2011 College Football: Grading the Top 25 Teams' Performances from Week 1

Stix Symmonds@@stixsymmondsCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2011

2011 College Football: Grading the Top 25 Teams' Performances from Week 1

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    Week 1 of the college football season is in the books and what a weekend it was!  From horrific weather delays to wild come-from-behinds, to a few early upsets, this was a week for the books.

    There were matchups between Top 5 opponents.  There were showdowns between Top 25 teams.  There was drama stemming from off-the-field issues and player departures.

    Of course, there was also a healthy helping of cupcakes on the menu.

    How did your team do?

    We'll run down the preseason Top 25 teams' performances from Week 1 and give 'em all a grade.

    Bleacher Report will be here all season long for all of your college football needs. We have all the latest news, reaction and analysis on our College Football Home Page, as well as on the team pages for virtually every major BCS program. Keep it with Bleacher Report for breaking news, realignment talk and more.

25. USC

1 of 25

    Opponent: Minnesota

    Outcome: won 19-17

    Offense: B-

    Defense: B+

    Special Teams: B-

    I’ve gotta be honest.  This wasn’t what I expected.  I really saw a blowout coming.  Obviously, I was wrong.

    The Trojan offense wasn’t bad.  Matt Barkley completed 34 of 45 attempts (75.6 percent) for 304 yards and three scores.

    The run game however, was merely…there.  As a team, they only picked up 67 yards and no scores. 

    Special teams left no particular concerns.  They gave up some yardage on coverage, but took some in return. 

    I’m just not really sure what the deal was here.  Minnesota put up a solid showing against this Trojan team, but I expected more out of the Trojans, to be honest.  They’re not as balanced as I expected and that could spell some trouble later down the line.

    Overall Grade:  B (but should probably be C because this was Minnesota)

24. West Virginia

2 of 25

    Opponent: Marshall

    Outcome: won 34-13

    Offense: B+

    Defense: B

    Special Teams: B-

    How do you really grade this game?  It didn’t finish!  Oh sure, they called it due to four-plus hours of delays due to weather.  West Virginia was leading 34-13 when the decision came down.  Still…it feels unfinished.

    The Mountaineer offense was good.  Gino Smith had 248 yards passing with a couple of scores and no interceptions.  The ground attack was pedestrian in numbers, but was keeping the defense honest.

    Special teams are rough to effectively grade.  On the one hand, Tavon Austin had 121 yards and a touchdown on just two kick returns.  On the other, they allowed Andre Booker to scoot 87 yards for a score on a punt return.  They weren’t incredible on coverage, but they sure weren’t bad at getting good field position when it was their turn.

    Piecing together the several “mini-games” that took place, it was a decent performance by the Mountaineers.  Crazy…but good.

    Overall Grade: B

23. Auburn

3 of 25

    Opponent: Utah State

    Outcome: won 42-38

    Offense: B

    Defense: C

    Special Teams: A

    Auburn’s offense worked, to a degree.  It just needed a full four quarters to get it done.  Trotter threw for 261 yards and three scores.  The two leading runners (Dyer and McCalebb) both had over four yards-per-carry.

    The defense however, had a lot of trouble stopping Utah State.  Utah State?  Really?  I think I was pretty generous giving them a C. 

    The Tigers gave up over 220 yards through the air, but didn’t allow a passing touchdown.  They couldn’t stop the run to save their lives though.

    Special teams were a bright spot when the Tigers were the ones returning kicks.

    Auburn needed 14 points in the last 2:07 of the game to pull out the win.  Toss out the grades above.  For the defending National Champions, this is unacceptable.

    Overall Grade: D

22. Florida

4 of 25

    Opponent: Florida Atlantic

    Outcome: won 41-3

    Offense: B+

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: B-

    The Gators easily took care of Florida Atlantic.  How detailed do you really want to go on this?

    The run game looked strong with Jeff Demps averaging a whopping 8.8 yards-per-carry on 12 attempts and a couple of scores.  Chris Rainey also averaged 7.2 ypc on 11 carries and put up another score.

    The pass game was something a little different.  John Brantley was efficient, hitting on 21 of 30 attempts (70 percent) for 229 yards and a score.  However, he also tossed two picks.  You can’t give him a great score on that.  All-in-all, Florida threw three picks on the day.

    Defensively, you couldn’t ask for a lot more.  The gators allowed only 107 yards through the air and only 30 yards on the ground.  They only gave up a field goal, late in the second quarter.

    Special teams were okay.  There was nothing particularly damning, but nothing that stood out as consistently “wow” either.  They had a nice return or two, but gave up some yardage the same way.

    The offense needs to take better care of their passes, but otherwise there isn’t a whole lot to be upset about.  It was a decent showing for the first game out.

    Overall Grade: B+

21. Missouri

5 of 25

    Opponent: Miami (OH)

    Outcome: won 17-6

    Offense: C

    Defense: C

    Special Teams: C

    What happened, Missouri?  Do you miss Blaine Gabbert that much?

    The offense was mediocre.  James Franklin passed for 129 yards and put up a score, but also tossed up an interception as well.  The run game was okay, but for the yards they gained, the Tigers couldn’t finish off drives.

    The defense didn’t give up a ton of yards, but they didn’t dominate either.

    Special teams didn’t give them great field position and didn’t pin Miami deep in their own territory often either. 

    It was a solidly forgettable performance for Missouri.

    Overall Grade: C

20. Mississippi State

6 of 25

    Opponent: Memphis

    Outcome: won 58-14

    Offense: A

    Defense: B-

    Special Teams: B

    The Bulldogs put together a fantastic ground attack.  Vick Ballard soared into Playstation numbers with a 16.6 yard-per-carry average and three scores on just 10 carries.

    QB Chris Relf also had a good showing.  Completing 13 of 21 passes for 203 yards and a pair of scores was only part of his day.  The other part was averaging four yards per carry on 13 attempts.

    That’s the good news.

    The bad news is that the Bulldogs allowed three runners to average 4.7, five and 6.3 yards-per-carry respectively.

    Memphis QB Taylor Reed completed 22/34 passes with a score and an interception.

    The offense was rolling, but the defense really only did enough against a sub-par opponent to make the game look better than it was.

    Final Grade:  B

19. Georgia

7 of 25

    Opponent: Boise State

    Outcome: loss 21-35

    Offense: B+

    Defense: C+

    Special Teams: B-

    Take into consideration that Boise State really does have a pretty solid team.  No kidding, they do.

    With that in mind, Georgia’s offense wasn’t bad.  It just wasn’t good enough. 

    Aaron Murray tossed for 236 yards and a pair of scores.  However, he also tossed a pick.

    Brandon Boykin provided the highlight reel play of the night with an 80-yard scamper for a score.  Otherwise, the run game was a decent effort of pounding it on the ground for a few yards here and there.  It was nothing special, but nothing to get overly upset about, either.

    The defense had their hands full.  They allowed Kellen Moore to toss for 261 yards and three scores, though they also took away a pass for an interception.  They gutted it out against the run game, but couldn’t quite do enough and allowed two more scores on the ground.

    Special Teams were decent, but didn’t necessarily stand out.

    This was a tough, physical game.  In the end though, Georgia just didn’t have it in them to go punch-for-punch with Boise State for four full quarters.

    A lot of people were wondering why Georgia was ranked in the first place.  They may show why as the season continues.  Don’t read too much negative into this, other than the obvious—it was an opening night loss.

    Overall Grade:  B-

18. Ohio State

8 of 25

    Opponent: Akron

    Outcome: won 42-0

    Offense: A

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: A

    Any further questions about Ohio State without their departed/suspended players?  Okay, maybe there are still a few.  After all, Akron is nowhere near the competition Wisconsin or Nebraska will be.

    Still, right now the Buckeyes aren’t missing Terrell Pryor.  Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller both looked very good under center.  The pair combined for just under 300 yards passing and snagged four touchdowns. 

    Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith answered the Brandon Saine question as well.  Both averaged over four yards-per-carry and Smith grabbed another score.

    The defense held the Zips to just 55 yards passing and the run stats don’t look much better for Akron.  Special teams held opponent returns below 20 yards while they grabbed good yardage of their own.

    Considering all the drama surrounding this team coming into the game, this was exactly the kind of showing they needed.

