News & Analysis

College Football Week 4 Preview: Picks, predictions, matchups to watch and more

After a couple of weeks of play from the ACC and Big 12, we finally have another Power 5 conference joining in on Saturday. That conference is none other than the SEC.

There’s a lot unknown within the SEC, from LSU starting new faces at almost every position to Florida QB Kyle Trask’s development to Georgia’s quarterback situation. The good news is that we will get a far clearer picture of who is for real and who is not after this weekend's slate of games.

With the help of PFF grades and advanced statistics — which are now available to PFF's CFB Premium Stats+ Subscribers — we will give you everything you need to know ahead of this week's Power Five games, as well as the Group of 5 matchups that include a ranked team. Please note that any picks and predictions made here are not reflective of PFF Greenline or our expert betting analysts. For this week's college football betting advice, click here!

Editor's note: Die-hard college football fans, NFL draft enthusiasts and avid college football bettors can now subscribe today to CFB Grades+ or CFB Premium Stats+ to get access to PFF's player grades, advanced stats and NCAA betting dashboard.

KANSAS STATE @  No. 3 OKLAHOMA

Saturday, September 26th — 12:00 p.m. ET, FOX

Spencer Rattler picked apart Missouri State in his debut as the Sooners' quarterback a couple of weeks ago, and he will now try to do the same to a Power 5 defense.

Rattler produced a 93.7 PFF grade in that game, recording three big-time throws and just a single uncatchable pass on 17 attempts. While it was an FCS defense, Rattler still displayed remarkable arm talent and a beautiful release. Kansas State and the rest of the Big 12 have repeatedly had to go up against one of college football’s best quarterbacks when facing Oklahoma in recent years, and that’ll be no different in 2020.

Kansas State has played one game so far; it came against Ark State in Week 2 and ended in an upset. The passing attack wasn’t the issue for the Wildcats’ opening-week loss, though. Their play-action-heavy offense was cooking all game long — they produced over 1.0 EPA per play-action pass and quarterback Skylar Thompson produced five big-time throws on 12 play-action attempts.

The reason for the loss can be attributed solely to the coverage unit. The Wildcats surrendered 0.44 EPA per pass (third-to-last among Power 5 schools in 2020) and gave up a 138.6 passer rating on throws of 10 or more yards downfield, the worst mark among Power 5 defenses.

Treash’s prediction: Rattler is going to toast this Kansas State secondary like a marshmallow. Sooners.

Seth’s prediction: OU. The Wildcats can keep it a game if they continue to hit explosive plays as they did against Ark State, but I don't think they are nearly as efficient enough in the passing game.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

Dec 30, 2019; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask (11) is pressured by Virginia Cavaliers linebacker Nick Jackson (42) during the first half in the 2019 Orange Bowl game at Hard Rock Stadium. Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 FLORIDA @ OLE MISS

Saturday, September 26th — 12:00 P.M. ET, ESPN

In my opinion, this is one of the more intriguing games of the day. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask will be looking to prove the doubters wrong after a 2019 season that received far more praise than it probably deserved. Trask earned just a 66.4 passing grade for the year, hardly put his big arm to work and had some of the worst decisions you’d see on film. He ranked outside the top 110 of 130 FBS quarterbacks in 2019 in both big-time throw rate and turnover-worthy play rate. It was his first time starting since his early years of high school, so it’s fair to assume that he will improve in 2020 — but what to degree?

New Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin isn’t tipping his hand as to who the starting quarterback will be this Saturday. John Rhys Plumlee had the job last year, and he made up for what he couldn’t do as a passer (60.1 passing grade) with his supreme speed on the ground. He’s capable of running the 40-yard dash in the 4.4s, and it showed up routinely last year on designed carries. Plumlee produced 24 10-plus-yard gains on designed runs, five more than any returning Power 5 quarterback. Matt Corrall is option No. 2 and offers more upside as a passer — he earned a 70.4 passing grade in 2019 — though he puts the ball in harm’s way too often, as evidenced by his 92nd-ranked turnover-worthy play rate in 2019.

