God bless college football.
Honorable Mention – This Dude
5. Cade McNamara – QB; Michigan
In what became one of the longest, and frankly most painful games in recent memory, Michigan football seemed to finally find some light at the end of the tunnel, by virtue of a triple over time victory in Piscataway on Saturday night.
So who provided this spark you may be asking? Well, after starting QB, Joe Milton, who has previously made an appearance on this list, looked as bad as a QB could possibly look, Jim Harbaugh decided it was time for a change.
In a last ditch effort, Harbaugh called upon Sophomore QB, Cade McNamara. McNamara, a native of Reno, Nevada was about as familiar to the field as I am with Aerospace Engineering. However, this unfamiliar territory quickly became a space of comfort as McNamara began carving up the field like a thanksgiving turkey.
By nights end, the backup QB had not only secured his teams second win of the season, but had compiled one hell of a performance, throwing for 260 yards to go along with 4 touchdown passes and one rushing TD. After the game, coach Jim Harbaugh called McNamara’s performance “Inspiring.” Now did he say this because this performance may have single handedly saved his job? Perhaps, but whatever the case may be, there is no denying that Michigan has now found their starting QB from here on out.
4. JT Daniels – QB; Georgia
If you guys are a listener of my CFB podcast, you would be aware of my love hate relationship with the Georgia Bulldogs. There are points where I feel as if this team is the most talented program in the country, and others where I can’t even stomach to watch them play. During the last few weeks, I have been leaning towards the latter.
For the past handful of years, Georgia has had one major problem that has been the common denominator between them, and the abandonment of a national championship. The problem in discussion is that Georgia, and more specifically, Kirby Smart does not know how to pick a starting QB, even when it i standing right in front of their face.
It all started with Jake Fromm. Although Fromm was a special talent, Smart failed to realize that right under his nose was Justin Fields, who is now a Heisman candidate at Ohio State. Then, we have Stetson Bennett, or as the people in Athens like to call him, the mail man. Stetson Bennett is not a bad QB per se, But he is certainly not a good one either. And when you are playing teams such as Alabama and Florida, you can not expect to win games with a guy like that under center. I don’t care how good your defense is.
So, after 6 weeks of learning the lesson that the entire college football world has been trying to say, Smart made the change. He decided to go with JT Daniels, a transfer from USC who had torn his ACL the year prior. And I know what you may be thinking. “Well Peter, if he tore his ACL, maybe he wasn’t ready to go.” Georgia cleared him to play during week 2….2.
Anyway, my man JT Daniels, who was a 5 star recruit out of Mater Dei, showed the world, why Kirby Smart is nothing more than a outstanding recruiter. Daniels had finished his Bulldog debut with a win, 400 passing yards and 4 TDs to his name. But the sad thing is, it’s too late. Barring a miracle, Daniels wont get to show his talents vs Florida, or Alabama, or even compete for an SEC Championship. But hey, I guess Kirby knows best.
3. Dustin Crum – QB; Kent State
There is a good chance that this is the first, and only time you will be reading about Kent State football. And that’s perfectly fine, but I would be remiss to not talk about how explosive these 2020 Golden Flashes are. In just 3 games played thus far, Kent State is averaging 52 points per game and 616 total yards of offense. You do not see these types of numbers come out of the MAC.
Much of Kent States early offensive explosion can be credited to Senior QB, Dustin Crum. Crum, a native of Blythewood, South Carolina is having the year of his life. During Tuesday nights 69-35 evisceration of Akron, Crum put together a performance to remember. In the first half alone, Crum connected on all 17 of his passes, throwing for 2 TDs in the process. By games end, the senior had gone 22-25, had thrown for a total of 348 yards, and had acquired a total of 5 touchdowns. Dustin Crum may not be a name you here every day, but when you do, I suggest you pay attention.
2. Northwestern’s Defense
Coming into Saturday’s highly anticipated matchup between the Wildcats of Northwestern and the Badgers of Wisconsin, the story, heard around the world was not if Wisconsin was going to win, but by how much.
See, the Badgers of Wisconsin are one of the nations few anomalies. Year after year, it seems no matter how much talent they lose, they put themselves in a position to compete for a Big Ten Championship. This year was no different. The Badgers had come into the season without their starting QB, Jack Coan, who had sustained a season ending injury during fall camp. So, as any good college program does, Wisconsin called the next man up in the likes of Graham Mertz. Mertz, a freshman out of Overland Park Kansas, is treated in Madison like the second coming of christ. During his first two games of the year, Mertz could do no wrong. He could not be touched. That was until he made a trip to Evanston, Illinois.
Northwestern’s defense is anything but average. They are not filled with 5 star recruits like you would see at an Alabama or Ohio State, but as NU’s defensive coordinator, Mike Hankwitz would say, they wouldn’t want it any other way. On Saturday afternoon, Northwestern’s defensive unit welcomed Mertz and the Badgers to Evanston they only way they knew how; by fu**ing them up. It seemed as with every step Mertz took, a Wildcat defender would take 3. And maybe it was the purple helmets, but this force was just a little bit stronger, faster and more coherent than anything else that the Badgers had faced all season.
By nights end, the Wildcats of Northwestern had not only beaten Wisconsin, they had dominated them. The defense forced 5 turnovers, which included 3 INTs on Wiscos poster child, Graham Mertz. They had racked up 81 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks and had forced the Badgers to put the ball a total of 7 times, which is equidistant to the amount of points Wisconsin scored. What Pat Fitzgerald has cooking in Evanston this year is special, and I suggest we all put some more respect on the Wildcats name.
1. Michael Penix Jr. – QB; Indiana
There are no such things as moral victories in college football. But if there were, Indiana’s performance on Saturday against the Buckeyes of Ohio State would be considered as one. The Hoosiers, who lost by a score of 35-42, had no business of being put in the same stratosphere with the Ohio State Buckeyes (At least, according to experts.) Ohio State was a better team who had better players and much more talent. But there is an immeasurable object out there entitled grit, which Indiana has held the keys to all season.
The Hoosiers knew that they had an outside chance to go on the road and shock the third ranked team in the nation. Heck, they were even three touchdown underdog according to the spread. They didn’t care. They didin’t let that narrative, define who they were. For every punch that the buckeyes would throw, Indiana would counter with a haymaker of their own. And yes, Indiana lost, which at the end of the day is all that matters. But if you can not admire the fight that this football team showed, you are not a fan of college football.
Finally, I want to highlight the guy who I felt had the most fight, out of ANYBODY in the country this past week. Michael Penix Jr. came into Columbus knowing that his counterpart, Justin Fields, was currently in the running for a Heisman trophy. He knew that Fields was host to the nations best QBR and was very aware that Fields was going to be the QB that was going to be getting the brunt of attention leading up to the contest. That was fine with Penix Jr., because as game time came, the sophomore southpaw out of Tampa not only matched Fields level of play, he bettered it.
Justin Fields would go on to have the worst game of his collegiate career, throwing for 3 INTs to go along with just 2 TD passes (1 rushing.) Penix Jr. on the other hand, would go on to have the best start of his life, throwing for a total of 491 yards to go along with 5 TD passes. And if you were to ask Penix Jr. after the game if he could trade placed with Fields, I guarantee you he would say, without a doubt, yes. Because at the end of the day, no matter how poorly Fields played and Penix shined, what truly matters is who won; a harsh reality that will stick with the young phenom for years to come.