1. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd (Sr.)
Boyd did not have an easy time early against North Carolina State. But he got the job done in a place that has been a nightmare for highly-ranked teams over the past few seasons. The Wolfpack have a win over a Top 20 team at home in each of the past three seasons and the previous two have been against Top 10 opponents. Clemson began to pull away in the second half with Boyd leading the charge. A road game against NC State is a rough way to start the conference season, but Clemson got the job done and will have a few easier games ahead of it before it faces Florida State at home in what will likely be one of the top games of the season. It wasn’t pretty at times, but road wins rarely are.
2. Alabama QB A..J McCarron (Sr.)
McCarron led Alabama in its revenge crusade against Texas A&M last week. While Manziel had some of the flashier (and luckier) plays, McCarron got the win and the knowledge that his decisions did not cost his team. In a one-score game on the road, McCarron did not throw an interception while Manziel threw two, one of which was returned for a touchdown. McCarron deserves more consideration than he is getting. He has manufactured game-winning drives even when the Crimson Tide defense is not playing up to snuff. For a guy who may end up as one of the top picks in April’s NFL draft, he is not getting the kind of attention that he deserves.
3. Georgia RB Todd Gurley (So.)
Gurley also had the week off, but will be returning to the field against a North Texas team that has not had a winning record since 2004. The Bulldogs should have an easy time with this one as they continue their recovery effort following the opening loss to Clemson. While the Mean Green won’t be able to provide a whole lot of resistance against Georgia, it will be a good tune-up before facing a resurgent LSU team between the hedges next week. A win there could propel Georgia back into the thick of the national title chase and would cement Gurley’s case as one of the top two candidates heading into October. But that speculation will have to wait; for now, he has to focus on North Texas. On second thought, he probably doesn’t.
4. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota (So.)
Mariota had his highest completion percentage of the season against Tennessee as the Ducks steamrolled their way to a decisive win. Mariota is leading an Oregon offense that is putting up ludicrous numbers and that will continue to until it faces a team with a pulse. It doesn’t hit the meat of its schedule until October, so for the next few weeks, fans will get to enjoy ogling at the Oregon stat lines as it pummels its opposition. He may have better stats than some of his competition, but the three above him each have a signature win against a legitimate opponent. Until he wills his team to a win the way the top three have, none of his stats will matter.
5. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater (Jr.)
The Cardinals had a tougher time against Kentucky than most expected. Bridgewater had solid numbers but he needs spectacular numbers. And Louisville can’t afford to be beating average teams by 14 points. If it wants to be in the national title hunt, it needs to be better, and if Bridgewater wants to have a case for the Heisman, then he needs to produce. A win is still a win, and it was on the road, but Kentucky won two games last season. Louisville won 11. It can’t be sweating out wins over teams like that. There is no question that both Bridgewater and Louisville have talent, but both will need to perform better if they want to be relevant in December.