Everything you need to know for Week 6 of college football
From the Red River rivalry to Tennessee vs A&M, Vinnie Ronca gets your ready with the 10 most important things to know.
Everything you need to know for Week 6 of college football
As the season rolls on, we find ourselves with more and more meaningful matchups each week. Most teams are right in the thick of conference play and their performance through these next few games can ultimately decide the fate of their season. Week 6 has several key matchups to watch, and as always, promises to be an exciting weekend.
Here are 10 things you should know about this week’s slate of games:
- All eyes will be on the Longhorns defense in the Red River Rivalry
Things have not gone according to plan so far this season for head coach Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns, finding themselves at 2-2 after their loss to Oklahoma State last weekend. For the third time in four games, the Longhorns defense surrendered more than 45 points to a team, prompting Strong to take over the play-calling duties on that side of the ball going forward. Things don’t get any easier this week as Texas takes on the potent Oklahoma offense in the annual Red River Rivalry. The Sooners just put up 52 points in their win against TCU on Saturday and quarterback Baker Mayfield looked like his old self, earning an 81.6 passing grade and torching the Horned Frogs with 132 yards and two touchdowns on deep passes. The Texas secondary has not been a strongpoint this season with P.J. Locke III earning the highest marks of their corners with just a 68.4 coverage grade. Starting corner Davante Davis will likely be targeted early and often by Mayfield as Davis has allowed five touchdowns on the season and a nearly perfect 154.9 QB rating into his coverage. Look for Charlie Strong to pull out all the stops on defense this week in one of the most important games of his coaching career, and one that may go a long way towards determining his future with the Longhorns.
- Alabama’s pass rush could overwhelm Arkansas
Only two other Power-5 quarterbacks have faced pressure on a more consistent basis this season than Arkansas’ Austin Allen. Through five games, Allen has had pass-rushers bearing down on him on 37.8 percent of his dropbacks with 12.5 percent of those resulting in sacks. To make matters worse, Arkansas faces PFF’s top-ranked pass rushing team this weekend as they play host to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Nick Saban’s defense is loaded with impact pass-rushers, led by Tim Williams (85.7 pass-rush grade), Jonathan Allen (85.5) and Ryan Anderson (81.0). Williams has been the most outstanding of the bunch, totaling 19 QB pressures on 81 pass rushing snaps this season for an average of one pressure every 4.3 pass rushes. The Arkansas offensive line will have to step up their game this weekend as they currently rank 56th out of 65 Power-5 teams with a 79.5 pass-blocking efficiency rating. The good news is that quarterback Austin Allen has performed fairly well despite the constant pressure, ranking 12th in the nation with a 62.5 percent accuracy rate on pressured dropbacks. Regardless, if Arkansas is to have a chance at upsetting the nation’s number one team this weekend they’ll have to do a better job of keeping their quarterback upright.
- Miami faces its first real test
The Miami Hurricanes are currently 4-0 and sit at #10 in this week’s AP poll. However, with Georgia Tech being the most difficult opponent they’ve faced all year, we still don’t know exactly who this Miami team is or what they’re capable of. Luckily this weekend’s matchup against Florida State should give us a pretty good idea of whether the ‘Canes are an actual contender this season. Offensively, Miami has shown to have a solid running game led by the backfield duo of Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton who are the fifth and sixth highest graded ACC running backs this season. They’ll be facing a stout Seminoles defense though, featuring defensive linemen Derrick Nnadi (81.5) and DeMarcus Walker (81.6). The Hurricanes defense will be tasked with shutting down running back Dalvin Cook who has been on a tear the last two weeks, totaling 396 rushing yards in the last two games and averaging 4.43 yards after contact per attempt. Miami has significant talent on both sides of the ball, but FSU will be by far their toughest test this season and how they fare this game will help determine whether or not “the U” is truly back.
- Washington is one of the most balanced teams in the country
So it appears Washington is for real. The Huskies absolutely dismantled a highly talented Stanford team last Friday night, putting to bed the notion that Washington’s legitimacy as a playoff contender was too good to be true. They not only dropped 44 points on the Cardinal, but held one of the best backs in the nation to under 50 rushing yards on the night — Christian McCaffrey’s lowest total of the season. It’s that sort of balance that has the Huskies sitting atop the Pac-12 North with an undefeated record after five games. Jake Browning has been one of the best quarterbacks in the nation this season, currently leading the country with his 112.57 PFF QB Rating and posting an impressive 76.1 adjusted completion percentage. Throw in running back Myles Gaskin, who ranks 16th in the country with 18 forced missed tackles, and the Huskies have one of the most talented backfields in college football.
On defense, Washington has an outstanding front seven led by linebacker Joe Mathis (84.2) and defensive linemen Greg Gaines (83.9) and Elijah Qualls (82.8), all of which have been excellent run defenders this year. The Huskies travel to Oregon this weekend, and while they should have no trouble moving the ball on the struggling Ducks defense, Oregon does have a talented backfield of their own in QB Dakota Prukop (77.9) and running back Royce Freeman (81.6). Washington looks unstoppable at the moment though, so expect Jake Browning and co. to easily secure their sixth win of the season and continue down their path to a possible Playoff berth.
- Colorado begins a difficult stretch of conference play
Five weeks into the season and the Colorado Buffaloes are your leaders of the Pac-12 South. I’m not sure the last time that sentence has been written, but it’s certainly been a while. Colorado has impressed so far this season, displaying talent and playmakers on both offense and defense. Linebacker Kenneth Olugbode (84.9) is the Buffs’ highest-graded defender and has graded positively across the board this season, while cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (82.1) leads the secondary and remains one of the most versatile defenders in the country.
