Everything you need to know in college football following Week 6

Steve Palazzolo shares the top takeaways, playoff standings and stats to know following another week of college play.

| 2 weeks ago
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Everything you need to know in college football following Week 6

While it was another week that re-shaped the landscape of college football, the College Football Playoff picture remains clear as all of the top teams took care of business. Perhaps the gap widened with Houston’s upset loss to Navy as they’ve effectively been eliminated and Louisville’s chances took a small hit. At the other end, programs who were once thought to be top-25 caliber continued to plummet — namely Notre Dame, Stanford and Oregon, who are all looking to regroup in a season that is well below recent standards.

Here are the other top takeaways from Week 6:

  1. Playoff picture stays clear at the top

The top teams took care of business once again and they did so in convincing fashion across the board. Alabama pressured Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen a ridiculous 42 times on only 61 dropbacks (68.8 percent), further cementing their status as the nation’s most dominant defense and perhaps the best of the Nick Saban era.

Ohio State showed the most weakness of any top team as they made it interesting with Indiana, though they controlled most of the game. Clemson put together a strong all-around effort at Boston College on Friday night while Michigan piggybacked on OSU’s thrashing of Rutgers last week by notching a 78-0 win. Finally, Washington showed no signs of slowing down as they went into Oregon and dominated the Ducks in all phases to win 70-21.

The nation’s top five teams continue to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and only Ohio State and Michigan are slated to play each other among the group. Perhaps this season, we get little drama but much anticipation heading into the playoff.

  1. Texas A&M headed for a showdown with Bama

While the tackling effort was one of the ugliest this season (31 missed tackles), Texas A&M is primed for a showdown with Alabama in Tuscaloosa in two weeks. The Aggies’ defensive front was disruptive once again as a banged-up Myles Garrett still managed a sack, QB hit and seven hurries on his 27 rushes. The defensive line and an aggressive, blitz-heavy defense has paved the way for Texas A&M’s 6-0 start and they now get a bye week to watch Alabama go head-to-head with Tennessee’s pixie dust before their Week 8 matchup.

Offensively, there’s been enough of a mix of “good Trevor, bad Trevor” by QB Trevor Knight that this game could go either way, but “good Trevor” will have to call on his 2013 strong effort against Alabama during bowl season in order for Texas A&M to have a chance. He’s surrounded by strong skill-position talent, led by WR Josh Reynolds (82.1 vs. Tennessee) and true freshman RB Trayveon Williams who was our No. 5 true freshman coming into the week and did little to sway that opinion (other than a goal line fumble) with 215 yards on 28 carries.

Alabama may roll right through Texas A&M, but with a strong defensive line and a spread run attack that can keep defenses off balance, it may be just the formula to challenge the Crimson Tide — at least more than other teams have this season.

  1. Tennessee’s magic runs out, but still in control of their path to Atlanta

Pixie dust. Magic. Voodoo. Whatever Butch Jones has bottled up this season finally ran out (for now) as Tennessee’s undefeated season comes to an end at Texas A&M. They nearly pulled off yet another miracle with a late-game comeback, but their banged-up roster finally ran out of juice in double overtime.

Even with the loss, and a pending matchup with Alabama next week, Tennessee is still the favorite to win the SEC East given their wins over Florida and Georgia. Florida is the top threat, and a cancelled game against LSU likely doesn’t help matters for Tennessee at the moment, but with the tie-breaker in hand, Tennessee is still sitting in good position. Even with a loss to Alabama, Tennessee has to go through the not-so-scary SEC East slate of South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt to finish the conference schedule and a two-loss conference record forces Florida to have to go undefeated against Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina and eventually LSU if they can figure out their scheduling.

The odds are in the Vols’ favor to win the SEC East, though it likely gets worse before it gets better next week against Alabama.

  1. Houston out of the playoff, Louisville’s chances take a hit

The other reason for a clearer picture at the top of the playoff standings: Houston lost 46-40 to Navy. This was not in the script for Houston who was supposed to go undefeated and make a run at cracking the top four if one of the top teams faltered along the way. Instead, they’re forced to battle for a New Year’s Six Bowl for the second straight year. The other team most affected by Houston’s loss is Louisville, who was on a bye but whose playoff chances were contingent on playing an undefeated Houston on November 17th. With one loss under their belt, Louisville needs a perfect finish to the season and as many resume-builders as possible in order to sneak back into the playoff picture, but Houston’s loss puts a damper on those plans. From an individual standpoint, Houston QB Greg Ward’s Heisman chances also took a hit, as our No. 3 overall QB at 85.7 essentially needed a perfect season in order to sway voters and he’s now fighting an uphill battle in that race.

