7 things you need to know in college football
Here are the seven things you need to know in college football this week.
- Deshaun Watson ends the regular season on a high note.
With the regular season over, save for a few games next weekend, Clemson completed their schedule without any knocks on their resume. They are now a win in the ACC Championship game on Saturday away from being the number one seed in the College Football Playoff. The good news for the Tigers is that quarterback Deshaun Watson (+32.9) continued his stellar second half of the season, impressing both with him arm and his legs. He’s now our 9th highest graded quarterback on the year, but in the past five weeks nobody at the position has a higher grade.
- North Carolina and Maquise Williams pose a serious threat in the ACC.
Clemson’s opponents in the ACC Championship game on Saturday have an impressive quarterback of their own though and, after losing the season opener on the road against South Carolina, they have won 11 straight games, including scoring 45 or more points in three of the last four. Quarterback Marquise Williams (+25.3) is our eighth highest graded signal caller as a runner this year. His 17 missed tackles forced are second on the team to running back Elijah Hood, and he and the Tar Heels could spring a surprise on Saturday.
- Iowa rounds out an unbeaten regular season.
Finally starting to get the credit their unbeaten 2015 season deserves, the Iowa Hawkeyes completed their schedule with a fairly comfortable win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Doubters will point to their schedule and say they haven’t been really tested yet. That’s true to a point, but wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin were not easy games on paper. They know they need a big game to with the Big Ten Championship and solidify their place in the College Football Playoff, and they’ll be hoping for a big performance from quarterback C.J. Beathard (+16.7), who has lacked consistency, but had some big time showings, in 2015.
- Michigan State will take on the Hawkeyes after a big win over Penn State.
All that stands in Iowa’s way is Michigan State who, after a loss to Nebraska seemed out of the race before a big win over the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Spartans should be favorites to win the game, especially with quarterback Connor Cook (+28.5) returning to action with one of his best games of the season against Penn State. On defense Shilique Calhoun (+29.8) had another impressive outing as a pass rusher, taking his pressure totals on the year to nine sacks, 14 hits and 43 hurries. They’ll be hoping he can pressure Beathard into a couple of mistakes come Saturday.
- Mayfield strengthens his Heisman campaign and College Football Playoff win hopes.
The one major conference without a championship game was decided late on Saturday night, with Baker Mayfield (+50.9) and the Oklahoma Sooners rolling over Oklahoma State in Bedlam. Mayfield is having a tremendous year, and has graded at +15.2 over the past three weeks in wins over Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. Heisman voters look for Heisman moments, and he’s stepped up big in the three biggest games of the year so far. That’s put the Sooners on the verge of a College Football Playoff spot, and one they deserve despite the midseason loss to Texas, but it’s also put him in the frame for the individual award.
- Ohio State Buckeyes end the year in style, but still need help.
After the loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes knew they needed to not only win, but also impress as much as possible in order to regain some ground in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee. They did that and more against Michigan, with star defensive end Joey Bosa (+66.6) having his second highest graded game of the year, racking up two sacks, two hits and five hurries. With a bowl game to go he has a chance to eclipse his mark of +73.4 set a year ago, which would cement his status as arguably the best player we’ve seen in our first two years of grading college football.
- Houston downs Navy to strengthen New Year’s Six bowl hopes.
On this week’s PFF college podcast I mapped out the amount of chaos needed to see Navy sneak into the College Football Playoff. Chaos didn’t reign as expected, but even if it did, what I didn’t bank on was Greg Ward Jr. (+27.4) and the Houston Cougars winning handedly. Wide receiver Demarcus Ayers (+23.1) had a huge game, and the Cougars are now a win in the AAC Championship away from being the most viable Group of Five team to make a New Year’s Six bowl game. Ward’s season hasn’t been quite as impressive in the second half of the year, but he’s still a dangerous quarterback with the ball in his hands.