News & Analysis

College Football Week 10: Team of the Week, key takeaways, player awards and more

Nov 7, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book (12) throws in the first quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

This week of college football was set to be one of the biggest of the season, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The BYU Cougars blew out Boise State to keep their path to the College Football Playoff alive, Indiana beat Michigan for the first time in over three decades, Kyle Trask led Florida right over Georgia and Notre Dame has caused chaos by knocking off the No. 1 Clemson Tigers in double OT.

And now that the first run of our analysis is finalized and available in PFF's CFB Premium Stats+, we get to fill you in on everything you might have missed while providing further analysis on yesterday's games. Here we present to you the PFF Team of the Week, big takeaways and player awards from Week 10 of the 2020 college football season.

PFF TEAM OF THE WEEK

Offense

QB: D’Eriq King, Miami (FL.)
RB: Ronnie Rivers, Fresno St.
RB: Javonte Williams, North Carolina
WR: Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
WR: Cornelius McCoy, Georgia State
WR: Jesse Matthews, San Diego State
TE: Sean Dykes, Memphis
LT: Brady Christensen, BYU
LG: Nick Rosi, Toledo
C: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
RG: Ryan Walk, Oregon
RT: Abraham Lucas, Washington State

Defense

DI: Simon Sandberg, Oregon State
DI: Ricky Barber, Western Kentucky
EDGE: Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
EDGE: Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma
LB: Justin Hilliard, Ohio State
LB: James Patterson, Buffalo
CB: Zech McPhearson, Texas Tech
CB: Kalon Barnes, Baylor
S: Jerrick Reed II, New Mexico
S: Josh Proctor, Ohio State
FLEX D: Chris Gaston, Fresno St.

3 BIG TAKEAWAYS

1. The CFP committee may have a three-headed monster of a problem ahead of them

The College Football Playoff committee’s worst nightmare occurred late Saturday night — an undefeated Notre Dame team took down a Clemson team, the No. 1 team in the country, that was without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

So, let’s say the Irish go on to win out the rest of their regular season (Boston College, North Carolina, Syracuse and Wake Forest) then lose to Clemson and Lawrence in the ACC Championship Game, all while BYU and Cincinnati continue their high-level of play and put together undefeated campaigns. How will the committee value a Notre Dame win over a Clemson team that was without arguably one of the best quarterbacks in college football history?

It’s the million-dollar question that only they know, but if that situation arises, expect the “expand the playoff” debate loom larger than it ever has before.

All that being said, we must give a huge tip of the cap to Irish quarterback Ian Book for his performance against the Tigers. After struggling through the air against low-level defenses like Duke and Georgia Tech and every defense they faced entering the week, Book gave us no indication that he would all of a sudden turn it around against Clemson — but that’s exactly what he did. Book had a season passing grade of 60.3 entering Week 10 and came away after their double-OT win earning a single-game passing grade north of 90.0.

2. This was Kyle Trask’s most impressive performance of his career

While his season opener against Ole Miss is and will likely always be the highest-graded game of his collegiate career, the day Kyle Trask had against Georgia was easily his most impressive.

Trask's second-quarter pick-six was primarily due to freshman receiver Xzavier Henderson running the wrong route. Still, outside of that, Trask threw another ball in the fourth quarter that easily should have ended the same way. Luckily for him was dropped by Mark Webb.

Other than that, it was a great day for Trask through the air. He had four big-time throws against Georgia — all four coming on vertical routes down the sideline. That is a career-high for Trask against a non-Ole Miss defense. Trask also put up career-high completions (12) and adjusted completion percentage (86.7%) on throws over 10 yards downfield.

We’ve been critical of Trask for his play leading up to this point, and while that dropped interception was an ugly one, we have to give credit when credit is due. Trask’s ball placement was pristine all game long, and he was a key reason why the Gators had the third-most efficient passing offense in the Power 5 in Week 10.

3. There’s no such thing as perfect, but Justin Fields has been as close as one could be to it these last three weeks

To no one’s surprise, Ohio State’s Justin Fields has been slicing and dicing the Big Ten through his first three games and has picked up a 94.0 PFF grade in the process. Not only does that lead all quarterbacks to play in each of the last three weeks, but it’s also right there with Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones for the best three-week stretch of play at the position this year. Against Nebraska, Penn State and Rutgers, Fields has combined for just five uncatchable passes. The Buckeye quarterback has thrown two more big-time throws than that, and he as many deep passing touchdowns over 20 yards downfield.

