10 things you need to know for Week 10 of college football

From underrated players to the playoff landscape, Vinnie Ronca highlights our biggest things to know for this week.

| 8 months ago
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

10 things you need to know for Week 10 of college football

Things are starting to get interesting. Last weekend saw several close calls for the nation’s best teams, a handful of top-10 upsets and a few schools that were all but eliminated from playoff contention. With the first playoff rankings of the season released, the pressure remains for the teams up top while those just outside the initial rankings are ready to pounce on the opportunity to move into the discussion.

This weekend’s games offer just as many potential upsets and will surely feature a few results that no one saw coming. Get yourself ready for the action with 10 things to know for Week 10:

  1. Northwestern’s Austin Carr deserves some attention

In what has been an up-and-down year for the Northwestern Wildcats, wide receiver Austin Carr has consistently risen to the occasion, ranking second among all wideouts this season with his 89.9 overall grade. Carr has performed at a high level all year and currently ranks near the top of the list in wide receiver rating (128.0), yards per route run (3.14) and deep passing touchdowns (four). His eight catch, 158-yard performance last week against the Buckeyes defense shows he’s capable of hanging with the best and he’ll have another chance to prove it this weekend against a talented Wisconsin secondary.

  1. Florida secondary looks to contain Arkansas passing attack

With Tennessee’s loss over the weekend, Florida’s path to the SEC title game just became a little easier. While their path has become more clear, there are still several potential roadblocks remaining on their schedule, starting with this weekend’s trip to Arkansas. The Razorbacks have one of the better passing games in college football this season, led by standout QB Austin Allen (78.2) and receivers Jared Cornelius (80.6), Keon Hatcher (76.4) and Drew Morgan (74.6) who all rank among the top six SEC wide receivers. The Gators secondary is as impressive as they come though and cornerbacks Duke Dawson (84.6), Teez Tabor (79.0) and Quincy Wilson (76.1) will be looking to shut things down through the air. Dawson has six pass breakups this year, Tabor has grabbed four interceptions and Wilson has allowed a passer rating of just 18.3 into his coverage — all impressive feats. Throw in safety Marcus Maye protecting the deep middle and the Arkansas passing game may not find much room to work with this weekend.

  1. South Carolina may have found their quarterback

For the first time in a long time, there may be some real hope at the quarterback position for South Carolina. After walk-on Perry Orth and true freshman Brandon McIlwain failed to produce, head coach Will Muschamp turned to another true freshman in Jake Bentley. Muschamp has to like what he’s seen so far. Since being handed the reigns to the offense two weeks ago, Bentley has posted a 102.56 PFF QB rating and ranks 17th among all quarterbacks over the last two games with a 74.3 overall grade. This isn’t a matter of quick and easy passes to pad the stats, either. Bentley hasn’t held back, attempting a deep pass on nearly one out of every four pass attempts and ranking 12th with a 54.5 percent accuracy rate on deep throws. Bentley has been impressive and will get another chance to prove his ability this weekend as he faces Missouri and the SEC’s top-ranked cornerback in Aarion Penton (88.5).

  1. Washington must avoid letdown at Cal

The Washington Huskies enter November with a perfect record and are coming off their toughest win of the year, a 31-24 victory over a very talented Utah team. Washington is one of the most balanced teams in the country and are deservedly entrenched in the playoff discussion, but they’ll have to get through a tough stretch to finish the season if they’re to secure their bid among the final four teams. It starts this weekend with an away game against a dynamic but inconsistent Cal team led by one of the best QB-WR duos in the nation in Davis Webb (73.9) and Chad Hansen (86.6). After such a physical, hard-fought win last week, the Huskies will have to be sure to avoid a letdown and come out strong against the Bears. Cal is the type of offense that can jump on you in a hurry, but if Washington is on their game they have the talent on both sides of the ball to turn this into an easy victory.

  1. The gauntlet continues for Nebraska

Nebraska gets no time to recover after a tough overtime loss to Wisconsin last week, going on the road again to take on Ohio State at the Horseshoe Saturday night. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. was held in check against Wisconsin, posting just a 56.4 overall grade and completing less than 43 percent of his aimed passes. While the Badgers defense has been outstanding this year, the Buckeyes will prove to be an even tougher opponent for Nebraska, ranking as the fourth-best defense in the country according to our grades. Ohio State has talent at every level of their defense, but they’re especially stout up front with Nick Bosa (83.2), Dre’Mont Jones (81.0), Tyquan Lewis (80.6) and Sam Hubbard (79.8) all grading extremely well this season. With that level of depth in the trenches and a struggling Nebraska offensive line, expect the Buckeyes to dominate up front and make life difficult for Armstrong and the rest of the Nebraska offense.

