Alabama versus LSU or Texas A&M versus Auburn… it’s 9-0 BYU versus 9-0 Coastal Carolina! Who would have guessed that we’d be saying that before the season? With Liberty battling a COVID-19 outbreak, the Chanticleers needed a new opponent and they got the Cougars, who desperately need to improve their resume to bolster their College Football Playoff odds.
With the help of PFF grades and advanced statistics — which are now available to PFF's CFB Premium Stats+ Subscribers — we can give you everything you need to know ahead of this week's top college football matchups. Please note that any picks and predictions made here are not reflective of PFF Greenline or our expert betting analysts. For betting insights into the Week 14 slate, click here!
No. 25 LOUISIANA @ APPALACHIAN STATE
Friday, Dec. 4 — 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
For your Friday football fix, Louisiana travels to Appalachian State in what will likely be a great defensive battle. The Ragin’ Cajuns and Mountaineers are both easily among the five best pass defenses in the Group of Five. Appalachian State has allowed a successful pass play at the second-best rate in the FBS (34.3%), and Louisiana ranks 10th in the country in team coverage grade.
Appalachian State cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles leads his squad and also leads the entire FBS in total pass breakups (14). That’s as many catches he has allowed on the season. Meanwhile, Louisiana has a couple of stingy defensive backs of their own. In nine games, Mekhi Garner has allowed just eight catches on 29 targets while combining for nine pass breakups and interceptions. Teammate Bralen Trahan has been a playmaker as well, notching four interceptions and seven pass breakups from his safety role. Trahan's 89.5 coverage grade now sits at the top spot among all safeties in the FBS.
Treash’s prediction: I’m riding or dying with App State.
Seth’s prediction: ULL. I would love for ULL to finish the season in the top 25, so I'm picking them, but I kinda think App State is gonna win.
No. 4 OHIO STATE @ MICHIGAN STATE
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Barring any sudden changes to the current conference rules, Ohio State — which is currently battling COVID-19 issues — must play this game to remain eligible for a spot in the Big Ten Championship. If they do play, keep an eye on quarterback Justin Fields and how he responds after his most recent performance. The last time we saw him back in action was Week 12 against Indiana when he led the Buckeyes to the worst passing offense of his career in expected points added per play. Fields tossed up three turnover-worthy plays en route to a 63.7 passing grade. In his three games prior to that this season, he was performing at a near-perfect level. He kicked off the campaign with three straight games of 90.0-plus passing grades.
Treash’s prediction: Ohio State.
Seth’s prediction: OS. There's a chance of an upset if Ohio State only dressed like 18 guys, but other than that scenario, it's a blowout.
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Texas A&M’s passing offense (mostly Kellen Mond) can’t afford another performance like last week's against a struggling LSU defense. The Aggies had the third-least efficient passing offense in the FBS that week ahead of only UL-Monroe and Bowling Green. And those two teams have yet to win a game this season. Mond didn’t put the ball in harm’s way, posting zero turnover-worthy plays, but his accuracy was still horrid and he had very few positives. Just 18% of his passes in that game were deemed accurate, the worst rate in a single game by a Power Five quarterback this season.
Bo Nix has been nothing great this season with a 72.0 passing grade, but Auburn has still fielded an efficient offense. In fact, the Tigers have the fourth-most efficient offense in the SEC this season — behind Alabama, Florida and Ole Miss.
Treash’s prediction: Auburn. I can’t in good faith pick the Aggies after what I saw last week.
Seth’s prediction: Texas AM — AM's defense is good enough to deal with Bo Nix while Mond figures things out.
No. 15 OKLAHOMA STATE @ TCU
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
TCU has struggled to get much cooking through the air since its first two games of the season. Quarterback Max Duggan had the two outings of his career against Iowa State and Texas but has since led the Horned Frogs to -0.27 expected points added per pass (116th in the FBS). He reverted back to his normal self (i.e., inaccurate) in that span. Since Week 6, Duggan has the 12th-worst uncatchable pass rate in the FBS.
It may look like Oklahoma State’s defense struggled against Texas Tech last week, with the Red Raiders putting up 41 points, but it actually was an overall solid day. Their coverage unit was the third-highest graded of the week, allowing just 40% of pass plays to be successful. The Pokes are the fifth-highest graded team in coverage in the Power Five this season.
