Ranking Every Power 5 College Football Conference After Week 1
There's a new Bo in Auburn, and his gutsy effort bringing the Tigers all the way back for a 27-21 win over the Oregon Ducks in Saturday night's main event was enough to get them hoping for big things again.
But did it help lead the SEC to the top of the Power Five power rankings after Week 1?
Huge weeks from the Big Ten and Big 12 prove this is going to be a rugged war of "who's best" throughout the college football season. The SEC may be strong at the top, but those two leagues are, as well.
Up north, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin are ready to bring the B1G back. Toward the nation's heartland, Oklahoma and Texas are sturdy title contenders while Oklahoma State, Iowa State and others look like fringe candidates. Meanwhile, the country's best team hails from the ACC, and the Pac-12 is trying to get back in the conversation.
So, who's No. 1?
Let's take a look at the power rankings of college football's top conferences after the first week of the season. The chief criterion is the number of potential College Football Playoff contenders, followed by teams with elite potential and depth of talent.
Clemson is the nation's best team until proven otherwise.
The Tigers didn't play anywhere near their best game in Thursday night's beatdown of Georgia Tech. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his high-octane receiving corps did very little, and they still posted 52 points.
A fast defense and a Herculean effort from Travis Etienne, who looked like the nation's top running back with 12 carries for 205 yards and three touchdowns, made sure there wouldn't be any early-season sluggishness.
But the problem with the ACC is that it's Clemson and everybody else. Or, more aptly put this season, it's Clemson and nobody else.
Who is going to rise up to outfit the league with contenders?
It isn't going to be Miami, which seemed young and inconsistent while losing to Florida in Week 0 despite the Gators looking awful. It isn't going to be Florida State, which is in real trouble after failing to make a bowl game in 2018 and losing to Boise State in Week 1 of the new season.
Aside from Clemson, the only ranked ACC team is Syracuse, which sits on the fringe after beating Liberty 24-0 in a snoozer on Saturday.
The league did produce some big wins, especially when North Carolina welcomed back legendary head coach Mack Brown and beat South Carolina to open the season and turn the tables from the forgettable Larry Fedora era. Making a bowl would be a nice story in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina State and Virginia are capable of building solid resumes, and Boston College has a chance, too. It's anybody's guess how good Duke is going to be. The Blue Devils certainly weren't on Alabama's level Saturday, but who is?
The Pac-12 doesn't have Clemson. But when it comes to depth of good teams, it's a better conference than the ACC.
As a matter of fact, the Pac-12 doesn't have any real title contenders unless there's some major shift between now and the middle of the season.
Of course, Washington could change all that if quarterback Jacob Eason keeps throwing darts while the young supporting cast improves. He went 27-of-36 for 349 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-14 blowout of Eastern Washington.
Oregon's last-minute loss to Auburn after choking away a Saturday night lead didn't help conference perception, and the Ducks will now have to hope for a lot of things to happen in order to get into the national title conversation. The conference just doesn't have enough high-profile opponents for them to play.
But again, the Pac-12 has more depth from top to bottom.
Washington and Oregon sit at the top with Utah not far behind. A young and exciting Arizona State team has a lot to look forward to, and USC has plenty of talent even though quarterback JT Daniels' season-ending ACL and meniscus injury against Fresno State throws the future into question. Stanford is the steady force that isn't glamorous but always seems to get the job done.
UCLA's loss to Cincinnati doesn't look good on paper because the Bearcats are an AAC team, though they're also a solid squad. Arizona's setback against a good Hawaii team in Week 0 isn't going to help how national media feels about the league, either. Group of Five losses don't garner great headlines, after all.
This placement comes down to how you value a conference with the nation's best team and nothing else against one that likely won't field a squad on the same tier as the Tigers but has several that could fall between Nos. 8-15 nationally.
Right now, the Pac-12 has more good teams than the ACC, even if it doesn't have the best one. This may be a controversial pick, but depth puts it slightly ahead in the pecking order.
3. Big 12
As the season progresses, the Big 12 may be difficult to figure out. But that wasn't the case in Week 1, as the conference was downright awesome.
How about a spotless 10-0 record against out-of-conference competition with the biggest win coming from Oklahoma on Sunday night against Dana Holgorsen's Houston Cougars and dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate D'Eriq King?
