College Football Week 4 Takeaways: Notable grades, advanced stats & more | College Football | PFF

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College Football Week 4 Takeaways: Notable grades, advanced stats & more

Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler (7) stands before a play during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the West Virginia Mountaineers at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Oklahoma won 16-13. Lx13252

Texas A&M and Clemson suffered an upset loss, Oklahoma fans chanted for star quarterback Spencer Rattler to be benched, Auburn quarterback Bo Nix actually did get benched and the ACC’s College Football Playoff Hopes are pretty much dead.

Week 4 of the 2021 college football season brought mayhem. Let’s dive deeper into some of the biggest storylines from Week 4 of the 2021 college football season.

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NOTRE DAME’S OFFENSE IS IN TROUBLE AHEAD OF NEXT WEEK’S GAME VS. CINCINNATI

The Notre DameWisconsin boxscore looks extremely lopsided, but this game was anything but through the first three quarters. In fact, the Badgers held the lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan played poorly before exiting the game with an injury midway through the third quarter. The downfield passing was once again inconsistent, and he couldn’t escape the Wisconsin pass rush. He posted a 48.9 PFF passing grade on passes thrown 10 or more yards downfield and didn’t complete a single pass across his 11 pressured dropbacks.

Overall, Coan took six sacks on the day, while his replacement, Drew Pyne, took two. Those eight combined sacks tie for the most Notre Dame’s offense has ever given up in a single game during the PFF College era.

Coan’s poor pocket presence coupled with an underperforming Notre Dame offensive line is a cause for concern, especially ahead of the Fighting Irish's Week 5 outing against a Cincinnati team that entered Week 4 tied for the best team pass-rush grade in the country.


ARKANSAS' DEFENSE IS THE REAL DEAL

The 3-2-6 system is a staple of Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom’s defense. He likes to run with three high safeties and a three-man front, dropping eight into zone coverage to minimize passing lanes. It is the perfect scheme for Arkansas' instinctive and experienced defensive players, who can force even the most seasoned college passers into bad decisions.

That’s what happened when TexasHudson Card took on the Razorbacks' defense in Week 2 — he struggled to find an open receiver all game, which made him hold onto the ball and invite pressure.

This week against Texas A&M was no different, as Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada struggled to find his rhythm all game long. 

Texas A&M QB Zach Calzada vs Arkansas (42 total dropbacks)
Average Time to Throw 3.56 seconds
Average Depth of Target 5.8 yards
Yards per Attempt Under Pressure 2.4 (15 pressured dropbacks)
Completions on 10-plus Yard Throws 2
EPA per Pass -0.44

This pass defense is going to be a headache for most quarterbacks in college football. And these next couple of weeks will tell us a lot about this Arkansas team, as they are set to take on Georgia and Ole Miss.


DON'T WRITE OFF TEXAS

Many wrote the Longhorns off after their big loss to Arkansas a couple of weeks ago. However, that reaction might have been premature, as Texas handled in-state rival Texas Tech with ease in Week 4, beating them 70-35 and putting up some ultra-efficient numbers on offense for the third time this season. 

Most efficient Texas passing offense in a single game during the PFF College era
Game EPA Per Pass Play
1. 2021 W4 vs. Texas Tech 0.91
2. 2021 W1 vs. Louisiana 0.66
10. 2021 W3 vs. Rice 0.43

This speaks volumes about the talent on the Texas offense and the impact head coach Steve Sarkisian has had on it.

According to PFF's first review of the game film, quarterback Casey Thompson earned a PFF grade above 90.0 in Week 4. Yes, he made one bad decision on a long-developing play that ended up being picked off, but outside of that, he performed exceptionally well as a passer, completing 16-of-17 passes thrown less than 19 yards downfield for 255 yards and four scores. His one incompletion was a drop by his receiver.

Sarkisian is getting his pass-catchers in space, Thompson is executing and the receivers are making plays. 

Exhibit A:

Here, outside receiver Jordan Whittington goes into motion and carries the man-cover corner across the field to open up running back Bijan Robinson, who put in work after the catch to find the end zone.

Don’t rule out this Texas team surpassing its preseason projected win total (8).


THE ACC IS OUT OF THE 2021 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF

At least one ACC program has cracked a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff every year since 2014. That seven-year streak likely came to an end last night, as the conference’s two lone playoff candidates — Clemson and North Carolina — both suffered a defeat as a double-digit favorite.

Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei looked good early in the game, but that promise only lasted one drive. Removing his team's scoring possession — which included two big-time throws — Uiagalelei completed only four of his 17 passes thrown beyond the line of scrimmage. One of those incompletions earned the turnover-worthy play distinction in PFF's grading system, while six others were uncatchable, inaccurate passes.

The offense was also a big issue for North Carolina in the 23-point loss to Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels lost three fumbles on offense, and the Yellow Jackets put points on the board a few plays after recovering each fumble. Quarterback Sam Howell completed only one of his seven 20-plus-yard throws, and he took eight sacks in total, many of which came at pivotal points in the game.


 FRESNO STATE’S JAKE HAENER HAS QUIETLY BEEN ONE OF THE BEST QUARTERBACKS IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL SO FAR THIS YEAR

Fresno State pulled off a big upset against UCLA in Week 3 but was almost on the other end of that experience against UNLV in Week 4. The Bulldogs, who were 30-point favorites, found themselves down 21-9 not too long into the third quarter.

But Fresno State Quarterback Jake Haener, who led his team to that win over the Bruins the week prior, wouldn't let that last. He proceeded to toss six big-time throws en route to a 96.0 passing grade in the second half of play, leading Fresno State to an eight-point victory. 

Now, Haener is one of the five highest-graded quarterbacks in college football.

Fresno State QB Jake Haener on 10-plus yard throws in 2021
Comp/Att 48/83
Yards 1,147
TD:INT 14:2
BTT:TWP 18:2
Passing Grade 95.4 (third-best in the FBS)

 PFF’s Trevor Sikkema talked with Haener following his big win over UCLA last week, and the signal-caller talked a lot about how much he has worked on composure via meditation practices. After the last couple of come-from-behind wins, it’s safe to say that it’s paying off.

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