7 things you need to know for Week 12 of college football
The end of the regular season is quickly approaching, and while many divisions and conferences seem all but wrapped up, last weekend’s results reminded us that things are always subject to change. This week offers several games with both conference title and playoff implications, so let’s get ready for the action with seven things to know about Week 12 of the college football season:
- Louisville must finish strong
With three of the top four teams losing last weekend, things are shaping up nicely for Louisville to find themselves among the final four teams when all is said and done. For that to happen though, they’ll need to avoid any potential slip ups, like this weekend’s road game against the Houston Cougars. Once considered a dark horse playoff contender themselves, the Cougars have played themselves out of contention with losses to Navy and SMU, but they remain a highly talented and dangerous team. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. has been one of the best players in the nation this year and has excelled not only as a runner, but as a passer as well, owning the second-best grade among QBs at 92.5 overall and ranking 10th with his 75.6 adjusted completion percentage. Houston has playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as well, including possibly the best true freshman in the nation in defensive tackle Ed Oliver (87.1). It’s been a disappointing year for Houston, but getting to play spoiler this weekend against Louisville would be a nice consolation prize.
- Trey Hendrickson is one of the nation’s best pass-rushers
All across the nation there are players who rank among the best at what they do, but don’t get the attention they deserve because of the team they play for. Florida Atlantic’s Trey Hendrickson is one of those players. Hendrickson has been one of the best pass-rushers in the nation this season, ranking second with 61 total pressures on the year. He’s already reached double-digit pressures in four games which is highly impressive considering names like Myles Garrett and Derek Barnett have accomplished that feat just once each this season. On average, Hendrickson picks up either a sack, hit or hurry once out of every 3.87 pass-rush snaps and ranks first in the country with his 20.2 pass-rushing productivity rating. If you happen to find yourself tuning into some Florida Atlantic football this year, be sure to pay close attention to No. 9 coming off the edge.
- Get to know the Troy defense
The Troy Trojans find themselves ranked in the AP poll for the first time in program history, coming in at #25 in this week’s rankings. Their only loss this season came all the way back in Week 2 in a 30-24 defeat on the road against then second-ranked Clemson. Troy’s strength lies in their defense which ranks 12th in the nation according to our grades. They’ve been stout against the run, surrendering just 105.4 yards per game, but they’ve also been one of the most productive pass-rushing teams in the country, totaling 180 QB pressures on the year. Linebacker Rashad Dillard (87.5) and lineman Baron Poole II (85.3) lead the way on the pass-rushing front, with each ranking eighth nationally at their position in pass-rushing productivity this season. Troy will get to show the nation that they deserve their newfound ranking as they play host to Arkansas State this Thursday night.
- Mason Rudolph has been unstoppable
Starting with the upset of West Virginia three weeks ago, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph (86.1) has been absolutely on fire over his last three games. Rudolph graded out as the best quarterback in the nation over that span and now holds the seventh spot in our weekly rankings of college football’s top quarterbacks. For the season, Rudolph has the sixth-best PFF QB rating among Power-5 quarterbacks at 98.22 and ranks fifth with a 124.1 QB rating on deep pass attempts. Rudolph will look to keep the momentum going this weekend against TCU and one of the best safety duos in the nation in Niko Small (76.4) and Nick Orr (77.4).
- Colorado secondary has a chance to slow down Luke Falk
We’ve highlighted Washington State quarterback Luke Falk (81.3) several times this season, and with good reason. He currently leads all Power-5 quarterbacks with an 80.5 adjusted completion percentage, ranks fourth with a 126.4 rating on deep throws and is completing a ridiculous 73.2 percent of his pass attempts. All that being said, the Colorado secondary may be just the ones to finally slow him down this weekend. As a unit, the Buffaloes defense ranks second in the country in pass coverage grade and has a number of talented players on the back end. Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie (85.2) and Ahkello Witherspoon (85.9) rank among the nation’s top coverage corners and have gotten their hands on the ball a combined 14 times this season (12 pass breakups and two interceptions). Safety Tedric Thompson has also been a standout, allowing just a 34.5 QB rating into his coverage and ranking fourth among all safeties with his 88.4 coverage grade. It won’t be easy, but this Colorado secondary might have what it takes to contain Luke Falk and one of the nation’s most potent passing attacks.
- Oklahoma vs West Virginia winner could be Big-12’s last chance at playoff
Most of us were probably guilty of writing off the Big-12’s playoff chances in recent weeks, but with last weekend’s chaos among the top four teams the conference suddenly has a fighting chance. The two most likely candidates would be West Virginia and Oklahoma, two teams which happen to be facing off this weekend. Oklahoma comes in with one of the hottest offenses in the nation with our top graded quarterback in Baker Mayfield (94.6), our fourth highest graded running back in Joe Mixon (86.6) and wide receiver DeDe Westbrook (89.4) who holds the second-best grade at his position. The Mountaineers have one of the better defenses in college football though, and currently rank 13th in run defense and 10th in pass coverage according to our grades. There’s a lot on the line in this one, as the winner will likely be the conference’s lone hope at a playoff appearance this season.
- Florida has no room for error
The SEC East is theirs for the taking, but the Florida Gators will have to pull off a win on the road against a surging LSU team in order to secure the division crown. Florida’s number one priority will be shutting down the LSU ground game that led the way in their thrashing of Arkansas last week. The combination of Leonard Fournette (72.1) and Derrius Guice (77.2) was unstoppable, as they combined for a ridiculous 352 yards and five touchdowns in the game. Quarterback Danny Etling was solid last week, but there’s no question that the Tigers will look to use their two-headed backfield to control the game again this weekend. Florida has a stout run defense led by lineman Caleb Brantley (85.0) and linebacker Jarrad Davis (82.2) but they’ll have to be at their best this weekend as Florida’s season hangs in the balance.