News & Analysis

College Football Week 14: Team of the Week, key takeaways, player awards and more

Dec 5, 2020; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones (10) celebrates after a touchdown against the LSU Tigers during the first quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Wilson and BYU’s undefeated season came to an end with an L to Coastal Carolina and their mullets, Texas A&M lucked out against Auburn to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive and we continue to see historic things happen from the Alabama Crimson Tide offense. On top of that, the matchups for the SEC, ACC and Big 12 Championship games are now all set.

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 this week’s games. Here, we present to you the PFF Team of the Week, along with our big takeaways and player awards from Week 14 of the 2020 college football season.

PFF TEAM OF THE WEEK

Offense

QB: Kedon Slovis, USC
RB: Bijan Robinson, Texas
RB: Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
WR: Corey Rucker, Ark State
WR: DeVonta Smith, Alabama
WR: Wan’Dale Robinson, Nebraska
TE: Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
LT: Cole Van Lanen, Wisconsin
LG: Luke Griffin, Missouri
C: Landon Dickerson, Alabama
RG: Austin Dotson, Kentucky
RT: Walter Hankinson, Louisiana Tech

Defense

DI: Evan Anderson, FAU
DI: Cameron Thomas, San Diego State
EDGE: Quincy Roche, Miami (FL.)
EDGE: Chauncey Manac, Louisiana
LB: Amen Ogbongbemiga, Oklahoma State
LB: Diego Fagot, Navy
CB: Tiawan Mullen, Indiana
CB: Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, TCU
S: Trevon Moehrig, TCU
S: Bubba Bolden, Miami (FL.)
FLEX D: Thomas Harper, Oklahoma State

BIG TAKEAWAYS

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones should be the Heisman favorite. End of discussion.

Mac Jones added yet another Heisman-level performance to his resume in Alabama’s certified beatdown of the LSU Tigers. The Crimson Tide quarterback posted a 93.2 passing grade for the game with four big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays. Jones now has a season-long PFF grade of 95.3 — a mark on pace to beat the PFF College record set by Joe Burrow in 2019. And given that he is only facing SEC competition, that is quite impressive.

As usual, Jones displayed stupendous downfield accuracy and was nearly perfect from a clean pocket. His passer rating when kept clean this game actually was perfect at 158.3, as he completed 20-of-24 attempts for 379 yards and four touchdowns on those plays. And of those four incompletions, only one was a bad throw from Jones. He is showing off top-tier accuracy, timing and decision-making week in and week out.

LSU’s defense has had some low moments this season, but none more than this week thanks to Jones and the rest of the Crimson Tide offense. Not only was this their worst outing of the season in terms of expected points added (EPA) allowed per pass play, but it was also the most allowed by an LSU defense in a single game in the PFF College era.

It was another elite outing from Jones. It was another outing that shows that he has been the best player in college football this season. 

BYU’s undefeated season is now gone, but Zach Wilson is still on the path to CFB greatness

The Chanticleers did the inevitable. After nine games of the BYU Cougars dominating the opposition and fielding one of the most efficient offenses in the country, Coastal Carolina ended their Cinderella story with a 22-17 win as 10-point dogs. BYU failed to generate positive expected points added (EPA) per pass play for the first time this season. Coastal limited them to a 41% successful pass play rate, over 10 percentage points lower than in any other BYU game this season.

Wilson may not have had an elite game, and he did get off to a slow start, but he still played considerably well despite the poor efficiency.

He finished the game with a passing grade in the mid-80s, with most of his success coming in the second half. The arm talent and accuracy that he has shown all year long shined on numerous occasions — he was even about as perfect as a college QB can be throwing over 10 yards downfield when free from pressure, completing 7-of-9 such throws (all nine were catchable) for 158 yards and a touchdown. Four of those seven completions came on that final drive when he at least gave BYU the chance to win the game after being backed up on their own 9-yard line with 35 seconds to play. 

Wilson was ultimately unable to execute the comeback win, and we have to give credit to the Chanticleers’ defense for that. They were able to get pressure on Wilson at a rate that no other team has been able to this season and came up with multiple big stops and a few key forced incompletions. Wilson was actually put under pressure on nearly half of his dropbacks in the first half of play.

