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The hottest, the best and the brightest from Week 9 of the 2015 college football season.
The Broncos have rebounded from a rocky September that included a Week 2 blowout loss to Georgia Southern, winning their last four games. The balanced offense is rolling, with unexpected help from rookie RB Jamauri Bogan, and head coach P.J. Fleck is once again generating talk about a future promotion. WMU is deadlocked with ranked Toledo in the MAC West, with a showdown between the two looming at the end of the month.
Washington LB Travis Feeney
The Huskies were pining for a win in Week 9, needing to bounce back from consecutive losses to Oregon and Stanford. They got that victory against Arizona, 49-3, led by a dominant performance from Feeney and the rest of the defense. The senior continues to play his way into NFL scouts’ minds, racking up a game-high 11 tackles, 4.5 stops for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup.
Louisville OLB Trevon Young
In Young, the Cardinals mined a gem from Iowa Western Community College that’s only begun to scratch the surface of his considerable potential. The 6-5, 237-pound junior has always possessed the burst and the get-off of an elite pass rusher. But he’s now combining that natural ability with improved technique, resulting in 8.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in just the last three games. Young is a perfect fit for the 3-4 Louisville D.
Texas A&M QB Kyler Murray
The Murray era in College Station has begun. And if Saturday against South Carolina was any indication, it might not come to an end for another three years. The true freshman was as prolific as advertised in his debut as the starter, completing 20-of-28 for 223 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 156 yards and another score. Murray is mature, a great fit for the offense and only going to get better with more reps in the system.
The Cowboys are an imperfect squad. And their ceiling will be determined by what happens in November, when TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State visit Stillwater. But this program deserves a ton of credit for rallying from 17 down—three separate times—to avoid a landmine in Lubbock. After trailing Texas Tech, 31-14, early in the second quarter, Oklahoma State finished on a 56-22 tear to get through the season’s first two months without a blemish.
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
For all of the—legitimate—debate over whether Hackenberg is overrated, he has quietly been tight over the last six games. Despite continuing to get tepid support form his blockers and receivers, he’s accounted for 13 touchdowns since Sept. 26 without throwing an interception. And in Saturday’s 39-0 whitewash of fading Illinois, Hackenberg went 21-of-29 for 266 yards, two touchdowns and no picks, while catching a 14-yard touchdown pass.
After passing by far their biggest test of the season, the Tar Heels appear to be the real deal, at least in terms of the ACC Coastal measuring stick. Carolina feasted on a soft early schedule, leaving behind a wake of doubters. But by outclassing Pitt at Heinz Field Thursday night, Larry Fedora’s kids are 7-1, haven’t lost since opening night and are gathering believers. And the win sets the stage for this weekend’s biggest Duke-Carolina football game in generations.
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
There were some rocky moments and picks in the first half of the year, but Watson has settled down and begun to play like one of the best young hurlers in America. He’s been dynamite in the Tigers’ last two games, shredding NC State for six touchdowns Saturday on an afternoon that his team’s D was unusually generous. Watson has everything except titles that a coach wants in a quarterback, but the hardware could start arriving a little over a month from now in Charlotte.
The Gators’ remarkable turnaround season under first-year head coach Jim McElwain continued with a wire-to-wire suffocation of rival Georgia in Jacksonville. A year after going 7-5 and firing Will Muschamp, Florida seized control of the SEC East with Saturday’s 27-3 rout. The Gators will be heavily favored to be 10-1 by the time Florida State visits on Nov. 28. And the way the D is performing, no goal, from an SEC title to a playoff berth, is out of reach at this point.