OTHER NOTES/OBSERVATIONS

  • Through Week 8, Texas A&M had hands down the worst downfield passing attack in the SEC. Kellen Mond ranked dead last in the conference in passing grade on passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield. Over the last two weeks, though, Mond looks vastly different. He ranks second in the SEC in that same metric and has led the Aggies to the second-most efficient Power 5 passing offense in that span.
  • For the first time since 1987, the Indiana Hoosiers defeated the Michigan Wolverines, making them one step closer to securing a spot in the AP Top 10 for the first time since 1969. Michael Penix Jr. showed off his arm talent and dropped four deep big-time throws, the second-most of Week 10.
  • Jack Sears went down with an injury early in Boise State’s showdown with BYU, and the Broncos had to trot out freshman Cade Fennegan in replacement. That meant that the Cougars defense had yet another relatively easy offense to face. The big matchup here, though, was Zach Wilson and BYU’s offense against a good Boise State defense — Wilson and the Cougars had to light them up to keep their CFP hopes alive, and they did just that. Wilson led BYU to the second-most efficient passing offense of the week and tallied his fifth elite-graded game as a passer of 2020.
  • Ohio State corner Shaun Wade had a much needed bounce-back game in Week 10. After allowing 119 yards to Penn State in Week 9, he allowed just 12 yards at outside corner in Week 10.
  • Oregon’s Deommodore Lenoir got off to an exceptional start, allowing zero catches in coverage while forcing two incompletions against Stanford. However, the Ducks’ new starting quarterback Tyler Shough has a ways to go with his decision-making. He did record a beautiful big-time throw to Mycah Pittman, but he also let slip of an ugly interception shortly after then had another interception dropped later on.
  • Outside of a puzzling heave into double coverage that ended up as an interception, true freshman Jayden de Laura had an impressive collegiate debut. He tossed five big-time throws en route to an elite passing grade above 90.0 and helped lead Washington State to victory despite his receiving unit spilling five very catchable passes.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

QB D’Eriq King, Miami (FL.)

We have grown accustomed to King putting together astounding games on the ground with his elite running ability — whether it was 2018, his limited 2019 or this year in 2020, it’s something King has done week in and week out.

The one big thing we had yet to see was King overtake a game with his arm. He has had a bevy of great performances on his grading profile this season that feature passing grades in the 80s, but none quite at that elite level. This past week against NC State, though, King played out of his mind as a passer and had not only the best passing game of his collegiate career but one of the best of the entire 2020 season.

King put together a passing grade that stands right now, with first review pending, just above 95.0. He had twice as many big-time throws in this one than he had in any other game this season and led the FBS this week in deep 20-plus-yard completions (six), passing yards (176) and touchdowns (three). That helped the ‘Canes fend off the Wolfpack with a 44-41 victory.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Edge Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma

Kansas has fielded one of the worst pass-blocking units in college football this season, and Oklahoma took advantage of that, putting pressure on quarterback Jalon Daniels on over 64% of his dropbacks — the highest rate of the week by seven percentage points. And the player to take advantage of the poor pass protection the most was junior edge rusher, Ronnie Perkins.

Perkins fried the Jayhawks’ tackles play after play and had himself easily the best performance of his collegiate career. Perkins’ previous career-high PFF grade came in Week 1 of 2019 when he earned an 83.7 mark, and this week he raised that by double-digits by shining in both facets of play. Perkins recorded two tackles for loss on nine run-defense snaps, then as a pass-rusher, won on 48% of his reps and recorded a pressure on nearly 38%. Both of those rates, along with his pass-rush grade, are the best we have seen at the position in 2020, and it’s not particularly close.

TRUE FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK

WR Rakim Jarrett, Maryland

Jarrett was the crown jewel of the Terps’ 2020 recruiting class — he was a five-star product, according to 247Sports, and he chose Maryland over Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ohio State and many others. He originally had committed to LSU, but thanks to former Terp and current Buffalo Bill Stefon Diggs, Jarrett flipped to Maryland.

