7 things you need to know in college football
Here are the seven things you need to know in college football this week:
1. Michigan’s defense could propel them to the College Football Playoff.
It would have seemed crazy to believe after Michigan’s loss to Utah to open the season, but the Wolverines are quietly becoming contenders both in the Big Ten and beyond. Three straight shutouts, including a 38-0 victory over the previously unbeaten Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday and now suddenly everyone is taking notice again. Let’s not forget, that one loss came against a Utah team that has quietly become one of the best in the country. Cornerback Jourdan Lewis (+15.3) has allowed just 11 receptions while picking off two passes and breaking up eight more.
2. Alabama survives despite Coker’s struggles.
After showing improvement in the previous two weeks, Jake Coker (-8.2) slumped to his lowest grade game of the year on Saturday (-5.0) at Arkansas. This will remain a concern and a threat to the Crimson Tide’s hopes of winning it all this year, but once again their defense impressed. Defensive tackle Jarran Reed (+27.6) continued his impressive start to the year, where he has proved himself to be one of the best in the country against the run. So far they have been able to get around the issues at quarterback, but if Coker is going to continue to struggle, the defense will have to continue to play at this high level.
3. The Baylor Bears continue to roll.
Several of the top teams in the country continue to look vulnerable, but Baylor continues to steamroll every team they play, dominating with their high-powered offense that has seen them score less than 60 points just once all season. The offensive line has just two negatively graded players, while both quarterbacks in Seth Russell (+5.8) and Jarret Stidham (+4.1) have looked solid. Defensively they may not be as dominant as the likes of Michigan and Alabama, but in defensive tackle Andrew Billings (+13.2) and defensive end (+11.9) they have two talented players up front.
4. Cook’s big game keeps the Spartans undefeated.
It wasn’t a perfect game for Michigan State, and they were helped by the disastrous mistake to spike the ball on fourth down late in the game by Rutgers, but they remain unbeaten, and quarterback Connor Cook (+8.9) having his best game of the year (+6.9) was key. Cook was near perfect throwing the ball downfield, going 7-for-8 for 172 yards and a touchdown on the passes of 20 yards or more he attempted. That showing by Cook is why he gets hype as a potential franchise quarterback at the next level and though we haven’t seen it consistently enough, the Spartans need him to be at that level if they want to get out of the Big Ten and into the College Football Playoff.
5. TCU continues to look vulnerable.
Trevone Boykin (+2.3) had a big game on the ground, forcing four missed tackles against Kansas State, but the Horned Frogs defense is beginning to look like it may threaten their hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff. Against the Wildcats, linebacker Montrel Wilson (+2.2) was the only player in the front seven to finish with a grade above +0.5, as they registered just eight total pressures as a unit. They’ve managed to stay unbeaten so far, but with a battle with Baylor looming, this level of play defensively simply won’t cut it.
6. Royce Freeman shines despite Oregon’s struggles.
Oregon’s struggles have been well documented, but lost in all of that has been the continues impressive play of running back Royce Freeman (+12.3). He stood out last year, forcing 44 missed tackles on 252 carries on his way to a 1,367 yard freshman season. This year he’s been even tougher to bring down, forcing 37 missed tackles on 122 carries and racking up 850 yards through six games. Leonard Fournette gets all the hype and rightly so, but Freeman is having a good year too.
7. Ole Miss wins, but Kelly doesn’t impress.
The Rebels got back to winning ways against New Mexico State on Saturday, but quarterback Chad Kelly (+2.1) had his fourth negatively graded game in a row. It all looked so good for him after the Fresno State game where he looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate, but since then he has struggled week in and week out. They survived against Alabama, but it was a big part of the reason why they were blown out by Florida, and it they are to get their playoff hopes back on track they’ll need him to regain that early-season form.