College News & Analysis

College Football Week 1: PFF’s Team of the Week and Player Awards

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Haskell Garrett (92) signs Carmen Ohio after beating Minnesota Golden Gophers 45-31 in Huntington Bank Stadium at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN on September 2, 2021. Ceb Osu21min Kwr 64

A top-10 team went down in Blacksburg after an electrifying Enter Sandman to open the game, Georgia put the clamps on Clemson, Texas might be back, Alabama is still Alabama and the Rose Bowl ran out of alcohol in a big UCLA win over LSU — college football is officially back!

Now that the first run of analysis is finalized and available in PFF's CFB Premium Stats+, we get to fill you in on this week’s top performers. Here, we present the PFF’s Team of the Week and player awards from Week 1 of the 2021 college football season.

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QB: Tanner Mordecai, SMU
RB: Brandon Thomas, Memphis
RB: Tank Bigsby, Auburn
WR: Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina
WR: Jordan Whittington, Texas
WR: Dontario Drummond, Ole Miss
TE: Trey McBride, Colorado State
LT: Connor Galvin, Baylor
LG: Colby Ragland, UAB
C: Andrew Vastardis, Michigan
RG: Christian Mahogany, Boston College
RT: Dawand Jones, Ohio State


DI: Calijah Kancey, Pitt
DI: Brandon Dorlus, Oregon
Edge: R.J. Oben, Duke
Edge: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
LB: Riko Jeffers, Texas Tech
LB: Jamal Brooks, South Alabama
CB: Riley Moss, Iowa
CB: Duce Chestnut, Syracuse
S: Corvan Taylor, Air Force
S: Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Slot: Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford

Offensive Player of the Week: WR Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina

Heiligh ran wild through The Citadel on Thursday, earning a 94.6 PFF grade while picking up 7.82 yards per route run and five receptions of 15-plus yards. The Chanticleers receiver also averaged 9.0 yards after the catch per reception and broke five tackles, four of which came on one play.

Defensive Player of the Week: CB Riley Moss, Iowa

Moss had not one but two pick-sixes in Iowa’s blowout win over Indiana. One had some luck involved, but the other was a fantastic break on a hitch that quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw too far in front of his wide receiver.

Along with those two touchdowns, Moss forced a couple of incompletions and didn’t allow a single catch across six targets in coverage. Last season, the former two-star recruit was one of the best zone corners in college football, and his day against the Hoosiers showed more of the same.

True Freshman of the Week: CB Duce Chestnut, Syracuse

Duce Chestnut was the Orange’s top recruit in the 2021 class — he was a three-star who ranked 421st nationally overall.

Ohio tested the true freshman by targeting him on nearly a quarter of his coverage snaps, but he allowed zero first downs and only 13 yards on eight targets. He intercepted one pass, forced an incompletion on another and ended the game with three passing stops.

Syracuse desperately needed reliability in the coverage unit, and Chestnut looks like he will provide that — and then some — in the years to come.

Offensive Line of the Week: Baylor Bears

All five starters along Baylor’s offensive line finished with a grade above 74.0 against Texas State. Their top two performers were fourth-year starting tackle Connor Galvin and center Jacob Gall, whom the Bears grabbed via the transfer portal from Buffalo. The two ranked first and second, respectively, in total positively graded blocks among all offensive linemen in Week 1.

Secret Superstar of the Week: DI Brandon Dorlus, Oregon

The country's eyes were on Oregon star edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux before he exited with an injury, causing many to overlook Brandon Dorlus' impact along the interior. Dorlus, a 2019 three-star, earned a fairly non-descript 61.4 PFF grade across 259 snaps last season, but he was purely dominant in Oregon’s opener against Fresno State Saturday.

Dorlus earned a 92.3 pass-rush grade and won 32.5% of his 40 pass-rush reps. Keep an eye on him over the next few weeks — he might be a breakout player for the Ducks.

Play of the Week: Kyu Blu Kelly’s mosses Phillip Brooks for an interception

Kelly spent his first two years on the outside and played there to no success. He earned a 64.6 PFF grade while recording only one pick and four pass breakups across 73 targets.

Against Kansas State, he kicked inside to cover the slot and had the highest-graded game of his career. He played only four snaps in the slot in 2019 and 2020 but played 29 there yesterday, locking the inside down with zero yards allowed.

Game-Changing Moments of the Week: Zach Harrison strip-sack fumble & Christopher Smith’s Pick-Six

There was a time during Ohio State’s visit to Minnesota on Thursday when it looked as if a contender was going down early in an upset.

The Buckeyes found themselves trailing to the Golden Gophers 17-21 in the middle of the third quarter. Ohio State regained the lead on the first play of a drive with a 56-yard touchdown courtesy of wide receiver Garrett Wilson, and a few plays into Minnesota’s next series, edge defender Zach Harrison came away with a strip-sack that Haskell Garrett was able to pick up and return for a score. According to PFF's models, that play alone swung the win probability 32 percentage points in Ohio State’s favor.

There was only one touchdown scored in the highly anticipated contest between Georgia and Clemson Saturday night, and it didn’t even come on the offensive side of the ball.

Georgia safety Christopher Smith picked off Tigers quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei and took it to the house. That interception was on a pivotal third-and-4 situation that was likely to end in points on the board for Clemson. It swung the win probability over 27 percentage points from Clemson to Georgia, per PFF's models.

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