UConn QB Bryant Shirreffs vs. Memphis (Friday) -- Dare to dream with us? Admittedly, there’s no track record to back Shirreffs prior to this year. (a 7/6 TD/INT last season, a 9/8 TD/INT ratio in 2015). Can’t change the past, though, only the future. Shirreffs has thrown for a combined 814 yards in the past two games. Granted, against ECU and SMU. Shirreffs has also thrown for at least two touchdowns in each of his last three games. Memphis offers a juicy opportunity for the suddenly resurgent redshirt junior, having surrendered at least three touchdowns to quarterbacks McKenzie Milton (UCF on Saturday), Sam Straub (Southern Illinois) and Josh Rosen (UCLA). Garrett Smith of UL-Monroe is the only quarterback they've faced who did not hit that three-touchdown mark in one way or another, but that was played in a torrential downpour.
Middle Tennessee State QB John Urzua vs. FIU -- Regular Blue Raiders starter Brent Stockstill is a near-lock to put up huge numbers in just about every game when right, but Stockstill has missed three straight games courtesy of a cracked sternum and separated collarbone. Enter John Urzua, who has played up-and-down ball in his place. Urzua was picked twice in his starting debut against Minnesota, but since that rocky beginning he has improved each of the past two games, throwing for 290 yards and two touchdowns against Bowling Green last weekend before turning up the heat to roast FAU (in a losing effort) for 359 yards and two touchdowns. He was also intercepted three times by the Owls, but there’s plenty of upside for stats, here, especially if WR Richie James can return from a high ankle sprain.
Florida RB Malik Davis vs. LSU -- Davis, a four-star true freshman, received almost no love early in the season even with Jordan Scarlett out on a fraud-based suspension. His story takes a welcome turn, though, as he has seen a combined 38 carries in wins over Kentucky and Vanderbilt the past two games. He’s spun those into 217 yards rushing, including a season-best 124 yards (plus two touchdowns) against Vandy on Saturday. A few hours after the Gators performed their barrel roll, LSU went out and surrendered 191 yards rushing to Troy’s Jordan Chunn. That came just two Saturdays after Mississippi State’s Aeris Williams marched his way to 146 yards versus the Tigers. Davis still has to compete for carries with sophomore Lamical Perine -- who scored three times, himself, against Vanderbilt -- but that’s not of huge concern. The Tigers have looked listless this season and Florida has been showing signs that their offense might kind of be OK. Davis is ready for his spotlight.
Notre Dame RB Josh Adams vs. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels proved powerless to stop Georgia Tech’s triple-option on Saturday, with both KirVonte Benson and TaQuon Marshall walking over them with 100-plus yards on the ground. Adams and company might not be a triple-option outfit, but he’ll do the trick anyway. At least, if his health holds out. He was held out of the second half against Michigan State in Week 4 with a stiff ankle and then injured his leg against Miami (OH) on Saturday. The latter injury kept him out for the final three quarters, but you really only need one really good quarter for it all to look tidy on the stat sheet, and Adams rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns in his very, very limited work against the Redhawks. He is not a guarantee to take the field versus UNC, but if he’s healthy enough to play, Adams has surpassed 150 yards rushing in three of five games this season.
Arkansas WR Jonathan Nance vs. South Carolina -- Nance caught a pair of touchdowns on Saturday against New Mexico State and has now scored in three consecutive games as the Razorbacks try their best to piece together a passing attack with a painfully thin receiving corp. The Gamecocks aren’t going to throw a wrench into the gears. They’ve done fine work limiting opposing receivers in places -- Christian Kirk managed just 13 yards on Saturday -- but impermeable against the pass they are not, as Louisiana Tech’s Teddy Veal (10-110-1) and NC State’s Kelvin Harmon (10 catches for 114 yards) could attest to.
Memphis WR Anthony Miller vs. UConn -- We already highlighted the Huskies leading off with Mr. Bryant Shirreffs. Let’s even things out with Mr. Anthony Miller of Memphis. Cue the red alert for a sneaky entertaining game. As oddly successful as Shirreffs has been in leading UConn’s offense over the last two games, the Huskies secondary has been just as awful (which, itself, has led to some of Shirreffs' success simply due to passing necessity). Like remarkably awful. They’ve now twice allowed 100 yards receiving to multiple wideouts in a game, most recently in the form of Courtland Sutton and Trey Quinn pulling off the feat in SMU’s win on Saturday. Miller has been quiet outside of the 9-185-2 fireworks show he put on against UCLA two weeks ago. Similar loud numbers coming in this one. Get your earmuffs ready.
