This Week's Must-See Games, Who's Hot

October 19, 2017 by Rich Cirminiello, Maxwell Football Club

College Momentum from the Maxwell Football Club presents a list of must-see games this week that features the 2017 edition of the rivalry between USC and Notre Dame, plus highlights of performances from last week's games involving Maxwell and Bednarik Award candidates.

The two traditional powers clash on Saturday in South Bend for the 89th all-time meeting in the series which the Irish lead 46-37-5.

Note:'s Dave Congrove is a voting member of the Maxwell and Benarik award.

Must-See Games This Week

Oklahoma State at Texas - Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET (ABC)
A 12:00 p.m. start east coast time means a bright and early 11:00 a.m. kick-off in Austin. The Pokes and the Horns each have one conference loss, so could be a de facto Big 12 elimination game for both. It'll be a battle of contrasts when these two meet at Memorial Stadium. Led by QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill and a deep collection of pass-catchers, Oklahoma State leads the league in scoring at 48.8 points per game. Meanwhile, LB Malik Jefferson and Texas just got done holding Oklahoma to its lowest point total in more than a year.

Syracuse at Miami (Fla.) - Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Unbeaten Miami has won back-to-back nail-biters over Florida State and Georgia Tech in the final seconds. However, remaining unbeaten this weekend will be tougher than expected with surging Syracuse traveling to Hard Rock Stadium for a revival of former Big East rivals. The Orange fly south with a tailwind, courtesy of a stunning upset of then-No. 2 Clemson last Friday night. QB Eric Dungey has been the frontman for head coach Dino Babers, leading the team in rushing while feeding playmaking receivers Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips.

Michigan at Penn State - Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
The Wolverines slammed the Nittany Lions, 49-10, a year ago in Ann Arbor. Penn State is out for revenge as it exits an off week. This will be a key showdown in the tightly-packed Big Ten East Division and a matchup littered with outstanding personnel and coaching face-offs. How will Lion RB Saquon Barkley fare versus the nation's stingiest D? Who'll win the chess match between two of the game's premier coordinators, Penn State OC Joe Moorhead and Michigan DC Don Brown? Plenty will be at stake and Happy Valley will be rocking this Saturday night.

USC at Notre Dame - Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
USC and Notre Dame meet for the 89th time in one of college football's most storied rivalries. And for a change, the tilt matters well outside of L.A. and South Bend. The Trojans and the Irish each have just a single loss, to Washington State and Georgia, respectively. So, the winner Saturday night remains firmly in the College Football Playoff hunt. While Notre Dame has been cruising behind RB Josh Adams and a downhill ground game, USC continues to ride the next-level arm of QB Sam Darnold and the shifty feet of RB Ronald Jones II.

Maxwell Award

The Maxwell has annually presented this award to the College Player of the Year since 1937.

QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Ever since losing to Oklahoma in Week 2, the Buckeyes have destroyed five consecutive opponents by an average of 42 points per rout. Barrett has been the offensive catalyst of the revival, spreading the ball around to his young skill position players as his grasp of Kevin Wilson's offense improves. In Week 7, Barrett torched Nebraska for five touchdown passes, two scoring runs and 373 total yards in front of a demoralized Husker home crowd.

RB A.J. Dillon, Boston College
An Eagle star was born in Louisville Saturday afternoon, lending hope that Boston College might contend for a bowl game after all in 2017. Dillon, just a few months removed from Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts, carried BC to an improbable upset of Lamar Jackson's Cardinals by rushing for 272 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries. Dillon is a brutish 6-0, 240-pounder, with the strength and north-south running style to carom off would-be tacklers.

QB Eric Dungey, Syracuse
The face of Dino Babers' program helped engineer one of the biggest wins in recent program history, as the Orange stunned defending champion and second-ranked Clemson, 27-24, in the Carrier Dome Friday night. Dungey, who leads Syracuse in rushing, provided the offensive spark. The multi-dimensional junior rushed for 61 yards, while enduring constant pocket heat to complete 20-of-32 passes for 278 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers.

WR Michael Gallup, Colorado State
For the second time in the last three years, the Rams house a game-breaking wide receiver worthy of national accolades. Gallup has been a terrific successor to former CSU All-American Rashard Higgins, seamlessly adapting to Mountain West play since arriving in Fort Collins from junior college in 2016. In one of the top efforts by a pass-catcher so far this season, Gallup ran wild through the Nevada secondary Saturday for 263 yards and three touchdowns on 13 receptions.

QB Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier has been dropping dimes in Morgantown from the moment he became eligible to run Dana Holgorsen's attack. And this past Saturday versus Texas Tech was no different. Grier won the shootout with Red Raider gunslinger Nic Shimonek, rallying the Mountaineers back from an 18-point deficit in a thrilling 46-35 victory. The former Florida transfer and Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year completed 32-of-41 for 352 yards, five touchdowns and a pick, unleashing three scoring strikes in the final quarter.

RB Karan Higdon, Michigan
At long last, the Wolverines might have a skill player to construct an offense around during the second half of the year. Higdon became the first Michigan player since Denard Robinson in 2012 to rush for more than 200 yards in a game, going for 200 and three touchdowns on 25 carries in Saturday's overtime win against Indiana. Higdon possesses the quickness and the build-up speed to challenge the Penn State defense this weekend in Happy Valley.

QB Khalil Tate, Arizona
Tate is being featured for a second straight week, the result of another breakout performance in Pac-12 play. A backup until starter Brandon Dawkins got hurt, Tate has been a revelation for Rich Rodriguez and his Wildcat. A week after setting the FBS single-game rushing record by a quarterback, the sophomore vexed UCLA with 230 yards rushing, 148 yards through the air and three total touchdowns. Tate was also Pro Football Focus' highest graded QB of the weekend.

Bednarik Award

The Bednarik Award has been presented annually to the nation's top defensive player since 1995.

WLB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Evans is healthy again and heating up, and that's very good news for a Crimson Tide pass rush looking for a couple of catalysts. The senior spun one of the best games of his Bama career in Saturday's 41-9 win over Arkansas, making six tackles, 3.5 stops for minus yards, two sacks, a forced fumble and a couple of quarterback hurries. For his effort, Evans was the highest graded linebacker of Week 7 by Pro Football Focus.

DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Friday night at the Carrier Dome was bittersweet for Ferrell. His unbeaten Tigers fell to Syracuse, but he used the trip to Upstate New York to advertise his skills as an elite pass rusher. Ferrell was virtually unblockable against the Orange, collecting nine stops, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. At 6-5 and 260 pounds, he has the size, strength and athleticism to consistently create headaches for opposing tackles.

DE Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss
While the Rebel defense has had its share of struggles this fall, Haynes has been a shining exception. Saturday in a 57-35 demolition of Vanderbilt, as an example. Haynes, who looks like and moves like an outside linebacker, abused the Commodore front wall for eight tackles, 3.5 stops for loss, three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. He and WLB DeMarquis Gates will now turn their attention to harassing stationary LSU QB Danny Etling this weekend in Oxford.

MLB Jordan Kunaszyk, Cal
A backup since coming to Berkeley by way of American River (Calif.) College, Kunaszyk delivered his breakout moment as a Bear Friday night. Cal overwhelmed No. 8 Washington State, keeping one of the nation's hottest offenses from scoring a touchdown. Kunaszyk, who'd only appeared in three games off the bench prior to Week 7, made a compelling case for a starting nod with 11 stops, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and a quarterback hurry in the 37-3 rout.

OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
For 60 minutes, Okoronkwo spent nearly as much time in the Texas backfield as Longhorn QB Sam Ehlinger. The Sooners' JACK, a linebacker-end hybrid, erupts off the snap with the quickness to leave opposing offensive linemen flatfooted. Despite maximum attention and multiple blockers, Okoronkwo registered a sack, a strip, a forced fumble and a whopping five pressures of Ehlinger. The senior ranked No. 2 this weekend among all linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus.

OLB Devin White, LSU
White makes a return engagement here, back for a second straight week after helping lead the Tigers to an upset of No. 10 Auburn. The sophomore ROVER has embodied LSU's turnaround since falling to Troy on Sept. 30, providing leadership, intensity and sound open-field tackling to Dave Aranda's D. White had a career-high 15 stops, including a pair for loss and a sack. Five of his tackles came in the pivotal final quarter, when Auburn mustered just 36 total yards on 18 plays.

LB Kylan Wilborn, Arizona
The Wildcats are pointing in the right direction, and not just because of the offensive heroics of young QB Khalil Tate. The defense is making plays, too, namely Wilborn charging hard off the edge. Just a true freshman out of Northridge, Calif., he's lit a spark under the Arizona pass rush with his get-off and closing speed around the edge. Wilborn was unblockable in Saturday's 47-30 win over UCLA, forcing a fumble and getting to Bruin QB Josh Rosen four times.