    Overall Grade: A

17. Michigan State

9 of 25

    Opponent: Youngstown State

    Outcome: won 28-6

    Offense:  C (QB good, O-line not so much)

    Defense: B

    Special Teams: B

    The offense did its job, but it wasn’t pretty.  This is supposed to be a dynamic and dangerous group, yet it seemed at times to stumble and bumble its way toward a ho-hum victory over a Youngstown State team that should have been grossly overmatched. 

    The offensive line failed to adequately protect Kirk Cousins at times and the Spartan attack seemed out of sync.

    Still, Cousins completed 18 of 22 attempts for 222 yards and a score. 

    Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell provided a dangerous two-headed rush attack with Baker averaging 6.1 yards per carry and Bell averaging 4.4 with two scores. 

    The defense was barely above average.  They did limit QB Kurt Hess to 17 of 35 attempts, but gave up a score.The run defense allowed three runners to average better than four yards per carry with Hess picking up 19 on just two carries (a 9.5 average).

    Still, they did their job and—aside from a first quarter score—kept YSU out of the end zone.  They also picked up an interception.

    Special teams were “okay.”  On the one hand, there were no flubbed extra points (the only kicks attempted).  On the other, the Spartans did allow 83 yards on four kick returns (20.75 average). 

    Final Grade: B-

16. Notre Dame

10 of 25

    Opponent: South Florida

    Outcome: loss 20-23

    Offense: C

    Defense: B+

    Special Teams: A

    Oh boy.  Take away a few eensy-weensy, little mistakes, and Notre Dame’s offense actually looked pretty good.  Hey, they were driving down the field and about to score when they coughed up the football and watched it go 96 yards the other direction for a score.

    Tommy Rees looked really good, hitting on over 70 percent of his passes and tossing a couple of touchdowns.  However, there were those two interceptions that glare back at you as well.

    Cierre Wood averaged an impressive five yards per carry and a score.

    In a nutshell, the offense was working just fine when it wasn’t busy shooting itself in the feet.

    The defense was fairly decent as well.  On over 30 attempts, they held South Florida to only 128 yards and a single score.  They clamped down hard on the run game and didn’t allow South Florida to punch it into the end zone.

    Special teams did their job, well.

    So, what do we make of a three-point loss to South Florida? 

    The Irish didn’t execute when they needed to, and that has to be reflected.

    Overall Grade: C

15. Arkansas

11 of 25

    Opponent: Missouri State

    Outcome: won 51-7

    Offense: A

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: A

    What is there really to say about this game?  Arkansas took good care of a clearly inferior opponent in virtually every facet.

    The pass attack was dominant, the run game was solid and special teams did their jobs very well.  The defense held a shutout until late in the game and they allowed fewer than 100 yards both through the air and on the ground.

    It was just what was expected—a nice, easy warm-up to shake the rust off.

    Overall Grade: A

14. TCU

12 of 25

    Opponent: Baylor

    Outcome: loss 48-50

    Offense:  B 

    Defense: C

    Special Teams: D-

    The offense came alive late in the game to close a 47-23 margin and take a 48-47 lead.  Up to that late flare though, the Horned Frog attack was intermittent at best.

    The defense failed to get consistent penetration up front and allowed far too many yards on the ground.  There is little doubt that the Horned Frogs now understand the depth of the losses they sustained at the end of last season.

    Special Teams were horrid.  Two missed field goals would have been the difference in this game and kick coverage was largely lazy. 

    Having said all of that, just how good is Baylor?  Their offense looked fantastic—especially the pass attack—and their defense was flying to the ball all night long. 

    So is this poor performance a sign of a large step back for one of the nation’s favorite underdogs; was it due to a fired-up and talented Baylor team; or was it a combination of both?

    I think both played a part in it, but Texas Christian still has a lot of improvement to go before this team can even sniff at the level of success last year’s incarnation enjoyed. 

    Overall grade: C-

13. Virginia Tech

13 of 25

    Opponent: Appalachian State

    Outcome: won 66-13

    Offense: A

    Defense: B

    Special Teams: B+

    Tech was looking for someone to step into Tyrod Taylor’s departed shoes.  I’m not sure they found that answer yet.  Logan Thomas was only nine of 19 passing for 149 yards.  However, he did toss a couple of touchdowns and didn’t give up an interception.

