PFF's Top 25 teams in college football
Last week played out pretty much how we thought it would, so there’s no changes inside our top four, but movement elsewhere. Take a good look, because this list could be very different following conference championship games…
- Clemson (Previous ranking: 1)
In the second half of this season, only Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has a higher grade at the position than the +26.2 posted by Deshaun Watson. Having their best player playing his best football as we reach the end of the season is great news for the Tigers’ title ambitions, but they have one final test against an underrated North Carolina team in the ACC Championship Game this weekend.
- Alabama (2)
The Crimson Tide have finished the season strong behind the powerful running of Derrick Henry (+22.8), who is our second highest graded running back in the second half of the season, making up for a quiet first half. A win against Florida in the SEC Championship game will clinch their spot in the College Football Playoff.
- Iowa (3)
The Hawkeyes have earned their number three ranking after an undefeated season. The tough part now comes in trying to take down their toughest opponent yet in Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship game. Linebacker Josey Jewell (+23.5) has graded positively against the run, in coverage and as a pass rusher this year, forming a big part of that defense.
- Oklahoma (4)
Led by our highest graded quarterback in Baker Mayfield (+50.9), the Sooners have gone from strength to strength this season and are a very serious title contender at this point. On defense outside linebacker Eric Striker (+32.4) has impressed, and is our highest graded 3-4 outside linebacker as a pass rusher this season.
- Michigan State (5)
They got over the final regular season hurdle with a big win over Penn State, now comes the challenge of getting past Iowa and booking their seat at the big table in January. Up and down in 2015, it’s going to be key which Connor Cook (+28.5) shows up. If it’s the one we saw against Maryland before his injury, the Spartans are in trouble, if it’s the one we saw against Penn State, they should win.
- Ohio State (6)
Ohio State fans this week are working out all the ways that they can still make the College Football Playoff. They’ll be hoping for a North Carolina or Florida win to increase their chances, but a one loss Tar Heels team would still be more deserving in my opinion. Defensive end Joey Bosa (+66.6) has been arguably the best player in the nation for the second year in a row.
- North Carolina (10)
A lot of people see North Carolina as the team who can shake up the College Football Playoff by knocking Clemson out of the running on Saturday. That may be true, but this Tar Heels team is just as deserving of being in the discussion as Ohio State. Quarterback Marquise Williams (+24.6) and running back Elijah Hood (+20.0) lead an impressive running game, while cornerback M.J. Stewart (+18.4) has been their best player on defense.
- Stanford (13)
They needed a win over Notre Dame to have any shot, but needed some help that they didn’t get too, so the Cardinal are likely looking at the Pac-12 Championship game as the highlight of their season. There is still the potential for running back Christian McCaffrey (+39.1) to win the Heisman Trophy of course.
- Florida State (15)
This season may be viewed as a disappointment after the previous two years, but Florida State have still had an impressive campaign with a lot to be excited about in the future. On offense sophomore running back Dalvin Cook (+25.8) has had a fantastic season despite a few injuries, while freshman defensive back Derwin James (+25.3) has been our second highest graded safety, excelling close to the line of scrimmage.
- Notre Dame (7)
Just two close, and very late, losses to Clemson and Stanford separate Notre Dame from an undefeated regular season. Despite losing quarterback Malik Zaire early in the year it’s been a successful season with defensive tackle Sheldon Day (+49.7) and linebacker Jaylon Smith (+30.5) the highlights.
- Baylor (14)
Like Notre Dame they had to deal with injuries at the quarterback position, but still had a lot of success. Corey Coleman (+17.9) put up some ridiculous numbers, and the Bears will be pleased with how quarterback Jarrett Stidham (+17.8) performed as a starter.
- Houston (23)
One big win over Navy and suddenly they are right back in the driver’s seat for a New Year’s Six bowl appearance. On a weekend where there are big championship games to get excited about, their battle with Temple for the AAC crown is the most underrated of the bunch.
- Oklahoma State (8)
Like another three teams in the Big 12, their season unravelled with a tough late season schedule. They missed quarterback Mason Rudolph (+38.5) early against Oklahoma and could never recover enough to pose a threat to the Sooners.
- Florida (9)
That performance against Florida State was not the tune up they were looking for heading into the game against Alabama. They’ll give the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack one of its toughest challenges yet, with defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard (+48.3) our second highest graded defensive tackle so far this year.
- Michigan (12)
That wasn’t the way they wanted the season to end, but overall it’s hard to call Jim Harbaugh’s first season anything other than a success. On defense they have stood out all year, with cornerback Jourdan Lewis (+21.2) and safety Jabrill Peppers (+16.1) the stars in the defensive backfield.
- Oregon (16)
They’ve finished the season playing some of the best football in the nation, leaving many to wonder what could have been if they hadn’t slipped up early in the year. Defensive end DeForest Buckner (+67.7) is one of the few players who can challenge Joey Bosa as the best defensive player in the nation.
- Ole Miss (17)
Ole Miss are another team who have been talented enough to have a much better season if not for a few slip ups. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (+17.0) has had a big year on offense, while the star on defense has been defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (+29.6).
- Northwestern (21)
The Wildcats are definitely a team that deserve more credit for a very impressive season. It’s easy to forget that they were in the discussion as the surprise team in the Big 10 before losses to Michigan and Iowa. Cornerback Nick VanHoose (+17.3) in particular has stood out this year.
- USC (19)
Four losses and USC are a top 20 team? As crazy as it sounds, yes they are. Their season didn’t start the right way at all, but after a coaching change they have been one of the better teams in the nation. They are definitely the underdogs, but don’t count them out against Stanford.
- Temple (24)
The winner of Temple and Houston on Saturday likely secures their place in a New Year’s Six bowl game. It’s up to defensive standouts like linebacker Tyler Matakevich (+20.0) to slow down Greg Ward Jr. and the Houston offense.
- Wisconsin (22)
Like Northwestern their season probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Very good defensively, the standouts in 2015 have been linebackers Joe Schobert (+43.4) and Vince Biegel (+42.5), with Schobert excelling as a pass rusher.
- Navy (11)
They needed a win and chaos to have any shot at the College Football Playoff, and suffered their worst loss of the year against Houston. It’s still been a great season for Keenan Reynolds (+21.9) and the Midshipmen in 2015 though.
- Utah (20)
The Pac-12 really did beat themselves up throughout the year and Utah, who were once in the College Football Playoff discussion, are now just barely a top 25 team. A big story this year has been the up and down play of quarterback Travis Wilson (-5.1), who struggled badly in the first loss of the year against USC.
- TCU (UR)
A tough final quarter of season saw the Horned Frogs tumble, but there were lots of positives to take from the year. Quarterback Trevone Boykin (+38.0) and wide receiver Josh Doctson (+25.6) formed one of the best duos in all of college football in 2015.
- LSU (UR)
Another team who saw their College Football Playoff hopes decimated late in the year, the Tigers finished the year on a high with a win. His season definitely tailed off, but let’s not forget some of the big time performances produced by running back Leonard Fournette (+32.3) this season.