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CFB Playoffs 2015

2015 CFP Preview: Passing Offenses

Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

You can find the full 2015 College Football Playoff Preview schedule here.

1. Oklahoma Sooners – 307.9 ypg, 37 passing touchdowns

Transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield has surprised everyone with the season he has had so far, leading one of the nation’s best offenses. For quarterbacks with 250+ attempts, Mayfield leads the country in passing efficiency with a 178.9 rating. He is second to Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in touchdown-to-interception ratio at 7 to 1. The former Texas Tech walk-on helped Oklahoma to three straight top-20 wins to close out the season. In those games, Mayfield completed 65 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdown passes to just three different receivers.

Senior Sterling Shepherd leads the strong receiving core in all three major categories – receptions (79), yards (1,201), touchdowns (11). Over the last half of the season, he has averaged 134.4 yards per game and has had at least one score in each game. Mayfield also gets a lot of use out of his tight end Mark Andrews. He has just 24 catches this season but six of them have been for touchdowns and he averaged 16.8 yards per reception. As a team, the Sooners average 9.6 yards per pass attempt.

2. Clemson Tigers – 288.5 ypg, 30 passing touchdowns

It was tough not to put the Tigers at the top of this list, especially with who they have leading the way. Sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson has been all he was hyped up to be and then some. He has managed to stay healthy and been the best quarterback in the country this season. He is third in the country with a 69.5 percent completion rate and ranks in the top 15 in both passer efficiency rating and passing touchdowns. His performance in the ACC Championship Game encapsulated what he has done for the Tigers. The Heisman finalist finished the night with a 62 percent completion rate, 420 yards of total offense and five total touchdowns against a North Carolina defense that had not given more than two touchdowns to a single player all season.

The Tigers lost their number one receiver Mike Williams to an injury early in the season but have had the entire group step up to make sure the offense still ran smoothly. Watson has gotten nine different players with 10 or more receptions. Artavis Scott has been the top target, hauling in 84 catches and five touchdowns. Three other players – Deon Cain, Charon Peake and Jordan Leggett – have at least five touchdowns on the season too.

Watson’s ability to scramble and run with the ball has been made clear but his offensive line may have a lot to do with the success of this passing game. The Tigers have allowed just 14 sacks this season, which ranks 9th in the country and is best among the final four teams.

3. Michigan State Spartans – 236.1 ypg, 26 passing touchdowns

Picking the Spartans third here was tough to do but the experience of quarterback Connor Cook is tough to argue against. The senior has thrown for 2,911 yards this season with 24 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. Cook has been struggling with a shoulder injury that has appeared to give him a serious amount of pain while throwing the ball. Backup Tyler O’Connor came in for the big game in Columbus and managed to lead the Spartans to a win. That likely gives coach Mark Dantonio a lot of confidence while having two guys that are capable of winning in the spotlight.

Senior wide receiver Aaron Burbridge has been the top target for Connor Cook this season. He leads the team in offensive yards and is third in touchdowns. He has the same amount of receptions (79) as the second and third receivers have combined. He has seven 100-yard receiving games this season, including four straight games in October. Josiah Price has been a major threat in the red zone scoring six times on just 19 receptions for the Spartans. Junior R.J. Shelton has become a big target out of the backfield, gaining 484 yards through the air and four touchdowns.

4. Alabama Crimson Tide – 214.3 ypg, 18 passing touchdowns

Despite finishing fourth on this list, Alabama fans should be feeling pretty confident in the Tide’s passing game unless a coaching blunder like starting Cooper Bateman happens again. Senior quarterback Jake Coker has been doing more than enough for the Crimson Tide to make sure Alabama came out on top. He is 11-0 as a starter and has thrown five touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 71 percent of his passes over the last three games. Coker has shown improvement in both his talent and his awareness to make sure he does what the offense needs him to do to succeed.

Calvin Ridley has been the big receiver on campus this season for the Tide, bringing comparisons to the like of Amari Cooper and Julio Jones to the table. He leads the team with 75 receptions and 893 yards. However, the group behind him will be the key to success for the Tide’s passing game. Richard Mullaney has proven to be a reliable target and is tied for the team lead with five touchdown catches. ArDarius Stewart, although inconsistent, has shown his playmaking ability and has bailed out Coker on multiple occasions this season. Tight end O.J. Howard has been used more often this season, catching 30 passes for more than 300 yards, but has yet to find the endzone this season.

Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.

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