    Mark Leal was arguably better, hitting on six of nine passes for 113 yards and two more scores.

    David Wilson was something to behold.  On 16 carries, Wilson grabbed 162 yards (10.1 average) and three touchdowns.  Marcus Davis also hauled in three passes for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    The defense was okay.  It held Appalachian State scoreless through the first half and took away three interceptions. 

    The knock against them? 

    Nine passes for 176 yards and a score.  They didn’t get burned often, but when they did, it was fairly big.

    Special teams were pretty average on coverage, but above average on returns.  Jayron Hosley averaged over 30 yards on three punt returns.

    It was a very nice showing for the Hokies. 

    Overall Grade: A-

12. South Carolina

14 of 25

    Opponent: East Carolina

    Outcome: won 56-37

    Offense: B-ish

    Defense: C

    Special Teams: A

    Which do I grade, the beginning of this game or the end?  It really was a tale of two halves. 

    Stephen Garcia was barely mediocre as a quarterback, completing less than half his passes for only 110 yards and a score.  Garcia was exceptional as a running back, however.  On the ground, he covered 56 yards on just five carries (an 11.2 average) and scored twice.

    Marcus Lattimore picked up pretty close to where he left off last season.  On 23 carries, he picked up 112 yards and crossed the goal line three times.

    Defensively, the Gamecocks were only so-so.  Against the ground attack, they held the Pirates to barely over three yards per carry.  Through the air however, they gave up 260 yards and four scores.

    Special teams were okay, providing average coverage on kicks.  However, they were good in their own returns and Ace Sanders’ (best name ever) 68-yard punt return for a touchdown was pretty sweet.

    This game deserves more than the stats to grade it though.  South Carolina trailed 24-14 at the break and needed a 42-point second half to pull out a 19-point victory.  South Carolina is just one year removed from being one of the favorites to win the SEC East and this is how they handle East Carolina?

    Overall Grade:  C

11. Wisconsin

15 of 25

    Opponent: UNLV

    Outcome: won 51-17

    Offense: A+

    Defense: C

    Special Teams: C

    QB Russell Wilson met the hype and then some.  RB Montee Ball picked up right where he left off and RB James White wasn’t far behind.  The offensive line provided all the protection Wilson and Company needed.

    The defense however, allowed UNLV to run around them all night long and often looked too timid to wrap up the ball carriers.  They held the Running Rebels out of the end zone, but that had about as much to do with the Rebel's insistence on shooting themselves in the feet (dropped passes and poor routes) as it did with the Badger D.

    Special Teams didn’t help their cause much by missing an early extra point, but the coverage was okay for the most part.

    All-in-all, it looked like the offense showed up to play, but nobody else did.  If they want to be taken seriously in the national title discussion, the rest of the team is going to have to step up their game.

    Final Grade: B-

10. Nebraska

16 of 25

    Opponent: Chattanooga

    Outcome: won 40-7

    Offense: A

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: B-

    This was the Taylor Martinez-for-Heisman show.  Martinez may have only tossed the rock 11 times for 116 yards, but he also ran it 19 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns. 

    Rex Burkhead was pretty much what Nebraska wanted—when he was allowed to have the ball.  Burkhead carried the ball 11 times for 75 yards (a 6.8 average) and a score.

    The defense was stout, holding Chattanooga to just 170 yards through the air and just 60 more on the ground.  They did finally allow a touchdown early in the third quarter, but should we really punish them for that?  I don’t think so.

    Special teams were “okay.”  Kicker Brett Maher was perfect on the day, including a nice 50-yard shot.  However, kick coverage was merely average, allowing an average 23 yards per return.

    Overall Grade: A-

9. Oklahoma State

17 of 25

    Opponent: Louisiana-Lafayette

    Outcome: won 61-34

    Offense: B-

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: B-

    How does an offense that puts up 61 points only rate a B-?  Well, that happens when your starting quarterback tosses three interceptions, including two pick-sixes.  Take that little stat away and Brandon Weedon looked fantastic, completing 24 of 39 passes (61.5 percent) for 388 yards and three touchdowns.  When he was on, he was wickedly on.