Treash’s prediction: I’m not buying into the Trask hype, but Florida’s roster outside of quarterback is one of the best in the country. Florida.

Seth’s prediction: Florida. There's too much talent in this Florida team and not enough reps for a new coaching staff in Oxford.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


No. 23 KENTUCKY @ No. 8 AUBURN

Saturday, September 26th — 12:00 P.M. ET, SECN

Auburn is kind of like Florida — they have an exceptional roster outside of quarterback. The team's starter, Bo Nix, was the SEC Freshman of the Year last year, but that looks like it had more to do with him being a hyped-up five-star product rather what he actually did on the field. Nix failed to crack the top 100 in clean-pocket passing grade, which isn’t a promising sign. He can do some work on designed runs, but the passing ability and downfield accuracy just isn’t there.

Nix and Auburn will have to face off against a solid Kentucky defense, too. The unit is led by cornerback Brandin Echols, who should be considered one of the SEC’s top defensive backs. The former JUCO product allowed just 0.47 yards per cover snap from Week 4 on last year, leading all FBS cornerbacks. Edge defender Jamar Watson will be an impactful player for the Wildcats, as well. His pass-rush production from 2019 — he was third in pressure rate among FBS edge defenders — was better than any other returning SEC edge rusher.

Treash’s prediction: I want to pick Kentucky here, but it’s hard to pick against the roster Auburn has from top to bottom — I gotta roll with the Tigers.

Seth’s prediction: Auburn. It's an intriguing game because Kentucky can bully you up front, but Auburn is the better team and we can only hope Bo Nix improved form last season.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


No. 13 UCF @ EAST CAROLINA

Saturday, September 26th — 12:00 P.M. ET, ABC

UCF looks like the best team in the Group of 5. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel posted the 28th-best PFF grade among all FBS quarterbacks in 2019, at 81.4, and he did that as a true freshman. And through one game of action in 2020, Gabriel looks like he might be taking that next step further to top-10 status. He posted six 20-plus-yard completions against Georgia Tech on Saturday for 207 yards and one score (two more completions than anyone else of the week). He also produced an 89.4 passing grade from a clean pocket, which was the best of the week among those who faced an FBS defense. He and the Knights will get an East Carolina team that is second-to-last in our AAC defensive Massey Ranking and came in 99th in our preseason defense rankings.

Treash’s prediction: Gabriel drops bombs. We are going to see that happen quite a bit, considering how brutal the East Carolina defense is. UCF.

Seth’s prediction: UCF.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


GEORGIA SOUTHERN @ No. 19 LOUISIANA

Saturday, September 26th — 12:00 P.M. ET, ESPN2

After causing an upset in Week 2 against Iowa State, Louisiana was almost on the other side of that in Week 3 against Georgia State. They squeaked out an overtime win after an ugly offensive showing. The Ragin’ Cajuns failed to produce positive EPA per pass play against a Georgia State defense that isn’t all that great.

Georgia Southern were without 33 players for their first game of the year against FCS team Campbell, and they too barely survived an upset. They were without three of their four best players (safety Kenderick Duncan Jr., nose tackle C.J. Wright and running back Wesley Kennedy III) in that game. All three should be back on the field against Louisiana, and Duncan and Wright in particular will help prevent the kind of defensive disaster that they had to endure against Campbell. They allowed positive EPA on 56% of plays against Campbell, the second-worst of the week ahead of only Eastern Kentucky.

Treash’s prediction: Louisiana.

Seth’s prediction: Louisiana. Ragin' Cajuns vs. LSU in the playoff semi final, who says no?

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


No. 24 LOUISVILLE @ No. 21 PITT

Saturday, September 26th — 12:00 P.M. ET, FOX

This Louisville secondary has been brutal in 2020. They have surrendered 0.26 EPA per pass play, which is the worst in the ACC, and they come in second-to-last in our ACC defensive Massey Ranking.

