RB Michael Carter, North Carolina
Or Javonte Williams for that matter. Carolina did unspeakable things on the ground against Miami. In fact, Williams and Carter set an NCAA record on Saturday for the most combined rushing yards in a single game by a pair of teammates. Both Tar Heels were spectacularly explosive, with Carter erupting for a personal-best 308 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas
Good things do come in small packages. Darden, for instance. He’s just 5-9 and 174 yards, but his production is consistently enormous. North Texas’ playmaking slot machine leads the nation in receiving touchdowns after ripping through the UTEP defense. In a win over UTEP Friday evening, Darden caught eight passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns, raising his season total to 19… in nine games.
RB Vincent Davis, Pitt
While it was a season of challenges, the Panthers ended it on a high note with a win over Georgia Tech to secure a winning record. Davis, in particular, will be carrying a head of steam into 2021 after delivering the best game of his two-year career. The shifty Fort Lauderdale native averaged almost 10 yards per carry in Atlanta, turning 25 carries into 247 yards and a touchdown.
WR Justin Hall, Ball State
For the first time in 12 years, Ball State is playing in the MAC Championship Game. If the Cardinals are going to beat Buffalo in Detroit Friday they’ll need to stop the run and feed their playmaking receivers. Like Hall. Ball State survived a wacky finish and rallied Saturday versus Western Michigan, as Hall caught 10 passes for 175 yards and a couple of touchdowns, including the game-tying strike from Drew Plitt.
QB Max Johnson, LSU
Florida’s Kyle Trask is setting records this year in Gainesville. Johnson outplayed him Saturday night… in Gainesville… as a true freshman… making his first career start. Considering the circumstances, the 6-5 lefty displayed tremendous poise while making a case to pilot the offense in 2021. Johnson helped engineer an upset of the No. 6 Gators, rushing for 52 yards and completing 21-of-36 for 239 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers.
WR Velus Jones, Tennessee
The Vols have decided to feature Jones more the past two weeks, and he’s thanking the staff with a flurry of big plays. The former blue-chipper from Mobile, who began his career at USC, is beginning to flash in Knoxville. Jones scored his first touchdown with the program last week versus Florida, and then posted a career-best seven receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns this past weekend against Vanderbilt.
QB Chance Nolan, Oregon State
In just the second game of his career, Nolan earned the top Week 15 passing grade from Pro Football Focus. That’s the kind of trajectory a young quarterback can build off heading into next season. Nolan was sharp throughout Saturday’s tough loss to Stanford, connecting on 17-of-30 throws for 221 yards and three touchdowns. He also showed versatility with 50 additional yards on the ground.
RB Dominic Richardson, Oklahoma State
When one door closes, another one opens. On the day Cowboy star Chuba Hubbard announced he was leaving for the NFL Draft, Richardson gave a glimpse of the future in Stillwater. Despite not even being listed on the three-deep against Baylor, he rushed for three scores and 169 yards, the most by an Oklahoma State true freshman since Thurman Thomas in 1984.
The Maxwell Football Club also honors the nation’s best defensive player with the Chuck Bednarik Award. Here’s a look at last week’s standout defenders.
LB Jack Campbell, Iowa
After stumbling out of the gate, Iowa is now one of America’s hottest teams. The Hawkeyes have offset an 0-2 start with six straight wins behind a D that’s held three opponents to seven points during the streak. On Saturday, Iowa handled rival Wisconsin, 28-7, holding the Badgers to 4-of-18 on third downs. The long and athletic Campbell is earning more reps, especially on passing downs. Despite playing just 23 snaps, Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked linebacker of Week 15 had four tackles, a stop for loss, a pick and three pass breakups.
SS Talanoa Hufanga, USC
It has not been easy, but Troy keeps finding ways to avoid its first loss of 2020. The 5-0 Trojans came back to beat rival UCLA Saturday night for their third win of five points or less. QB Kedon Slovis once again played big late, while Hufanga hammered the Bruins for a second straight year. The junior had 17 stops, including two for loss, a forced fumble and a pick that would have been a pick-six had it not been for an illegal block.
LB Carlton Martial, Troy
The Trojans put up a heck of an effort Saturday versus undefeated Coastal Carolina before falling painfully short. And Martial was everywhere on defense, as has often been the case throughout his Troy career. The instinctive junior with a knack for the ball racked up 21 tackles in the loss, including 2.5 for loss and a sack and a pick of Chanticleer QB Grayson McCall.