Treash’s prediction: Oklahoma State is favored by only two points? I would take them by 10.
Seth’s prediction: OK State — I see the Pokes' defense coming back into form this game.
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 12:00 p.m. ET, ACCN
This should be a bit of a confidence booster game for the North Carolina offensive line. The unit was smoked early and often last week by the Notre Dame defensive front. They posted the second-worst PFF grade we have recorded in a single game this season by a Power Five offensive line. The unit on average allowed its ball-carrier to be contacted behind the line of scrimmage, and it gave up an FBS-high 50% pressure rate.
Treash’s prediction: UNC. For my own sanity, that offensive line better not allow one pressure.
Seth’s prediction: UNC.
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN+
Marshall has played a true cupcake schedule in 2020, and this game against Rice should be another painless matchup. The Owls rank outside the top 100 in team coverage grade and will be going up against a Thundering Herd passing offense that has thrived against low-level teams like Rice. Marshall ranks 16th in the FBS in expected points added per pass. Grant Wells has been great in his first year as a starter, earning an 87.2 passing grade (14th in the FBS). Playing behind the sixth-best offensive line in the country certainly helps, too.
Treash’s prediction: Marshall.
Seth’s prediction: Marshall. Somehow, Rice has only played three games???
SYRACUSE @ NO. 2 NOTRE DAME
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Notre Dame is favored by nearly five touchdowns, and understandably so. Rex Culpepper will likely helm Syracuse's offense, but he has managed a mere33.1 passing grade this season on 177 dropbacks. That’s led Syracuse to the least-efficient passing offense in the Power Five, and they’ll get one of the best defenses in the FBS this week. Oof.
When looking solely at Power Five school versus Power Five school, the Irish defense ranks seventh in per-play efficiency allowed. Yet, the big thing to watch in this one isn’t the poor Orange offense against the stout Irish defense. It’s Ian Book and whether he can sustain his strong play as of late. Book was performing at a concerning level through his first six starts with a 60.3 passing grade (76th in the FBS), but in his three outings since, he has looked like a vastly different player. He has raised his passing grade in that span to 91.4 (fifth in the FBS).
Treash’s prediction: Notre Dame. This is a nice warm-up for the ACC Championship game against Trevor Lawrence in a couple of weeks.
Seth’s prediction: Notre Dame — Ian Book late Heisman push!
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Can the Kyle Trask Heisman campaign continue?
On fire is an understatement when describing Trask’s play as of late. He has earned a passing grade above 80.0 in each of his past five starts en route to an FBS-high 93.4 PFF grade over that span. Trask’s accuracy and ball placement have been top-notch in recent weeks, putting him all the way into the Heisman conversation. But he could go from “in the conversation” to favorite to win if he sustains this play against Tennessee, LSU and then Alabama in the SEC Championship game. The good news for this week is that the Volunteers are fourth-to-last in the SEC in expected points allowed per play.
Treash’s prediction: Florida. I need this defense to take advantage of Jarrett Guarantano to give me hope for a competitive SEC Championship.
Seth’s prediction: Florida. It would be funny if Tennessee scored like 30 points because Florida's defense is still awful.
WEST VIRGINIA @ NO. 9 IOWA STATE
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Somehow, Iowa State finds itself in a scenario where it could make the College Football Playoff. It’ll take a lot for that to happen — including the Cyclones winning out along with Alabama and Notre Dame, Cincinnati losing and possibly Ohio State missing the Big Ten Championship. But there is at least a chance!
However, there should be some concern regarding the Cyclones’ matchup with West Virginia this weekend. Oklahoma may have been their most difficult opponent of the regular season, but Brock Purdy isn’t going to see a tougher defense this season (not considering the College Football Playoff) than the Mountaineers. And that’s a concern because Purdy has struggled all year long. He has posted just a 66.0 passing grade for the season while playing dangerously under pressure. His 11 turnover-worthy plays under duress are the second-most in the FBS.
