Grading the Top 5 College Football Offenses Heading into Week 6
Through five weeks of play, the best offenses college football has to offer have begun to separate themselves from the pack.
Some purely just pour on the points, regardless of how much success the opposing defense has. On the other hand, some tend to move the ball with ease, killing the clock until it’s finally time to put it into the end zone.
Regardless of their manner of play, these five offenses do it better than the rest of the nation.
Author's Note: Only the teams ranked in the top five in terms of total offense were considered. The intent of this article was to grade these five offenses specifically.
Method of Evaluation
Each offense was graded on four separate categories. These categories were graded on a scale of one to five. The overall grade consists of tallying the scores of each category.
Each category was graded as follows:
LEVEL OF COMPETITION
The first element that was taken into consideration was the combined record of the opponents that team has already played. Next, each of those opponent's ranking for total defense was added together and divided by the amount of games the offense being graded had played. FCS schools were given a ranking of 123—the lowest possible ranking for an FBS school.
In this category, each offense was evaluated on the talent of its top performers in comparison to others across the nation. For example, a quarterback will be judged by his performance among other quarterbacks as a running back would be judged by his performance among other running backs.
For this category, each offense was first graded on how balanced their attack was. For instance, a offense that ranks high in both passing and rushing would fare better than one that may be the best at rushing, but decent at passing. Next, the amount of productive players the offense has in both the backfield and receiving corps is considered as well.
This category considers one performance from each offense. It isn’t based merely on how many yards, points or big plays said offense accounted for in the chosen game. Instead, it focuses on what makes this performance stand out (e.g. overachieving against a top defense, rallying from a deficit, etc.
No. 5: UCLA (3-0)
Points Per Game: 52.7 (3)
Total Yards Per Game: 614.3 (2)
Passing Yards Per Game: 330.0 (11)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 284.3 (13)
The Bruins offense has gotten off to a fantastic start. However, in this instance, numbers could be very misleading.
LEVEL OF COMPETITION
Combined opponent record: 6-8
Average opponent total defense rank: 114.3
Honestly, it would be quite a surprise to see UCLA keep up at its current pace.
All three of the team’s opponents rank No. 107 or worse in total defense. That includes New Mexico State—ranked last in all of college football, allowing a staggering 572.6 yards per game.
Against that lineup, even a high school team could probably light up the scoreboard.
If anything, the Bruins should be penalized for not putting up 60-plus every week.
Quarterback Brett Hundley has been the star of the show.
The sophomore has been outstanding through the air, throwing for 848 yards, eight touchdowns and a 165.9 QB rating. However, he’s been just as good with his legs, racking up another 157 yards and four scores on the ground.
In the backfield, Jordan James (424 YDS, 4 TD) has been a consistent force. The junior has surpassed the 100-yard mark and scored a touchdown in every game thus far.
Hundley and James may not be the most prolific duo in the nation, but they certainly have both been very effective.
UCLA has showcased the ability to be successful both through the air and on the ground, ranking in the Top 15 in both categories.
In the passing game, wide receiver Shaquelle Evans (210 YDS, 13 REC, 3 TD) has emerged as Hundley’s go-to-guy. However no other receiver has been as effective. In fact, Evans is the only Bruin to have surpassed 50 yards of receiving in a game.
That same lack of depth holds true in the running game, as backup Paul Perkins (100 YDS, 15 CAR, 2 TD) is the only back to have topped the 50-yard mark other than James.
Sure, with Hundley and James making up 64.8 percent of the team’s attempts on the ground, there isn’t too much of a need for other running threats. However, God forbid, what happens if one of the two goes down with an injury?
Not the best sign for UCLA.
Sept. 14 vs. No. 23 Nebraska- W 41-21
It certainly wasn’t the highest yardage total for the Bruins, but this was easily the most impressive performance from the offense.
Down 21-3 in the second quarter, UCLA seemed to be in trouble. Next thing you know, the team piles on 38 unanswered points in the game’s final 30:57. Not to mention, the Bruins scored points on six of their final eight drives.
On the day, the team racked up 504 yards, with Hundley (355 TOT YDS, 3 TD) and James (105 YDS, 22 CAR, 1 TD) leading the way.
While the numbers won’t drop jaws, rallying from 18 points down against a ranked opponent is never easy.
No. 4: Washington (4-0)
Points Per Game: 39.8 (28)
Total Yards Per Game: 574.0 (5)
Passing Yards Per Game: 285.3 (31)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 288.8 (11)
The Huskies are positioning themselves to be a contender in the Pac-12. Their offense is a large reason for the 4-0 start.
LEVEL OF COMPETITION
Combined opponent record: 11-6
Average opponent total defense rank: 79.3
Other than FCS-foe Idaho State, Washington has faced some decent defenses. Hanging 30-plus against both Boise State and Illinois is certainly impressive.
However, doing the same against Arizona and its No. 12 scoring defense (14.3 PPGA) may take the cake.
Can’t think of a better way to open up conference play.
There’s not another player on the Huskies who can change a game as quickly as running back Bishop Sankey.