The Cardinals did have a tough matchup last week against D’Eriq King and Miami, but it’ll be a little bit better against Pitt. Quarterback Kenny Pickett had a lights-out game to start the year against Austin Peay, as he earned a 92.3 passing grade with three big-time throws and no turnover-worthy plays. Then he showed against Syracuse that his 2020 debut was more about how bad his opponent was as opposed to him improving. In Week 3 versus a good-not-great Syracuse defense, Pickett produced a 64.6 passing grade with zero big-time throws and three turnover-worthy plays.

The real story here, though, is how the Cardinals offense will fare against a really tough Pitt defense. Their passing attack got exposed last week against Miami as they produced -0.24 EPA per pass. For perspective, that’s their third-lowest in a single game since 2018. Quarterback Micale Cunningham has been bad under pressure in 2020, just like he was in 2019, but he has also lowered his clean-pocket passing grade significantly. After posting a third-ranked 93.0 grade in 2019, Cunningham now sits at 76.4 through two weeks of play.

Treash’s prediction: Cunningham has been historically bad under pressure, and he is going up against one of the best pass rushes in college football. Pitt.

Seth’s prediction: Louisville — I don't trust this pick, but let's see if Louisville can find its playmakers, unlike last week against Miami.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


GEORGIA TECH @ SYRACUSE

Saturday, September 26th — 12:00 P.M. ET, ESPN3

The matchup to watch here is Georgia Tech true freshman quarterback Jeff Sims against a Syrcause secondary that has one of the biggest ballhawks in the country.

Sims has had some ugly moments through two weeks of action, as he has posted six turnover-worthy plays (five of which came against Florida State) — the most in the FBS. Though, as Seth has pointed out, Sims understands defenses; he just has to be more accurate. Easier said than done, but a 41% accurate-pass rate on throws of 10-plus yards downfield won’t cut it.

This will be a big test for Sims early in his collegiate career, as he is set to go up against one of the best playmakers in college football in Andre Cisco. The Syracuse safety has combined for 26 interceptions and pass breakups since 2018 and has tremendous range on the back end.

Treash’s prediction: Sorry Seth, but I am not sold on Jeff Sims quite yet. Syracuse.

Seth’s prediction: GT — Jeff Sims HeismanHypeTrain.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

Dec 28, 2019; Orlando, Florida, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) throws the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second half at Camping World Stadium. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

IOWA STATE @ TCU

Saturday, September 26th — 1:30 P.M. ET, FS1

Was Brock Purdy’s Week 2 a fluke, or is he not as good as we thought? We’ll find that out here.

Purdy had one of the worst games of his career against Louisiana a couple of weeks ago, posting a 40.5 passing grade and throwing nearly as many uncatchable passes (14) as accurate ones (15). This, of course, was completely uncharacteristic — just the season before, Purdy was 23rd of the 130 FBS quarterbacks in percentage of accurate passes thrown, at 55%. He has displayed impeccable timing and anticipation on a routine basis, but that was nowhere to be found against the Cajuns.

As for TCU, I cannot wait to watch Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington — the best safety duo of the PFF College era. The tandem ranked first and second at the position, respectively, in PFF grade last season, and they've helped this TCU defense come in at No. 1 in our Big 12 defensive Massey Ranking.

Treash’s prediction: I think Purdy’s first game of 2020 was an outlier. He more than proved that he has the accuracy to succeed at the position, but he still needs to stop trying to do too much out of structure. Iowa State.

Seth’s prediction: Iowa State — ISU has the better QB(?), but Purdy might have a rough day against those TCU safeties. Still, TCU is starting another new guy at QB, so it's an unknown.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


MISSISSIPPI STATE @ No. 6 LSU

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

I would throw this matchup in with Auburn/Kentucky and Florida/Ole Miss as one of the most intriguing games of the day. For starters, you have an LSU program with new faces at just about every position after most of their starters from their 2019 historic season have moved onto the NFL. Then, you have the debut of the Mike Leach Air Raid offense in the SEC.

LSU does return the most valuable non-quarterback of 2019 in Derek Stingley Jr. and has a nice up-and-comer starting opposite of him in Cordale Flott. I need to see more reps from Flott before I definitively label them the best cornerback duo over Appalachian State’s Shaun Jolly and Shemar Jean-Charles, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they earn that distinction.

