Most exciting players to watch in Week 10 of the college football season

By Jesse Reed

There are many compelling college football games on the Week 10 schedule and even more exciting players set to compete that will determine the outcome.

As we approach the winter months and the weather turns colder, these players are heating up.

Carl Nassib will try and corral a Wildcat

It’s going to be interesting to see if Nassib has any success Saturday against Northwestern, which features dual-threat freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson. He’s been sacked just 11 times all year. Meanwhile, Nassib comes into the game with 14.5 sacks already to lead the nation and has at least one sack in every game this season.

Nassib certainly possesses enough speed and athleticism to chase down mobile quarterbacks. It’ll be fun to watch him try and haul Thorson to the turf at Ryan Field Saturday. You can catch the action starting at noon ET on ESPNU.

Trio of Golden Domers carrying the Irish

The No. 5-ranked Fighting Irish are on the road to face Pittsburgh, and the action starts at noon ET on ABC.

Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer has been unbelievably clutch for Notre Dame this year. His favorite target is receiver Will Fuller, who hasn’t gotten a ton of national media love even though he’s averaging more than 20 yards per reception and has nine touchdowns.

On defense, watch out for linebacker Jaylon Smith. With 111 total tackles, nine for a loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble, Smith can — and does — do it all for the Irish.

Christian McCaffrey has some catching up to do

Christian McCaffrey Stanford

It’s kind of crazy to think 133 total yards was considered a “down week” for Stanford (No. 11) running back Christian McCaffrey. Yet his Heisman hopeful glow lessened last week when he failed to produce his signature jumbo platter of receiving yards against Washington State.

Tune in Saturday early afternoon if you get the Pac-12 Network, because McCaffrey should go off in a big way against a Colorado defense that allows an average of 201.6 rushing yards per game. He’ll devour the Buffaloes on his way to a huge performance — one that should remind us all why he was considered Heisman hopeful in the first place.

Double-dip at Death Valley

Florida State (No. 16) is on the road against Clemson (No. 1) Saturday afternoon. This ACC rivalry game, being shown on ABC starting at 3:30 p.m. ET, could end up being the most exciting game on the Week 10 schedule. The implications of the overall outcome will be felt nationally.

For Clemson, it’s all about Deshaun Watson. If he puts on another show like last weekend’s six-touchdown performance against North Carolina State, then it’s hard to imagine Florida State has enough firepower offensively to keep up. The dual-threat quarterback has scored once on the ground in four of the last five games for the Tigers and shows tremendous touch on deep passes down the field.

On the other side, keep an eye out for FSU running back Dalvin Cook. Leonard Fournette (featured shortly), certainly deserves all the media attention he receives, but Cook might be the better pro prospect and overall running back.

Cook missed last weekend’s game with a nagging ankle injury, which is “healing up” nicely, per head coach Jimbo Fisher (h/t Averaging 8.2 yards per carry, he has 1,218 yards combined yards and 12 touchdowns in seven games.

Another level of intrigue is the pending decision of Fisher, who must choose the hot hand of Sean Maguire over the experience of Everett Golson. Given the way Clemson scores (40 points per game), it seems like Maguire is the smart choice.

Two Horned Frogs for the price of one

TCU (No. 8) is on the road to take on Big 12 rival Oklahoma State (No. 14). Both programs have yet to lose in 2015, so the action, starting at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, should be heated from the beginning. Between them, the Horned Frogs and Cowboys average almost 93 points a game.

Leading the way for TCU is dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin, who is seriously giving Heisman favorite Fournette a run for his money. He’s No. 5 in the nation in passing yards (2,927), has another 524 yards on the ground and has totaled 34 touchdowns (28 passing and six rushing).

Much of his success through the air is due to the fine play of wide receiver Josh Doctson, who is not only one of the top receivers in the nation but who also appears to have a bright future ahead of him as a pro. Doctson already has 71 catches on the books for 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns.

As an added bonus, Oklahoma State’s offense features a two-headed monster at the quarterback position. Sophomore Mason Rudolph and senior J.W. Walsh will both see plenty of action, with Rudolph as the primary passer and Walsh acting as a change of pace. Walsh’s effectiveness can clearly be seen with his 16 total touchdowns in just 58 total snaps of action (h/t

Houston’s shining star, Greg Ward Jr. 

Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. is the reason Houston (No. 25)  is still undefeated and showing up in the national rankings. A true dual-threat passer, Ward has totaled 2,665 yards and 27 touchdowns. He’s the second-leading rusher for the Cougars and is featured in one way or another on most offensive plays.

Ward will need to be sharp on Saturday when Houston hosts Cincinnati, which has been a formidable opponent to every team on the schedule thus far. Another outstanding showing by the junior quarterback will be needed to keep the Cougars on the winning track.

Two quarterbacks clashing when Navy visits Memphis

Courtesy of USA Today Images

The quarterback most will recognize in this battle is Tigers junior Paxton Lynch, who has attracted the interest of scouts at the next level. At 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, He’s shown off an outstanding arm this season leading Memphis to an undefeated record.

Accuracy is a valued commodity — both at the college and NFL levels — and Lynch has it (70.2 percent completion rate). Combined with his 18-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and his ability to scramble for positive gains, Lynch is opening eyes this year.

On the other side, Navy’s Keenan Reynolds has a chance to break the NCAA career rushing touchdowns mark on Saturday. He scored twice on the ground last weekend to bring his career total up to 77, tying Wisconsin’s Montee Ball for the all-time lead.

Two contrasting styles will be on display, and it should be entertaining to see who comes out on top. Both teams have but one loss between them, so nobody should expect a blowout by Memphis as the Tigers attempt to remain undefeated at home. The game starts at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

 Leonard Fournette vs. Derrick Henry

The stakes couldn’t be higher for either team when LSU (No. 2) battles Alabama (No. 4) at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night (CBS at 8 p.m. ET). The winner has the inside track on a top-four finish and a spot in the College Football Playoffs. The loser has practically no chance of such an honor, and it likely won’t have a shot at the SEC Championship Game, either.

Both teams feature running backs who make spectacular plays on a weekly basis.

LSU’s Fournette is the leading Heisman candidate heading into Week 10. Leading the nation in rushing, he’s averaging 193 yards and over two rushing scores per game — despite missing a game in Week 1 when a lightning storm caused a cancelation.

Henry has been coming on strong for the Crimson Tide, averaging 155.5 yards the past four games, during which time he scored six touchdowns. He has 14 touchdowns on the season and will be utilized heavily as Alabama attempts to become the first team to defeat LSU this year.

Ezekiel Elliott with a worthy test in Minnesota’s run defense

Thanks to some poor decision-making by quarterback J.T. Barrett, Ohio State is back where it started, with Cardale Jones as the starter.

This means Ezekiel Elliott should get plenty of chances to make big plays with his feet as the Buckeyes’ primary offensive weapon. The junior running back is ranked No. 5 in the nation with 1,130 rushing yards (6.8 yards per carry), and he has taken the ball into the end zone 13 times.

Elliott could find yards hard to come by against the Golden Gophers, however. Minnesota is allowing just 3.9 yards per attempt this year and has allowed 10 rushing scores — not exactly a brick wall, but these numbers show strength up the middle.

One exciting potential development in this game could be the return of Braxton Miller at quarterback. He’s the backup to Jones this week, and if Jones struggles again like he did before getting benched, then Miller could be called into action. Apparently he’s been “on fire” at practice this week leading up to the game.

The Buckeyes (No. 3) are hosting the Golden Gophers on Saturday night at Ohio Stadium. The game starts at 8 p.m. ET and is being broadcast nationally on ABC.