Clemson rises to No. 3 in PFF Top 25
With six of last week’s top 10 teams facing off, there were bound to be fireworks. Whether it was Washington’s dominance, Michigan’s defense or the offensive explosion in Death Valley, each game delivered.
Here’s a look at your updated Top 25 following Week 5 of the season:
Missing your former five-star starting tailback? No problem for Alabama, Joshua Jacobs picked up right where he left off against Kent State, this time averaging 4.3 yards after contact per rush, and forcing an impressive 10 missed tackles on just 19 touches against Kentucky. Jacobs contributions as both runner and receiver earned him an 82.1 overall grade. The Crimson Tide’s defense was as dominant as expected, and made life very difficult for Kentucky QB Stephen Johnson, who was pressured on two thirds of his dropbacks.
- Ohio State
Isn’t conference play supposed to be a challenge? Not for Ohio State who opened their Big Ten slate with a 58-0 whitewash of Rutgers. There were strong performances across the team for the Buckeyes, center Pat Elflein earned a team-high 84.1 grade, while freshman edge rusher Nick Bosa got a sack and led the team with four defensive stops on his way to a 79.0 grade. The visit of Indiana should provide a tougher test for the Buckeyes’ defense.
Clemson took the opportunity afforded by a primetime game against Louisville to remind the nation of why they were in the National Championship game last season. The offense looks dangerous again, with wide receiver Dean Cain (80.6 overall grade) in particular standing out. However, the defense was key as they were able to slow down an explosive Louisville defense. Corner Cordrea Tankersly (82.8 coverage grade), defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (seven pressures) and line backer Ben Boulware (five defensive stops) were all crucial to that.
Defense was the order of the day in the Big House, as Michigan ground out a classic Big Ten-style 14-7 win over Wisconsin. The Wolverines’ defense was simply outstanding, holding Wisconsin to 159 total yards, and only giving up a touchdown when an interception handed the Badgers with a short field. Michigan corners Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling were superb, allowing just two of nine passes into their coverage to be completed. Stribling made two picks and broke up two further passes, while Lewis sealed the win with a spectacular interception.
Washington proved that they are for real with a 44-6 demolition of Stanford, a performance that showcased all their strengths. The offensive line, led by left tackle Trey Adams (80.7 overall) kept quarterback Jake Browning clean, allowing just one hit and three total pressures. Browning used that clean pocket to good effect, earning a 72.9 passing grade. The Huskies defensive front was imposing, with linemen Elijah Qualls (76.2), Greg Gaines (74.6) and Vita Vea (73.8), along with outside linebackers Joe Mathis (79.9) and Psalm Wooching (75) getting the better of Stanford’s offensive line.
Despite coming off a loss at Clemson, the Cardinals continue to look like one of the most dangerous teams in the country, and will continue to do so as long as they have terrific quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson did most of his damage on the ground where he forced eight missed tackles and earned a 90.2 rushing grade against a defense that did not make it easy for him. 91.6 percent of his rushing yards came after contact.
Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. enjoyed his best game of the season against UConn, and arguably the best of his career as a passer. He threw for 389 yards, three touchdowns and had an 87.2 adjusted completion percentage (which factors in drops), all of which helped him to an 81.1 passing grade. Houston travel to take on Navy next, and that’s a game that can bolster their resume, should they win.
Who needs game control when you can win a game in this manner? Georgia dominated the clock, outgained Tennessee and even had the game won after a final-minute wonder pass, only for the Volunteers to produce a miracle of their own. Edge rushers Derek Barnett (82.3 pass rush grade) and Corey Vereen (80.1 pass rush grade) combined for three sacks and seven total pressures. They will have more convincing performances, but this exhilarating victory leaves the SEC West wide open for the Vols.
- Texas A&M
The story of the season continues apace for Texas A&M, with strong defense and a potent rushing attack once again enough to earn victory. This time the defense was without star defensive end Myles Garrett, but it didn’t matter as fellow end Daeshon Hall picked up the slack, with two sacks and seven total pressures helping him to an 84.0 pass rush grade. With Tennessee and Alabama in the next two games, it may be time to see just how far this formula can take the Aggies.
Defense was again to the fore for the Cornhuskers, helping them record a comeback win over Illinois. Defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun led the team with a sack and seven total pressures, linebacker Dedrick Young II excelled with an 82.6run defense grade, and corner Joshua Kalu allowed just two completions for six yards on the five passes into his coverage, helping him to an 81.9 coverage grade.
