10 things to know in college football for Week 5
A month into the season and we’ve already witnessed our share of thrilling victories, shocking upsets and breakout performances. As fun as these last four weeks have been, it only gets better from here. The bulk of conference play is still ahead of us and each win or loss will hold a little more weight going forward.
This weekend features some outstanding matchups, many of which could have conference title implications. To get you ready for the weekend, here are 10 things you need to know about Week 5’s slate of games:
- North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky has played like a top QB this season
We had a suspicion Mitch Trubisky might have a breakout season, and so far, that prediction is holding up to be true. Trubisky has graded extremely well through four games and currently leads the nation with a 105.18 PFF QB Rating. The junior QB has looked impressive throwing to nearly every area of the field, showing off his precision with an adjusted completion percentage of 79.2 that ranks third in the country. It’s not just underneath routes that are padding Trubisky’s stats though. He pushes the ball downfield at a healthy clip and has hit on 54.5 percent of pass attempts traveling 20+ yards through the air — the fourth-best rate in college football.
Trubisky is coming off of a huge performance in last week’s victory over Pitt, but this weekend he’ll face a Florida State defense looking to bring him back down to earth. The Seminoles are still without star safety Derwin James for another few weeks but have plenty of other playmakers ready to step in, including cornerbacks Marquez White (76.4), Tarvarus McFadden (75.1) and defensive linemen Derrick Nnadi (82.2) and DeMarcus Walker (80.3). Trubisky’s continued development will be worth keeping an eye on in this game and throughout the remainder of the season.
- Cal may have the best QB/WR duo in the nation
Quarterback Davis Webb’s impressive performance this season has been detailed several times on our site, with his most recent accolade being ranked the third-best QB in the nation through four games. His precision and ability to get the ball out quickly are a big reason for Cal having our seventh-highest-graded offense in the nation this season, but Webb hasn’t done it alone. His go-to option, wide receiver Chad Hansen, has been just as impressive this season with an 84.3 overall grade that ranks third among the nation’s wideouts. Hansen has provided Webb with an unbelievably reliable target, dropping just two passes despite being targeted more than any other receiver in the nation. Good things tend to happen when Hansen is thrown to as evidenced by Webb’s QB rating of 122.5 when targeting his favorite pass-catcher. It’s truly been an outstanding season so far for the Cal receiver, ranking in the top 10 nationally in both yards per route run (3.45) and deep pass receiving yards (239). This weekend the duo of Webb and Hansen will be put to the test against a strong Utah secondary led by our top graded safety in Marcus Williams (89.3) and one of the best coverage corners in the country in Reginald Porter (82.1). It should be a good battle between two strengths, but expect Webb and Hansen to find a way to connect several times throughout this game.
- Arkansas’ Austin Allen is a fighter
Talk about perseverance. Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen took a beating in last week’s game against Texas A&M, to put it lightly. Allen faced pressure on 21 of his 44 dropbacks and was hit or sacked a staggering 10 times throughout the contest. Once the game was out of hand, I think we all would have given Allen a pass if he decided to sit out the remainder of this one, but he showed no signs of quitting. Allen stuck it out, and despite the loss the junior QB had a rather impressive performance, earning the highest grade of any QB in Week 4 and proving he’s capable of performing in the face of adversity. His numbers barely wavered even with the likes of Myles Garrett and company constantly knocking him to the ground. On plays where he faced pressure, Allen managed a 94.8 rating and was accurate on 70.6 percent of his attempts — both impressive marks. He’s been one of the more consistent QBs in the country through four games, and is currently our third-highest-graded passer. Allen’s performance Saturday night may get overshadowed because of the end result, but he showed some serious resolve and intangibles that will serve him and Arkansas well as the season progresses.
