we could easily be talking about two or even three top-five SEC teams when the first Playoff poll comes out.
An S-E-C! S-E-C! chant would be heard loud and clear if and when that happens.