Through four games, the junior has racked up 607 yards and five touchdowns on 104 carries. Furthermore, his 151.8 rushing yards per game is tops in the nation. Sankey also has caught four passes for 75 yards and a score.
Behind center, Washington relies on quarterback Keith Price.
The senior has tossed for 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns (2 INT) on 72.3 percent passing. He’s also registered a QB rating of 173.6.
While Sankey may garner the majority of the headlines, Price’s ability to throw the ball keeps opposing defenses from loading the box.
While the Huskies rushing attack is great, the team’s passing attack is above average at best.
As far as receivers go, Washington has plenty to choose from, with eight different players having caught a touchdown. However, nobody has really stood out as a true go-to-guy with playmaking ability. Kevin Smith (269 YDS, 15 REC) may serve as the team’s best bet, but he’s only hauled in one catch for score.
In the run game, it doesn’t get any better for the Huskies.
Behind Sankey, only Jesse Callier (162 YDS, 3 TD) has shown some promise with the rock. However, the junior just hasn’t accomplished enough to demand a larger role in the offense.
All in all, it kind of makes sense why the team only ranks No. 28 in points. Washington has enough talent to move the ball down the field consistently. However, the team lacks the playmakers—other than Sankey—to finish off those drives with six points on the board.
That can become an issue down the road.
Sept. 28 vs. Arizona- W 31-13
It only took a little under three minutes for the Huskies to show that they weren't afraid of the Wildcats defense.
Sankey carried most of the load, rushing for 161 yards and one touchdown on a school-record 40 carries. Price added two touchdowns, although he managed just 165 yards through the air.
While the team’s 409 total yards of offense isn’t staggering, it’s impressive given how hard Washington had to battle for yards.
If anything, it speaks volumes about the drive and determination of this offense.
No. 3: Texas A&M (4-1)
Points Per Game: 49.2 (6)
Total Yards Per Game: 586.4 (4)
Passing Yards Per Game: 365.0 (5)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 221.4 (29)
The Aggies were the toast of the college football world last season with its high-powered offense. The same can be said about this year’s squad.
LEVEL OF COMPETITION
Combined opponent record: 14-8
Average opponent total defense rank: 69.4
As expected from an SEC squad, the defenses Texas A&M has faced haven’t all been pushovers. Even Sam Houston State—an FCS school—is 4-1 on the year, allowing just 18.0 PPG to opponents other than the Aggies.
But most impressively, the team remained dominant even against stiffer defenses such as Alabama and Arkansas.
No matter the down, distance and position on the field, quarterback Johnny Manziel has grown accustomed to making something out of nothing.
Last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, the sophomore has thrown for 1,489 yards and 14 touchdowns (3 INT) on 71.4 percent passing. Furthermore, he is also the team’s leading rusher, racking up 314 yards and another three scores on the ground.
Wide receiver Mike Evans has also developed a knack for the big play. The sophomore has brought in 28 grabs for 691 yards and five touchdowns. His 24.7 average leads the nation among receivers with at least 15 receptions.
With this one-two punch clicking, it’ll be quite difficult to slow down Texas A&M’s passing attack.
The Aggies rank among the nation’s best when it comes to passing. However, it’s in the run game where the team has some question marks.
Other than Evans, Manziel has Derel Walker (264 YDS, 19 REC) and Malcome Kennedy (242 YDS, 23 REC, 4 TD) to throw to. Impressively, seven other players have also caught a touchdown. Talk about distributing the ball around.
Unfortunately, other than Manziel, Texas A&M lacks a real running threat.
Sure, Ben Malena’s seven scores are great. However, his 60.6 yards per game just isn’t going to cut it. The same can be said about Tra Carson, who has four touchdowns but only manages 45.8 yards per game.
But most concerning is the fact that Manziel is the only player to have rushed for 100 yards or more in a game.
Banking both your aerial assault and ground game on one player is a recipe for disaster.
O.K., the Aggies may have lost the game. However, their performance against one of the SEC’s toughest defenses certainly showcased the superior firepower of the Texas A&M offense.
Behind Manziel (562 TOTAL YDS, 5 TD), the team racked up 628 yards and 42 points. That includes 21 points in the fourth quarter. It was the most points the Tide have conceded since 2003, and the most allowed in a win.
Evans (279 YDS, 7 REC, 1 TD) and Mike Kennedy (57 YDS, 6 REC, 3 TD) led the Aggies in receiving.
If Alabama couldn’t slow down this offense, who can?
No. 2: Baylor (3-0)
Points Per Game: 69.7 (1)
Total Yards Per Game: 751.3 (1)
Passing Yards Per Game: 444.3 (1)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 307.0 (5)
Going off stats, the Bears easily have the nation’s most prolific offense. But just how good are they?
LEVEL OF COMPETITION
Combined opponent record: 6-7
Average opponent total defense rank: 104.7
In college football, you’re only as good as the opponents you play. For Baylor, that’s definitely not a good thing.
