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1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Last Game: 187 passing yards, 6 TDs, & 1 INT in win at Syracuse
Outlook: Not only must preseason favorites win early, but also they simultaneously need to produce major statistical output. Barkley’s two for two. The Trojans are dominating, averaging 45.5 points per contest, and Barkley’s already thrown 10 touchdowns in just two games.
2. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Last Game: 128 total yards & 2 TDs in win vs. Fresno State
Outlook: The SEC likes to brag about their speed, and rightfully so, but I’m not sure there’s a faster player in college football than Thomas. The playmaking sophomore is off to a strong start with 247 total yards on just 18 offensive touches. That’s an average of nearly 14 yards per touch.
3. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Last Game: 323 passing yards, 65 rushing yards, & 5 TDs (1 rushing) in win vs. Marshall
Outlook: I left Smith off my list of 10 preseason candidates because I simply don’t expect a former Big East team to contend in their first season of Big 12 football. It’s still early, but I’m already beginning to doubt my decision. Smith was brilliant in dicing up in-state rival Marshall for 388 yards of offense and five total touchdowns.
4. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Last Game: 70 rushing yards & 2 TDs in win at Central Michigan
Outlook: Bell received a modest 18 carries in Michigan State’s blowout victory over CMU. The Spartans were clearly preserving him just one week removed from a spectacular 50-touch performance. That night on a national stage, Bell out gained the entire Boise State offense 265-206 in a 17-13 victory. We could be looking at this year’s Monte Ball.
5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Last Game: 242 passing yards, 3 TDs, & 1 INT in win at Missouri
Outlook: After a rough start against SEC newcomer Missouri, the Bulldogs played well down the stretch, scoring 32 second-half points. The offense received a much-needed assist from LB Jarvis Jones and a swarming Georgia defense, but the big picture remains looking up, as Murray can pad his stats next week versus Florida Atlantic.
6. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Last Game: 40 rushing yards & 1 TD in win versus East Carolina
Outlook: Returning from a season-ending ACL injury, Lattimore put on a show opening night. He ran for 110 yards and two scores in a 17-13 slugfest win over Vanderbilt. His name should remain in the spotlight, as he’s likely the most NFL-ready running back currently in college football.
7. Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma
Last Game: 156 rushing yards & 4 TDs in win versus Florida A&M
Outlook: QB Landry Jones doesn’t have Norman buzzing. Neither does WR Kenny Stills. It’s a junior-college transfer from Arizona Western that‘s the talk of town. Williams is off to a blazing start, scoring five touchdowns on only 19 carries. He led Oklahoma with four touchdowns in a blowout victory over Florida A&M.
On the Bubble
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan