Small Conference, Big Game: Mid-Major Football's 10 Best Offensive Players
The mid-major conferences are often overlooked during BCS season and Heisman voting, but these small conferences have a plethora of big game talents.
While their names aren't household and their plays rarely make SportsCenter, these 10 players are bona fide gamers.
The mid-major conferences have produced current NFL stars such as Randy Moss (pictured above at Marshall), Moss' college teammate Chad Pennington, Ben Roethlisberger (Miami-OH), LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU), Brian Urlacher (New Mexico), and Brandon Marshall (Central Florida) amongst many others.
Don't be surprised if in the near future you see one of these players joining the growing list of mid-major conference stars that make a big splash in the NFL.
*Notre Dame not included because a member of the Big East in most other sports and considered a BCS school.
Kellen Moore, Boise State (WAC)
Boise State's Kellen Moore has the second highest QB rating in Division I-A. His 13 TDs and 2 INTs are riding shotgun to his 1,217 pass yards.
What's better than big numbers? Big wins. Moore has the Broncos undefeated (5-0), currently ranked No. 6 in the top 25, and eying a BCS bid.
Only the season-opening upset win over Oregon has been a close contest, and Moore has tossed a touchdown in every game so far this season.
Case Keenum, Houston (C-USA)
CK Seven is top 20 in quarterback rating for Division I-A and third in passing yards with nearly 1,700 in the first four games. The Houston quarterback has 13 scores and only two picks, and his name is on the tongue of NFL scouts.
Before the upset by UTEP, the 12th-ranked Cougars were 3-0. Despite the loss, Keenum was spectacular. He passed for an eye-popping 536 yards and five touchdowns.
Watch for the Cougars to bounce back this week against Mississippi State, and watch for Keenum to play big against SEC competition.
Darius Marshall, Marshall (C-USA)
Marshall's Marshall is second in the nation in rushing with 639 yards and seven touchdowns. Marshall is rushing for a ridiculous seven yards a carry.
The Thundering Herd are 3-2 and have struggled, but Marshall has run as well as any back in college football. Even in the massacre at Virginia Tech, he managed 109 rushing yards and a score.
Add in the nearly 300 yards in returns, and Marshall is on his way to having a special season.
Ryan Mathews, Fresno State (WAC)
Division I-A's third leading rusher is a big game, big time player. Mathews had his two biggest games of the season against then 10th-ranked Boise St and then 14th-ranked Cincinnati.
Mathews bulldozed the Broncos for 234 yards and three touchdowns on just 19 carries. I'll save you time and a calculator—that's a blistering 12.3 yards a rush.
In Cincy, Mathews was a workhorse. He ran the ball 38 times for 145 yards and a score.
Despite the valiant efforts, both contests ended in losses for the Fresno State Bulldogs.
For the season, Mathews is closing in on 600 yards to accompany five touchdowns. The Bulldogs are 1-3 and sitting at the bottom of the WAC, and despite his numbers, most people will not know about Mathews. But he's a baller.
Donald Buckram, UTEP (C-USA)
"The Ram" is the ninth leading rusher in Division I-A with 560 yards and six touchdowns.
Buckram became an UTEP Miners legend Saturday when he racked up 262 yards and four touchdowns to upset then 12th-ranked and unbeaten Houston. The career night versus Houston might be the game that ignites the season.
The four games prior, Buckram was up and down. His two 100-yard games against Buffalo and New Mexico State were matched with two subpar games against Kansas and Texas.
The schedule is much easier for the Miners from here on, so big numbers are expected from "The Ram."
Vincent Brown, San Diego State (MWC)
The Aztecs' star receiver is the second leading receiver in college football with 37 receptions, 631 yards, and six touchdowns. He has caught a touchdown in every game this season and recorded 100 yards receiving in every game but one.
Against UCLA, Brown caught five passes for 139 yards and a score, proving that he can play against the big boys.
San Diego State (2-3) is struggling, but Brown is on pace for a big season.
Eric Page, Toledo (MAC)
The Toledo Rockets' undersized receiver does not play like a freshman. Page is sixth in the nation in receiving with 585 yards and five touchdowns.
The only game so far in which he hasn't recorded a touchdown or broken the 100-yard receiving mark was in the rout by BCS hopeful Ohio State.
Against the Big Ten's Purdue, Page tallied 12 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Not shabby for his first collegiate game. Facing the Big 12's Colorado in his second game, Page grabbed three passes for 138 yards and a score.
In the MAC opener against Ball State, Page played downright silly for a frosh with 11 catches, 152 yards, and a score.
He's on pace for one of the best statistical freshman campaigns in a long time.
Stephen Williams, Toledo (MAC)
Stephen Williams, along with Eric Page, completes Toledo's double threat receiving tandem.
The 6'5" senior is the physical opposite of the 5'10" Page, but his numbers are very much alike. Williams is seventh in the nation in receiving, a spot behind Page, with 562 yards and four touchdowns.
Williams struggled against Ohio State but has played well in every other game. He torched the Big Ten's Purdue for 15 catches, 185 yards, and two touchdowns. He abused MAC rival Ball State for 10 catches, 231 yards, and two touchdowns.
His size makes him appealing to NFL scouts, and if his impressive season continues, watch out for him on Sundays.
Greg Salas, Hawaii (WAC)
Salas is the fifth leading receiver in Division I-A but, his 23.1 yards per reception is highest amongst the top 25 receivers. In all four of the Hawaii Warriors' four games, Salas has recorded over 100 receiving yards.
In the win at Washington State, Salas caught seven balls for 195 yards and a score. Last week against Louisiana Tech's 16th-ranked pass defense, Salas recorded six catches for 122 yards.
Hawaii is not much of a threat, so don't expect to hear too much about Salas, but he's a gamer.
Max Hall, BYU (MWC)
Arguably the most recognized name in the group, "Mad Max" Hall is ninth in the nation in passing yards with 1.403. He's also chipped in 11 touchdowns and guided the BYU Cougars to an upset over then No. 3-ranked Oklahoma in the season opener.
Hall has been interception prone (10) and struggled in the drubbing by Florida State, but he led BYU to consecutive convincing victories following the loss.
The Cougars are currently ranked 18th in the country, and their continued success in the season hinges on Hall's arm. It's on him to win and prove that he deserved the preseason hype he garnered.