Flott saw most of his action in blowouts last year but played well by allowing only eight catches on 25 targets with five pass breakups. Both will have a lot on their plates as they face a team that will pass on somewhere around 80%-85% of its plays. However, they should be fine with handling Mississippi State’s receivers.

Tyrell Shavers is the wild card of the bunch — the former four-star hails from Alabama, where he saw just 10 targets in the past two years behind a stacked receiving unit. He’s one to watch as he gets more reps than ever before. Also, keep an eye on quarterback K.J. Costello as he looks to bounce back after an injury-riddled 2019. He ranked 23rd in PFF grade the year prior.

Treash’s prediction: LSU, but I could see this game going in any direction.

Seth’s prediction: LSU — LSU by 60.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


No. 8 TEXAS @ TEXAS TECH

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX

To be completely honest, Texas Tech’s defense is the worst in the Big 12 and maybe the worst in the Power Five. Houston Baptist — an FCS school — destroyed them through the air and almost pulled off the upset. The Red Raiders allowed 0.58 expected points added per pass play that game, the worst in college football in 2020 by quite a bit. Now, they get to face one of the toughest offenses in college football, led by Sam Ehlinger.

Ehlinger and offensive coordinator Mike Yurich led the Longhorns' receivers to make plays after the catch with their RPO-heavy approach against UTEP. While that explains most of Ehlinger’s box score stats for that game and didn’t lead to many big-time throws (just one), he is capable of slicing up a defense like Texas Tech on true dropbacks. The only other returning quarterback to produce a higher grade on plays with no play action, RPOs or screens in 2019 was Justin Fields.

Treash’s prediction: Ts and Ps to Texas Tech’s defense. Texas.

Seth’s prediction: Texas — I can't pick Ehlinger to win the Heisman and then have them lose to TTU.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


No. 22 ARMY @ No. 4 CINCINNATI

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Army’s offense hasn’t skipped a beat so far in 2020. They have faced Middle Tennessee and UL-Monroe, and neither came close to stopping the Black Knights — they combined to outscore the two teams 79-7. Army has produced 0.19 expected points added per play on offense, which is tied for ninth among those to play FBS opponents. However, they will have their toughest matchup of the year this week when they take on a menacing defensive front in Cincinnati.

The Bearcats have one of the best defensive lines in the country, and it showed up in their matchup with Austin Peay last week. They are second to only Clemson in defensive line PFF grade and allowed just 27% of Austin Peay’s run plays to generate positive expected points added. Even though this was an FCS offense, Cincy still routinely shut down the ground game in 2019 and returns the key cogs from that unit (28th in the FBS in run-defense grade that year).

Treash’s prediction: Cincinnati.

Seth’s prediction: Army — I'll never pick against the triple-option (except all the times that I have in the past and will in the future).

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

Nov 23, 2019; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Jarret Doege (2) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

WEST VIRGINIA @ No. 15 OKLAHOMA STATE

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 12 p.m. ET, FOX

Oklahoma State survived a scare last week against a bad Tulsa team and had an extremely poor offensive showing. They produced -0.35 expected points added per play, the third-worst mark of Week 3. Cowboys starter Spencer Sanders went down early in the game due to injury, and his replacement, Ethan Bullock, did not perform well (42.8 PFF grade). Sanders’ status is currently unknown for Saturday, but things aren’t looking great. Their defense had a strong showing, but the strength of opponent is going to be quite a bit higher this Saturday in West Virginia.

Mountaineers quarterback Jarret Doege is a breakout star in the making. He’s started just five games for West Virginia in the past two seasons after transferring from Bowling Green and has produced an 89.9 passing grade in that span. Doege lit up Eastern Kentucky in Week 2 for a 92.8 passing grade. While it wasn't the toughest matchup, Doege was doing NFL-level stuff at the quarterback position. This will be a big test for Doege and a chance to show he is, in fact, the real deal like we think he is.

Treash’s prediction: I am all in on Doege — I think he’s going to shock Oklahoma State on Saturday. WEST VIRGINIA.

