The College Football Playoff is in full swing, and the top four teams are all undefeated. Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma are all on a collision course for the playoff title game.
The college football week 9 is the first Saturday of the college football season.
Kenny Pickett, the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Panthers, has had an outstanding start to the season, and he’s pushed his way into the Heisman discussion while putting the Panthers in control of the ACC Coastal. Still, isn’t this simply a good quarterback having a fantastic season?
Brent Venables, Clemson’s defensive coordinator, believes the answer is no.
When asked to make a comparison between Pickett and other quarterbacks Venables has coached against, the veteran Tigers defensive coordinator went big — very big.
“We’ve seen a lot of good quarterbacks over the years,” Venables said, “but he’s a lot like Joe Burrow from an experience and calmness and accuracy and can run and makes all the right decisions and has a good complement of players around him and a good system that takes advantage of his skill set and has a good complement of players around him and a good system that takes advantage of his skill set.”
On the surface, this seems to go beyond excessive praise and into the realm of gaslighting an adversary. But here’s the thing: the analogy is really very accurate.
Let’s take a step back a year. Pickett was a competent, if not very showy, quarterback in 2020. He threw for 2,553 yards, 21 touchdowns, and nine interceptions this season. Fine, but unremarkable. Consider 2018 Burrow, who was nowhere near a Heisman contender but put up identical statistics in four games: 3,293 yards, 23 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
Then, poof!, a switch turned, and Burrow became the Heisman Trophy winner and the quarterback of college football’s most dynamic offense in 2019. And, once again, Pickett’s analogies aren’t far off.
Burrow has 2,262 yards, 27 touchdowns, three turnovers, 34 plays of 20 yards or more, and a 93.1 total QBR after six games in 2019.
Pickett has 2,114 yards, 24 touchdowns, three turnovers, 35 plays of 20 yards or more, and an 88.4 total QBR through six games in 2021.
Burrow did have a little lead at the midway point, but it wasn’t quite as large as you would have thought.
Is Clemson on the verge of losing another national championship game to a Heisman Trophy winner, like the Tigers did against LSU in 2020?
This is when things start to get complicated. Pickett has a dreadful record against Clemson. He’s just 26-of-55 passing (47.3 percent) for 217 yards (3.95 yards/pass) in two previous games, with two touchdowns and seven interceptions, nine sacks, and only two plays of 20 yards or more.
The blitz was crucial to Clemson’s previous success. The Tigers put a lot of pressure on Pickett, and he only gained 1.29 yards per dropback after they added a pass rusher. However, as strong as Clemson’s defense has been this season, it has only gotten pressure on the quarterback 32.7 percent of the time, the lowest percentage since 2014, and their sack rate of 6.6 percent is the lowest in Venables’ career at Clemson.
Both Pickett and Clemson have found success by being conservative. Pickett is completing 65 percent of his passes against the blitz this year, with eight touchdowns and no interceptions, thanks to faster, shorter throws. Clemson, on the other hand, has been less aggressive up front, which has restricted huge plays down the field. Maintaining that success on both sides, though, requires some patience, which may be the key to identifying a winner on Saturday.
“”Kenny needs to be patient,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “He’s a lot more comfortable in the pocket this year than he was last year, and he’s capable of taking some downfield shots.” But [Clemson’s defense] is very strong, and they’ll go after him.” ‘David Hale’
Purdue against Wisconsin (3 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network): Last winter, Purdue coach Jeff Brohm had one objective in mind while reorganizing his defensive staff.
Brad Lambert, one of Purdue’s three new co-defensive coordinators and the main playcaller, told ESPN, “We want to be more aggressive.” “That was Coach Brohm’s whole pitch when I interviewed, and it’s been our entire presentation since we arrived.”
Purdue is 4-2 following a 24-7 road shock of No. 2 Iowa last week, thanks to the defensive overhaul. With four interceptions, the Boilers, who have won four of their past five games against Iowa, defeated the Hawkeyes at their own game.
Purdue is down to 14 points per game this season, which ranks sixth nationally, after allowing 30.2 points per game from 2018 to 2020. The Boilers have thrown twice as many interceptions (6) as they have allowed passing touchdowns (3), and they are sixth in red-zone efficiency. Lambert, who oversaw the nation’s best scoring defense at Marshall in 2020, believes Purdue’s product is “very comparable” thus far.
“They simply go for it,” he said. “They’re all in sync. With four players, you have the capacity to apply pressure. That’s a striking resemblance.”
With three sacks, eight quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles, defensive end George Karlaftis, a possible first-round NFL draft selection, has led the line. Karlaftis has attracted additional attention, allowing young tackle Branson Deen to produce (3.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries).
“You know you’ve got something when your greatest player is also your hardest worker,” Lambert remarked. “That’s exactly who he is.”
Safeties Purdue’s Cam Allen (three interceptions) and Marvin Grant have adjusted well to the new system, and opponents are completing just 52.3 percent of their throws. Although the Badgers have won 14 consecutive in the rivalry, the Boilers’ progress could benefit them this week against Wisconsin’s faltering offense.
