7 things you need to know in college football

Utah is back on track, Christian Hackenberg posts his highest PFF grade ever and much more following Week 9.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

7 things you need to know in college football

Here are the seven things you need to know in college football this week:

1. Led by Travis Wilson, Utah gets back on track against Oregon State.

It wouldn’t have surprised a lot of people if the Utah Utes had struggled again after suffering a demoralizing loss at the hands of USC a week ago, but this Utah team has got this far by proving people wrong, and that’s what they did on Saturday. Against Oregon State quarterback Travis Wilson (+3.5) rebounded, with just three incompletions on the day. On passes of 20 yards or longer he went 3-for-4 for 88 yards. Most importantly, he didn’t make mistakes, which is exactly what Utah need from him as they continue to head towards a Pac-12 Championship showdown with Utah.

2. Christian Hackenberg posts his highest ever PFF grade.

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg (-3.9) gets a lot of hype as a potential high draft pick in the NFL draft in the future, but we haven’t seen him grade very well at all since we began grading college football at the beginning of last season. At +3.4 though, he turned in his best ever performance during Saturday’s game against Illinois. He didn’t attempt a single pass of 20 yards or longer, but went 7-for-8 for 98 yards and two touchdowns on passes between 10 and 19 yards.

3. The Florida Gators await Alabama or LSU.

After the big win over the Georgia Bulldogs, the Florida Gators are inching closer to clinching the SEC East, setting up a showdown in the conference championship game with either LSU or Alabama. They’ll almost certainly enter that game as underdogs, but they have a good enough defense to give anyone problems. On the defensive line Jonathan Bullard (+33.6) is the star of the show, but nine of their 11 defensive linemen have positive grades so far this year. In the defensive backfield Jalen Tabor (+7.5) has outperformed Vernon Hargreaves III (+3.6) at cornerback, while Marcus Maye (+15.7) has really impressed at safety.

4. Can anyone stop Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey?

Early in the year it looked like the Heisman Trophy would be on its way to either LSU running back Leonard Fournette or TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin, with both starting the season strong and maintaining that form. However, Stanford running back and all round weapon Christian McCaffrey (+25.0) is beginning to state his case. The NCAA leader in all purpose yardage this season, he has created big plays as a runner, a receiver, and in the return game. A big reason why Stanford have recovered from that season opening loss to Northwestern to be firmly in the College Football Playoff picture, expect more big plays before the season ends.

5. Sheldon’s big Day keeps Notre Dame’s College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Temple gave Notre Dame everything they could, and very nearly pulled off the upset to stay unbeaten and end the Fighting Irish’s College Football Playoff hopes. It wasn’t a great day for the Notre Dame offense, with both quarterback DeShone Kizer (-1.1) and running back C.J. Prosise (-2.2) struggling, but on defense Sheldon Day (+9.3) had a huge game. The defensive tackle had a sack, a hit and four hurries as a pass rusher, and finished the game with four total defensive stops. Their playoff chances are slim, with so many unbeaten teams still around, but if they can continue to win they’ll be there to swoop in if enough of them do slip up.

6. Deshaun Watson keeps the Clemson Tigers unbeaten.

All season long we’ve waited for a performance like that from Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (+6.4). Showcasing his big arm, Watson completed six of the seven passes of 20 yards or more he attempted, for 231 yards and four touchdowns. With the Tigers’ announced as the top ranked team in the College Football Playoff race at this stage in the season, it’s exactly the type of performance that could lead them to glory. They have a big showdown with Florida State on the horizon, but Watson looks ready to take the Tigers into January.

7. Boykin and Doctson are the most potent QB-WR duo in the nation.

Two weeks after his highest graded game of the year against Iowa State (+10.6), TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin had another big game against West Virginia (+7.5). With the Horned Frogs ready for a tough November with games against unbeaten Oklahoma State and Baylor, and one-loss Oklahoma, Boykin has had a tremendous year. He’s not the only one though, with wide receiver Josh Doctson (+23.5) currently our highest graded receiver in the nation. He’s been an outstanding deep threat for Boykin pulling in 17 receptions for 553 yards and nine touchdowns on passes travelling at least 20 yards in the air.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

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