It was one of the best games of the entire season and ended in dramatic fashion with the Chants stopping Dax Milne at the 1-yard line as time expired. BYU’s hopes at an undefeated year are now gone, but Wilson is still on the path to a historically good season as the presumed QB3 in the 2021 NFL Draft.

OTHER NOTES/OBSERVATIONS

  • Iowa State’s offense finally played like the group we expected to see from the get-go in 2020. Against West Virginia — who had the highest-graded coverage unit in the FBS before Week 14 — the Cyclones had the second-most-efficient passing offense against a Power 5 opponent of the entire 2020 season. Brock Purdy didn’t have any big-time throws, but he also didn’t put the ball in harm’s way and was supremely accurate. That led him to a season-best passing grade above 90.0.
  • Kellen Mond has the luckiest pass of the day; it could even end up as the luckiest pass of the entire season. In the fourth quarter, down six, at Auburn’s 20-yard line, Mond let go of a turnover-worthy throw right to linebacker Zakoby McClain that tipped off his hands and went right to Jalen Wydermyer in the end zone for a touchdown. If McClain intercepts that ball, we may be talking about an upset.
  • Trevor Lawrence had his lowest-graded game as a passer of the season. He was great on his quick throws but had a couple of bad turnover-worthy plays where he locked in on his receiver. Lawrence earned a 91.2 passing grade against Virginia Tech on throws that took less than 2.5 seconds from snap to pass. On throws over 2.6 seconds, though, that dropped to 37.5.
  • Indiana quarterback Jack Tuttle made his first career start against Wisconsin with Michael Penix Jr. out for the year, and he handled the pressure exceptionally well. He was under pressure more than any other QB this week (66.7%), but he didn’t make any bad decisions on those plays. Despite being under all that pressure, Tuttle managed to lead IU to the 13th-most-efficient passing offense of the week in the Hoosiers’ win over the Badgers.
  • Dennis Grosel made the start at QB on Saturday with Phil Jurkovec out with an injury. The Eagles ended up falling short in a 43-32 loss to UVA in a game in which Grosel had one of the most up-and-down performances of the season. He led the FBS in Week 14 in big-time throws with nine and led the group in turnover-worthy plays with five.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK & TRUE FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK

WR Corey Rucker, Ark State

We had not one, not two, but three of the best performances we have seen this season by a true freshman — all in one week.

It was extremely close, but it was ultimately Ark State’s Corey Rucker edging out Bijan Robinson of Texas and Deuce Vaughn of Kansas State for PFF True Freshman of the Week and Offensive Player of the Week honors.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say 99.9% of people with no direct affiliation with the university had never heard of the true freshman wide receiver entering Week 14. The former three-star recruit had caught just seven of his 21 targets for 139 yards and a touchdown in his first season before this week. Then, against UL-Monroe on Saturday, Rucker went off for nine catches, 310 yards and four touchdowns en route to the best single-game receiving grade of the 2020 season by an FBS wide receiver.

Rucker made the Warhawks defense look silly a few times after the catch and got off press coverage with ease. I don’t care if UL-Monroe is one of the worst teams in college football — this performance from Rucker is not just one of the best we have seen this season; it's one of the best at the position in the entire PFF College era.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK

LB Amen Ogbongbemiga, Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State may have suffered an upset to TCU, but it was certainly no fault of the defense. They forced a whopping five turnovers — one was a scoop-and-score touchdown, but the other four ended with the Pokes’ offense converting those to a combined zero points. Oklahoma State’s offense finished the day ranking second-to-last in the FBS in success rate. The story of their season.

Ogbongbemiga stepped up in a huge way. He was responsible for three of those five turnovers. All three fumbles, all coming in the second half of play in TCU’s territory. None of them stemmed from a hit stick, nor were they caused by a Peanut Punch, but all were forced by Ogbongbemiga ripping the ball right out of the ball carrier's hands right before they hit the ground. Those three turnovers — along with a couple of tackles for loss/no gain and seven run stops — helped Ogbonbemiga record the highest run-defense grade we have seen this season at the position.