Seth’s prediction: WVU — Jarret Doege HYPETRAIN at full speed. Oklahoma State looked lost on offense last week, and if WVU is as good as we think they can be on offense, they should win.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


No. 4 GEORGIA @ ARKANSAS

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 4 p.m. ET, SECN

We still have no idea as I write this who will be starting for the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. USC transfer JT Daniels has yet to be medically cleared, but he has more experience than D’Wan Mathis. That said, Daniels had a poor 2018 campaign, so that experience is moot. He was 129th of 130 FBS quarterbacks in his true freshman campaign in wins above average (WAA). I’ve talked on numerous occasions about why rolling with Daniels is a bad idea — read more about that here.

Outside of the quarterback position, Georgia’s roster is incredibly stacked with young talent. George Pickens is the highlight of the wide receiver room after producing an 88.0 receiving grade as a true freshman in 2019. On defense, the Bulldogs have a player at every position group who should be considered as one of the best at the position in college football.

The defensive line features Malik Herring, who is fresh off a 90.5 PFF grade in 2019. At linebacker, Nakobe Dean is another star in the making; he produced the highest grade of any true freshman at the position in 2019. Cornerback Eric Stokes and safety Richard LeCounte will lead the secondary, as they have both earned grades above 80.0 in each of the past two seasons.

Arkansas, which ranked 118th in expected points added per play and 119th in expected points added per play allowed in 2019, is going to have a real tough time handling that.

Treash’s prediction: Georgia.

Seth’s prediction: Georgia — an unfortunate first game of the Pittman era.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


DUKE @ VIRGINIA

Saturday, Sept. 26th — 4 p.m. ET, ACCN

If you are looking for some players to watch in this game, pay attention to each team’s defense and look for the tall, lanky linebackers.

Virginia’s Noah Taylor (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and Charles Snowden (6-foot-7, 235 pounds) serve in hybrid roles and are the team's two most valuable returners on the defensive side of the ball. It’s rare to see hybrid linebackers like Taylor have great success in both pass rushing and coverage — he was one of seven in the Power Five to have 70.0-plus grades in both facets in 2019. Like Taylor, Snowden fits like a glove in this hybrid role. He can expose offensive tackles with his twitchiness on the line and long arms. His 13.5% pressure rate in 2019 ranked 10th in the ACC, and he has used his length to bat an FBS-high 11 balls since 2018.

As for Duke, they have Chris Rumph. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound edge rusher doesn’t drop into coverage like the Virginia duo above, but he is one of college football’s premier pass-rushers. He currently is tied for the most pressures (14), although he hasn’t had nearly the same dominant reps thus far as he did in 2019. A good chunk of those pressures has come from being unblocked or on cleanups. It’s only a matter of time before we see the 2019 Rumph, though, and this could be the week.

Treash’s prediction: Virginia.

Seth’s prediction: Virginia — I don't know anything about UVA yet, but Duke has looked rough so far this year.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


TEXAS STATE @ BOSTON COLLEGE

Saturday, Sept. 26th — 6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Boston College could have its best offense since the days of Matt Ryan. New quarterback Phil Jurkovec got off to a bit of a slow start last week — he had three turnover-worthy plays in the first half of action against Duke — but turned things around in the second half by producing a 92.9 passing grade and making multiple highlight-reel throws under pressure.

The Eagles had arguably the best offensive line in the ACC last year and return four of five starters, so the amount of pressure Jurkovec faced was unprecedented. That unit should be able bounce back against a Texas State pass rush that struggled to generate pressure against the only non-bad offensive line they have faced (Week 1 vs. SMU; 11% pressure rate).

Treash’s prediction: Boston College.

Seth’s prediction: BC — Jurkovec is good?