- Miami (FL)
Another comfortable win for Miami, winning 35-21 over Georgia Tech after jumping out to a 28-7 lead in the second quarter, thanks to two defensive scores. Quarterback Brad Kaaya was efficient without excelling, taking into account receiver drops and throws made while being hit, he had a 93.3 adjusted completion percentage. The visit of Florida State should give the Hurricanes their stiffest test yet.
Even without edge rusher Vince Biegel, Wisconsin’s linebackers excelled in defeat. Oustide linebackers T.J. Watt and Garret Dooley, along with inside backers Jack Cichy and T.J. Edwards combined for four sacks, 11 total pressures and 19 defensive stops. The Badgers have a week off to recover before hosting Ohio State.
- North Carolina
North Carolina vault into the rankings after overcoming Florida State in Tallahassee, a road win over the Seminoles is a pretty big deal. In quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the Tar Heels have one of the best quarterbacks around. his 81.3 passing grade through the first four games was the best mark in the nation, and his reputation has only been enhanced by his performance against Florida State.
It almost went disastrously wrong for the Big 12, as Baylor flirted with defeat on the road in Ames, finally overcoming Iowa State 45-42. That comeback owed much to the Bears ground game, with running back Shock Linwood averaging 7.0 yards after contact and recording a 200.5 elusive rating for the week. Kansas are up next followed by a bye week.
The wheels came off for the Cardinal as they slumped to a 44-6 loss in Seattle that will be difficult to recover from. There were few positives to be found for Stanford, but even in an overwhelming defeat, Solomon Thomas earned an 81.9 grade and continues to be one of the very best defensive linemen in the country.
- West Virginia
West Virginia came back to seal a 17-16 win over Kansas State to ensure that the Big 12 still has two unbeaten teams. The connection between QB Skyler Howard and deep-threat WR Shelton Gibson continues to be productive. The Mountaineers have another bye this week, their second of the season.
- Florida State
The highest-ranked two-loss team this week, Florida State face a critical road game against Miami if they are to salvage their season. They likely shouldn’t be this high, but their two defeats came at the hands of impressive opponents and they still have a good win over Ole Miss on their resume.
- Ole Miss
A second two-loss team, much like the Seminoles, Ole Miss lost to two good teams and shouldn’t be overly punished for that. Back to back wins over Georgia and Memphis (gaining revenge for last season) puts the Rebels back on track. After a week off, Ole Miss face road games against Arkansas and LSU, so if they win they still have the meat on their schedule to climb the rankings despite those two loses.
Arkansas rebounded from the loss against Texas A&M with an easy win over FCS Alcorn State. It was a good week for the Razorbacks defensive line, with nine players earning grades of 71 or higher. However, next up is a visit from Alabama and they are unlikely to find life quite so easy then.
Few could have predicted that Colorado would sit atop the Pac-12 South at the start of October, yet that’s exactly where they are and where they deserve to be. The loss of starting quarterback Sefo Liufau (74.7 overall grade) hurt the Buffaloes against Michigan, but backup Steven Montez has settled in well, with a 72.3 overall grade and 83.1 rushing grade. They will hope to carry their good form into the Coliseum this week.
- Western Michigan
It says much for Western Michigan that they can lose running back Jamauri Bogan, the team’s leading rusher, to an early injury against Central Michigan, and still steamroll their opponents. Outside linebacker Keion Adams has been a key performer for the Broncos, earning an 85.1 overall grade through the first four weeks of the season.
The Gators responded to the Tennessee loss with a sluggish win over Vanderbilt, in which they really struggled to get going on offense. Fortunately for the gators the defense brought its A game, with linebacker Jarrad Davis particularly impressive. Davis had three QB pressures, six defensive stops and broke up three passes, earning him a game-high 89.5 overall grade.
- Boise State
When he isn’t answering reporters’ phones, Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin is leading his team to impressive victories, the latest a 21-10 win over Utah State that moves his team to 4-0 with two wins over Pac-12 teams to their credit. Once again the Broncos’ two key playmakers, running back Jeremy McNichols and wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck, were to the fore.
The Sooners finally had the chance to right the ship with a 52-46 win on the road against TCU, after losing two of their first three games. Quarterback Baker Mayfield found his 2015 form, earning a 77.5 overall rating, as he led his team back from a 21-7 first quarter deficit. Next up for Oklahoma is the Red River Rivalry game in the Cotton Bowl.
- Virginia Tech
Coming off their bye week, Virginia Tech face a pivotal game with the trip to North Carolina. The Hokies appeared to find their groove after losing to Tennessee, with key performers on offense in QB Jerrod Evans (73.7 overall grade) and WR Isaiah Ford (81.5) and on defense in edge rusher Ken Ekanem (83.5) and corner Mook Reynolds (87.8), all stepping up.