The 25 best teams in college football right now
Kev Connaghan updates PFF's Top 25 ranking following seven weeks of play.
The 25 best teams in college football right now
Week 7 threatened drama within the rankings, but failed to deliver. For a while it looked like either Ohio State or Clemson might fall, but in the end the top teams were able to hold onto their spot on the list.
Here are you top 25 teams in college football following seven weeks of play:
Another week, another demolition job for the Crimson Tide. The rushing numbers were gaudy. 438 yards at 8.9 per carry. but the defense stole the show once again. At 88.5 overall, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen earned the highest grade of the game, after an impressive performance in which he racked up one sack, nine total pressures and three stops against the run. It was free safety Ronnie Harrison’s turn to score a defensive touchdown, turning his first pick of the season into six points. Harrison had two further pass breakups and finished with an 89.5 coverage grade. Texas A&M better have a very good game plan for this week’s trip to Tuscaloosa.
2. Ohio State
It took overtime, but Ohio State were able to triumph over Wisconsin in Camp Randall. For the second straight game quarterback J.T. Barrett was the Buckeyes leading rusher, this time earning an 82.4 rushing grade. Cornerback Gareon Conley made a key interception in the fourth quarter and earned a team-high 83.5 overall grade. Conley’s coverage has now been targeted 20 times this season, with just four of those being completed for 41 yards. He has two picks, five further passes defensed, and QBs targeting his coverage have a passer rating of 0.0.
They rode their luck this week, before emerging with an overtime win against the Wolfpack. Clemson’s playoff hopes were in the hands of NC State kicker Kyle Bambard, when he lined up what would have been a game-winning 33-yard kick, fortunately for the Tigers, he missed. Slot corner Ryan Carter earned the Tigers best grade, with 82.6. Carter was targeted extensively by the Wolfpack, with 10 passes coming his way, he broke up two of them and conceded just four receptions for 16 yards, impressive stats for a slot corner.
Michigan had a week off to prepare for the all-important second-half of the season. Next week’s trip to East Lansing looms large, but before they can think about that, the Wolverines must take care of business against Illinois. The Wolverines defense has been terrific, and that shows in the grading with ten major contributors earning overall grades in excess of 80.0. Despite missing the start of the season, none have graded better than corner Jourdan Lewis, who has allowed just two receptions for seven yards on passes thrown into his coverage.
The bye week may have been well timed for Washington, coming after an emotional win over Oregon, it gave them time to clear their heads and look ahead to a somewhat dangerous Pac-12 run in. Next week’s game at Utah is pivotal to their season, as is the end of season Apple Cup game against a dangerous Washington State team. The maturation of quarterback Jake Browning has been key. Browning’s 77.1 adjusted accuracy percentage is seventh-best in the nation, and that remains high (68.6, 11th-best) when pressured.
Another high-ranked team that survived a scare, Louisville were in a close game until a fourth quarter drive capped off with a touchdown from Lamar Jackson sealed the game. While Jackson’s running impressed again, the plaudits for this win belong with the Cardinals defense. Linebacker Stacy Thomas earned a game-high 87.5 overall grade, edge rusher Devonte Fields generated six QB pressures on his way to an 82.9 grade, while defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown earned an 82.3 grade with a sack and six defensive stops.
7. Texas A&M
A week off gave Texas A&M a chance to get healthy and prep for a daunting visit to Tuscaloosa. The dual-headed ground attack of running back Trayveon Williams and quarterback Trevor Knight has been successful; so far, they have rushing grades of 77.6 and 82.5, respectively. However, the Crimson Tide have limited opponents to 2 yards per carry, so the Aggies will need to pass the ball better than they have this season, they have talented receivers but Knight’s 61.8 passing grade is a concern.
Understanding this Nebraska team continues to be difficult. They looked like a Top 10 team as they raced to a 17-0 first quarter lead against Indiana, but from that point on they struggled, making a mockery of their ranking. In the absence of slot receiver Jordan Westerkamp and tight end Cethan Carter, the Cornhuskers short and intermediate passing game took a huge hit. With Purdue up next they get a little time to work through the kinks and perhaps get that pair healthy again, as they’ll need them for back-to-back road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State.
9. West Virginia
While most of the attention has focused on Baylor as the Big 12’s leading playoff contender, it is undefeated West Virginia who have the better resume, with out of conference wins over Missouri and a good BYU team to their credit. To add to that resume, the Mountaineers are clicking on offense and had enough defense to hold Texas Tech to less than 400 yards of offense in Lubbock. Quarterback Skyler Howard earned an 83.8 overall grade against the Red Raiders.
Baylor enter a bye week after a comfortable victory over Kansas that ticked all the boxes. They ran with ease, limited their opponent’s offense and were able to give good game time to the backups, the problem of course being that Kansas don’t offer much of a barometer by which to measure Baylor. The true tests begin next week when Baylor travel to face a wounded, but dangerous Texas team.