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


No. 2 ALABAMA @ MISSOURI

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

I’m not expecting much from Missouri’s offense in Year 1 of the Eli Drinkwitz era, but I'm excited by a player they have on the defensive side of the ball. Interior defensive lineman Kobie Whiteside looks to be on the rise like his former teammate and now Cleveland Brown Jordan Elliott in 2019. Whiteside produced a solid 78.8 pass-rush grade in 2019, 18th among 182 Power 5 interior defensive linemen — and he did that while playing nearly 60% of his snaps at 0/1-technique. Looking at reps at that specific alignment only, no current Power 5 player posted a higher pass-rush grade (79.7) or pass-rush win rate (16%) in 2019. His get-off is truly special for a 310-pound man, and when you pair that with his raw power, interior offensive linemen get beaten.

Alabama has reached the top spot in the AP top 25 in every single season for the last 12 years, and they have a shot at extending that to 13 in 2020. Mac Jones is far from Tua Tagovailoa, but he is more than capable of leading this Crimson Tide team to success with the help of DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. From Week 9 on (his first start) in 2019, Jones had the fourth-highest rate of positively graded throws. There aren’t many question marks with this roster: the duo of Smith and Waddle is the best in the country; their outside cornerbacks Josh Jobe and Patrick Surtain II are right behind App State’s duo for the best; and Christian Barmore on the interior defensive line is a star in the making.

Treash’s prediction: Alabama.

Seth’s prediction: Bama — unfortunate first game of the Drinkwitz era.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

Auburn defensive lineman Nick Coe (91) puts pressure on Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond (11) at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. Credit: Jake Crandall, Montgomery Advertiser via Imagn Content Services, LLC

VANDERBILT @ No. 10 TEXAS A&M

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 7:30 p.m. ET, SECN ALT

Vandy isn’t going to be much better than they were in their 3-9 2019 campaign. On a more positive note, the Commodores do have one of the best edge duos in the SEC in Dayo Odeyingbo and Andre Mintze. Odeyingbo isn’t going to let many offensive linemen recover once the initial loss occurs. He had some dominant reps in 2019, but we need to see them come consistently in 2020 (78.9 pass-rush grade, but five games with two or fewer pressures). As for Mintze, only two current SEC edge defenders posted a higher PFF grade than Mintze’s 78.0 in 2019. He was productive against the run (18 run stops, fifth in SEC) and consistently won his pass rushes (including one against Andrew Thomas).

The real story of this game though is whether Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond takes that next step forward after two straight years of solid, but not elite, play — and it all starts from inside the pocket. He’s played well when on the move whether it be a carry (75.0 rushing grade since 2018) or throwing outside the pocket (fourth in passing grade on such plays since 2018). Mond has actually earned a higher grade outside the pocket than inside the last two years, which isn't common at all. Perhaps we will see an improvement in this regard as he enters his third year in Jimbo Fisher's difficult pro-style offense.

Treash’s prediction: Texas A&M.

Seth’s prediction: TAMU — I called Kellen Mond a good quarterback so I hope he repays the favor.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


FLORIDA STATE @ No. 12 MIAMI (FL.)

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC

If James Blackman doesn’t want to be put on the ground by Quincy Roche, he’s going to have to get the ball out a heck of a lot quicker than the 2.89 second average time-to-throw he had against Georgia Tech a couple of weeks ago. While the offensive line is suboptimal, we charged Blackman with inviting seven pressures in Week 2, and a big reason for that was holding onto the ball way too long. Blackman was under pressure on 42.6% of his dropbacks, which is the highest rate of any Power 5 team by far.

D’Eriq King is coming off a big victory over Louisville in which he helped the Hurricanes have their most efficient passing attack in a single game in the PFF College era in regards to EPA per play. He’s produced an 86.3 passing grade thus far, which is fourth among Power 5 quarterbacks.

Treash’s prediction: Miami.

Seth’s prediction: Miami — just enough explosive plays from King wins it.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


No. 16 TENNESSEE @ SOUTH CAROLINA

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 7:30 p.m. ET, SECN

While South Carolina’s offense is going to be hard to watch, I cannot wait to see their outside cornerback duo of Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu. It’s one of the best cornerback tandems in the country. Horn has had impressive ball production in his college career, posting the second-most PBUs (16) in the SEC since 2018. He played a significant amount of press in 2019 and really was only beaten by Alabama. As for Mukuamu, his size is both his greatest strength and his biggest weakness. He can make a play on the ball in tight coverage with ease and snag tough INTs (e.g., versus Georgia in 2019), but he can also be too physical (five DPIs last year, led SEC).

