Now that LSU is in the early playoff discussions again, I'm expanding my weekly power poll to include the other Power 5 conferences as well. I'll poll each conference separately, and include Notre Dame in the ACC pod.
It is the individual conference polls which matter most, as it is likely that the playoffs will be four conference champions. It's possible for a conference to get two teams, but the best path to the playoffs is winning your own league. So instead of looking at a global rank, it is more helpful to look at how a team stacks up against its most relevant competition for a playoff bid. We'll rank the entire SEC, and then only the top 5 of the other conferences.
1 Georgia. The Dawgs are the most complete team in the SEC right now, and probably the only team without one glaring weakness. Of course, beating up on South Carolina is totally different than playing Alabama, but I'm trying to get in on the bandwagon early.
2 Ole Miss. There was the predictable letdown game against Vandy, but honestly, I view that as a positive. It showed the Rebels could tough out a win when they didn't have their A-effort.
3 LSU. Tom Ritter has been more effective at stopping Fournette than any defense so far.
4 Alabama. The Tide finally even up their record against ULM in the Saban era.
5 Texas A&M. The Aggies have been talking like a contender, but find it is a little bit harder to walk like one against an SEC opponent. Not even a terribly good one.
6 Florida. The Gators have now won two SEC games in which they were probably outplayed. Scoreboard counts.
7 Tennessee. The Vols rank 7th this week because Butch Jones forgot to go for two.
8 Mississippi St. I'm probably sorely underrating the other Bulldogs right now. They now have an SEC road win and a narrow loss to a top 10 team. This season could still go either way.
9 Kentucky. Finally got the marquee win they've been seeking. OK, it was just Mizzou, but Kentucky will take anything that counts even part way.
10 Mizzou. It appears that the formula of playing like garbage out of conference and then try and skate by in SEC play to the title game is not going to work this year.
11 Auburn. This was step one in righting the ship: not playing like garbage. OK, a home loss is not exactly a positive step, but Auburn has played so poorly, it sort of felt like one.
12 Vanderbilt. Played tough and made Ole Miss sweat for it. This is not a good football team, but they play with a lot of effort, and effort can lead to an upset or two.
13 Arkansas. Didn't exactly get their ass kicked this week, but this loss might have been more painful. The Hogs had this game for the taking and choked.
14 South Carolina. I'm running out of ways to say they stink, so let's be direct: they stink.
1 Notre Dame. Struggled with UMass for 28 minutes, then woke up in a big way. They are a Clemson win away from being favored to go undefeated. Fair warning.
2 Clemson. Help us, Dabo. You're our only hope.
3 Florida St. You can make a case that outside of Clemson, Florida is the best team left on their schedule. The best team they have played so far is South Florida.
4 Duke. Not glamorous, but they just go out there and win (unless they are playing Northwestern). Completely dismantled Georgia Tech.
5 Miami. Sure, why not?
1 Baylor. They are yet to play a team with a pulse, but they have spent September fiddling with the engine to make sure the race car can run at peak capacity come conference season.
2 TCU. That defense is flat out garbage, now that it has been destroyed by injuries. Josh Doctson did his best Josh Reed impression and almost single-handedly prevented the upset in Lubbock. I'm only keeping them at #2 until I figure out who belongs here instead.
3 Oklahoma. They were outplayed by Tennessee, but somehow managed to come out with the win.
4 Oklahoma St. They were outplayed by Texas, but somehow managed to come out with the win. Slightly less impressive.
5 West Virginia. They are destroying teams, but man... the Big 12 really needs to do something about its out of conference scheduling. I thought the SEC feasted on cupcakes, but... woof.
1 Ohio St. Keeping this spot warm as they play disinterested football, but keep winning.
2 Michigan. Honest question, what looks more impressive right now: Michigan's narrow road loss to Utah or Sparty's narrow home win versus Oregon?
3 Sparty. Like all right-thinking people, I'm cheering like mad for Sparty, but I'm not feeling very confident in them right now as a national title contender.
4 Northwestern. Two impressive wins over fellow smart kid schools. This is a team that could pull off a huge upset in conference play.
5 Iowa. Hey, look who has started 4-0? Maybe this will earn Ferentz a raise. You need to lock a guy like that up, long term.
1 Utah. Annihilated Oregon on the road and beat Michigan at home. No one in the nation has a better resume right now. They look like they could be scary good. My personal #1 right now.
2 UCLA. Lost their best player (Myles Jack) to injury? No problem. Blowing out a pretty good Arizona team on the road was a statement win. November 21st, they go to Utah. Plan accordingly.
3 Cal. Their wins are sort of dicey right now, but they are wins. The Pac-12 had a rough September, so let's give credit to a team that took care of business.
4 Oregon. Yes, they got their doors blown off at home, but let's not completely overreact. This is still a good football team that is still your North division favorite. Losing two games to top 10 teams only proves they aren't a top ten team.
5 Stanford. That Northwestern loss looks like a function of travel and an early start. It could end up looking like one of the most bizarre losses of the season. Or it will be USC's loss to Stanford, depending on how the season goes.
So, if the playoffs started today and I had a vote, here's my top five ballot:
2 Notre Dame
3 Ole Miss (demonstrating the difference between a power poll and a resume poll)
4 Ohio St.
5 Georgia (beat Alabama, then we'll talk)