- Pac-12’s top talent on display Friday night
Stanford at Washington will be one of the top showdowns this weekend and the outcome will likely go a long way towards ultimately deciding the Pac-12 North this season. Outside of obvious playoff implications, this game simply features a lot of great talent that makes it worth tuning in for. Christian McCaffrey is the obvious headliner, as he was our top ranked player in the nation heading into this season. Though his numbers haven’t been quite as eye-popping as last year, he remains one of the nation’s most dangerous weapons and is one of the best receiving backs in college football, ranking fourth with an average of 2.48 yards per route run. On the other side, Washington boasts last season’s top graded freshman QB and running back in Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin. Both have had solid starts to their sophomore campaigns, as Browning ranks third in PFF QB Rating (109.54) and Gaskin has been the 15th-most elusive back in the country through four games. McCaffrey has the ability to take over a game at any moment in a variety of ways, but Browning and Gaskin form a talented duo that should make this an entertaining matchup.
- Louisville at Clemson is the matchup we’ve been waiting for
By now everyone is aware of the unbelievable numbers Lamar Jackson has put up through the first month of the season. He eased the doubts of many after running all over Florida State two weeks ago, but this week’s opponent may pose an even bigger test for the Heisman frontrunner. Clemson’s defense has been stout through four games and has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (83.8) is the fifth-best run defender at his position this season and will be looking to shut down Louisville’s ground game along with linebacker Kendall Joseph (78.7) and edge defender Christian Wilkins (73.9) who have also been solid against the run.
The Louisville defense will be tasked with stopping QB Deshaun Watson who has played well through four games, but is still looking to regain his level of play from the second half of last season. The Cardinals are one of our top-graded pass-rushing teams, led by linebackers Devonte Fields (79.5) and James Hearns (77.5) who grade out among the best in the nation at getting after the passer. This may be the key to Louisville’s chances of slowing down Clemson Saturday night, as Watson ranks 64th out of 65 Power-5 QBs with a 35.0 percent accuracy rate under pressure. From top quarterback play to stout defenses to ACC title implications, this game has the potential to be one of the best matchups all season long.
- Wisconsin at Michigan will be Big Ten football at its finest
Another week, another top-10 opponent for Wisconsin. As they continue down a brutal stretch of their schedule, the Badgers travel to Ann Arbor this weekend to take on Michigan and what may be the best defense in college football. The Wolverines boast a top-two run defender at each level of their defense in lineman Rashan Gary (81.7), linebacker Ben Gedeon (82.0) and safety Jabril Peppers (81.9). Wisconsin could prove to be Michigan’s toughest test yet though, as the Badgers offensive line is PFF’s 10th-highest graded run blocking unit this season. The other side of the ball should be a battle as well with Wisconsin linebackers T.J. Watt (79.4) and Vince Biegel (79.8) both ranking in the top-20 at their position in pass rush grade this season and facing a Michigan offensive line that is the eighth-best pass blocking unit through four games. With both team’s strengths lying in the trenches and on defense, this game promises to be your classic Big Ten matchup.
- Arizona State’s offense ranks among the nation’s best
In typical Pac-12 fashion, the Arizona State offense has been more than capable of putting up points this season, averaging nearly 49 per contest. Point totals aside though, this Sun Devils offense has some serious talent at key positions that have made it one of PFF’s highest graded offenses through four games this season. Quarterback Manny Wilkins has gotten off to a great start this year and currently ranks 12th among the nation’s passers. Wilkins has done most of his damage down the middle of the field and has one of the quickest releases in the country, on average getting the ball out in just 2.19 seconds. Wide receiver K’Neal Harry didn’t have his best showing last week against Cal, but through the first three games he was our third-highest graded receiver and we expect him to regain that form going forward. Finally, at running back the Sun Devils have our sixth-highest graded rusher in Kalen Ballage. The junior running back ranks among the nation’s best in Elusive Rating, Breakaway percentage and averages an impressive 4.8 yards after contact per attempt. This weekend ASU will get to put their offense to the test against an underperforming, but still talented USC defense led by linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (79.4), lineman Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (76.8) and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (74.0). Expect the Sun Devils to still find ways to produce offensively and ultimately maintain their unbeaten record with a win over USC Saturday.
