7 things you need to know in college football
Pro Football Focus is grading every player on every play of every college football game this season. Seriously.
That’s a lot of information to take in every week of the season. Here are the seven most important things you need to know following Week 2’s action:
1. The injury to QB Malik Zaire robs Notre Dame of a potential Heisman candidate
During a third-quarter run, Notre Dame’s starting quarterback Malik Zaire went down with an apparent foot injury — and it didn’t look pretty. Brian Kelly confirmed post-game that Zaire suffered a fractured ankle and is out for the remainder of the 2015 season. The question becomes: How does Notre Dame survive losing one of the nation’s top quarterbacks?
Redshirt freshman QB DeShone Kizer alleviated those worries for at least the rest of the game by tossing 92 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to secure an Irish win.
As pointed out earlier, Notre Dame’s defense is also cause for optimism, with DL Sheldon Day standing out as a pass-rusher (+4.0 pass-rush grade, +4.6 overall) and LBs James Onwualu (+2.2) and Jaylon Smith (+1.4) grading positively as well.
2. Harbaugh’s Wolverines looked better in Week 2
There are high hopes in Ann Arbor for this Michigan team under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, and fans were left disappointed after a Week 1 loss. However, the Wolverines seemingly bounced back in Week 2 with a dominant performance against Oregon State.
The offensive line delivered against the Beavers, and that was reflected in our data — three linemen graded at +2.0 or higher in Week 2. Running back De’Veon Smith also had himself a game with 23 carries for 126 yards and three touchdowns, resulting in a +5.0 grade.
The Wolverines will host UNLV and BYU over the next two weeks before entering conference play.
3. Spartans stay dominant on both sides of the ball
Michigan State came away with a win following the first matchup between top-10 teams this season. However, the Spartans had to rely on their ground game as quarterback Connor Cook is still not performing at a high level. Redshirt freshman Madre London and true freshman LJ Scott combined for 179 yards against the Ducks, with Scott notching a 38-yard touchdown run and an overall PFF grade of +0.4 for the game.
Cook finished the day 20-of-32 for 192 passing yards, resulting in a -0.2 passing grade and an overall grade of -0.4. The quarterback appeared out of sync with his receivers, made clear by consecutive bad throws late in the second quarter that resulted in an interception.
The Spartans rose to No. 4 in the national poll, and are favored heavily headed into next week against Air Force. However, don’t sleep on the Falcons — their triple-option D can certainly pose a challenge for Cook and the Michigan State offense on Saturday.
4. Oregon QB Vernon Adams needs to step up his game
Oregon fell to Michigan State 31-28 on Saturday, but the early-season loss against a top team is by no means a death sentence to the team’s playoff hopes. However, if the Ducks are to stay in playoff contention, starting quarterback Vernon Adams needs to step up his game.
Adams completed 22 of 39 passes for 309 yards, one TD and one INT, resulting in an overall PFF grade of -2.5 — nowhere near what’s needed from him to take the Ducks far this season.
How the team responds to the loss in coming weeks will be critical for their playoff campaign. The Ducks take on the Georgia State Panthers next week at home before welcoming Utah to town. The Utes are currently ranked No. 21 in the AP Top 25 and have allowed 364 yards per game.
5. So that’s why Trevone Boykin is a Heisman front-runner
Quarterback Trevone Boykin solidified his front-runner status for the Heisman Trophy with his performance in Week 2, as the Horned Frogs steamrolled the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 70-7 in Forth Worth.
Boykin connected on eight of 14 throws aimed more than 10 yards downfield, finishing the game with 285 yards and a 66.7 completion percentage. Boykin earned a +3.9 PFF passing grade and a +3.7 overall grade for the game.
6. The Ole Miss offense is loaded with playmakers
As Steve Palazzolo wrote earlier today, Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly is stepping up as the quarterback the Rebels need in order to make a playoff push. Kelly completed 20-of-25 for 346 yards and four touchdowns against Fresno State, earning himself a PFF grade of +8.5.
The Rebels had nine players on the offensive side of the ball that finished the game with a PFF grade higher than 1.0 — a testament to just how dominant this offense has been performing so far. Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo recorded 120 yards for three touchdowns, earning a PFF grade of +1.9, while Code Core’s 96 yards on six catches and a touchdown contributed to an overall PFF grade of +3.3.
7. Baker Mayfield continues to improve his game
Baker Mayfield is finding his rhythm under center, and that was made clear by the Sooners’ 17-point comeback against the Volunteers in Knoxville. While the quarterback started the first half of the game slowly, he led the Sooners to touchdowns on each of their final four possessions.
Mayfield finished with less-than-impressive final numbers — 19-of-39 for 187 yards, three touchdowns but two interceptions — and those will be reflected in his overall PFF grade for the game. However, improvement from his Week 1 grade of -0.8 was all the Sooners needed for a win, and expect Mayfield to continue to elevate his play as the season continues.