11. Florida State
Florida State’s 17-6 victory Wake Forest takes them to a 5-2 record, and should have been more comfortable than it ultimately was. The Seminoles owe much to a terrific performance from wide receiver Travis Rudolph, who had 13 catches for 238 yards, earning him a game-high 86.4 overall grade. Rudolph averaged an outstanding 5.95 yards per route run.
Auburn’s season is finely balanced as they exit their bye week. At 4-2 the pressure on head coach Gus Malzahn has dissipated (for now), and the Tigers have a shot at finishing in the upper echelon of the SEC. However, the next two games against Arkansas and Ole Miss, are crucial to that ambition. The form of rush linebacker Carl Lawson (83.5 overall) has been key to that revival. Lawson has five sacks and 28 total pressures from six games, his 14.7 pass-rushing productivity score ranks 12th among 3-4 outside linebackers.
Houston saw off Tulsa with a 38-31 win, in which Greg Ward Jr. was again a major factor. Ward Jr. rushed for 125 yards on 20 designed carries, at an average of 3.85 yards after contact. Including scrambles, he forced a total of 13 missed tackles, which helped him to a 91.5 rushing grade.
While West Virginia may have the best resume in the Big 12, Oklahoma are looking like the conference’s best team. Despite being held out initially, wide receiver Dede Westbrook continued his hot-streak against Kansas State, with nine receptions for 184 yards and three touchdowns. Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeting Westbrook.
A second straight defeat sees the Badgers drop out of the Top 10, but they don’t drop far as both were tight losses against Top 5 teams, and once again the Wisconsin defense looked legit. Linebacker Jack Cichy recorded one sack, four total pressures and a team-leading seven defensive stops, all of which helped him to a game-high 84.5 overall grade. With Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern up next, the Badgers have an opportunity to take control of the Big Ten-West.
There really aren’t any positives that Tennessee can take from the Alabama game, even star defensive end Derek Barnett was limited to just the one QB pressure (a sack) and a 75.7 overall grade. They couldn’t move the ball on the ground which put the onus on the Volunteers passing game, which has not been a strength. The Vols have a week off to lick their wounds, then have a finishing stretch of five winnable games, they need Florida to slip up, but the SEC East title remains a possibility.
At the rate they are accumulating injuries, the Utes may be in danger of running out of players this season. For this game they were grateful for the return of formerly retired running back Joe Williams, who took advantage of some good blocking to rush for 179 yards and earn a decent 69.2 rushing grade.
18. Western Michigan
The expectation was that Western Michigan’s unbeaten start to the season would be tested on the road against Akron, but those expectations proved greatly exaggerated as the Broncos cruised to a 41-0 victory. One key for the Broncos has been the play of the offensive line, here right tackle Taylor Moton (83.0 overall) and left tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (78.8), earned the two highest grades on offense.
Ole Miss at Arkansas could have turned into a shootout between the two best passers in the SEC, but neither passer was allowed to find their best form. Accordingly, Arkansas owe thanks for their victory to their secondary, where several players graded well. Safety Josh Liddell earned the highest grade with 83.0, corners Ryan Pulley and Jared Collins had grades of 77.6 and 77.3, respectively, and safety Santos Ramirez, who sealed the win with a forced fumble, earned a 74.7 grade.
20. Boise State
Boise State survived a late scare from Colorado state to win 28-23 and remain undefeated. Running back Jeremy McNichols entered the game with the third-highest overall grade among running backs, at 84.2, and was the Broncos key man against the Rams, with 264 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Next up is a visit from a difficult BYU team, if the Bronco’s can win that, it would give them another good out of conference result to pair with their win over Washington State.
21. Washington State
The enigmatic Cougars have emerged as one of the better teams in the Pac-12, and of not for their woeful out of conference record, they would be much higher on this list. While offense remains key in Pullman, the difference for the Cougars this year may be an improved defense. Linebacker Peyton Pelluer led the team with six defensive stops on his way to an 83.8 overall grade, which takes him to 20 for the season.
The Gators once again hold their fate in their own hands, win out and they will play for the SEC championship. Against Missouri they were able to welcome back quarterback Luke Del Rio, though his three interception performance was less welcome, and earned him a 48.8 passing grade. A better opponent than the Tigers would have made Florida pay for those turnovers.
23. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State return from their bye week with a less than daunting trip to Lawrence to take on the Jayhawks. The real test of the Cowboys candidacy will come the following week with the visit of West Virginia, which will determine whether or not they can be a factor this season.
24. North Carolina
Some team will win the topsy-turvy ACC Coastal, but only after they’ve taken turns beating each other. This week it’s the Tar Heels who are ascendant, their 34-3 thrashing at the hands of Virginia Tech (who lost to Syracuse this week) exorcised with a solid 20-13 road win over Miami. This game may have marked corner M.J. Stewart to 2015 form, he earned an 87.8 coverage grade after giving up just one catch from five targets, and that for negative yardage.
25. South Florida
The Bull have flown under the radar on their way to a 6-1 record, with that one defeat coming at the hands of Florida State. Quarterback Quinton Flowers is a dangerous runner who is averaging 7.0 yards per carry on designed runs, which has helped him to an 88.1 rushing grade.