College Football Players on the Hot Seat in Week 5

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012

College Football Players on the Hot Seat in Week 5

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    Believe it or not, most teams are a third of the way through the 2012 season, and losses now can seriously derail BCS chances.

    The first BCS rankings are just a few weeks away, and with conference schedules getting underway in earnest, each win (or loss) is more important than ever.

    While we often focus on coaches when it comes to the proverbial “hot seat,” it's easy to forget that it all boils down to the guys in the pads and helmets. Regardless of the coaching, the players on the field must perform to get that all-important “W.”

    So, who is under the most pressure to perform in Week 5? Here's our list of college football players on the hot seat.

For the Record...

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    Yes, you will notice two glaring holes in our Week 5 Player Hot Seat list.

    First, Michigan's Denard Robinson.

    With four interceptions against Notre Dame last week, it's now pretty well-established that Robinson's passing game hasn't really improved all that much, and the Wolverines will have to find a way to muddle through without much of a passing attack in 2012.

    But without an opponent in Week 5, it's hard to place Shoelace on our Hot Seat list this week.

    At least he can't throw any more interceptions, right?

    Another notable absence is Robinson's Notre Dame counterpart, Everett Golson.

    Golson was yanked in favor of Tommy Rees after going 3-of-8 with two interceptions against Michigan.

    Golson was also lifted late in the game against Purdue back in Week 2 when the coaching staff began to doubt his ability to lead a game-winning scoring drive.

    Luckily, it hasn't cost the 4-0 Irish a game yet, but how long will that streak last?

    Head coach Brian Kelly has an extra week to decide if Golson is still his guy before Notre Dame meets up with Miami in Chicago, or if Tommy Rees has done enough to earn back his starting position.

    But like Robinson, Golson escapes addition to our list due to Notre Dame's Week 5 bye.

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

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    All in all, Tajh Boyd didn't have that bad of a night against Florida State. At least not statistically speaking.

    Boyd went 20-of-36 for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw one costly pick, but still managed a passer rating of 132.8.

    So why are we putting Boyd on our player hot seat list for Week 5?

    Boyd needs to emerge as the leader of his team now. With the costly loss to Florida State, Clemson now needs a bit of help to even reach that ACC Championship Game. Still, a BCS berth isn't out of the question, especially if both the Tigers and Seminoles remain unblemished through the end of the regular season.

    But before Clemson fans can even get anywhere close to eyeballing the BCS, Boyd needs to step up and take command in a big way this weekend at Boston College.

    Sure, the Eagles aren't exactly the type of team we'd expect to knock off Clemson, but the Tigers' performance against BC will tell us if this team still has some fire in its eyes or have given up hope in the ACC this season.

Matt Scott, Arizona

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    Not much was expected from Arizona this season, so Wildcats fans were pleasantly surprised when their team started 3-0 and broke into the Top 25.

    How fleeting success can be.

    The Wildcats ran into the buzz saw of the Oregon offense last week, and predictably lost to one of the nation's top teams.

    But the real shocker in this game was that Arizona's typically reliable offense this season failed to score a single point on Oregon—a team that's not known for its defensive muscle.

    Senior quarterback Matt Scott completed exactly half of his passes, and racked up 210 yards through the air. But his three interceptions killed any hope of pulling off the upset.

    Scott also had a season low (by far) passer rating of just 76.5 against the Ducks.

    Okay, so we didn't expect Arizona to beat Oregon. But this week, the Wildcats are hosting an Oregon State team that seems to be in the midst of its own renaissance.

    Will Scott be able to lead the Fighting RichRods out of the Pac-12 doldrums, or was the game against Oregon a sign of things to come for the Wildcats?

Shaq Roland, South Carolina

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    Paging Mr. Football. Mr. Football, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

    After following in the footsteps of South Carolina high school football phenoms like Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney, and Marcus Lattimore, Shaq Roland became the fourth straight South Carolina Mr. Football Award recipient to choose to play his college football at the University of South Carolina.

    But unlike the previous three superstars, we're still waiting on Roland to make some sort of impact—any impact—for the Gamecocks.

    Yes, he's a true freshman, and yes, we're just four games into the new season.

    But with all the talent Roland had, and all the hype surrounding this supposed walking highlight reel wide receiver, shouldn't we have seen something more from him thus far?

    Roland has just three receptions for 55 yards and one touchdown this season.

    Again, where's the production? Where are the spectacular catches? Where's the instant impact we all expected to see?

    Okay, we'll give this young guy some time to acclimate to college life and the way the Head Ball Coach does things. But if we don't start seeing some production soon, we may start to wonder if we'll ever see much from Roland.

Zach Mettenberger, LSU

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    There was little question when the season began about whether LSU would be a top contender not only for another SEC Championship, but also another trip to the BCS title game at season's end.

    Now that we're four weeks into the 2012 college football season, the recent play of LSU has created a tiny space for some doubt.

    As SEC West nemesis Alabama cruises through each opponent with ease, LSU needed every ounce of talent last Saturday to knock off Auburn, 12-10.

    Prior to Auburn, LSU had yet to face a true test, and the road only gets tougher for LSU moving forward.

