We are a month into the college football season, which just goes to show you how quickly time flies. And although there are many games left to play on the schedule, there are several Pac-12 players and teams that have surprised us early on.
Last season, the conference was absolutely terrible, as a total of six teams finished the year with a losing record. What made matters worse was that, of the seven Pac-12 teams that did reach a bowl game, five ended up losing.
This season seems to be a little different, as there are currently five Pac-12 teams in the AP Poll and many players that are playing out of their minds right now.
While we may still be very early into the 2012 season, here are a few Pac-12 studs that could walk away with some hardware when the season comes to a close.
Who says punters don't matter?
Sean Sellwood of Utah has a chance to become the first Pac-12 player to win the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s top punter. As of right now, he leads the country, averaging over 48 yards per attempt with his 16 punts. He has increased his average by over five yards from last season and has become a big-time weapon for a Utah football team that has struggled to score points consistently.
There have been a lot of great wide receivers to win the Fred Biletnikoff Award, many of which have gone on to have successful NFL careers. Players such as Calvin Johnson, Michael Crabtree, Larry Fitzgerald and Justin Blackmon have all had their hands on the hardware.
Well, there is a great chance that you can add USC receiver Marqise Lee to the list as well. The sophomore receiver is fifth in the country, averaging 121 receiving yards a game. He has caught four touchdowns, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and has three plays of over 25 yards.
With Lee's height, athletic ability and big play potential, there is no doubt that he is the best receiver in the country, and he will likely be another successful NFL player as well.
Stanford lost Andrew Luck to the NFL draft, so it's time for the Cardinal to become irrelevant once again.
Wait, you mean Stanford upset USC last weekend and has become a Top 10 team in the AP Poll?
What head coach David Shaw is doing at Stanford is nothing short of incredible. Not only was he able to get the job done last season, but he has also been able to pick up the pieces after losing so many key contributors and still put a competitive team out on the football field. Not to mention that many top recruits are now picking Stanford over schools such as Oregon and USC.
If the season were to end today, the Stanford head coach would win Coach of the Year.
Speaking of USC losing, quarterback Matt Barkley may have taken a step back in the Heisman Trophy consideration. It was really the senior quarterback’s award to lose, and he may have lost it early in September.
But let's not act like the world is coming to an end. Barkley is still the most popular player in college football, and because of that, he receives a boatload of attention every single week. He is still completing 60 percent of his passes, has thrown for over 800 yards and has 10 touchdown passes in just three games.
With many marquee games left on the Trojans' schedule, the future first-round NFL draft pick still has a chance to earn some hardware. If it won't be the Heisman Trophy, voters will make sure he doesn't leave empty-handed. Of course, the Davey O'Brien Award is always available.
If you asked anybody who the best running back in college football was in the month of August, you would have heard names such as Knile Davis and Marcus Lattimore. Unfortunately, nobody was paying much attention to UCLA running back Jonathan Franklin.
The college football world has been quickly woken up by the senior running back, as he is averaging over eight yards a carry and has over 500 rushing yards in just three games. Oh, did I mention that he also has over 100 receiving yards and four total touchdowns?
Franklin has already produced six runs of over 20 yards and has picked up 22 first downs for the UCLA Bruins. We all remember the performance last season of Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, when he had over 1,900 yards and 39 touchdowns. Franklin has a chance to top that performance if he continues with this pace.
You could easily put Franklin in this conversation, but we'll consider Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas instead. There is not one college football player in the country that is more explosive than the Black Mamba, and he has shown that in his sophomore season.
Despite touching the ball just 24 times on offense, Thomas has produced seven touchdowns. He is averaging over 17 yards rushing and 14 yards receiving, while also being a key contributor on special teams. To truly break down the numbers of the star running back, starter Kenjon Barner has 43 more touches than Thomas, but only 96 more rushing yards.
Out of his 13 carries, four have gone over 20 yards, while three of his 11 receptions have been taken over 15 yards. With the explosive ability of Thomas, I truly expect him to begin seeing more time with the ball in his hands. And if that happens, we may see production that the college football world has never seen before.