Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence led his team to a national championship as a true freshman in 2018.
Going into 2019 Lawrence was widely viewed as the top quarterback in college football.
Now six weeks into the season, another freshman sits a spot above Lawrence in the advanced metrics — Indiana redshirt freshman Michael Penix.
Pro Football Focus provides advanced analysis of college football, and the website ranked all 130 starting quarterbacks in the FBS.
Ranked above Lawrence who comes in at No. 17, PFF said this about Penix:
16. INDIANA: MICHAEL PENIX JR.
The Hoosiers are a different team with Penix in the lineup. He’s currently one of 16 quarterbacks with elite grades for the season albeit we’ve seen him in just three games this year. However, in those three games, he hasn’t graded below 74.5 and has the country’s fourth-highest adjusted completion percentage at 84.5%. He’s an accurate thrower with a very strong arm and a strong feel in the pocket for his age. He’s also fared very well when pressured, something he’ll certainly see more of through Big Ten play, as he’s completed 12-of-24 passes for 240 yards and hasn’t thrown an interception. He can lean on his strong play from a clean pocket but if the play breaks down, he’s shown he can escape and make plays with his arm on the move just as easy.
PFF explained their grading system like this:
*Important to note: These rankings are based heavily on the individual player’s PFF grades for the season. The avoidance of negatively-graded plays, propensity of positively-graded plays, strength of competition and value towards a team victory are all heavily factored as well. A player’s effect on their team’s offense, their expected points added per dropback (or rushing attempt) and overall accuracy from our advanced ball-charting tracking are also considered among other factors.*
Penix’s accuracy and his effect on IU’s offense would appear to be the variables driving his impressive ranking.
As we wrote after the Michigan State game, the prospects for this IU football program look completely different with the Penix that showed up against the Spartans.
For the game Penix was 33-for-42 passing for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He added a score on the run in what was just the third start of his college career, his first appearance in a game in three weeks, and his first Big Ten road appearance.
Playing before a raucous road crowd in East Lansing, Penix completed 20 straight passes at one point in the game, good for the second longest such streak in Big Ten history behind only Chuck Long’s 22 (against IU) in 1984.
On the season Penix has now completed 69.6% of his passes (71-for-102) and has two interceptions to go with 809 yards and six touchdowns. He’s on pace to break Peyton Ramsey’s IU single season completion percentage record of 66% set just last year.
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