OFFENSIVE LINE OF THE WEEK

Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky’s offensive line — which entered the week as our fifth-best group in the FBS — was by far the top-performing unit of the week. As a whole, they earned a 91.4 PFF grade, over 12 grading points higher than any other line in Week 14. Whether it was a pass or a run, every single starter produced at a high level.

The best performance of the day came courtesy of left tackle Landon Young. The fifth-year senior broke out in 2019 with a 78.3 PFF grade but hadn’t taken that next step forward like we thought we would see up until this point in 2020 (70.3 PFF grade before Week 14). This week, though, Young recorded a career-best 88.3 PFF grade featuring zero losses in pass protection and routine dominance in the run game.

SECRET SUPERSTAR OF THE WEEK

RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

Robinson may not have been able to take home PFF True Freshman of the Week honors due to Rucker’s historic performance, but he is more than deserving of Secret Superstar of the Week. The running back was the prized recruit of Texas’ 2020 recruiting class but hadn’t quite lived up to his five-star billing prior to Week 14. Robinson took over the starting job from Keaontay Ingram a few weeks ago and had recorded just a 64.0 rushing grade on 68 carries.

Robinson looked like a completely different player this week and earned the highest single-game rushing grade of the season on nine carries. The true freshman took five of those nine runs for a gain of 10 or more yards and also broke six tackles. Then, as a receiver, Robinson broke five more tackles on three receptions. He plowed right through any contact the defense got on him and slipped right out of a few tackles.

Bijan Robinson. Oh my goodness. The 5-star freshman has been fantastic today. pic.twitter.com/5zUiTPsW84

— Max Olson (@max_olson) December 5, 2020

Texas fans and college football disciples who check in on the reg with recruiting know all about Robinson, but now the whole country knows just how talented the Longhorns’ backfield is with him in it. He’s no longer a secret superstar after this one.

PLAY OF THE WEEK

Like in every other game this season, DeVonta Smith had his way with LSU’s defense in Week 14. He made especially quick work of Cordale Flott, who he beat in the slot for two 60-plus yard touchdowns.

Smith had one of the most productive games of the season against LSU, averaging 7.70 yards per route run and coming away with his highest-graded game of the year. And plays like this one are a big reason why.

Devonta Smith and Alabama are playing football on easy mode right now pic.twitter.com/g0f37pCNAF

— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) December 6, 2020

Jones put in a place where only his top wide receiver could catch it, and Smith made the one-handed grab. The pass-catcher has been a human highlight-reel in virtually every single game this season. His quarterback Mac Jones is on pace to set the new PFF College record for the best single-season grade at his respective position, and Smith is on track to do the same. He now has a 94.9 PFF grade this season, nearly two grading points higher than the current PFF record set by Andy Isabella in 2018.

AN EARLY LOOK AHEAD TO WEEK 15…

While North Carolina versus Miami may not have any conference title or CFP implications to it, it could impact the New Year’s Six slate and is going to be a can’t-miss matchup regardless. It’s one of the few games in the regular season where we get to watch two top-10 quarterbacks go toe-to-toe, with both Sam Howell of UNC and D’Eriq King of Miami currently ranking inside the top 10 in PFF grade this season.

Howell is coming off another elite-graded performance that featured just one uncatchable pass. Granted, it came against Western Carolina, but that game itself isn’t the reason why he is college football’s fifth-highest-graded quarterback this year. The UNC offense will be a huge test for Miami’s defense, and the same can be said about the Hurricanes' offense against the Tar Heels' defense. King led Miami to the second-most-efficient passing attack of Week 14 against Duke.

The big storyline of Week 15 lies in the Big Ten, as everyone will be closely monitoring the status of Michigan versus Ohio State. With the way the Big Ten set up the rules before the season, the Buckeyes need to play in at least six games to be eligible for the conference championship game. Of course, they have only played in five and need to play on Saturday against their rival to be eligible. And with Michigan having to cancel their game on Saturday against Maryland due to a COVID-19 outbreak within their program, there is a chance they won’t be able to play against Ohio State on Saturday. If that occurs, chaos will ensue, and the Big Ten Championship game berth would then go to the Indiana Hoosiers.

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