By this point in the season, we all know the big names in college football. Even the most casual fan is familiar with the work that the Lucks, the Keenums, and the Richardsons are doing each week. They are the heavy hitters who get the country’s attention, and deservedly so. However, there are plenty of other lesser-known guys you may not have heard of who are also capable of putting up the big numbers each week. Here are a few not-so-household names who can make an impact this week.
Aaron Murray, Georgia—Overshadowed by others in the stacked SEC, Murray has consistently put up big stats for the Bulldogs en route to the top of the East division. The sophomore doesn’t always complete a lot of passes (22 is his season high), but when he does, he makes them count. He’s thrown at least two touchdowns in all but one game this year (his 27 TDs have broken Matt Stafford’s season school-record) while taking care of the ball with only 8 interceptions. Murray and the Dawgs took care of No. 20 Auburn easily last week, and face an even easier opponent in Kentucky this Saturday.
Brett Smith, Wyoming—Smith has been a very solid dual-threat quarterback for the Cowboys this season. Just a freshman, Smith hasn’t thrown an interception in the last 4 games while throwing 7 touchdowns. When Wyoming gets the ball down deep in opponents’ territory, there’s a pretty good chance Smith is going to run it: six of his eight rushing TDs have come in goal-to-go situations. The Cowboys get a favorable matchup with New Mexico this week who are second-to-last in points allowed with 42.4 per game.
Derek Carr, Fresno State—Although Fresno State has lost their last three in a row, Carr has certainly been doing his part to help win games. Carr has thrown three touchdowns in each of those losses, totaling 21 TDs to only 7 INTs for the season. The sophomore’s 2,661 passing yards are good for the second in the WAC, only trailing the team’s upcoming opponent, Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz. Look for Carr to continue to keep up with Moniz in this potential late-night shootout.
Cyrus Gray, Texas A&M—Gray showed the team what he can do as the team’s consensus number one back this past week against Kansas State. With Christine Michael out for the season, he received a season-high 30 carries and made the most of every one of them, exploding for 218 yards and two touchdowns during the 4 overtime loss to the Wildcats. It was the fifth time the senior has gone over 100 yards this season and now has 951 yards and 9 TDs for the Aggies. Now the featured RB, Gray will likely feast on the worst-ranked defense in the country, Kansas, this Saturday. The Jayhawks sit dead last in both yards allowed (537.7 per game) and points allowed (44 per game).
Kenny Turner, New Mexico State—Turner is an offensive monster for the Aggies. He leads the team in rushing with 799 yards and 9 touchdowns, and he is second on the team with 42 receptions. He has rushed for a touchdown in seven straight games, including three last week in a win over Fresno State. A week ago against Georgia, the junior caught 8 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield. Seemingly able to do it any way, it’s a good bet that Turner will exploit either the ground or air defense, or both, this week against BYU.
Jasmin Hopkins, Northern Illinois—Hopkins doesn’t always put up the biggest rushing yardage, but he certainly makes up for it with touchdowns. Though he’s only averaging 59.6 yards in his last three games, the senior has put up five TDs in that span and 13 for the season. The yardage won’t always be there because of the way dual-threat QB Chandler Harnish dominates the ball, but there appears to be plenty of scoring left for Hopkins to get his fair share. Hopkins and the Huskies look to continue to score in big waves Tuesday night against a Ball State D giving up 33 points a game.
Nick Harwell, Miami (OH)—Harwell went crazy last week against a very good Temple defense, going for 229 yards on 15 catches in 24-21 a loss. The sophomore is already no stranger to big-time stats, having already put up a 219-yard performance last year against Ohio. Harwell has gone for over 100 yards receiving in seven out of the nine games he’s played in this year, averaging 154.7 yards in those contests. If Harwell can have that offensive output against a tough Temple D, there should be no reason he can’t have another big game against a Western Michigan team that gave up 66 points to Toledo last week.
Titus Davis, Central Michigan—If the freshman was just getting used to the college scene early in the season, he seems to be quite comfortable now. After having a so-so start to the year, he has come on very strong in the last two games. It started with a 10-catch, 192-yard, 2 TD performance last week against Kent State, and followed it up with a 6-catch, 110-yard, 2 TD game this week. If the youngster has truly gotten the jitters out, then he should be set up for another big game against Toledo this week. Toledo has given up 63 (!) points in each of its last two games.
Eric Page, Toledo—Just for fun, we’ll keep it in the MAC for all three receivers this week. Page is the far-and-away No. 1 receiver on Toledo’s quietly potent offense. The Rockets are 10th in the country in total offense (490 yards per game) and 8th in points scored (41.8 per game), so big numbers are there for the taking. Page is clearly the team’s go-to guy; his 85 catches are almost triple those of the next highest receiver with 30. The junior has racked up 882 yards and 9 touchdowns this year, with 5 of them coming in one game against Northern Illinois two weeks ago. Look for Page to pad his lead in the team’s receiving stats this week against Central Michigan. That was fun, right?
Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern—Dunsmore has been one of the country’s most productive tight ends this season. He ranks 5th in tight end receptions, 8th in receiving yards, and tied for 3rd in touchdown grabs. The senior had an unreal game three weeks ago against Indiana in which he had 7 catches, four of which were TDs. Dunsmore is second on the team in the every receiving category, and should continue to just be a solid pass-catcher for the Wildcats when they face a Minnesota defense that gave up 4 touchdowns through the air last week.
Gavin Escobar, San Diego State—SDSU is another team that utilizes its tight end well. At 6’6, 245 pounds, Escobar is not just a red-zone type of scorer. Three of his five touchdowns (most on the team) have come from outside the opponents’ 20, so he can get out there and move. The sophomore is averaging over 4 catches a game and has racked up 404 yards for the Aztecs this year.