College Football: Players on the Hot Seat in Week 5

Jonathan McDanal@@jdmcdanalContributor IIISeptember 27, 2013

College Football: Players on the Hot Seat in Week 5

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    College football gives teams 12 games and possibly a conference championship to prove that they are worthy of the highest honor: a shot at a national title. The BCS bowls are also high honors, but everyone is chasing the crystal football at the top of the sport.

    Coaches, assistants and players are all expected to perform at a high level every single week, as one loss can mean the difference between a national title and a consolation bowl. If anybody's performance slips enough, his job is in danger, from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy.

    Here are five players who are on a hot seat of some kind for Week 5. Some are in danger of losing their jobs permanently, and others are simply trying to avoid a career-defining Garrett Gilbert situation at all costs.

George Atkinson III (RB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish)

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    Notre Dame lost two major running backs during the offseason: Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. They combined for 1,659 yards and nine touchdowns on the way to the national championship game.

    The third-leading rusher from the '12 season was Georgia Atkinson III, who had 51 carries for 361 yards and five touchdowns. He was expected to step up and take over as No. 1 this season.

    Atkinson has done nothing of the sort. We are one-third of the way through the 2013 season, and he's sitting there with 24 carries, 121 yards, one touchdown and a long run of 16 yards. This is not okay.

    Notre Dame desperately needs to find its offense, and it's imperative that the Irish find a rushing attack. Atkinson is a junior—he should be auditioning for the NFL, not the bench.

    The players sitting behind him aren't going to be there for long if he keeps performing like this. Plus, the players ahead of him aren't stellar. It's borderline depressing to see the Irish try to run the ball this season.

    His seat is getting hotter by the game, and Week 5 could push him into the benchwarmer section of the depth chart.

Blake Bell (QB, Oklahoma Sooners)

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    Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell is facing a unique situation on Sept. 28. He will engage the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a rivalry game between two nationally ranked teams, and it's just his second start.

    His first start was the 51-20 win over Tulsa. He completed 27 of his 37 pass attempts in that game for 413 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Don't worry, he's not on a traditional hot seat.

    Regardless of what happens, his job is not in danger—largely due to there not being anyone to do it besides him. However, his seat is as hot as Garrett Gilbert's was in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. Bell is a quality passer, and that's evident from his first start.

    However, this is his first game against a quality FBS team that has legitimate BCS bowl hopes. The good news is that he looked so good against Tulsa that it's hard to believe he wasn't the starter in Week 1.

    Bell is going to be fine, but a poor performance against Notre Dame could cast a long shadow over the dawn of his career. That's a lot of pressure.

Brendan Bigelow (RB, California Golden Bears)

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    Brendan Bigelow has to figure out how to be successful sooner rather than later, and it's Week 5—sooner has already passed. In 2012, Bigelow had 44 carries for 431 yards and three touchdowns.

    Those are stellar numbers, but they're almost completely different from this season. So far he has 44 carries (so far, so good) for 175 yards and no touchdowns. Bigelow's time is running out.

    Both runners waiting in the wings behind him have better yards-per-carry marks, and they've each scored a touchdown. There is a point at which the coaches will give Daniel Lasco and Khalfani Muhammad the ball over Bigelow.

    He'd better put up some numbers this week, and it's going to be difficult against the Oregon Ducks.

Cam McDaniel (RB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish)

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    Cam McDaniel is in the same boat as George Atkinson III. McDaniel is a running back for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and he's simply not performing like the running back on a prominent team should.

    He's got 45 carries, 165 yards and two touchdowns on the season, and the only thing saving his butt right now is that he's responsible for two-thirds of the Irish's points on the ground. So, what's the problem, right?

    The issue here is that it's not all about touchdowns. The Irish need first downs more desperately than touchdowns, and the ground attack has to make up the difference between Everett Golson and Tommy Rees.

    Out of the five tailbacks who have carried the rock for Notre Dame, only one has a worse per-carry average than McDaniel. If he isn't careful, Amir Carlisle is going to be Notre Dame's No. 1 tailback in Week 6.

    There are only 26 teams in the country worse than Notre Dame at running the ball. This is not where the Irish want to stay.

Braxton Miller (QB, Ohio State Buckeyes)

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    First point of order: Braxton Miller is not going to permanently lose his job in Week 5, regardless of what happens against Wisconsin. Don't mistake a heavy dose of coal on the fire of a hot seat for permanent damage.

    Second point of order: This is assuming that Braxton Miller does start against Wisconsin, as Urban Meyer has indicated.

    Miller is merely in an extremely hot situation for Week 5. The Badgers are going to bring a bruising rushing attack to the ranked-vs.-ranked match, and it wouldn't take many mistakes for either team to blow this game.

    Miller needs to match or exceed Wisconsin's scoring drives on every occasion. Urban Meyer is an excellent head coach, and he's not going to pull a "2012 Oregon State" by leaving Miller in the game after tossing interceptions.

    The call here is that Miller has 14 points to prove himself. If he gets the Buckeyes down by two possessions, he'll sit out while Kenny Guiton attempts the comeback. Turnovers will decide this battle, and Ohio State can't afford to let Miller break in against a team this good.

    There's plenty of time for him to get back into the groove. The Buckeyes are not interested in sacrificing a win for getting him up to speed 15 minutes sooner.