  1. ACC Coastal Division just got interesting

We’ve touted just how fun the ACC is this season and while the Atlantic Division gets most of the hype with Clemson, Florida State and Louisville, it’s the Coastal Division that should be close race until the end. North Carolina and Miami suffered their first conference losses yesterday, while it was Virginia Tech who put the beatdown on the Tar Heels to vault to the top of the Coastal. The Hokies have quietly assembled one of the nation’s best defenses, and that’s before their rain-soaked victory yesterday.

It’s time for the nation to notice as Virginia Tech has the No. 5 overall defense in our grades (not adjusted for competition) as edge rusher Ken Ekanem boasts a top-20 pass rush grade at 83.9 (five sacks, QB hit, 15 hurries) and cornerbacks Mook Reynolds (No. 8 coverage grade at 87.7) and Adonis Alexander (81.7 coverage) rank among the nation’s best. When combined with improving play from QB Jerod Evans and playmakers like Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges on the outside, the Hokies are one of the nation’s top teams.

As for North Carolina and Miami, it’s hard to sour on either given yesterday’s performances. North Carolina’s high-octane offense got shut down by both the rain and the Hokies while Miami was an extra point away from overtime against Florida State Both teams are heading for a showdown next week in Miami while Virginia Tech takes on Miami the following Thursday night at home. The Coastal Division will shake itself out in the next 11 days.

  1. Pac-12 South wide open; conference strength comes into question

While Washington has clamped down on the Pac-12 North, the South is as wide open as ever as Colorado lost to USC yesterday while Arizona State defeated UCLA and Utah beat Arizona. There is now a three-way tie at the top between Colorado, Arizona State and Utah all sitting at 2-1 while a rejuvenated USC is looming at 2-2.

It’s shaping up to be an interesting race down the stretch, though the lack of top teams is opening up questions about the depth of the Pac-12. Only Washington and Washington State remain undefeated in conference play, and while Washington is a clear top-five team in the country, Washington State has losses to Eastern Washington and Boise State on their resume. Washington is left to carry the mantle for the Pac-12 as their only hope for inclusion in the College Football Playoff.

However, conference depth should not be defined simply by undefeated teams at the top and the Pac-12 remains perhaps the most competitive week-to-week conference in the nation. They will continue to beat each other up and it may look ugly from a record standpoint, but it’s a deep conference and the South division race winner will be a battle-tested unit when it likely takes on Washington in the championship.

  1. Quarterbacks coming back down to Earth

The beginning of the season is always difficult to tread when it comes to evaluating player performances as they are often skewed by sample sizes and variance in competition levels. The quarterback position is no different and yesterday saw rough days for a number of fast starters:

  • UNC QB Mitch Trubisky completed only 13 of 33 passes for 58 yards (1.8 yard per attempt) in a rain-soaked, yet disappointing effort against Virginia Tech. He finished with a game grade of 39.9.
  • Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett had an uneven stat line with 135 rushing yards on 24 carries but a 9-for-21, 93-yard effort through the air that included a one for seven line on passes thrown at least 10 yards in the air. It came out as a 59.0 passing grade and 86.3 rushing grade.
  • Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner finished at 50.8 overall against Iowa on his 13-for-33 166-yard effort that included two interceptions. He’d been off to a solid, yet safe start as a passer this season.
  • Cal QB Davis Webb had ranked among the nation’s top quarterbacks coming into the week but he finished 23-for-44 for 113 yards and an interception, good for a 48.3 overall game grade in Cal’s loss to Oregon State.
  1. Stats of the Week
  • The Texas A&M defense missed 31 tackles yesterday against Tennessee. Alabama has missed 24 tackles all season.
  • Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis has now been targeted 10 times on the season, allowing two catches for seven yards (0.7 yards/attempt).
  • Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham leads all Power-5 linebackers with 41 stops.
  • With 73 yards after the catch Thursday night, Louisiana Tech WR Trent Taylor now leads the nation with 456 yards after the catch on the year.
  • Rutgers has now been outscored 184-13 in their three games against top-five teams Washington, Ohio State, and Michigan.
  1. Top performances that caught the eye in Week 6:
  • Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook caught all 10 targets for 232 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara did all he could in Tennessee’s loss to Texas A&M. 101 of his 127 rushing yards came after contact, he forced six misses on 18 carries and another seven misses on his eight receptions that went for 159 yards.
  • Washington edge rusher Joe Mathis finished with a sack, two QB hits, and seven hurries to pace Washington’s dominant defensive effort.
  • Alabama edge rusher Tim Williams posted his usual stat line: one sack, two QB hits, four hurries but he did so on only 26 rushes.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

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