“I’m not sure when Purdue last defeated Wisconsin,” Lambert remarked. “They’re going to attempt to intimidate us into coming in. We must be prepared and present at the time.” Adam Rittenberg’s remark
Iowa State at No. 8 Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX): This is one of the weekend’s most intriguing matchups because it pits two of the country’s most unexpected teams against a surprising favorite.
Coach Mike Gundy has done an excellent job of playing to the strengths of his squad, with running back Jaylen Warren leading the way and one of the top defenses in the nation shutting down opponents and keeping them in games. Meanwhile, Iowa State has had a rough start, going 2-2 with wins against Northern Iowa (16-10) and losses to Iowa and Baylor. The Cowboys, on the other hand, are 6.5-point underdogs at Caesars Sportsbook, the second-largest margin by a top-10 team against an unranked team in the last 40 years, and ESPN’s FPI gives them a 22% probability of winning. The Cowboys have won by razor-thin margins each week, and they are just the third 6-0 team in AP poll history to win by seven points or fewer on average.
Gundy, on the other hand, views this as a plus. “Because we’ve done it before, I believe it will benefit our team. Unfortunately, we’ve been in this position in almost every game we’ve played “This week, he told reporters. “So, you’d want to believe that if we get into that position, we won’t panic and we’ll be able to make plays down the stretch.”
With Texas’ defeat to the Cowboys last week, this game has a lot more significance. According to statistics, the victor of this game has the greatest probability of meeting Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. According to the FPI, OSU has an 81 percent chance of making it to Arlington. With a victory, Iowa State would have a 48 percent probability of advancing. Dave Wilson is an author.
UCLA at No. 10 Oregon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC): As a 5-1 Oregon team prepares to play 5-2 UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Saturday in what might be the most high-profile Pac-12 game still on the season, head coach Mario Cristobal seems to have settled on a bittersweet way to characterize his squad.
In his weekly news conference on Monday, Cristobal remarked, “It looks like when our backs are against the wall, that’s when our best comes out.”
To Cristobal’s point, the Ducks are 3-1 in one-score games in the fourth quarter this season. If winning tight games is a talent, then being in close games late — particularly against lesser teams like Cal — may be a red flag.
At times, Oregon’s offense seems to depend on pressure to get going. On Friday night against Cal, boos from the home fans spurred quarterback Anthony Brown to lead a game-winning drive. Brown has failed to get off to a good start, but he has just one interception on the season. Despite the fact that Cristobal and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead have lost running back CJ Verdell to injury this season, they want to see more consistency and explosive plays. The Ducks are currently ranked 83rd in the nation in scrimmage plays of 20 yards or more.
“We’ll never meet the bar that has been established for this offense,” Moorhead said. “We’re on the right track, but there’s still a lot of space for development.”
No. 13 USC vs. No. 13 Notre Dame (NBC, 7:30 p.m. ET): With just one returning starter on the offensive line and a new starting quarterback in Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan, Notre Dame had some growing pains in the first half of the season.
The Irish may be closer to figuring it all out after another change at left tackle and a bye week of self-evaluation — just in time to face rival USC. On Saturday, true freshman Joe Alt will start at left tackle for the second consecutive game, becoming the Irish’s second true freshman to start on the offensive line this season and the fourth different starter at the position.
Alt started in Notre Dame’s victory against Virginia Tech on the road, while offensive lineman Michael Carmody has been switched to tight end, where he’ll keep his No. 68 and be utilized mainly as a blocker. The Irish are attempting to get Kyren Williams and the running game going, as well as better protecting Coan, who isn’t as mobile as the other quarterbacks.
Coach Brian Kelly expressed optimism that the offense can build on a strong second half in Blacksburg.
He stated last week, “I still believe it’s simply maturity and 11 guys working together as one.” “We had something similar versus Virginia Tech in the second half. We’re hoping it was a turning point for us offensively, and that if we can… run the ball and be balanced on the offensive side of the ball, we can get more of that on a regular basis.” Heather Dinich is a writer.
SMU versus Tulane (7:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, ESPN): SMU must keep cruising in games like this one against 1-5 Tulane to go where they want to go on a national level as it continues to erase the remnants of 40 years of irrelevancy from its football past. SMU is one of just five undefeated Group of 5 teams left, but Willie Fritz and the Green Wave haven’t been easy to beat. SMU has won six consecutive games in the series, but four of the last five, including last year’s overtime victory, have been decided by four points or fewer.
This year, there should be a lot of points scored. The Mustangs average 40.7 points per game, which ranks 10th in the FBS, while Tulane allows 40.2 points per game, which is fourth worst in the US. However, the Green Wave’s schedule has skewed that, with away games at Oklahoma and Ole Miss, as well as a 52-point loss at East Carolina on Oct. 2.
Shane Buechele is one of just three quarterbacks in SMU history to toss 30 touchdowns in a season. Tanner Mordecai, on the other hand, has an FBS-leading 26 touchdown passes this season and has thrown four or more in every game until last week, when he was still 30-of-40 for 324 yards and two scores. Wilson’s words
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