The good news for Purdy is that West Virginia’s pass rush isn’t anything special. The bad news is that this coverage unit is bound to knock him off rhythm. West Virginia not only leads the Big 12 in coverage grade, but it also leads the entire FBS. The Mountaineers have allowed a successful pass play at the fourth-lowest rate in the FBS (34.5%).
Treash’s prediction: West Virginia.
Seth’s prediction: WVU — eventually Jarrett Doege is going to prove he's a good quarterback; why not against a really good ISU D?
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Indiana looked like it could be college football’s Cinderella story. The Hoosiers have cruised to a 5-1 record, with that lone loss being a one-score defeat to Ohio State. In all honesty, it appeared Indiana had its best football team in school history. But that was before starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. tore his ACL in his team's Week 13 win over Maryland. We haven’t seen much from Jack Tuttle, who will replace him, to know how much this offense will suffer from the loss, but there is reason to believe it’ll be a significant drop-off.
One of Penix's best traits was his ability to routinely deliver dimes with defensive linemen hurling themselves at him under pressure. He was composed in collapsing pockets, and he saw those quite a bit due to the offensive line in front of him. Penix had been under pressure at the fifth-highest rate in the Power Five (41%). And he countered with the fourth-lowest sack rate (7.4%) and the second-most big-time throws (12). Expecting that kind of play from Tuttle — who has 17 career dropbacks to his name — behind that offensive line is lofty.
Treash’s prediction: Wisconsin. I think this is going to be a low-scoring, defensive matchup.
Seth’s prediction: Wisc. No Penix means no problem for the Badgers.
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET, FS1
Iowa somehow came in at 19th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, and to justify that rank, we need to see quarterback Spencer Petras actually play well. In six starts this season, Petras’ highest grade was just 67.3. And he's earned a mere 54.5 passing mark over the course of the year. That has led the Hawkeyes to the second-least efficient passing offense in the Big Ten. The good news for him is that he'll go up against an Illinois defense that has allowed the highest successful pass rate in the conference (54.5%).
Treash’s prediction: Iowa, but only because its defense is good and Illinois is bad everywhere.
Seth’s prediction: Iowa. I have nothing to say about this game.
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Interestingly enough, Navy is passing at the highest rate they ever have in the PFF College era. Granted, their 28% pass rate is still astronomically low compared to the rest of the FBS. It may not be that good of an idea for the Midshipmen to try and create big plays through the air considering A) they only have a 37% success rate passing this year, 12th-worst in the FBS, and B) Tulsa has the sixth highest-graded coverage unit in the FBS.
Treash’s prediction: Tulsa.
Seth’s prediction: Tulsa. We need Tulsa to win to give Cincy another meaningful game next week.
VANDERBILT @ NO. 8 GEORGIA
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 4:00 p.m. ET, SECN
Last week was all about seeing if JT Daniels could replicate the success he found in his Georgia debut in Week 11 (95.0 PFF grade), but instead, we saw Georgia run all over South Carolina. They recorded the fifth-highest run-play rate of the week and tied for the highest successful run play rate against a Power 5 defense since 2015. There’s a good chance Georgia runs the ball quite a bit once again, considering they are playing Vandy, but here’s hoping that Daniels throws more than the 16 passes he attempted last week!
Treash’s prediction: Georgia. I need more passes like I need more cowbell.
Seth’s prediction: UGA. This could be 67-0 or something like that.
STANFORD @ NO. 22 WASHINGTON
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 4:00 p.m. ET, FOX
This Washington defense has been feasting on their Pac-12 counterparts this season. The Huskies rank fifth in the FBS in team coverage grade since their season began in Week 11.
Slot corner Elijah Molden has anchored this unit, picking up where he left off in 2019. Last year, Molden was the second highest-graded slot corner, and this year he has jumped to No. 1. Trent McDuffie has been exceptional on the outside, with just nine yards allowed in three games. On top of those two, it looks like Washington may have two big breakout players on their hands with edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui and linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio — both rank in the top five at their respective positions in PFF grade since their season began.
Stanford was without their starting quarterback Davis Mills in their season opener against Oregon due to COVID protocols, but he's since returned to the lineup. However, he did not quite provide a spark to this offense. In fact, they were more efficient in their opener than in the last two games with Mills at the helm.