Against Penn State in Week 10, the true freshman made his presence known and played a key role in Maryland upsetting Penn State 35-19. Jarrett took two slants over 40 yards to the house, making him one of four Power 5 wide receivers to have multiple 40-plus yard touchdowns in a game this season. In all, Jarrett had 22.8 yards after the catch per reception — the second-best mark in a single game in 2020 among all FBS wide receivers with at least five catches.

OFFENSIVE LINE OF THE WEEK

Oregon Ducks

Oregon’s offensive line was one of four FBS units of Week 10 to earn grades above 80.0 in both pass protection and run blocking. That said, they didn’t quite have the best unit grade of Week 10, but they do take home Offensive Line of the Week honors this week because of their astonishing debut with five brand-new starters on the line.

The Ducks had one of the best offensive lines in college football a season ago, but they had four of five starters leave to the NFL and/or graduation. That left tackle Penei Sewell, the best lineman we have seen in the PFF College era, to lead a unit with brand new faces at every other position on the line. But, due to COVID-19, Sewell decided to opt-out and train for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Expectations were extremely low for the Ducks’ inexperienced offensive line, but they looked far from inexperienced against Stanford in their season debut. They didn’t allow a single sack and lost just seven pass-block reps combined. Their best work came in the run game, where they ranked second in run-block grade among Power 5 lines and helped Oregon’s rushing attack rank sixth among that same group in EPA per run play.

SECRET SUPERSTAR OF THE WEEK

T Brady Christensen, BYU

Christensen has been arguably the biggest secret superstar in college football the last couple of seasons — he was the 12th-highest-graded tackle of 2019, entered Week 10 as the second-highest-graded tackle in the FBS and ended the week with the best PFF grade after a career night against Boise State. Per usual, Christensen didn’t lose a single rep in pass-protection — he has lost just two in eight games and 269 pass-block snaps this season.

Then, in the run game, Christensen produced the highest positively graded run-block rate among tackles in Week 10. He hasn’t faced a menacing set of edge defenders like other premier tackles in the FBS, but Christensen is doing exactly what a tackle should do against this schedule — he's providing near-flawless play.

PLAY OF THE WEEK

It seemed like the USC Trojans were destined for an upset loss to the Arizona State Sun Devils. The offense had been struggling all game long, and USC found themselves down 13 points with just under four and a half minutes to play. Following an Arizona State three-and-out that gave them the ball on their own 20-yard line, quarterback Kedon Slovis had to lead USC down the field for a touchdown, recover an onside kick then lead the Trojans down the field again for another touchdown for any hopes at a win.

And that’s precisely what happened. After putting together a scoring drive featuring two fourth-down conversions — with the second being a fourth-and-13 that ended in a 26-yard touchdown and subsequently recovering the onside kick — Slovis led USC to the Arizona State 21-yard line with just over a minute to go. It was fourth-and-9 and do-or-die time. USC needed some magic from Slovis, and the true sophomore delivered with a perfectly placed ball for the go-ahead touchdown:

AN EARLY LOOK AHEAD TO WEEK 11…

USC was able to prevail and secure a win over Arizona State thanks to an onside kick and dime from Kedon Slovis shown above as our Play of the Week. However, there’s no doubt that a lot of improvements need to be made for the Trojans if they want to run the table and put together an undefeated 2020 campaign. And next week, they’ll be looking to bounce back against an Arizona that has a prominent breakout candidate at quarterback. Grant Gunnell appeared in eight games as a true freshman last year and never posted a passing grade below 70.0. He was just below Joe Burrow and Kedon Slovis in accurate-pass rate and was the only QB to take at least 150 dropbacks and produce two or fewer turnover-worthy plays.

While Alabama versus LSU in 2020 doesn’t carry as much weight as it did back in 2019, it’s still a can’t-miss game next week. Largely because the Crimson Tide have been steamrolling every single team they have faced and are currently putting up historic numbers. Following their Week 10 bye, Alabama still ranks number one in EPA per pass play generated, while quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver DeVonta Smith retain their spots as the highest-graded players at their respective positions.

It seems like an eternity since Wisconsin freshman quarterback Graham Mertz lit up the college landscape in his 2020 opener back in Week 8. He was our Offensive Player of the Week for a historic debut that ended in a 93.9 passing grade, but he and the Badgers have been unfortunately sidelined the last two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols. Next week, though, they are all on the path to make their return against Michigan, and I cannot wait to watch the young quarterback go to work against a struggling Wolverines’ coverage unit.

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