Photo courtesy of Ohio State athletics
Starting this week, we will be writing a weekly feature that will present the top statistical performers across college football on offense, defense, and special teams.
Week 8 of the college football season brought the long awaited return of the Big Ten, as well as the return of Mountain West conference play. This week featured four top-25 match-ups and three of those games provided a player that is on this weeks list.
The American Athletic Conference leads the charge this week as they feature six players on this weeks list of top performers. UCF and Memphis both featured two different players, which puts them at the top of the list this week.
All eight conferences that are actively playing have players mentioned, as well as two Independent schools (Notre Dame and BYU). Here are the top five statistical performers for each offensive category:
QB Dillon Gabriel, UCF
Gabriel continued his impressive season this week as he threw for 422 yards and five touchdowns while completing 26 of his 40 attempts (65%) in a 51-34 win over Tulane. He has now thrown for 400 yards and four touchdowns in four games this season. Gabriel stands as the current FBS leader in completions (148), passing yards (2,178), and passing touchdowns (19) this season.
QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Willis completed 24 of his 31 attempts (77.4%) for 345 yards and six touchdowns through the air in a 56-35 win over Southern Mississippi. He also added 94 yards and a touchdown on the ground on 12 rushing attempts. Willis finished with a 234.8 passer rating and is the third quarterback to throw six touchdown passes in a game this season, joining Florida’s Kyle Trask and Memphis’ Brady White.
QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
In his first game of 2020, Fields continued his dominance from last season as he threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns on 20 of 21 attempts. The 95.2 completion percentage in this game is higher than any recorded percentage from last season, where he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. Fields also recorded a touchdown and 54 yards on the ground on 15 rushing attempts.
QB Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Making his first career college start, Mertz started the game with 17 consecutive completions which tied the school record. He would finish with a 273.0 passer rating, 248 passing yards, and five passing touchdowns in a 45-7 win over Illinois. His 95.2 completion percentage in the game set a new school record for the Badgers.
QB Carson Strong, Nevada
In his first game this season, Strong played a big part in the Wolf Pack’s 37-34 overtime victory over Wyoming. He threw for 420 yards and four touchdowns, including the overtime winner to Romeo Doubs. The four passing touchdowns is a career-high and more than he threw in his first five games last season.
RB Javian Hawkins, Louisville
Hawkins played a big role in the Cardinals’ 48-16 win over Florida State on Saturday. He rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 16 attempts. He now has 150-plus rushing yards in three games this season — the most by a Louisville player since Lamar Jackson had five such games in 2017. His longest run came on a 70-yard touchdown in the first quarter. That score put the Cardinals ahead for good.
QB Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Ridder is the lone quarterback on this list and for good reason. He rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns on just eight attempts in a 42-13 rout of SMU. He gained a large portion of his yardage on a 91-yard touchdown late in the game. Ridder became the first quarterback to rush for 175-plus yards and three touchdowns on 10 attempts or fewer since Minnesota’s Demry Croft completed the feat in 2017.
RB Javonte Williams, UNC
Williams ran right through NC State’s defense as he rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns on 19 attempts in a 48-21 victory. He is the just the third Tar Heel to have 160 or more rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in a single game since 2000. Elijah Hood (2016) and Ronnie McGill (2003) are the other two UNC players to accomplish this feat since 2000.
RB Breece Hall, Iowa State
This week’s leader in rushing yards was Breece Hall, who rushed for 185 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 loss to Oklahoma State. Hall now has rushed for at least 100 yards and a touchdown in five consecutive games to start the season. He only had two such games all last season. Hall currently leads the country currently in such games this season.
RB Sincere McCormick, UTSA
The 200-pound Roadrunner ran all over Louisiana Tech with 165 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on 37 attempts. The 37 carries are most by a Conference USA player since UAB’s Jordan Howard had 39 attempts in a 2014 game against Marshall. McCormick now has three games this season with 150 rushing yards and a touchdown. That’s the most by a UTSA player since Jarveon Williams had three such games in 2015. UTSA needed all of those yards in a 27-26 win.
WR Mike Harley, Miami
Harley started this week’s 19-14 win over Virginia with a bang, catching a 43-yard touchdown on the second play of the game. He would finish the game with 170 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions. Harley almost doubled his receiving yardage for the season in this game. He only had a total of 174 receiving yards over his first five games. He becomes the first Miami player to have 170 receiving yards in a game since Phillip Dorsett had 201 yards in a 2014 win over Arkansas State.
WR Kawaan Baker, South Alabama
Baker represents the Sun Belt this week as he caught six passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe. His 25.7 yards per reception was the most this week among those who had at least five receptions. He is the first Sun Belt player with 150 or more receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns, and 25 yards per reception since Kerry Wright completed the feat for Middle Tennessee State in 2003.
WR Marlon Williams, UCF
Williams, along with quarterback Dillon Gabriel, was a huge part of UCF’s big offensive day against Tulane. He had nine receptions for 174 yards and three touchdowns, with the longest being a 54-yard score in the first quarter. Williams currently leads the country in receiving yards (753) and receiving yards per game (150.6). He has four games this season with 135-plus receiving yards. Williams becomes the first UCF player to do so since 2002 when Doug Gabriel also completed the feat four times.
WR David Bell, Purdue
In Purdue’s first game of the season, Bell tallied 121 yards and three touchdowns on 13 receptions. Bell scored on a 6-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter which ended up being the game-winner in a 24-20 victory over Iowa. He becomes just the third Big Ten player since 2000 to have 120 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the opening game of a season. He joins Rutgers’ Leonte Carroo (2015) and Northwestern’s Jonathan Fields (2004).
WR Calvin Austin III, Memphis
Austin had the most receiving yards in Week 8, pulling in six receptions for 184 yards and a touchdown. His longest catch came on a 65-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give Memphis the lead for good against Temple — a 41-29 win. Austin now has 150-plus receiving yards and a touchdowns in consecutive games. Austin is the first Memphis player to do so since Anthony Miller accomplished the feat in 2017.