    However, when he was off, he was…well…you get it.

    Joseph Randle had a solid 129-yard performance on 22 carries with a couple scores.

    The defense is a little tougher to grade.  The stats merely say they were “okay,” allowing 242 yards through the air and 108 more on the ground.  However, a good portion of those came in the second half when the game was well in hand.

    Also, though ULL did put up 34 points, 14 of those came off of interceptions and 14 came in the fourth quarter.  The defense really only allowed six points when the game was out of reach.

    Special Teams were fine.  Quinn Sharp got a ton of work and was perfect on the day.  So, why does this unit only rate a B-?  Simply put, because their kick coverage wasn’t as good.  They allowed a 31-yard return on their only punt and averaged 19.25 yards per return on kick coverage.  Their kicking game looks fine, but their coverage unit was merely average.

    Overall Grade:  B

8. Texas A&M

18 of 25

    Opponent: SMU

    Outcome: won 46-14

    Offense: A

    Defense: C

    Special Teams: B

    I barely got this grade in on time as this game ran fairly late into the evening Sunday (deadlines and all). 

    The Aggie offense looked good against SMU.  Ryan Tannehill completed almost 81 percent of his passes for 246 yards and two scores.  Those are very solid numbers.

    On the ground, both Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael averaged over six yards per carry with Gray picking up 132 yards and both carriers scoring twice.

    The defense did well depending on how you look at it. 

    On one hand, they held SMU to only 14 points and blanked them out of the second half. 

    On the other hand, they allowed JJ McDermott to pass for 254 yards and a score.  They also allowed Zach Line to run for 128 yards and another score.  Overall, it was an average performance for the defense.

    Special teams did good as well.  They were solid on coverage, but didn’t do much on return, either. 

    In the end, it was a good win over a decent SMU team to start the season.

    Overall Grade: B

7. Stanford

19 of 25

    Opponent: San Jose State

    Outcome: won 57-3

    Offense: A

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: A

    How do you argue against a 57-3 blowout?  It isn’t just the gaudy score though, either.

    Stanford’s pass game was clicking with Andrew Luck completing 65.4 percent of his passes and a couple of scores.  Both of his backups were a perfect two-for-two and three-for-three respectively and Brett Nottingham picked up a touchdown as well.

    The run game was a little less flashy, but no less effective.  Stepfan Taylor picked up a couple of scores on the ground and Tyler Gaffney added another.

    Defensively, the Cardinal kept SJSU out of the end zone and allowed only a chip-shot field goal with time running out on the second quarter.  The Spartan run game went nowhere and the pass attack had very limited success (210 yards, one interception).  The defense also picked up a safety for good measure.

    Special teams were good with decent kick coverage and a pair of easy field goals.

    Overall Grade: A

6. Florida State

20 of 25

    Opponent: Louisiana-Monroe

    Outcome: won 34-0

    Offense: B+

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: A

    An opening weekend doesn’t get a lot better than a shutout victory.  It was a good opening day for the Seminoles.  Not perfect, but great.

    The pass attack was about as good as could be expected.  EJ Manuel completed nearly 65 percent of his passes with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. 

    The run game was a little less than spectacular though, putting together just 92 yards on 28 total carries (3.29 average). 

    The defense did pretty much everything asked of it.  The ULM garnered only 92 yards through the air and just 99 yards on the ground. 

    The special teams allowed an average under 15 yards on kick returns and didn’t have to worry about punt coverage (zero punts).  Dustin Hopkins nailed a couple of chip shots and everything pretty well went smoothly.

    Overall Grade: A

5. Boise State

21 of 25

    Opponent: Georgia

    Outcome: won 35-21

    Offense: A-

    Defense: B

    Special Teams: A

    Boise State got another opening-week win over one of the “big boys.”  Will it be enough?  Time will tell.

    The offense was solid.  Kellen Moore completed an astounding 82.4 percent of his passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns.  However, he also threw up a pick, but that’s somewhat forgivable.

    The run game wasn’t quite as stellar but was effective all the same.  Doug Martin toughed out 57 yards on 24 attempts for a pedestrian 2.4 yard per carry.  He and DJ Harper each found their way into the end zone.