Colorado also seems to have found a quarterback as Steven Montez (72.3) has shown extremely well the last two games and has been proficient in the deep ball with a 62.5 percent accuracy rating on throws traveling 20+yards downfield. This weekend begins a very important and difficult stretch of games for the Buffaloes, with contests against USC, ASU, Stanford and UCLA. These next four games will make or break the season for Colorado, and it begins with this Saturday’s matchup against USC.
- Washington State looks to steal one at Stanford
Two teams trending in different directions meet up this weekend as Stanford plays host to Washington State and their high-powered passing attack. The Cardinal will be looking to rebound after getting dominated in every phase of the game against Washington, but that may prove to be difficult against a Washington State team that has put together two impressive wins in a row. Quarterback Luke Falk has been the most accurate QB in the nation so far this season with an 81.1 adjusted completion percentage and ranks 13th with his 94.51 PFF QB Rating. Falk will be looking to take advantage of a Stanford secondary that has not graded well in pass coverage this year. In order to pull off the upset, the Cougars will have to find a way to contain Christian McCaffrey, and that starts up front with defensive linemen Hercules Mataaafa (82.4) and Daniel Ekuale (77.2). It’s a big undertaking, but if the Washington State defense can somehow slow down McCaffrey, they have the offense to put up enough points to walk away with an upset.
- Virginia Tech secondary vs UNC passing attack will be a battle worth watching
Virginia Tech travels to North Carolina this weekend to take on UNC in a crucial ACC contest. After narrowly escaping with victories two weeks in a row, the Tar Heels sit atop the Coastal division and will look to extend that lead with a win against a talented Hokies team. Two strengths will square off as UNC’s passing attack currently ranks second in PFF grades while Virginia Tech boasts the second-ranked pass coverage unit in the nation. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky (83.0) has been outstanding this season and will be throwing to a pair of talented wideouts in Ryan Switzer (81.9) and Bug Howard (74.8). Switzer has put together a ridiculous two weeks, totaling 30 receptions for 364 yards and a touchdown over that span. The Hokies secondary will look to put an end to that, however, as defensive backs Mook Reynolds (87.8), Adonis Alexander (84.3) and Greg Stroman (79.8) are among the nation’s best coverage players. Alexander ranks second nationally with just one reception allowed every 70 coverage snaps, while Reynolds surrenders just 0.23 yards per cover snap, the 12th-best rate in the nation. Virginia Tech’s secondary against UNC’s receivers should be a great matchup within one of the best games of the weekend.
- Even without Mahomes, Texas Tech will put up points
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was forced out of last week’s game with injury but the Tech offense didn’t skip a beat in his absence, still managing to put up 27 points under backup QB Nic Shimonek. In spot duty, Shimonek performed very well, throwing four touchdowns and ranking sixth in the nation this week with a 116.44 PFF QB Rating. Most of his damage was done over the middle of the field, as all four of his touchdowns were thrown between the numbers. Tech goes on the road to play Kansas State this weekend and will face a solid Wildcat defense led by lineman Jordan Willis (86.6) and his 12.2 pass rushing productivity rating. Even if Mahomes is unable to go, the Red Raider offense appears to be in good hands with Nic Shimonek under center.
- Can renewed LSU offense perform against Florida?
I guess all it took was a coaching change. After looking inept for much of the season, the LSU offense finally showed some life on Saturday, putting up 42 points against the Missouri Tigers. The offense relied heavily on the run game, as interim coach Ed Orgeron dialed up the run a staggering 50 times for 382 rushing yards and five touchdowns. In for the injured Leonard Fournette, Derrius Guice had a standout performance, forcing five missed tackles on just 16 attempts and ranking second in the nation this week with his 67.5 breakaway percentage. LSU will need a similar performance this weekend as they face a stout Florida defense led by lineman Caleb Brantley (81.3) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (84.2). Both players have been excellent against the run this year, with Davis having the eighth-best run defense grade among the nation’s linebackers. With a strong defense of their own, if the LSU offense can replicate last week’s production this Saturday the Tigers have a chance to make things interesting down in the Swamp.
- Tennessee at Texas A&M is the game of the week
Two stout defenses, two highly mobile quarterbacks and two top-10 teams playing in one of the best atmospheres in college football. What else could you ask for? This weekend’s matchup between Texas A&M and Tennessee has it all. The Volunteers are coming off a miraculous last-second victory against Georgia while A&M looked solid but not great in their win over South Carolina last week. Regardless, both teams remain undefeated and will be facing their toughest tests of the season on Saturday. Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs (68.0) has been much improved after a slow start to the year, excelling as a runner and picking up 363 yards on the ground, 256 of which have come after contact. Dobbs currently leads the nation with his seven touchdown passes on pressured dropbacks, but Myles Garrett (89.8) and the A&M defense will be looking to put that to the test as they are PFF’s second-highest graded pass rushing team this season.
The A&M offense has already rushed for over 1,300 yards this year and will be relying on quarterback Trevor Knight (83.2 run grade) and standout freshman Trayveon Williams (74.1) to keep that going this week. Williams is one of the nation’s most elusive backs, forcing 20 missed tackles on just 54 attempts. The Volunteers defense has several solid run defenders though, led by defensive end Derek Barnett (86.5) and linebacker Colton Jumper (79.8). In a game with SEC title implications and undefeated records on the line, this one promises to be one of the weekend’s best matchups.