The 2020 college football season is flying by, and now it is already on to Week 12. After last week’s surge of game postponements due to Covid-19, a lot of teams are back in action to face key matchups after multiple-week byes.
So, as the season creeps toward a conclusion, matchups gain importance and the stakes get higher. Here are the stats to know for a pivotal Week 12 slate of college football action.
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano returned to practice this week after suffering a head injury against Arkansas in Week 10. The matchup between Auburn quarterback Bo Nix and Guarantano pits two of the more inconsistent passers in the SEC against one another. Guarantano's 31.1% uncatchable pass rate ranks last among SEC signal-callers, while Nix ranks second-to-last at 23.3%.
The 2020 Oregon Ducks have proven that there is life after Justin Herbert by utilizing an efficient rushing attack to power the offense. Since Week 10, Oregon has rushed for the most combined first downs and touchdowns among Power 5 teams (31), moving the chains on 41.3% of their carries. Quarterback Tyler Shough has added a dimension to the Ducks’ running game, averaging 8.3 yards per rushing attempt — fourth-most among quarterbacks with at least 20 carries since Week 10.
No Power 5 quarterback has recorded more big-time throws (PFF's highest-graded throws) since Week 8 than Michael Penix Jr. Despite playing only four games, Penix's 15 big-time throws are tied for the third-most for an Indiana quarterback in a single season since 2014.
Meanwhile, Heisman contender Justin Fields will be under center for Ohio State. The second-year starter has yet to post a sub-90.0 PFF passing grade this season for the Buckeyes.
Clemson travels to Florida State, who are underdogs by the largest margin in school history (35 points). The explosive Clemson offense should easily take advantage of the poor Florida State secondary. Florida State has given up the fifth-most 20-plus-yard receptions in college football, while Clemson has the third-most 20-plus-yard receptions in the nation.
No quarterback has been better at finding paydirt in the red zone than Kyle Trask. Trask currently leads the country in touchdown passes from inside the red zone with 18, while his 87.0 red-zone passing grade ranks third among QBs who have attempted at least 25 red-zone passes. Trask’s success has made the Gators' offense one of the most dominant units in the Power 5. Florida has generated the fifth-most expected points added (EPA) per red-zone play (0.465) among Power 5 offenses this season.
The matchup between No. 15 Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State has big implications when it comes to the 2020 Sun Belt Championship game. The Chanticleers and Mountaineers possess two of the five highest-graded offenses in the Group of 5 and the top two in the Sun Belt — Coastal Carolina has earned a team offense grade of 86.1, while Appalachian State just trails at 84.8.
Coastal Carolina strives off its balanced attack on offense, having earned grades north of 80.0 in passing, rushing and receiving. App State thrives on an excellent offensive line that has graded above 80.0 in both pass blocking and run blocking, making them one of three Group of 5 schools to achieve this feat.
Mehki Garner put up a PFF Team of the Week-worthy performance in Week 11, posting the second-highest grade among all college cornerbacks. The redshirt sophomore also recorded the most forced incompletions (4) by a Ragin’ Cajuns defender in a single game since 2014.
It’s Zach Wilson’s world, and we are just living in it. The junior quarterback has shown flashes of stellar play in past seasons, but with a veteran supporting cast, Wilson has dominated every defense he has seen with lethal precision. Wilson trails only Justin Fields and Mac Jones for the lowest percentage of uncatchable passes thrown this year (12.7%).
Cincinnati’s elite defense has gotten a lot of the spotlight this season. Still, in order for the Bearcats to legitimize their quest to become the first Group of 5 team to make a College Football Playoff, it is quarterback Desmond Ridder who needs to step up. Ridder showed flashes against ECU by recording a season-high five completions on passes thrown 15-plus yards downfield.
In the two weeks that Graham Mertz was able to take the field (Week 8 and 11), he showed that he is already one of the nation's top quarterback talents. Mertz’s 91.7 PFF grade over that four-game stretch put him just behind Florida’s Kyle Trask for the highest-graded Power 5 quarterback during that span. He now faces a Northwestern defense that is allowing only 4.2 yards per play, the best mark in the Power 5.
Alabama has garnered some of the nation’s top receiving talent in recent years, but this season’s group might be on pace to surpass them all. Through the team’s first six games, the 2020 receivers rank first in receiving grade (91.6), yards per route run (9.18), completion percentage (79.2%) and passer rating generated (150.6) among Alabama receiving groups since 2014.
The battle between the No. 17 Cyclones and the Wildcats matches up two of the top running backs in college football. Breece Hall is the nation’s lone 1,000-yard rusher and leads the nation in yards after contact (606). Deuce Vaughn is college football’s fourth-highest-graded true freshman on offense (83.2) and owns the highest receiving grade among all college running backs (91.0).
The Air Raid offense has not gone exactly to plan for Mike Leach and company, mostly because of the team’s inability to pass against zone coverage. Against zone concepts, Mississippi State quarterbacks have garnered 13 turnover-worthy plays to only one big-time throw. Their 42.8 PFF passing grade ranks dead last in the conference.
Every time the Sooners and the Cowboys meet, it is bound to be a shootout. Since 2014, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have combined for 133 plays of 15-plus yards in their matchups, with 47% of the touchdowns scored in the matchups going over 10 yards.
Malik Willis and the Liberty rushing attack continues to be one of the most electric units in college football. The duo of Willis and running back Peyton Pickett has been one of the most efficient in the country, despite the high usage. With 90 attempts from Willis and 72 from Pickett, the tandem has rushed for a first down or a touchdown on 43.3% and 43.1% of their runs, respectively, with both figures ranking in the top five among players with at least 60 carries.
Kedon Slovis’ two favorite targets just so happen to be two of the better receivers in the Pac-12. Amon-Ra St. Brown and Drake London both rank in the top five in the conference in receiving yardage (406), contested catches (5) and 15-plus-yard receptions (12).