Washington State WR Tavares Martin Jr. vs. Oregon -- While the Ducks’ defense has played markedly better than they did last season, we must remember that the mark they were trying to surpass was as low as low can be. They are still plenty suspect and so long as Mike Leach’s Cougar squad doesn’t enjoy the Palouse too much following their upset of USC, they possess the kind of offense that’s going to pick a young Oregon secondary apart. Among the wideouts to impress against the boys from Eugene, Cal’s Kanawai Noa (7-126-1 on Saturday), ASU’s N’Keal Harry (7-170-1 the week prior) and Nebraska’s Stanley Morgan (7-103-2 two weekends before that). That’s the entirety of Oregon’s Power 5 competition to date, by the by. Martin has caught six touchdown passes in his last three games.
Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson vs. Auburn -- Two weeks in a row in this space, unfortunately for Patterson. He was utterly overmatched against Alabama on Saturday (which, hey, it happens), throwing two interceptions and managing just 162 yards passing. The Tide washes over everybody that way. The Rebs now must hit the road -- from Tuscaloosa -- to take on possibly the second-best team in the SEC in Auburn (we said “possibly,” UGA faithful). The Tigers have yet to allow more than 17 points in a game, and that includes contests against Clemson and Mississippi State. These are just two ships passing in the night. Completely opposite directions. It’s hard to trust Patterson against legit SEC competition.
Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur vs. Georgia -- Let us stick in the SEC to focus on the Shurmurnator. Like our aforementioned BFF-of-the-moment Bryant Shirreffs, Shurmur does not have a track record of note behind him, but while he owned a 9/10 TD/INT ratio in 13 games last season, Shurmur has upped his game with an 11/1 TD/INT ratio in five games this time around, three of which saw him pass for at least three touchdown passes and four with at least one. The lone outlier? Oh, look at that, it’s Alabama again. The Tide held Shurmur to a silly 18 yards passing (long toss of eight yards) two weeks ago. All of that is real life. We don’t see the Bulldogs wrecking his life quite that badly, but wrecking his life nonetheless. UGA has held all-comers to under 20 points this season and is fresh off a 41-0 road blanking of Tennessee.
Michigan State RB LJ Scott vs. Michigan -- A wilderness season for Scott so far. Last year, he posted six games of at least 95 yards rushing. He’s still looking for his first with even 90 this time around. He hasn’t really shown many signs of potential life, either, as Saturday’s 28-yard performance against Iowa was his worst of the season. Big brother over in Ann Arbor had a bye this weekend, but prior to Saturday’s slate, they were leading the country against the run in allowing a smidge over 69 yards on the ground on average. Alabama can’t be the best at everything (just second-best in this case). It wouldn't surprise if Scott is held to fewer than 55 yards on Saturday.
Missouri RB Damarea Crockett vs. Kentucky -- Just one month ago, Crockett helped Mizzou destroy Missouri State with 202 yards rushing and two touchdowns. That feels like it occurred several historical ages ago with the way Missouri’s season has darkened by several shades in the interim. Crockett would back that huge opening performance with a respectable 97 yards against South Carolina the next week before everything stopped working. In the last two games combined (against Purdue and Auburn) he has rushed for 76 yards. We hit on the prowess of the country’s best rushing defenses in Michigan and Alabama one item above. Kentucky is next up on that list. They’re surrendering 70 yards a game.
Notre Dame WR Equanimeous St. Brown vs. North Carolina -- As talented as St. Brown is as an individual player, this probably isn’t the best Irish offense for his skills. At least not right now. Since losing to Georgia on September 9, QB Brandon Wimbush has not attempted more than 25 passes in a game. Wimbush has been held under 120 yards in two of three games since that narrow defeat. Until Notre Dame shifts from their run-run-run mentality -- and frankly, they shouldn’t -- St. Brown is not going to see a statistical blossoming. He has yet to catch more than four passes in a game this season.
Alabama WR Calvin Ridley vs. Texas A&M -- Ridley remains Bama’s best receiving option, but after an encouraging start to the season (80 yards and a touchdown in two of the first three games), he has yet to build toward a season befitting of his name value. He’s been held to 60 or fewer receiving yards in three of five games this year and has failed to score a touchdown in three of his last four contests. Viewing him as a cog in the machine, rather than the crank turning the gears, is not particularly fun, but that’s really the role that Ridley has taken on with the team. He’s a very, very shiny cog, to be sure.
Colorado WR Shay Fields vs. Arizona -- After opening the season with a combined 188 receiving yards in wins over Colorado State and Texas State, Fields has trailed off considerably. In his last three games, he has managed a total receiving line of just 14-110-1. The catch-number is fine. The rest of it, less impressive. The Buffs have scraped up just 33 points in losses to Washington and UCLA over the last two Saturdays. Arizona is not on Washington’s level defensively, but they’ve played impressively in their own right (just 22.25 points allowed on average) and they’re a fair sight better than the Bruins. Though that could be said of most defensive units.