- 1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville quarterback
- 2016: 2,898 passing yards, 1,334 rushing yards, 46 total touchdowns
Down 12-0 at home against Wake Forest, Louisville was in an unfamiliar position.
Jackson’s No. 5 Cardinals trailed entering the fourth quarter, but the sophomore quarterback quickly revived the offense to win 44-12. It was not the best statistical game for Jackson who only threw for 145 yards and one touchdown. However, he avoided throwing an interception and ran for 153 yards — his seventh 100-yard game on the ground in 2016.
Jackson benefitted immensely from a weekend full of upsets. He may earn an opportunity to exhibit his talents in the playoffs stage since his 9-1 Cardinals are flying higher in the polls.
- 2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson quarterback
- 2016: 3,077 passing yards, 378 rushing yards, 29 total touchdowns
No. 4 Clemson lost 43-42 at home to Pittsburgh last week.
Despite the game marking the Tigers’ first ACC loss since 2014, Watson and the offense shined for the majority of the contest. The junior quarterback threw for an ACC-record 580 yards and three touchdowns on 70 attempts.
His Tigers remain in prime position for a conference title, earning the tiebreaker over Louisville. Watson must defeat improved Wake Forest and South Carolina teams in order to carry Clemson back to the playoff this season. Clemson was the runner-up last year, but Watson has unfinished business if the Tigers earn a bid into college football’s final four.
- 3. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan outside linebacker
- 2016: 161 rushing yards, 276 punt return yards, 11 tackles for loss
Peppers played on all three units on Saturday night, but his versatility was not enough to overcome a driven Iowa team.
Iowa handed No. 3 Michigan a 14-13 loss, its first of the season, but Peppers’ defense held the Hawkeyes to zero touchdowns. The junior recorded five solo tackles, 11 rushing yards, and 35 total return yards in the loss. Still in playoff contention, Peppers can revitalize the offense on Saturday by earning additional touches as a runningback or receiver. The Wolverines have only allowed more than 14 points at home once in seven games, so Michigan must continue to make plays on defense to boost Peppers’ Heisman campaign.
- 4. Jonathan Allen, Alabama defensive end
- 2016: 40 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, 2 total touchdowns
Defense wins championships. This could well prove to be the case again for the defending champion No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.
Allen’s defense has held opponents to under 10 points seven times this season. The Crimson Tide are coming off of strong wins over LSU and Mississippi State, yielding a combined three points in the conference victories.
Manning the dominant front seven, Allen has recorded five tackles and a sack in these wins. The senior is a highly-touted draft prospect, but before he goes pro, he is on pace to lead Alabama to a third straight playoff appearance and back-to-back championships.