Alabama, Ohio State remain atop updated PFF Top 25
The playoff picture is starting to take shape with seven teams separating themselves from the pack. The top five all have their destiny in their own hands, and share one common trait — an impressive defense. Let’s take a look at how things shake out following six weeks of play.
After a couple of easier weeks, Alabama went on the road to face Arkansas and looked as dominant as ever. That is particularly true on defense as they gave talented Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen little chance to succeed, pressuring him on 68.9 percent of his dropbacks. Seven different defensive players recorded at least four pressures, and the Crimson Tide simply overwhelmed the Razorbacks offensive line. All that pressure helped slot corner Minkah Fitzpatrick to three interceptions and two further pass breakups. Fitzpatrick finished with a game-high 88.7 overall grade.
- Ohio State
As expected, Ohio State found the going a little tougher against Indiana, but their potent combination of defense and rushing attack was more than enough to see them safely home. We’ve been wary of the Heisman talk surrounding quarterback J.T. Barrett because we don’t love him as a passer. However, Barrett dazzled as a runner against the Hoosiers, averaging 5.5 yards on his 22 designed carries and earning an 86.3 rushing grade as the Buckeyes main offensive weapon. On the other side of the ball, linebacker Jerome Baker led the team with 10 tackles, seven of which were defensive stops (wins for the defense).
Fresh off their primetime defeat of Louisville, Clemson was imperious against Boston College, more than doubling their opponents offensive output. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was on song, with an 81.0 adjusted completion percentage, and improving his overall grade to 79.6 for the season so far. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence was again excellent, earning an 83.2 overall grade and recording another four QB pressures. Lawrence has now recorded 18 pressures in 105 pass rush snaps, giving him a very healthy 13.2 pass rush productivity score.
Michigan saw Ohio State’s 58-0 thumping of Rutgers last week, and raised it by delivering 78-0 beat down to the Scarlet Knights. The star of the show was undoubtedly Michigan’s do-it-all Jabrill Peppers, who earned an 82.9 grade in his regular hybrid-linebacker role, gained 74 yards and two touchdowns on three carries on offense, and also had a terrific punt return touchdown ruled out. The Wolverines have a bye week before hosting Illinois and then traveling to take on a Spartan’s team that has dominated the rivalry in recent years.
The win over Stanford was all business for Washington, but this week’s 70-21 drubbing of Oregon may have been a little personal, given that the Ducks had won 12 straight against their rival. Despite being pressured on 51.5 percent of his dropbacks, quarterback Jake Browning was accurate on 82.1 percent of his passes and earned a 79.9 passing grade. Outside linebacker Joe Mathis was the star on defense, with three defensive stops, one sack and 10 total pressures on his way to a game-high 88.5 overall grade.
Unlike the teams above them, Louisville do not control their own destiny, they need others to falter. Houston’s loss hurts their chances as it makes that eventual matchup a little less meaningful. And yet, all is not lost for the Cardinals, as the presence of star quarterback and Heisman favourite Lamar Jackson, will make it difficult for the selection committee to ignore them. Put simply, Jackson has been the nation’s best player so far this season, earning an 87.0 overall grade and a ridiculous 94.2 rushing grade.
- Texas A&M
Texas A&M outlasted an extremely resilient Tennessee team, in a game that felt like it would go on forever in College Station. The return of defensive end Myles Garrett was key, as the pressure he generated along with fellow edge rusher Daeshon Hall, kept Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs under pressure. Garrett had one sack and nine total pressures, Hall one and eight. The Aggies get a week off to recover and plan, before a season-defining trip to Tuscaloosa, they’ll need to play better than this to beat the Crimson Tide.
It’s difficult to know what to make of Nebraska, their marque win over Oregon looks less impressive by the week, which leaves their resume looking a little light. And yet, they have graded well on both sides of the ball. Coming off a bye, they travel to face an Indiana team that gave Ohio State a game in Columbus, so their performance against the Hoosiers will tell us a lot more about this Nebraska team.
As the game was entering overtime it was beginning to feel like the Volunteers just couldn’t lose, but lose they did and that leaves them facing a visit from Alabama with their season on the line. The undoubted star for Tennessee was running back Alvin Kamara, who earned a game-leading 88.1 overall grade. Kamara forced 13 missed tackles on 26 offensive touches. He also caught all eight passes thrown his way, taking them for 161 yards, with a spectacular 173 of those yards coming after the catch.
After a week off, Wisconsin must get ready to host Ohio State as ESPN College GameDay comes to Madison. The Badgers will have used their time off to try and get their offense going, and to get healthy; the latter is particularly true of outside linebacker Vince Biegel. Biegel (80.1 overall) pairs with fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt (81.0) to give the Badgers a dangerous pass-rush combination.
Baylor return from a week off to host Kansas before enjoying a second bye week, as October’s go this one is pretty easy for the Bears. As Bryson Vesnaver explains, it’s not all about offense in Waco this season, which is just as well as the offense hasn’t been as explosive as it was in 2015. Through five games, 21.8 percent of Seth Russell’s pass attempts have been deep passes (those that ravel 20+ yards downfield before being caught), with 534 yards and four touchdowns coming from those deep passes. That compares unfavourably to the first five games from 2015, when 28.5 percent of Russell’s attempts were deep passes, resulting in 665 yards and eleven touchdowns.