- Two transfer QBs square off
The recent growth of the “transfer culture” in college football has been a controversial topic as of late, but whether you are for or against it, there’s no denying it keeps things interesting. Look across the country and you’ll see countless familiar faces at new places making an impact and breathing life into programs that had an uncertain QB situation before they arrived. This weekend’s matchup between TCU and Oklahoma is a great example of this as both TCU’s Kenny Hill and OU’s Baker Mayfield are at their second collegiate stops and performing at high levels. Hill, a transfer from Texas A&M, has been a great fit in the TCU offense, posting the eighth-best adjusted completion percentage in the nation at 77.1 percent. He’s also shown great poise when under fire, ranking fifth nationally in accuracy under pressure and allowing just 10.3 percent of those snaps to turn into sacks. Mayfield found his way to Norman after transferring from Texas Tech and was the nation’s top graded returning QB entering this season. His play hasn’t quite lived up to last season’s standards, but by no means is he having a bad year. Mayfield has a solid 92.60 PFF QB Rating and ranks among the top 15 quarterbacks in both deep pass yards and accuracy rating. Hill and Mayfield will go head to head this weekend in what should be a high scoring affair down in Fort Worth.
- New starters could play big role in Tennessee/Georgia game
Tennessee and Georgia will face off in a crucial SEC East matchup on Saturday in which both teams may be relying on new starters at key positions. Volunteers defensive coordinator Bob Shoop announced that his two starting corners against Georgia will be junior Emmanuel Moseley and freshman Baylen Buchanan. The Vols lost star cornerback Cameron Sutton to injury two weeks ago and usual starter Justin Martin was pulled last week after allowing 2 catches for 94 yards in just nine coverage snaps. Moseley filled in nicely for Sutton during last week’s game against Florida, earning an 82.8 overall grade for the game. Buchanan will start opposite Moseley, and though he’s played just 136 snaps this season, he’s looked solid and has allowed an NFL rating of just 77.4 into his coverage. Their biggest threat this weekend will be Georgia wideout Isaiah McKenzie (79.3) who has been one of the nation’s best receivers through four games.
For Georgia, things aren’t looking promising for running back Nick Chubb’s chances of playing this weekend after suffering an ankle injury against Ole Miss. That’s bad news for the Bulldogs as Tennessee’s run defense is one of the top graded units in the country and moving the ball on the ground would have been difficult even with Chubb’s services. Sony Michel and Brian Herrien would likely get the bulk of the carries in Chubb’s absence, and through four games Herrien has earned the higher grade of the two backups. Michel actually ended 2015 as the sixth-highest-graded back in the SEC, but he has not looked as impressive this season, earning just a 53.9 overall grade. We’re getting to the point in the season where injuries and ineffectiveness will lead to new faces playing significant snaps and that’s looking like a big storyline for both Tennessee and Georgia in this weekend’s matchup.
- LSU begins the post-Miles Era
After a 2-2 start to the season LSU finally pulled the trigger and fired head coach Les Miles, a move which they’ve seemingly been moving towards for some time now. Ed Orgeron will step up and be the interim coach for the remainder of the season, which in itself should be worth following along for. Their first test without Miles at the helm will be playing host to the Missouri Tigers this Saturday night. The LSU offense did not look much improved last week under new starter Danny Etling, and to make matters worse Leonard Fournette continues to be hampered by an ankle injury. They’ll be facing a solid Missouri defense, led by linebacker Michael Scherer and edge defender Charles Harris, who currently ranks as the nation’s fourth-best pass rusher at his position. Mizzou’s Quarterback Drew Lock has been great this season as well, posting the nation’s 10th-best PFF QB Rating (95.82) and getting the ball out at a blistering average rate of 2.02 seconds from snap to pass attempt. LSU and their interim coach are surely hoping to start this new era in Tiger football off on the right foot, but don’t be surprised if Mizzou comes into Death Valley and steals a win Saturday night.