The success of this Tennessee team really hinges on the play of quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and whether or not he is still incredibly inconsistent. Last season, Guarantano produced multiple game grades above 85.0 but also multiple that didn’t even crack 50.0. That inconsistent play led to his benching on a few different occasions. He protects the ball really well — his turnover-worthy play rate since 2018 is 11th of 90 FBS quarterbacks. Guarantano’s inaccuracy, however, is a big problem.

Treash’s prediction: I’m not confident in either of these offenses, so I’m rolling with South Carolina in hopes that their defense pulls them to victory.

Seth’s prediction: Tennessee — I called Jarrett Guarantano a good quarterback so I hope he repays the favor.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


KANSAS @ BAYLOR

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

If it’s a run-pass option or play-action pass, Charlie Brewer and the Baylor Bears are effectively moving the ball downfield. Brewer’s passing grade on RPOs ranked eighth in the FBS in 2019 while his grade on play-action passes ranked 12th. Take those two out and look at true dropback scenarios, and Brewer drops to 81st. There’s a new regime in town now, so it’ll be interesting to see how far they sway from what was the backbone of their offensive success last year.

I had higher hopes for Kansas this year with some of the talent they had at the skill positions (and by higher hopes I mean maybe squeaking out a couple of wins in Big 12 play), but they let me down against Coastal Carolina in Week 2. They were without their WR1 Stephon Robinson (73.7 PFF grade in 2019), but I’m not sure he would have helped them win that game considering how poorly the Jayhawks played virtually everywhere.

Treash’s prediction: Baylor.

Seth’s prediction: Baylor.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


NC STATE @ No. 20 VA TECH

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 8 p.m. ET, ACCN

NC State was a little bit of a surprise against Wake Forest last week. Their 2019 starting quarterback, Devin Leary, reportedly missed a lot of fall camp in quarantine due to COVID exposure, which gave his practice reps to backup Bailey Hockman. When the time came for Week 1, the team felt Leary didn’t have enough reps, so Hockman got the start.

The former backup actually played significantly better than what we saw from Leary in 2019. Hockman produced a 78.9 passing grade for the game, which was better than any of Leary’s five starts last year. He was really conservative, as he had just a 5.8 average depth of target, but on the throws he did make downfield, Hockman wasn’t too bad. He had a 90.7 passing grade on throws of 10-plus yards and really just one bad throw on nine pass attempts (it was turnover-worthy).

While the Hokies had their best player in cornerback Caleb Farley opt-out of the season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, they still have a really great cornerback on the roster who I would argue is among the most underrated. Jermaine Waller was a true lockdown like Farley. He allowed a sub-40% catch rate in 2019 and had the best forced incompletion rate in the FBS (31.4%). His timing and location at the catch point is simply elite.

Treash’s prediction: VA Tech. Expecting big things from quarterback Hendon Hooker.

Seth’s prediction: Va Tech.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.


TROY @ No. 18 BYU

Saturday, Sept. 26 — 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

BYU destroyed Navy back in Week 1 and the offensive line had one of the best performances we’ve recorded in the PFF College era. They had four starters along the line post PFF grades above 90.0 in that game. The unit as a whole didn’t allow a single pressure, and they were dominant in the run game on every single play, which helped the Cougars produce 0.35 EPA per rush. Now, this was against a really bad Navy defensive front. A good, not great Tulane offensive line handled them with ease last week as well, and the Midshipmen now have the lowest-graded defensive line in college football. BYU came in with the sixth-best offensive line in our preseason rankings, but are they even better than we thought? Do they rival Notre Dame for the best in the country? We should get some clarity on that Saturday.

Treash’s prediction: BYU.

Seth’s prediction: BYU — would love to see the offensive line mash again but Troy played very well in their first game.

For our PFF Greenline game preview that includes win and cover probability, click here.

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