LB Durell Nchami, Maryland
Sometimes a loss overshadows a terrific individual effort. Nchami is a good case in point. His Terps fell in overtime to Rutgers. But the young outside linebacker gave glimpses of his considerable upside potential, while earning Pro Football Focus’ highest mark for an edge defender. All three of Nchami’s tackles were behind the line, including two sacks and two forced fumbles.
LB Nephi Sewell, Utah
Colorado’s unbeaten season is over. Rookie RB Ty Jordan was the offensive star in Boulder, while Sewell headlined a D that stuffed the nation’s 10th-ranked ground game. Sewell is a baller, going back to his days at Nevada and now with the Utes. In Saturday’s 38-21 win over the Buffs, the junior had 10 solo tackles, one for loss, a forced fumble, an interception and a pass breakup
.LB Mariano Sori-Marin, Minnesota
The Golden Gophers evened their record at 3-3 with a solid road win at Nebraska Saturday. Sori-Marin anchored a defense that shut down the Huskers for much of the afternoon, allowing just four passing first downs. The junior from Illinois doubled his previous high for tackles in a game, making 18 stops and forcing a fumble as Minnesota held on, 24-17.
DE Mike Tverdov, Rutgers
The record may say otherwise, but Rutgers has been a far more competitive team in Greg Schiano’s return to the program. The Scarlet Knights won their third Big Ten road game of 2020 by dominating Maryland at the line of scrimmage. Schiano’s D had 13 tackles for loss, including four from Tverdov, who also had two of his unit’s six sacks.
LB Garrett Wallow, TCU
The Horned Frogs are on a mini-role as the regular season nears an end. And Wallow continues to be one of the veteran leaders of Gary Patterson’s defense. The instinctive former safety continues to be a tackling machine in Fort Worth. In Saturday’s third win in a row, Wallow notched a team-high 13 stops, including 1.5 for loss and a sack, and also forced a fumble.
Must-See Week 16 Games
Oklahoma (7-2) vs. Iowa State (8-2)
Big 12 Championship – Arlington, Tex.
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET (ABC)
In a compelling clash of historical opposites, Oklahoma has won the last five Big 12 championships. Meanwhile, Iowa State’s last league title came before the pandemic… the 1918 one. The Cyclones have already beaten the Sooners once this year, 37-30, in Ames back on Oct. 3. But this game will be in neutral site Arlington with a lot more riding on the outcome. And dethroning the champ is never easy. Both schools are playing their best football, with neither losing in November. The defenses here are underrated and will present challenges to the quarterbacks, ISU’s Brock Purdy and OU’s Spencer Rattler.
Northwestern (6-1) vs. Ohio State (5-0)
Big Ten Championship – Indianapolis
Saturday, 12:00 ET (FOX)
Regardless of how many games Ohio State has played this year, it’s the team to beat in the Big Ten. And the conference’s last remaining hope to land a playoff berth. Standing in the talented Buckeyes’ way is Northwestern, which has used a stingy defense to rebound after going 3-9 a year ago. The Wildcats don’t have the firepower to trade points with QB Justin Fields and his array of playmaker. So, the upset bid will hinge on a D that’s allowing just 14.5 points per game. What Northwestern lacks in star power, it makes up for with sound fundamentals, particularly in the back seven.
Clemson (9-1) vs. Notre Dame (10-0)
ACC Championship - Charlotte
Saturday, 4:00 ET (ABC)
Notre Dame defeated Clemson, 47-40, on Nov. 7 in one of the games of 2020 so far. But that was in South Bend… and while rookie QB D.J. Uiagalelei played well in place of Trevor Lawrence, he’s not Lawrence. Can the Irish beat the Tigers again, but this time at a neutral site with No. 16 behind center? This shapes up as the most riveting matchup of Championship Weekend, with massive playoff implications. ND has upped its game since the Clemson win, avoiding a letdown against lesser opponents. Three weeks ago, the Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah-led D held high-powered North Carolina to its lowest output of the year… by far.
Florida (8-2) at Alabama (10-0)
SEC Championship - Atlanta
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET (CBS)
Can anyone stop the Alabama juggernaut? It’s not looking likely, at least during the regular season. The top-ranked Tide are on a wicked tear, winning the last six games by no less than four touchdowns. And while Maxwell Award semifinalists Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith have been headliners, Nick Saban’s defense has not yielded more than 17 points in a game dating back to mid-October. Here comes Florida, which will need a short memory after bowing to LSU, 37-34, at home and bowing out of the playoff picture. Kyle Trask, who leads the nation in touchdown passes, will need to outduel Jones for the Gators to have a shot in Atlanta.
For more information about PFF, please visit www.profootballfocus.com
The Maxwell and Bednarik Awards are members of the National College Football Awards Association(NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about the association.