The Most Hot-and-Cold Players in College Football After 4 Weeks

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

The Most Hot-and-Cold Players in College Football After 4 Weeks

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    The end of Week 4 is the (very relative) quarter-mark of the season, and as players' sample sizes continue to grow, their "hotness" and "coldness" looks more and more like a trend than a fluke.

    One-game outliers—whether good or bad—are diluted as increased reps are added to their profile.

    The players whose numbers still grace the top of the stat-sheet have sustained their success, and they can't rightfully owe it to only a couple of big plays. The same goes for the underwhelming players, who have now struggled to post numbers for long enough that they can't blame one bad game.

    Who's been the best and the worst in recent weeks? Read on to find out.

Hot: QB Bryce Petty, Baylor

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Now this is getting ridiculous.

    Even against poor competition, the numbers Bryce Petty and the Baylor offense have posted are insane. They've racked up exactly 781 yards and 70 points in each of the past two weeks, despite taking their foot of the gas early.

    For the season, Petty is 50-of-67 for 1,001 yards, eight touchdowns and zero picks. His QB rating of 239.53 is the best in America, and it is 29 points higher than the No. 2-rated passer, Florida State's Jameis Winston.

    Baylor starts conference play with the easy portion of its schedule, facing West Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas before the real tests start.

    If Petty can keep this offense cruising and this team can remain unbeaten, he'll enter a Thursday night game vs. Oklahoma on Nov. 7 with some genuine Heisman cred.

     

Cold: QB Devin Gardner, Michigan

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    Fair or not, in the age of the modern quarterback, any team or offense that struggles is often blamed on the signal-caller.

    In this case, it's fair.

    Gardner has led Michigan to a 4-0 record this season, but the past two weeks have not been pretty. The Wolverines needed a goal-line stand to beat Akron at home two weeks ago, and they needed to come from behind on Saturday to beat a lowly UConn team. After struggling mildly against the Zips, Gardner put on an full-fledged suck-fest in Storrs this weekend, finishing the game 11-of-23 with 97 yards, no touchdowns and two picks.

    So much for the post-Denard Robinson era.

Hot: RB Bishop Sankey, Washington

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    Again, in the age of the modern quarterback, the success or failure of an offense is often attributed to the man under center.

    Keith Price is deserving of the praise he's received this season, as his marked improvement has led, in turn, to the Huskies fast start. But Bishop Sankey is the more important player.

    He proved he could be a true workhorse against Boise State and Illinois, carrying the ball 25 and 35 times, respectively, for a combined total of 369 yards.

    Then, last week against Idaho State, he needed just four totes to reach 77 yards, flashing some explosion before resting up in a rout.

    He'll be counted on to move the chains and control the clock in Pac-12 play this year. For any team that shares a division with Oregon, doing so is of paramount importance.

Cold: RB George Atkinson III/Cam McDaniel, Notre Dame

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    Bless Brian Kelly for trying, hard as he could, to turn George Atkinson III into an every-down back. You have to applaud his effort.

    But it has just not worked out.

    The Irish have struggled to launch their ground game this season, making painfully clear the absence of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick from the backfield. Atkinson and Cam McDaniel have 46 carries in the past two games along with a combined total of 125 yards, good for a meek average of 2.7 yards per touch.

    Plenty of teams will post bad numbers against Michigan State, but struggling to move the ball on Purdue shines—and will continue to shine—a very bad light on the Notre Dame running game.

    Wisconsin shredded the Boilers for 388 rushing yards on Saturday.

Hot: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

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    Markus who?

    After playing second-fiddle to Markus Wheaton last year, Brandin Cooks has burst into the limelight and become an (if not the) early Biletnikoff frontrunner.

    With another 14 catches for 141 yards against San Diego State, he pumped his season totals up to 43 receptions for 639 yards—both tops in the nation.

    And even without a score against the Aztecs, his seven receiving touchdowns are also the best total in America.

    Oregon State has struggled this year, and the defense will need to improve by leaps and bounds if it wants to compete in conference play. But the offense has fired on all cylinders, and Cooks is the main reason why.

Cold: WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

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    Cooper sat out the Colorado State game with a ticky-tack toe injury, gearing himself up physically for the brunt of SEC play.

    But even before that, the All-American candidate had become something of a forgotten man in Alabama's offense, totaling just six catches for 72 yards in the Tide's first two games. 

    Even in the offensive explosion against Texas A&M, he only hauled in two passes for 34 yards, and he's yet to reach the end zone all year.

    His role as a decoy cannot be devalued. Opposing secondaries are well aware of Cooper's speed, and their unwillingness to let him get free down the field has opened up space for other receivers.

    But still, some of the struggles are of his own accord and doing. When the Tide face teams like Ole Miss and LSU, they'll need Cooper to re-emerge as a playmaker.

Hot: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

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    Donald is a Will Sutton-type impact tackle, using leverage and supreme pass-rushing knowledge to dominate, despite possessing less-than-ideal size.

    After recording four tackles for a loss against New Mexico in Week 3, he followed up with two more against Duke on Saturday—in the best game this season that nobody saw—helping lead Pitt to a thrilling 58-55 win.

    The defense around him has been suspect, but Donald is reaching his own, lofty standard and boosting his NFL stock in the process. With seven tackles for a loss in just three games, he's now officially on track for 28 of them in the regular season.

    Jarvis Jones led the nation with 24.5 tackles for a loss last year, and no BCS defender has recorded 28-plus since Michigan's Shawn Crable in 2007.

Cold: DT Will Sutton, Arizona State

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    Speaking of Sutton—the original Aaron Donald—Arizona State's All-American has not picked up where he left off.

    Though he started to gain his footing with three solo tackles and three assisted tackles at Stanford, Sutton has failed to make the same impact he did last season, when he won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

    He finished 2012 with 23.5 tackles for a loss, one behind Jarvis Jones for the national lead, and constantly showed up doing good things on tape. This year, not only does he have just 0.5 TFL through three games (lower than his one-game output in every week last season), he's also earned the ire of NFL scouts on film.

    According to NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, a professional scout said that Sutton added "bad weight" in the offseason, which might be contributing to the decreased production.

    Whatever it is, something needs to change—and quickly.