Top-ranked Alabama suffered an upset loss to Texas A&M. Spencer Rattler was benched in favor of true freshman Caleb Williams, who led Oklahoma to a comeback win over Texas. Ole Miss and Arkansas came down to a failed last-second two-point conversion. Iowa came from behind to defeat Penn State.
Week 6 of the 2021 college football season will never be forgotten.
There’s a lot to break down from this past weekend. Let's dive into the biggest storylines from Week 6 of the 2021 college football season.
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Alabama has some issues to work out — on both sides of the ball
Alabama's vulnerabilities were widespread in Week 6, as the Crimson Tide — the No. 1 ranked team in college football — went down to a Texas A&M team that had struggled over the first five weeks of the season.
The below-average pass protection played a big role in Alabama’s Week 6 loss, as the offensive line simply couldn’t hold its own. They dropped into a true pass set — dropbacks without play action, screen, rollout or a quick pass — 22 times in the contest and allowed pressure on nearly half of those dropbacks.
The line ultimately earned a true pass set blocking grade that ranked 52nd among Power Five teams in Week 6. Now, Alabama is on pace to allow its worst pressure rate of the PFF College era and the third-worst in the conference.
Worst Pressure Rate Allowed in the SEC in 2021
|12. Alabama Crimson Tide||32.8%|
|13. Vanderbilt Commodores||33.7%|
|14. Texas A&M Aggies||36.8%|
Quarterback Bryce Young completed only six passes for 61 yards on 19 total pressured dropbacks. This could be an issue when the time comes to face the Georgia Bulldogs.
Along with the woes along the offensive line, the coverage unit also failed to perform up to snuff. The Tide earned a 46.6 coverage grade as a team upon first review — not only was that the worst mark by an SEC team in Week 6, but that was the worst by an Alabama defense in a single game of the PFF College era by over five grading points.
Texas A&M QB Zach Calzada gave us an unexpected performance for the ages
The Texas A&M quarterback struggled to find his footing over the first five weeks of the 2021 season and entered his Week 6 game against Alabama as the second-lowest-graded passer in the SEC. From holding onto the ball too long to crumbling under pressure, there was a lot wrong with his play in his first few starts. But those issues were nowhere to be found on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback earned an 83.1 passing grade in Week 6 upon first review, the sixth-best mark ever earned by a quarterback going up against the vaunted Alabama defense.
Calzada and the Aggies generated a 56.8% successful pass play rate for the game. The only passing offense that has managed to generate a higher rate against Alabama since 2014? That would be the 2019 LSU Tigers.
Highest passing grade vs Alabama since 2019
Zach Calzada, Texas A&M – 83.1
Justin Fields, Ohio State – 82.9
Joe Burrow, LSU – 76.9
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) October 10, 2021
The Aggies signal-caller was as composed as can be against the Tide and looked anything but the quarterback who ranked fourth-to-last in the FBS in pressured-passing grade through Week 5.
Calzada was pressured on 11 dropbacks in total; he didn’t take a single sack and completed seven passes for 123 yards and two scores. He also recorded two big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays.
Oklahoma‘s QB situation has a broad range of outcomes — whether it is Spencer Rattler or Caleb Williams leading the way
Saturday's college football slate had more drama than a week's worth of daytime soap operas, and Spencer Rattler's benching was one of the week's biggest plot twists.
The decision to bench the once Heisman favorite was “turnover-related,” according to head coach Lincoln Riley. Rattler threw a pick on a miscommunication with his tight end and then lost a fumble.
Oklahoma generated -0.43 EPA per pass play with Rattler on the field, a bitterly disappointing figure from an offense that fans have come to expect more of over recent years. And upon first review, this will be Rattler’s lowest-graded game by a wide margin.
The offense got a spark with true freshman five-star Caleb Williams leading the way, as the Sooners produced 0.41 EPA per pass play with the first-year quarterback on the field.