Treash’s prediction: Washington. I’m this defense’s No. 1 fan.
Seth’s prediction: Wash — I love this defense.
NO. 13 BYU @ NO. 18 COASTAL CAROLINA
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Out of nowhere, we were blessed with the matchup we all wanted to see: college football’s highest-graded passer Zach Wilson versus one of the best offenses in the Group of 5.
BYU needs to blow out Coastal Carolina to further prove that they are worthy of a spot in the CFP, but it’s not going to be easy to keep this offense from scoring points. The Chanticleers' spread-option offense has been lighting defenses up through the air with Grayson McCall under center. When he has been at quarterback for Coastal, they have produced the second-most-efficient passing attack in the FBS. Having to defend a quarterback as accurate as McCall, as well as the Chanticleers' rushing attack, is a true nightmare.
It’s also going to be a tall task for Coastal Carolina to stop Zach Wilson, who has yet to have a bad game this season. Not only is Wilson the highest-graded passer this season at 95.1, but he’s also on pace to break the single-season PFF College record for passing grade. Wilson has recorded passing grades above 87.0 in seven of eight starts. It’s been an easy schedule, but doing that week after week is unheard of, regardless of competition.
Treash’s prediction: BYU. The disrespect toward the Cougars’ CFP chances and Wilson’s Heisman hopes ends here. I think they blow Coastal Carolina out of the water.
Seth’s prediction: CCU. I'm going out on a limb, but I just love CCU too much this year.
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Oregon’s CFP hopes died last weekend as they suffered an upset loss to their in-state rival, Oregon State. Quarterback Tyler Shough was a big reason for the defeat, as he stumbled to a 45.0 passing grade on the day. Shough failed to record a big-time throw and came away with three turnover-worthy plays. He had flashed the accuracy and arm talent that can make him look like a potential top-tier quarterback, but that dissipated last week.
All season long, Shough has counteracted his immense ability with bad decisions. Perhaps he can get back on track against a Cal team that has been easily the most disappointing in the conference this season. They rank dead last in successful pass rate allowed in the Pac-12.
Treash’s prediction: Oregon.
Seth’s prediction: Oregon. One huge bounce-back game, and everything is going to start clicking for the 2021 Pac-12 champs.
NO. 3 CLEMSON @ VIRGINIA TECH
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Trevor Lawrence came back in a big way last week after not playing for over a month due to COVID-19. Lawrence recorded a 90.6 PFF grade against Pitt in Week 13, bringing his season-long mark to 92.3, fourth in the FBS. The question pretty much remains the same for every team facing Clemson in a given week: Can they stop Lawrence?
Things don't look all that promising for Virginia Tech this week. The Hokies’ coverage unit looked like they’d be decent this season with Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller manning the outside corner spots, but that has not been the case. Farley opted out due to COVID-19, and Waller has been limited to only two games due to injury. Consequently, Virginia Tech has allowed the second-worst successful pass rate in the ACC at 47.7%.
Treash’s prediction: Clemson.
Seth’s prediction: Clemson. I'm hoping Hooker/Herbert put on a show, but Clemson will still win.
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 8:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Alright, let’s be honest here — this is a rivalry game, but it’s not going to be the shootout we saw last season between Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow.
There are zero worries about Alabama holding up their end of the bargain. The same cannot be said for LSU. Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones has shocked the college football world this season and is performing even better than Tagovailoa did when he led the offense. It never seemed possible, but Jones has a chance at challenging the record for the best PFF grade recorded by an SEC quarterback in a single season. Burrow set that record last season at 94.9, but Jones is creeping up on him at 94.5.
Meanwhile, LSU is now being led by true freshman quarterback T.J. Finley with Myles Brennan out for the season. Finley is fresh off a 48.6 passing grade against Texas A&M in Week 13 and now has to face an Alabama defense that has been on fire. This Crimson Tide defense has been on lockdown duty since they gave up 48 points to Ole Miss in Week 6. Alabama ranks first in the FBS in coverage grade over the course of their last five games (since Week 7).