    The defense was slightly better than average.  It did enough to allow the offense to win it, but they allowed two touchdowns through the air and gave up a huge run by Brandon Boykin. 

    The unit was good, but it wasn’t stellar.

    Special teams were solid all the way around. 

    Overall Grade: A-

4. LSU

22 of 25

    Opponent: Oregon

    Outcome: won 40-27

    Offense: B

    Defense: A-

    Special Teams: A

    Their victory over Oregon was exactly what LSU needed to kick off their 2011 campaign.  To win convincingly was icing on the cake.

    The offense was decent.  There’s no denying the potential that exists in the running combination of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford, and the offensive line was sure enough Saturday night to protect those assets. 

    The passing game however, was far shakier.  Jarrett Lee completed less than 50 percent of his passes for fewer than 100 yards and only one score on 22 attempts.  He didn’t turn the ball over, but he didn’t do much with it either—other than hand it off to his two running backs.

    The defense, on the other hand, played a great game.  You’re not going to hold an offense like Oregon’s completely down.  LSU held Oregon’s entire running game to fewer than 100 yards—not just LaMichael James. 

    They did give up a few yards (240 to be precise) through the air, but only allowed one score and took away an interception.  You can’t ask for a lot more.

    Special teams were a big boost as well.  Drew Alleman nailed two field goals and the coverage team forced a fumble that they recovered for a touchdown.  They were absolutely smothering on punt coverage.

    Solid performance all the way around.  The pass game kept them from a perfect showing.

    Overall Grade:  A-

3. Oregon

23 of 25

    Opponent: LSU

    Outcome: loss 27-40

    Offense: C

    Defense: B

    Special Teams: C

    The loss hurts Oregon’s title hopes for 2011, but it’s not necessarily a death toll on the entire season.  Some work needs to be done, though.

    The offense—which was so highly touted last year—looked merely average.  Darron Thomas was okay, completing 31 of 54 attempts and 240 yards, but he also tossed an interception to go with his one touchdown.

    The ground game was equally “okay,” but not special.  LaMichael James and DeAnthony Thomas both found the end zone, but James only averaged three yards per carry and Thomas only had four touches. 

    The defense looked strong in the opening, holding LSU to a touchdown and a field goal in the first half (the other TD was on a turnover).  However, as the second half wore on, the Tigers began having their way with the Ducks. 

    Two Tiger runners (Spencer Ware and Michael Ford) finished the game on the cusp of 100-yard days.  What’s more, they allowed the two to combine for three scores.

    The special teams play was good on punt coverage, but mediocre on kick return coverage and gave up the aforementioned turnover that was recovered for a touchdown.

    The Ducks get a little room in the grading because this was a tough LSU team they were playing and not a mid-tier Pac-12 team.

    Overall Grade: C+

2. Alabama

24 of 25

    Opponent: Kent State

    Outcome: won 48-7

    Offense: B

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: A

    The Crimson Tide did pretty much what they were expected to do.  They manhandled a severely outmatched Golden Flash team on both sides of the ball en route to an easy victory.

    It wasn’t pure perfection though.

    While the defense did its job, holding Kent State to negative nine yards rushing and 101 yards passing, the offense had a few missteps.

    The ground game was dead on, but both AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims tossed up a pair of interceptions.  Neither quarterback looked all that impressive and there should be no doubt that the pass game still needs some work. 

    In the end, whatever woes the pass game may have dealt with, they didn’t affect the outcome of the game.  They’re enough to cause a touch of concern toward the future though, and they’re enough to affect the Tide’s grade for the week. 

    Overall Grade: A-

1. Oklahoma

25 of 25

    Opponent: Tulsa

    Outcome: won 47-7

    Offense: A

    Defense: A

    Special Teams: A

    Oklahoma had no problem with Tulsa.  They came out inspired following the loss of middle linebacker Austin Box, and parlayed their emotion (and talent, of course) into a nearly flawless performance.

    Beating Tulsa may not be as impressive as beating Texas or an SEC opponent in a BCS bowl, but the Golden Hurricane are better than the FCS opponents most big programs schedule to open their season.

    It’s hard to find fault anywhere in the Sooner performance.

    Overall Grade: A