1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville quarterback
- 2016: 1,806 passing yards, 832 rushing yards, 30 total touchdowns
A 24-14 home win over Duke ranks as Louisville’s worst offensive performance of the year. But despite the lackluster performance, Jackson continued to post decent statistics.
The sophomore quarterback threw for 181 yards, added 144 on the ground and accounted for two touchdowns. Jackson played at such an extraordinary level in the first five games that the performance should not adversely affect his position as Heisman frontrunner.
The dual-threat quarterback’s next task is disassembling the North Carolina State defense in Louisville on Saturday. The Wolfpack nearly upset ACC-favorite Clemson in week seven, so Jackson must be wary of their solid defensive unit.
- 2. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan outside linebacker
- 2016: 249 punt return yards, 10 tackles for loss, 3 total touchdowns
Peppers has brought some variety and spice to college football this season. The junior athlete earned a week off in week seven after acting as a triple threat in his first six games.
Peppers made the Rutgers defense pay in week six, captaining the wildcat formation en route to two touchdowns. He continues to fight his way into backfields and stop teams behind the line of scrimmage as part of the nation’s number-one defense.
Finally, Peppers is an artist when handling punt returns due to his great awareness and agility. He leads college football in punt return yards, even after the bye week.
With an underperforming Illinois team next on schedule, Michigan could experiment with Peppers in an even greater variety of roles.
- 3. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State quarterback
- 2016: 1,207 passing yards, 434 rushing yards, 22 total touchdowns
Barrett is one of the best leaders in college football. His Buckeyes are the youngest, least-experienced team of any Power Five program, yet rank No. 2 in the nation.
His leadership was on full display under the lights in Madison on Saturday night.
The junior quarterback passed for 226 yards and rushed for 92 in a thrilling overtime victory over then-No. 8 Wisconsin. In the overtime period, Barrett fired a strike to wide receiver Noah Brown in the corner of the end zone to complete a double-digit comeback against the Badgers.
The road journey continues for Barrett, who has only lost two starts in his college career, in Happy Valley against an upset-hungry Penn State team.
4. Deshaun Watson, Clemson quarterback
- 2016: 1,950 passing yards, 279 rushing yards, 21 total touchdowns
Watson can thank a shanked 33-yard field goal for maintaining Clemson’s undefeated record. The junior quarterback has won 21 out of 22 starts in the last two seasons, looking to return once again to the College Football Playoff.
In the narrow overtime victory over North Carolina State on Saturday, Watson passed for a season-high 378 yards, complemented with two touchdowns.
Watson and Clemson are off week seven, before the toughest test of the year: Florida State in Tallahassee on Oct. 29.