The big matchup to watch in this one is DeVonta Smith — PFF’s highest-graded wide receiver — versus Derek Stingley Jr. Last year, Smith torched the then-true freshman cornerback for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Stingley still recorded the most valuable season we have seen by a non-quarterback, so that goes to show how great the rest of his season was.
Stingley has allowed few big plays this year; he's given up just six first downs in six games while forcing six incompletions. Smith has been an explosive play waiting to happen every single week, so this ought to be a fun one.
Treash’s prediction: Alabama. As much as I love Stingley, Smith is playing at a level we have never seen before, so I think he’s going to have another monstrous day.
Seth’s prediction: LSU. Don't judge me.
No. 10 MIAMI (FL.) @ DUKE
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 8:00 p.m. ET, ACCN
It’s been three weeks since we last saw D’Eriq King and the Miami Hurricanes, and they’ll be looking to keep their New Year’s Six hopes alive with a win here.
King has been producing at the level that all Hurricanes fans hoped for. He’s making plays through the air and on the ground en route to a 91.2 PFF grade for the year. That’s the same mark he earned back in 2018 when he was the second-highest-graded quarterback in the FBS — behind only Kyler Murray. This year is the year of the quarterback, so his 2020 grade is not quite in second, but it’s still an impressive ranking of ninth.
The Blue Devils have been a disappointment across the board this season. Clemson transfer Chase Brice hasn’t made the impact many had hoped for, earning a poor 46.2 passing grade this season. The accuracy — or lack thereof — from Brice has been at a non-starter level. He has led Duke to a ranking of dead last in the ACC in both big-time throws (nine) and turnover-worthy plays (22).
Treash’s prediction: Miami. The Canes get back in their groove against Duke before their big game versus UNC next week.
Seth’s prediction: Miami. Miami is still technically alive if Clemson loses.
Saturday, Dec. 5 — 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX
The Baylor offense hasn’t been anything to write home about (second-to-last in the Big 12 in passing grade). Still, there are a few great pieces on the defensive side of the ball — specifically cornerback Raleigh Texada, who has been shutting down the opposition this season.
Texada has allowed just 0.38 yards per coverage snap at outside corner this season, the fourth-best mark in the FBS. That has led him to an 80.0 coverage grade on the year. Opposite Texada is Kalon Barnes, who missed the last game due to injury. He should be back for this one, and that’s good news considering their other options are not stellar. Barnes has given up a couple of big plays this season but overall has fared well with a 59.8 passer rating allowed on targets into his coverage.
But can they stop the best offense in the Big 12?
Oklahoma has generated nearly three times as much EPA per pass play this season than any other team in the Big 12 at 0.37. Spencer Rattler ranks fourth in the FBS in passing grade at 92.3, over 17 grading points higher than any quarterback in the Big 12.
Treash’s prediction: Oklahoma by 30.
Seth’s prediction: OU — the best team in the Big 12.
WASHINGTON STATE @ NO. 20 USC
Sunday, Dec. 6 — 7:30 p.m. ET, FS1
College Sunday Night Football! Well, hopefully.
This game was pushed to Sunday due to USC having some COVID-19 issues, and there is a chance it could still get canceled. Assuming we do get to see the Cougars take on the Trojans, we’ll get to see Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura return to the field. The true freshman impressed as a passer in his first two starts, earning an 85.9 passing grade. He made a handful of beautiful throws downfield that has led him to the Pac-12’s highest passing grade on throws over 10 yards downfield. Washington State ranks behind only the Oregon Ducks — who they lost to in their last outing in Week 11 — in passing efficiency in the conference.
Right behind Washington State in third is none other than the USC Trojans. That being said, quarterback Kedon Slovis has still been underwhelming this season. After rivaling Joe Burrow for the most accurate passer in the entire country in 2019, Slovis has looked like a completely different passer … for the worse. He ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in accurate pass rate over 10 yards downfield at 29.4%, a metric Slovis was second in the FBS last year at 62.2%. He also has the second-most turnover-worthy plays with eight.
Treash’s prediction: USC, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of concerned with that pick. At the end of the day, I think the Slovis we have seen this season in three games isn’t the real one.
Seth’s prediction: USC. This has a real upset smell based on the way USC has played so far and the explosiveness that Wazzu can bring, but I'm still taking USC.