The catch, of course, is the conference didn't really play anybody who should have pulled an upset. But it was nonetheless a strong start, despite Iowa State needing three extra sessions to finally breathe a sigh of relief in a 29-26 win over Northern Iowa.
Texas is Oklahoma's biggest adversary, and the Longhorns didn't struggle at all in a 45-14 win over a respectable Louisiana Tech team. We'll see how good the 'Horns really are next week when they face the LSU Tigers in a battle to see who can elevate to that top tier and compete with Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and the elites.
West Virginia looks shaky and should probably take a step back in the first year of the Neal Brown era, but the rest of the league looks like it's going to rebound well. Oklahoma State whipped Oregon State, and dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders looks like he can lead a resurgent offense. Baylor is getting better each year, while TCU and Texas Tech could take steps forward, too.
The biggest question is just how many national contenders the conference can produce. Other than Oklahoma and Texas, nobody can really elevate to that next level.
The Big 12 has to settle for the middle of the pack right now and hope at least one member of its Big Two can reach the College Football Playoff.
2. Big Ten
Last year was a forgettable one for Penn State. But while a season-opening pummeling of Idaho isn't going to make anybody declare the Nittany Lions title contenders in 2019, the way it happened should get everybody in Happy Valley excited.
A 79-7 domination in the post-Trace McSorley era proves head coach James Franklin still has firepower; it's just a matter of how everything will come together once the big games start flying by.
One thing is certain: Ohio State and Michigan are again back at the top of the Big Ten.
Despite the Buckeyes saying goodbye to legendary head coach Urban Meyer and Heisman Trophy finalist and record-setting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, they won the Justin Fields sweepstakes, and it looks like new head coach Ryan Day got a star transfer from Georgia. The quarterback accounted for five touchdowns as his team pummeled Lane Kiffin's Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday.
Though Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh had to replace most of his defense, the Wolverines have a lot of talent and pulled away from Middle Tennessee after some early worries Saturday.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, walloped South Florida in its opener. After a disappointing season a year ago, the Badgers look much better, at least for one week.
The three other ranked teams—Michigan State, Iowa and Nebraska—all won but with mixed results. The Spartans dispatched the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes and the Hawkeyes had little trouble during a win over the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks, but the Cornhuskers needed help from turnovers to finally put away the South Alabama Jaguars.
Two swing games didn't go the league's way as Northwestern lost 17-7 at Stanford and Purdue fell at Nevada on a last-second field goal, but the league is proving it's ready to go toe-to-toe with the SEC.
The SEC is still ahead, but it isn't by much.
The gap is certainly closing thanks to a bottom half of the SEC that spent most of the opening weekend riding shotgun on the struggle bus. But the top of the league still makes this conference the class of the Power Five.
At least for now.
Alabama played nowhere near as tidy as it can and still destroyed Duke 42-3 in Atlanta to stay firmly in the top two nationally. Georgia got off to a quick start, and a 30-6 win over conference foe Vanderbilt isn't going to cause any concern despite a few second-half lulls.
The next two in the pecking order, LSU and Texas A&M, looked stout in lopsided wins over Georgia Southern and Texas State, respectively. Ed Orgeron's Bayou Bengals were especially impressive on both sides of the ball, and Year 2 with Joe Burrow under center should allow for high hopes.
Next week's showdown with Texas will tell a lot.
The marquee matchup of the weekend could have featured the birth of a star, as true freshman signal-caller Bo Nix brought Auburn all the way back to beat an Oregon team that led the whole way in Arlington, Texas. Those style points go a long way in these power rankings, too.
Throw in Florida, which played poorly and still beat a talented Miami team, and that's six strong squads at the top.
The rest of the conference needs work, though.
South Carolina's gauntlet of a schedule got off to an awful start with a loss to North Carolina, and Ole Miss endured an ugly loss to Memphis. Tennessee's historic loss to Georgia State made the Vols a national laughingstock, and the Missouri Tigers got shocked in Laramie by the Wyoming Cowboys despite high hopes accompanying Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant.
Kentucky didn't look good but survived Toledo, and Mississippi State and Arkansas struggled in victories, too.
But the top of the league is loaded with six teams that could conceivably make the playoffs—or at least New Year's Six bowls. And for now, that's enough for the SEC to remain the king of college football.
Brad Shepard covers college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.