  1. Oklahoma State could be on wrong side of upset this weekend

Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State Cowboys got to play spoiler last weekend, knocking off undefeated West Virginia and likely eliminating any hopes of the playoffs for the Mountaineers. The Cowboys now find themselves ranked once again and will be trying to avoid a similar fate as they travel to take on a dangerous Kansas State team. They sit at just 5-3 on the season, but the Wildcats have played some good football this year, knocking off Texas Tech and Texas while suffering close losses to both Stanford and West Virginia. With Kansas State possessing one of the better run-blocking lines in the country and the ninth-highest-graded running quarterback in Jesse Ertz (87.5 run grade), the Oklahoma State defense will have to be disciplined in their assignments. The Cowboys will have an advantage through the air as the Wildcats secondary ranks near the bottom of the nation, but defensive end Jordan Willis (90.1), who ranks fifth nationally with 37 total pressures, will look to ease the burden on his secondary with some persistent pressure throughout the game.

  1. Aggies will need to contain Nick Fitzgerald

Nick Fitzgerald has been one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation this year, currently ranking third with a 91.2 rush grade. Despite his struggles as a passer, Fitzgerald has been able to make plays with his legs over and over again this season and will need to do the same this weekend against Texas A&M. He’s picked up 114 yards and forced four missed tackles on 13 quarterback scrambles, but it’s the designed QB run where he’s really done his damage. On 88 designed runs, Fitzgerald has picked up 612 rushing yards, forced 18 missed tackles and averages 4.02 yards after contact per attempt. Going up against an A&M defense that has missed 113 tackles on the year, Fitzgerald could very well be in store for another big night on the ground.

  1. LSU will need huge performance from ground game against Bama

LSU’s chances of hanging with Alabama this weekend will largely depend on one thing: The Tigers’ ability to run the ball. Fortunately, LSU has one of the best running back duos in the country in Leonard Fournette (70.1) and Derrius Guice (73.2). Unfortunately, Alabama has college football’s best run defense by a long shot. Both Fournette and Guice are physical runners and each rank in the top-10 nationally in breakaway percentage, meaning they’re capable of taking it to the house at any moment. This Alabama front seven may prove to be too much to handle though, and if they’re able to shut down the run game and keep LSU in obvious passing situations it could spell disaster for the Tiger offense. Alabama’s pass-rush unit is the best in the country and Quarterback Danny Etling (61.9) has not fared well when facing pressure this year, connecting on just 47.5 percent of his pressured attempts. If LSU has a shot in this one it can’t let things fall on Etling’s shoulders, meaning Fournette, Guice and the LSU offensive line will have to carry the load.

  1. Uncertainty at quarterback surrounds TCU/Baylor matchup

From injury to ineffectiveness, both Baylor and TCU have question marks at their quarterback position heading into this weekend’s matchup. Seth Russell (83.5) was deemed to have concussion-like symptoms after taking a few too many hits in last week’s loss to Texas while TCU’s Kenny Hill (73.6) was benched in favor of backup Foster Sawyer (61.0) in the Horned Frog’s double overtime loss to Texas Tech. All indications are that Russell will be able to suit up on Saturday, which is great news for a Baylor team looking to avoid its second straight loss. Russell ranks ninth in the nation this season with his 83.5 overall grade and his performance will be key against the playmaking TCU defense. For the Horned Frogs, Kenny Hill is coming off a string of poor performances but his replacement didn’t show much more in limited snaps against Tech, with Sawyer completing just 33.3 percent of his passes for 4.8 yards per attempt. For two teams known for their potent passing attacks, having the right player under center this Saturday will be key to their success.

  1. We have our first playoff rankings

Tuesday night saw the release of the College Football Playoff committee’s first rankings of the season. The first three spots comprised of Alabama, Clemson and Michigan and were right in line with everyone’s expectations. It was the fourth team that had people talking. The committee granted the fourth and final spot to Texas A&M, leaving undefeated Washington on the outside looking in. Each of these four teams will need to continue racking up quality wins down the stretch and convince the committee that they deserve to stay in the playoff picture when the end of the season rolls around. And while having your favorite team make the initial ranking is definitely an exciting time for the fan base, just keep in mind that at this time last year Oklahoma was ranked 15th in the initial poll and ultimately made the final four. We still have a long way to go.

Vinnie joined PFF as an analyst in 2015. College football will be his primary focus throughout the season.

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