- Florida State
Good games from quarterback Deondre Francois and running back Dalvin Cook helped Florida State grind out a win over Miami. Cook’s ability to make plays happen was particularly impressive as the Seminoles offensive line found it tough going against the Hurricanes. Cook forced nine missed tackles, the most he’s forced in one game this season.
Auburn recorded their third straight victory, and first on the road, with a one-sided 38-14 win over Mississippi State. Quarterback Shaun White has grown into the role, here he threw for 204 yards, one touchdown, one interception (not his fault) and an 83.3 adjusted accuracy percentage, helping him to a 72.3 passing grade.
Going on the road to visit Navy was never likely to be easy, but it was still a shock to see Houston fall to a 46-40 defeat, a result that sounds the death knell for the Cougar’s playoff hopes. It really is impossible to see a way back for Houston, even should they win out, which would mean taking down Louisville, they are still up against it in the race for the American conference with a loss to divisional foe Navy.
- West Virginia
The Big 12’s second undefeated team and the one that’s been largely overlooked so far. West Virginia actually have a better out of conference schedule than Baylor, with wins over Missouri and BYU, and are accordingly the conference’s best hope of cracking the hegemony at the top, should they win out. The problem with that is that they haven’t exactly been convincing, and won their past two games, against BYU and Kansas State, by a combined four points.
- Ole Miss
Ole Miss will be glad to see the back of their bye week, it’s much more difficult for players to get in trouble when they have a game to focus on. The Rebels two loses came against teams above them in these rankings, and they now face back-to-back road games against Arkansas and LSU, win them and things will look a lot better.
- Virginia Tech
The appearance of Virginia Tech growing into the season was confirmed when they handed North Carolina a 34-3 defeat. In truth, the Hokies simply adapted to the conditions much better than their opponents, it wasn’t a game for airing it out, as a combined for 133 passing yards can attest, rather it was a game for running the ball. That brought fullback Sam Rogers to the fore and he didn’t disappoint, earning an 81.9 run block grade, and moves him to an 89.0 overall grade for the season.
Oklahoma’s recovery continues apace, with a second successive Big 12 win, neither of them coming in Norman. The Sooners ability to make big-plays was a major part of this win over Texas. Quarterback Baker Mayfield attempted five deep passes, completing four of them for a combined 186 yards and two touchdowns (both to wide receiver Dede Westbrook).
Despite incurring an unusual number of false start penalties in the first half against Arizona, Utah were able to get their act together and seize control of the game. Defensive tackles Pasoni Tasini and Filipo Mokofisi were key for the Utes. Pasoni made three defensive stops and earned an 84.2 run defense grade, Mokofisi had four run stops and an 80.5 run defense grade.
- Western Michigan
Western Michigan’s procession continues apace, with perennial MAC powerhouse, Northern Illinois, the latest to fall. Pass-rusher Keion Adams has three sacks and twenty total pressures, he entered Week 6 as the tenth-ranked edge defender in the nation. Things get a little tougher for the Broncos this week, with a road game against East division leaders Akron.
- Boise State
For once it wasn’t running back Jeremy McNichols who did for Boise State’s opponents, instead it was the Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien who made the difference. Rypien threw for 391 yards and five touchdowns, with wide receivers Cedrick Wilson (84.7 overall) and Thomas Sperbeck (80.3) the beneficiaries. Rypien has his offensive line to thank for keeping such a clean pocket — he was pressured on just one dropback.
Perhaps the biggest question around the Gators right now is whether the LSU game can be rearranged. Without it the Gators schedule looks a little light for consideration, and it means their most recent performance was an anaemic display against Vanderbilt. They could do with a convincing win this week when Missouri come to The Swamp.
- Arizona State
It’s difficult to know what to take from Arizona State’s win over UCLA, both teams lost quarterbacks to injury in the game, and the Sun Devils were already without their starter. Third-string QB Dillon Sterling-Cole threw a pick with his only pass and they saw out the final with Kalen Ballage in the wildcat.
- Oklahoma State
The Cowboys debut on this list after a second straight conference victory, a 38-31 win over Iowa State, and should be owners of a 5-1 record. As it is they are 4-2 and as reliant on the passing game as ever. Wide receiver James Washington caught 8 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, he was also third on the team with 16 rushing yards on one carry, rather unsurprisingly he graded well, with 82.5 overall. On the season Washington has made more catches without a drop than any other 33
The Hurricanes’ return proved to be a false dawn, suffering a 20-19 home defeat at the hands of rival Florida State. Defensive tackle Gerald Willis and defensive end Chad Thomas were among those who played well in defeat, earning 78.3 and 77.2 overall grades. The season certainly isn’t over, up next are games against North Carolina and Virginia Tech that will be pivotal to Miami’s candidacy in the ACC Coastal.