For much of Saturday, college football went chalk. Washington State’s Friday night victory over USC seemed like it would set the stage for an insane Saturday. However, Mississippi State and LSU — ranked 24 and 25 coming into the week — were the only top-25 teams to lose. Everyone else took care of business. Here are 14 players who helped them do so.
Renard Bell, wide receiver, Washington State
Bell had just three receptions in the Cougars’ upset victory over USC, yet he led his team with 101 receiving yards. Most of that came on one catch — a 61-yarder late in the first quarter. Bell’s big play set up a Tavares Martin touchdown, which put Washington State up early in the game. We shouldn’t lose sight of its importance.
Suli Tamaivena, linebacker, Utah State
Utah State quietly pulled an upset over BYU on Friday night while everyone else was watching USC-Washington State. Tamaivena had a massive game, putting up 13 tackles against the Aggies’ in-state rivals. The junior came over via JUCO transfer this summer. Looks like he made the right decision.
Michael Pinckney, linebacker, Miami
The Hurricanes were facing some questions as they traveled to Duke on Friday night. Consider those questions answered. Not only did they put up 31 points on the road, but Miami held Duke to just six points, and Pinckney was a big reason why. Pinckney had 10 tackles, five of them solo, 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. You couldn’t dream up a better game than that.
D.J. Moore, wide receiver, Maryland
There’s a temptation when discussing the Terrapins to credit the entire offense to running back Ty Johnson, especially with a third-string quarterback under center. However, Moore had a performance to be proud of in Maryland’s victory over Minnesota on Saturday. The junior put up eight receptions for 90 yards. Not only did that help quarterback Max Bortenschlager get his legs under him, it made Minnesota respect the pass, allowing Johnson to run wild.
Jordan Sherit, defensive lineman, Florida
The Gators had just one sack, but they bothered Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur all day. Sherit was a big reason why. Though he had just two tackles on the day, Sherit let Florida with five quarterback hurries. He was the only player on either side with more than three hurries. If Shurmur sees a ghost at any point this week, it will be wearing No. 17.
Dorian O’Daniel, linebacker, Clemson
You could slot in any Clemson defender here after the Tigers dominated Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. O’Daniel got the nod over everyone else. Not only did he make 10 tackles, one for a loss, and get a sack, but O’Daniel also sealed the game for Clemson with a pick-six in the fourth quarter. He had one of the best games of any defensive player this week.
DaeSean Hamilton, wide receiver, Penn State
It feels odd to call Hamilton — who led the Nittany Lions with 122 receiving yards and scored three times — an unsung hero. However, with Saquon Barkley taking up all of the attention, it feels worth pointing out just how well Hamilton played on Saturday. He was the only Penn State receiver with more than four receptions. Hamilton’s receiving yardage was also nearly double that of any other player on the team.
Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia
The junior linebacker had his best game of the year as the Bulldogs dominated Tennessee to the tune of 41-0 on Saturday. His 11 tackles — six solo — led the team by a huge margin. No other Georgia player had over four. Give Smith some credit for helping keep the shutout intact.
Danny Davis III, wide receiver, Wisconsin
Davis had just three receptions in the Badgers’ win over Northwestern, but they were pretty impactful. The first went for 32 yards and put Wisconsin in the red zone. The second was a touchdown on the same drive. Those came at a point in the third quarter where the Badgers were up by just four points. Davis was a huge reason they were able to get some momentum and put the Wildcats away.
Montavious Atkinson, junior, Auburn
The Tigers seem to have turned a page on their season in the last few weeks after getting handled by Clemson. However, the defense has been great from the beginning. It hasn’t given up more than 14 points in a game yet this season. Next time you flip to an Auburn game, take a look at Atkinson. Against Mississippi State on Saturday, he had a season-high seven tackles along with a quarterback hurry and 0.5 tackles for loss.
Marcell Ateman, wide receiver, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys were on their heels Saturday against Texas Tech. Ateman helped bail them out. Not only did he have six receptions for 114 yards, but the senior made arguably the game’s biggest play. With Oklahoma State facing third down on their own 26-yard line, Ateman made a 26-yard catch. The Cowboys didn’t face third down again, as quarterback Mason Rudolph led a game-winning drive.
Tariq Thompson, safety, San Diego State
The Aztecs have their sights set on being the Group of Five’s representative at the New Year’s Six games. Northern Illinois nearly ended that dream before it got off the ground on Saturday. Perhaps it would have if not for Thompson. The freshman safety had two interceptions of Daniel Santacaterina — a pick-six in the second quarter and the game-winning interception in the fourth. In a six-point win, those two plays were the margin of victory.
Marcus Jones, cornerback, Troy
Winning on the road at Tiger Stadium is no small feat and Jones made one of he game’s biggest plays. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the Trojans hanging onto a 10-point lead and LSU driving, Jones intercepted Myles Brennan. That led to a Troy touchdown, giving them a 24-7 lead that would ultimately prove decisive. On top of the pick, Jones was also had a team-high eight tackles.
Alex Barnes, running back, Kansas State
Quarterback Jesse Ertz led K-State in rushing yards. However, Barnes pitched in with a nice contribution of his own. He went for 80 yards on just 13 carries. If you’re counting, that’s 6.1 yards per attempt. The Wildcats were able to run the ball at will against Baylor whether it was Barnes or Ertz carrying it. Ultimately, the run game was what carried them to victory.