8 things you need to know in college football
Alabama is back on track, don't sleep on Florida and Northwestern, and much more following Week 5.
8 things you need to know in college football
1. Alabama is back on track.
An underdog on the road against Georgia, Alabama was facing a tough battle to avoid a second loss of the year that would have been catastrophic to their playoff hopes. Quarterback Jake Coker (+1.7) delivered his second-straight positively graded game, while Jonathan Allen (+4.4), A’Shawn Robinson (+4.5) and Jarran Reed (+4.7) dominated on the defensive line. Knocking Georgia from the ranks of the unbeaten in dominant fashion, an Alabama team that many saw as on the brink are very quickly back in the College Football Playoff picture.
2. Ole Miss’ loss opens up the SEC.
That’s in part due to Ole Miss’ one-sided loss in Gainesville against the Florida Gators. On this week’s PFF College podcast we discussed how we thought Florida’s defense had the ability to keep it close against the Rebels. We didn’t expect Ole Miss to get blown out — that’s for sure. It doesn’t get any easier from here either, with three of their next seven games coming against teams who are currently undefeated.
3. We all underrated Florida.
The flip side of that one-sided encounter from Saturday is that the Florida Gators are now right in the hunt as a contender in the SEC and beyond. Pulling off a win as big as they just did will do that for you. They face a tricky schedule in the coming weeks with LSU and Georgia on the horizon after this Saturday’s trip to Missouri, so they’ll need to continue to play as well as they did against Ole Miss, but that was a statement win against a good team.
4. Northwestern’s stingy defense makes them Big Ten contender.
Two shutouts and 44 total point allowed through five games has the Northwestern Wildcats as the surprise package in the Power-5 conferences this year. Cornerbacks Nick VanHoose (+3.4) and Matthew Harris (+4.2) were the start against Minnesota in the 27-0 win, combining to allow just 62 receiving yards while breaking up five passes to go along with an interception for Harris. Next up comes a trip to Ann Arbor to take on a Michigan Wolverines team that hasn’t allowed a point since September 19th.
5. Ohio State survives another poor quarterback performance.
Another week and another underwhelming performance from the Buckeyes quarterbacks. Running back Ezekiel Elliott (+4.8) rescued them against Indiana, but it almost seems like it’s just a matter of time before their struggles at the position cost them a game. Cardale Jones (-14.7) has not graded negatively in four straight games with just three touchdowns and four interceptions in that span. Defensively they still look impressive, with Joey Bosa (+29.3) having a great year once again, and linebacker Raekwon McMillan (+7.9) registering 11 tackles resulting in a defensive stop last week, but that defense can only take them so far if things don’t improve on offense.
6. How long can Texas A&M maintain their unbeaten start?
The Aggies continued their unbeaten start to the season, but the next set of tests are just about to begin. In two weeks they host Alabama, followed by a trip to Ole Miss. Can their young stars pull off the upset to stay unbeaten? If they are to do so, it’s likely to come thanks to the strength of their defense. Myles Garrett (+16.1) gets the plaudits, and for good reason, but they currently have seven of their defensive linemen with a grade of +1.0 or better, so it’s not all about Garrett at this point.
7. Clemson can be a playoff contender.
The victory over Notre Dame was one of the most exciting finishes in college football this season so far, with the Tigers stopping a two-point conversion to seal the win late in the fourth quarter. There’s every chance that Clemson could be in the College Football Playoff, but the date to circle on the calendar is November 7th. That’s when the Florida State Seminoles come to Memorial Stadium, with massive implications in the ACC Atlantic Division. Linebacker Ben Boulware (+10.5) has looked good in each of his last two starts, with his best work coming against the run. On offense quarterback Deshaun Watson (+0.7) hasn’t exactly stood out, and that’s something that will need to change if they are to become a legitimate contender this season.
8. Fournette has shown the dominance to outlast Boykin in Heisman race.
The two front-runners for the Heisman Trophy appear to be separating themselves from the pack right now, with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (+13.4) having a much better season than he did a year ago. He’s now thrown 19 touchdowns to just three interceptions this season, but has yet to really dominate a game, with plenty of throws where he has relied on his receivers coming back to win the ball in the air. Meanwhile, dominant is the only way you can describe Leonard Fournette (+14.2), with 864 rushing yards and 28 missed tackles forced through four games. He has a real opportunity to continue to drive LSU towards the College Football Playoff and seems the clear favorite for college football’s biggest individual honor too.
Gordon McGuinness | 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.