    Okay, so Week 5 isn't exactly going to provide a great test for the Tigers, as FCS Towson comes for a visit. That should give junior quarterback Zach Mettenberger ample opportunity to repair his slightly sullied image after a lackluster outing against Auburn.

    Mettenberger went without a touchdown pass for the first time in 2012 against Auburn and completed just 55.6 percent of his passes (15-of-27).

    His 169 passing yards was also a season low, as was his passer rating of 108.1.

    What we need to see from Mettenberger moving forward is a maturation as field general. So far, LSU has been relying on a talent disparity to win games—something that won't change in Week 5.

    Weeks 6 through 8 include Florida, South Carolina and Texas A&M. If the Tigers don't start improving soon, that Week 10 game against Alabama may lose quite a bit of its appeal, as all three of the previous opponents will have an opportunity to knock off mighty LSU.

Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State

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    When the Spartans started the season with a deservedly high ranking, there were still some open questions about MSU's offense.

    With impressive wins against Boise State and Central Michigan, all seemed to be humming along in East Lansing.

    When Notre Dame came to town and completely shut down the Spartans' offense, we saw our first red flag of the season. After last week's shockingly bad performance against Eastern Michigan, that one red flag suddenly looks like a May Day parade in Red Square circa 1975.

    No one expected Andrew Maxwell to be Kirk Cousins, and there are certainly some valid arguments that Sparty's troubles have more to do with dropped passes than bad throws. But in the end, the onus is on Maxwell to guide his team to victory.

    With a tough game against Ohio State this Saturday in East Lansing, you can bet that the future outlook for MSU—and Maxwell as its quarterback—will hinge on how well the passing game can compete against a porous at times Ohio State defense.

    Maxwell has yet to throw a touchdown pass against a ranked opponent, and his 3-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio certainly won't cut it down the road now that Big Ten play is beginning.

Joe Southwick, Boise State

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    Ah, Boise State.

    What ever should the pollsters do with you now?

    A loss to a good Michigan State team is understandable. But when was the last time you failed to score an offensive point at home?

    Here's a hint: You'll need to go back to the pre-FBS/Division I-A days to find the answer—and that's not good.

    We haven't seen such a poor showing from a Boise State team since before most of us had even heard of the Boise State Broncos. Boise State had a meager 145 yards passing with Joe Southwick completing 60 percent of his 25 attempts.

    Sure, there weren't any major mistakes (which is more than we can say for the Broncos' opponent, BYU), but the anemic offense gives those who vote in polls reason to doubt Boise State's ability to remain on top without players like Kellen Moore.

    Chris Petersen is a great coach, and Boise State is living off of his abilities alone right now. But the Broncos can't survive for long without a major increase in offensive production.

    And that all starts with Southwick.

    What better way to find some offensive dynamite than with a game against lowly New Mexico?

Wisconsin Quarterbacks

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    There's no easy way to say this, so we'll just get it out there: Wisconsin is in some serious trouble.

    The Badgers are traveling to Lincoln, Neb. on Saturday to face a fired-up Nebraska team with visions of revenge foremost on its mind.

    Last season, the Cornhuskers were thoroughly embarrassed in their first-ever Big Ten conference game at the hands of Wisconsin in Madison.

    Now it's the Huskers' opportunity to return the favor.

    Wisconsin benched former ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O'Brien before last week's game against UTEP after O'Brien went 5-of-10 against Utah State before being replaced by Joel Stave—who then went 2-of-6 for 15 yards.

    Stave did a bit better against the Miners, finishing 12-of-17 for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

    The good news for Wisconsin is that Montee Ball has been cleared to play this Saturday in Lincoln. And with all of the trouble at quarterback, he'll probably need to play a big role if the Badgers are to have a shot at beating Nebraska.

    Regardless of who takes the snaps for Wisconsin, one thing is clear: This game can make or break that quarterback's case to be the starter moving forward.

Riley Nelson, BYU

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    Riley Nelson is coming off of what can charitably be called a terrible performance against Boise State last week, and has had quite a bit of time to think about it.

    Nelson was pulled off the field after going 4-of-9 for 19 yards with three interceptions.

    Despite this crazy-bad performance, head coach Bronco Mendenhall is still intent on sticking with Nelson as his starter.

    Really? Really really?

    It's not as if Nelson had been lighting it up before the loss to Boise State.

    His only other interception-less game of the season was the opener against Washington State, and his completion percentage has been dropping in every game since.

    His passer rating went from a 154.3 against WSU to a 137.2 against FCS Weber State all the way down to a 111.2 against Utah.

    Against Boise State, it was an unheard of -4.5. No, that's not a typo: negative four-point-five.

    Maybe after thinking about it some more, Mendenhall is beginning to hedge.

    All of the sudden, BYU is admitting that an unspecified “back injury” has bothered Nelson against losses to Utah and Boise State.

    We're not entirely sure, but is the ego located somewhere in the back?

    If Riley does start against Hawai'i, he'll need an above average performance if he wants to quiet the doubters, especially because BYU is favored by almost four touchdowns.