Sure, the team has dominated its opponents by an average score of 69.7-7.7. However, given the level of competition the Bears have faced, it's not as impressive as the numbers look.
For starters, the team’s Week 1 opponent, Wofford, is an FCS school. Then there’s Buffalo, a team that only has wins against 0-4 Connecticut and FCS-foe Stony Brook. And last but not least, Louisiana-Monroe, who has conceded an average of 32.8 points per game this season.
Baylor gets points for topping 70 points in back-to-back weeks, but loses plenty more from doing so against defenses that couldn’t stop a runny nose, let alone a running back.
First and foremost, the Bears are led by running back Lache Seastrunk.
The junior has been phenomenal on the ground, rushing for 417 yards and six touchdowns on 38 carries. But most impressively is the way he tends to make the most of every run—Seastrunk’s 11.0 YPC leads the nation.
Then there’s quarterback Bryce Petty, who has been both proficient and efficient for Baylor.
Thus far, the junior has gone 50-of-67 (74.6 percent) through the air, totaling 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns (0 INT). Furthermore, he ranks first in QB rating (239.5) and second in accuracy.
With these two in the backfield, the Bears keep opposing defenses on their heels, not knowing whether to expect a run or a pass.
As the stats dictate above, Baylor has no problem passing the ball or running it down the opponent’s throat. The team ranks in the top five in both categories.
Through the air, the receivers of Antwan Goodley (370 YDS, 14 REC, 4 TD) and Tevin Reese (350 YDS, 15 REC, 3 TD) give Petty a pair of dangerous options to target. On the other hand, running back Shock Linwood (192 YDS, 4 TD) is a good change-up for when Seastrunk needs a breather.
Against this offense, it's pretty much a to pick-your-poison situation.
Sept. 7 vs. Buffalo- W 70-13
Although it’s hard to pick just one performance, this is the one that stands out the most.
Not only did the Bears rack up a school record 781 total yards, but the team compiled 576 of them within the game’s first 11 minutes. Both Petty (13-of-16, 338 YDS, 3 TD) and Seastrunk (150 YDS, 17 CAR, 3 TD) put in work for Baylor.
Linwood also added 76 yards and a pair of scores on the ground.
Even more impressive: Baylor only had the ball for a little over 26 minutes. That adds up to around 30 yards per minute.
No. 1: Oregon (4-0)
Points Per Game: 59.8 (2)
Total Yards Per Game: 599.3 (3)
Passing Yards Per Game: 266.8 (38)
Rushing Yards Per Game: 332.5 (1)
The Ducks are hoping for a BCS-title bid. With an offense like theirs, the team has as good a chance as any other team in the nation.
LEVEL OF COMPETITION
Combined opponent record: 9-9
Average opponent total defense rank: 84.0
Unlike some of the other top offenses on this list, Oregon hasn’t just settled for playing cupcake defenses.
Sure, the team has faced the likes of FCS-foe Nicholls State and California’s No. 119-ranked defense. However, the Ducks have also squared off against the SEC’s Tennessee and the remarkably stout defense of Virginia.
Consider this: The Cavaliers rank No. 16 in total defense and have conceded just 12 touchdowns in four games—Oregon scored eight of them in a 59-10 rout.
That’s pretty impressive.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota has dazzled in his sophomore campaign.
The Heisman-favorite has thrown for 1,003 yards and nine touchdowns (0 INT) on the year. He has also rushed for 295 yards and five touchdowns on 21 carries (14.0 YPC). That includes a 71-yard scamper against that aforementioned Virginia defense.
In the backfield, De’Anthony Thomas, or DAT as he’s commonly known, has been the star. The junior has gashed opposing defenses for 338 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in just three games. His 8.0 YPC also ranks No. 12 in the nation.
The duo has proven virtually unstoppable thus far.
While there’s no doubt the Ducks have one heck of a rushing attack, their passing attack is solid at best.
Wide receiver Josh Huff has done his best to help the cause, bringing in 16 catches for 342 yards and two scores. Although three other receivers have also caught two touchdown passes, as long as Mariota is only completing 56.1 percent of his throws, the passing game will be a liability.
The backfield is a completely different story.
Other than Thomas and Mariota, Byron Marshall has showcased his playmaking abilities this season (326 YDS, 4 TD). Last weekend, with Thomas sidelined, the sophomore put together an impressive 130 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Even freshman Thomas Tyner has found the end zone four times. If the run game was ever shut down, Oregon could really be in some trouble. Fortunately, no team has come close to doing so just yet.
As mentioned above, the Cavaliers defense is no joke this year. However, during the team's matchup, the Ducks turned it into quite the punch line.
From the opening kick, Oregon let Virginia know it was going to run the ball. The team scored three rushing touchdowns within the first 11 minutes of the contest—including runs of 71 and 40 yards.
The outburst continued, as the Ducks would find the end zone five more times. Behind Mariota (321 TOT YDS, 3 TD) and Thomas (124 YDS, 3 TD), the team went on to rack up 557 yards of offense.
No other team has since managed more than 16 points against the Cavaliers.