But while Williams did provide a much-needed jolt to the Oklahoma offense, there were some low-end moments, as well. He threw five quarterback-fault incompletions — which is a mark Rattler has never hit in a single game in his career — and botched two snaps that earned the turnover-worthy play designation in PFF's grading system.
Rattler and Williams each finished with as many negatively graded throws as positively graded ones. Williams clearly played better, especially in the running game, but this QB situation is always going to be subject to volatility because of the undisciplined nature of their playstyles.
There is reason to be bullish on the Texas Longhorns
Texas may have left the Red River Showdown with an L after crafting a three-score lead at one point in the game. But, at the end of the day, they showed plenty to be excited about for the next few years, from both a talent and schematic standpoint.
This game showed just how much potential they have with speedy wide receiver Xavier Worthy, who won PFF’s True Freshman of the Week for his 90.6 grade against the Sooners. And true sophomore back Bijan Robinson will make all the Sunday morning highlight reels after breaking 10 tackles on 20 attempts and picking up 126 of his 137 rushing yards after contact. Quarterback Casey Thompson did miss some throws, but he still earned an 83.1 passing grade on the day.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian also had himself a day in the play-calling department. From the play-action passes to the RPOs to the pre-snap motion that can confuse the defense, Sark did more than his part to create positive plays for his offense.
One play, in particular, stood out to us at PFF HQ. Take a look at this 39-yard reception to Xavier Worthy, and watch the receivers and Thompson look over at the sideline and act as if they were getting a call before abruptly snapping the ball and catching the defense off guard:
WHAT A CATCH XAVIER WORTHY!! pic.twitter.com/O4XmiWGq5w
— Hudson Standish (@WabashIT) October 9, 2021
Sark ran this same play back in 2019 in Alabama’s game against LSU, which resulted in a 64-yard touchdown for DeVonta Smith:
Catching up: Last good thing to happen to Alabama this half. Devonta Smith ran RIGHT by Derek Stingley Jr. for 64-yard TD
A rare freshman mistake here. Appears to look to sideline and is slow to react to snap. That's all it takes against a dude this goodpic.twitter.com/9C6Cub000T
— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) November 9, 2019
Iowa can’t afford to lose cornerback Riley Moss
Iowa entered Week 5 with the highest-graded outside corner room in the Power Five by over seven grading points, thanks to the performance of Riley Moss and Matt Hankins.
Those two were keeping up to their elite standards against Penn State — Hankins allowed only two yards in coverage while picking off a pass and forcing two passing stops; Moss allowed 26 yards and tracked a nice interception on a deep ball near the end of the first half. Then, unfortunately, Moss suffered a non-contact knee injury while celebrating the pick.
Terry Roberts did a good job filling in, allowing only 12 yards while forcing a couple of incompletions. Still, he’s not going to be able to effectively replace a player like Moss, who was one of the highest-graded corners in the country.
Early reports out of Iowa City are optimistic about the severity of Moss’ injury, but nothing is for certain until head coach Kirk Ferentz addresses the media. For a team so reliant on its strong secondary, this would be a major loss if it’s anything long-term.
Michigan’s quarterback play has to be better
Michigan pulled out the victory over Nebraska, thanks to a Brad Hawkins forced fumble late in the fourth quarter that shifted the entire outcome of the game. But while they left the road trip unscathed, their quarterback play was alarming.
Quarterback Cade McNamara completed only eight passes over five yards downfield while tossing seven quarterback-fault incompletions on those same pass attempts. He had more than three times as many negatively graded throws as positively graded ones, en route to a passing grade in the 40s for the game, upon first review.
Whether he was under pressure or kept clean, he was consistently missing receivers. We are starting to see Michigan utilize the passing game 30-40 times a game after relying on the run game to start the season, and the results haven’t been as good as hoped.
QB2 J.J. McCarthy — a 2021 five-star — only got a few designed runs and zero dropbacks, but that could change in the future given what McNamara showed against Nebraska. They have the elite defense and running game that can get them to 10 wins. The quarterback position is the only thing holding them from making major noise.