Iowa went down at home to unranked Purdue, Alabama bounced back, Georgia continued to dominate, Oklahoma is inching back toward Natty thanks to Caleb Williams and the ending to the Ole Miss–Tennessee game put all of Knoxville on tilt.
Needless to say, there’s a lot to break down from this past weekend. Let's dive into the biggest storylines from Week 7 of the 2021 college football season.
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Oklahoma is back in the Natty conversation if Caleb Williams sustains this level of play
Williams just had one of the best starting debuts PFF College has ever seen. He earned an elite PFF grade for the game and guided Lincoln Riley‘s offense to 0.41 expected points added (EPA) per play against TCU, the Sooners' highest single-game mark against an FBS opponent since Week 6 of the 2019 season when they thrashed Kansas 45-20.
The true freshman quarterback didn’t record a single-quarterback fault incompletion and went an astounding 10-of-14 for 202 yards and four touchdowns on passes thrown 10 or more yards downfield. He also broke five tackles and busted off two 20-yard runs on six designed quarterback runs.
C A L E B W I L L I A M S
H A S A R R I V E D ????????pic.twitter.com/Vz9rreBXeu
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 17, 2021
This was one of the most impressive performances by any collegiate player in recent memory. If Williams continues to play at this level, Oklahoma will soon return to the national title conversation.
In this week’s edition of 2021 College Football upsets, No. 2 Iowa went down at home to unranked Purdue.
The Hawkeyes entered this contest as double-digit favorites at home, but this game screamed trap right from the get-go. The Hawkeyes were to be without starting corner Riley Moss, who had teamed up with fellow corner Matt Hankins to earn the highest PFF grade among outside cornerback duos in college football, which was always going to be a problem given their inefficient offense — even against the Boilermakers.
And sure enough, Moss' absence was felt all game while the offense continued to struggle, but they weren't the only things working against the No. 2 ranked team in the country. In the end, it was Iowa's inability to adapt on defense that truly cost them.
Purdue struggled on first down all game. They reached the first-down marker on only four of their 32 first-down plays against Iowa and ranked 35th in the Power Five in first-down efficiency. Still, when the Boilermakers found themselves in a short-yardage situation, the Hawkeyes stuck to their standard off-zone coverage.
So, of course, Purdue took what Iowa handed them on those plays scenarios, exploiting the underneath passing game and the holes in the zone coverage downfield.
It was a masterful game plan from the Boilermakers, and it showed how difficult it is for a team with no offense to string together an undefeated campaign.
Another week, another dominant performance from Georgia’s defense
Georgia got one of the nation’s top rushing attacks in Week 7, and they chewed them up and spat them out.
Kentucky’s 54.8% successful run rate on running back carries entering Week 7 ranked first in the Power Five. But against the Dawgs in Athens, the Wildcats turned in a 17.6% successful run rate on running back carries.
Georgia limited the opposition to 0.1 yards before contact per attempt; they didn’t allow a single explosive run of 10 or more yards and five of their 16 running back runs resulted in no gain or a loss of yardage. Kentucky then found themselves in a situation where they had to throw the ball over 80% of the time, and most of those throws were quick and around the line of scrimmage because this Georgia refuses to get beaten downfield.
Bryce Young is handling the pass-protection problem like a seasoned vet
Alabama has a pass-protection problem. The Sooners' offensive line is third-to-last in the SEC and 54th in the Power Five in pressure rate allowed for the 2021 season. Against Mississippi State on Saturday, quarterback Bryce Young was under pressure for over 44% of his total dropbacks.
Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, Young handled the heat with ease. He completed 6-of-10 pressured passes for 135 yards and two scores en route to an 88.1 passing grade, and he took both of his scrambles for a gain of 10-plus yards.
Still, it’s not going to be as easy when the time comes to face Georgia. Those pass-protection issues will need to be patched up by the time they take on the Bulldogs.
This issue isn’t necessarily all on the offensive line losing one-on-one. The Tide are allowing a lot of free rushers, and some of that falls on the offensive coaching staff. This season, Alabama’s 19 unblocked pressures are tied for the sixth-most in the Power Five and 12 more than they allowed in all of 2020. Now, could the one-on-one pass-blocking from the offensive line also improve? Certainly. Only left tackle Evan Neal and right guard Emil Ekiyor Jr. have a true pass set grade above 50.0 for the season.
Both the players and the coaches have some work to do before that likely SEC Championship showdown in early December.
Texas imploded, and Oklahoma State rebounded
Texas’ scripted offense was as good as expected this weekend, as they generated 0.18 EPA per play in the first quarter against the Pokes and got out to an early 10- lead.
After that, they imploded. Texas generated -0.7 EPA per play in the final three quarters of action, and quarterback Casey Thompson went from an 83.6 passing grade after the first quarter to a 27.2 mark in the final three. The Longhorns quarterback threw a red-zone pick-six in the second quarter to swing Texas’ win probability from 85.9% to 65.7%, and he pieced together only one explosive pass play in those final three quarters.
Texas still held onto a comfortable 24-13 lead in the middle of the third, but that was largely thanks to Oklahoma State's poor offense. That pick-six and a slew of penalties — 10 in total for the game for Texas — kept the Pokes in the game and gave them an opportunity to rebound in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma State had the fourth-least efficient Power Five offense of Week 7 in the first three quarters of the game and struggled to move the ball on early downs, which was no different from the team everyone had seen up until this point of the 2021 season. But in Quarter 4, Texas surrendered against the run, and offensive coordinator and playcaller Kasey Dunn got a little bit more creative. They then jumped to the ninth-most efficient offense in the Power Five for the final quarter of play.
Texas let off the gas, and Oklahoma State stepped on it.
The 2022 NFL Draft quarterback class continues to be a roller coaster
The potential within the 2022 quarterback class was once seemingly limitless, but it has slowly turned into an almost disastrous situation as the year has gone on.
From Spencer Rattler being benched to Sam Howell struggling without his elite supporting cast, nearly every quarterback had been a faller on draft boards. The lone wolf who hadn’t been falling as much was Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, who entered Week 7 as the highest-graded quarterback in the country, but that may no longer be the case after he dropped the ball against UL-Monroe on Saturday night.
Willis led the Flames to a loss against the 124th-ranked team in PFF’s Power Rankings as 32.5-point favorites. He earned a 34.4 passing grade on the night after recording four turnover-worthy plays. Willis was the same dangerous player in the ground game, with 11 broken tackles and seven explosive runs of 10-plus yards, but that kind of performance against that kind of competition will always summon the red flag.
ULM was a 32.5-point underdog.
ULM was 41/1 on the money-line at Pinnacle Sports Book.
Biggest upset in college football in 4 years! https://t.co/XcOCtezG6Y
— Brad Powers (@BradPowers7) October 17, 2021
Ole Miss Quarterback Matt Corral is seemingly the only passer in the trending-up category. He played well within the structure of Lane Kiffin’s offense and earned an elite 90.2 passing grade from a clean pocket on first review. Oh, and don’t forget what he did to the Vols on the ground, as he busted off nine runs of 10-plus yards on 23 attempts (14 designed, nine scrambles).
Corral holds a 92.0 PFF grade for the season and will likely be rising up draft boards.