College Football Players Already Putting Up Ridiculous Stats in 2017

Greg Wallace@gc_wallaceFeatured ColumnistSeptember 18, 2017

College Football Players Already Putting Up Ridiculous Stats in 2017

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    Josh Rosen is showing why he's one of college football's top quarterbacks thus far in 2017.
    Josh Rosen is showing why he's one of college football's top quarterbacks thus far in 2017.Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    It’s hard to believe, but we’re already at the quarter pole of the 2017 college football season. By now, most teams have had three games to show us what they’ve changed, the things that have stayed the same and emerging stars across the game.

    Through three weeks, both new and old stars are putting up impressive numbers, the kind of stat lines that make you stop, stare and wish that they were on your team’s roster (if they aren’t). Here’s a look at 10 of the most ridiculous seasonal stat lines thus far. Preference was given to players who are among the national leaders at their positions, and their roles in team success were also factored in.

Shea Patterson, QB, Ole Miss

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    Shea Patterson has emerged as a prolific passer in Ole Miss' offense.
    Shea Patterson has emerged as a prolific passer in Ole Miss' offense.Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    Ole Miss suffered its first loss Saturday night, falling 27-16 at Cal. But even at 2-1, the Rebels have something to be excited about in sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson. After losing his redshirt status late last season when starter Chad Kelly suffered a season-ending knee injury, the 6'2", 203-pound passer is coming into his own in his first full season of college football.

    Patterson is second in the FBS in passing yards with 1,281, trailing UCLA’s Josh Rosen by two yards. He averages 427 passing yards per game and has 11 touchdowns against four interceptions. Consider this: His 363-yard showing against Cal was his first sub-400-yard effort of the season. He threw for 489 against UT Martin and 429 against South Alabama.

    Ole Miss is going to throw the ball lots in the SEC West, and Patterson should keep putting up eye-popping lines. The Rebels face an uncertain future while awaiting the results of an NCAA investigation into the program, but Patterson is a tremendous building block moving forward.

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

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    Mason Rudolph is turning Oklahoma State into a national contender.
    Mason Rudolph is turning Oklahoma State into a national contender.Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Big 12 has made only one of the first three College Football Playoffs, but that looks primed to change this fall. In Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the league has two strong CFP candidates poised to duke it out in a head-to-head Bedlam meeting and possibly the revamped Big 12 title game.

    Oklahoma State has a potent offense, as Pitt found out in a 59-21 belting Saturday. The man who makes it go? Senior quarterback Mason Rudolph. Through three games, Rudolph has thrown for 1,135 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception. He averages 378.3 passing yards per game and is completing an excellent 72.3 percent of his passes.

    Saturday, he ravaged Pitt’s secondary for 497 yards with five touchdowns and an interception, completing 23 of 32 passes. With one of the nation’s top receivers in James Washington as his best target, expect Rudolph to put up big numbers all season and emerge as a serious threat to win the Heisman Trophy.

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

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    Royce Freeman has been a major force for Oregon's offense this fall.
    Royce Freeman has been a major force for Oregon's offense this fall.Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

    When Royce Freeman returned for his senior season of college football, it was hailed as a huge boost for new coach Willie Taggart. Three games into 2017, we’re seeing how important that move really was. Oregon is 3-0 and back in the Top 25, and the Ducks look like a far different team than the group that finished 4-8 and cost coach Mark Helfrich his job last fall.

    Freeman has played a significant role. He’s averaging 153.3 rushing yards per game, and his 460 total rushing yards are third in the FBS. After injuries held him down last fall (regressing from 1,836 rushing yards as a sophomore to 945 as a junior), he looks healthy and ready to claim a spot as one of the nation’s top tailbacks.

    At his current pace, Freeman would have 1,840 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns over the course of 12 regular-season games. It might be hard to maintain that scoring pace, but the senior could easily surpass the 2,000-yard mark and show NFL general managers that he’s ready to help a professional backfield immediately.

Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State

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    Rashaad Penny is emerging as a star for San Diego State's offense.
    Rashaad Penny is emerging as a star for San Diego State's offense.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    When San Diego State lost Donnel Pumphrey, the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, to graduation, it would have been reasonable to expect the Aztecs’ running game to take a step backward. Instead, the ground attack has thrived and SDSU is 3-0 following a 20-17 upset of then-No. 19 Stanford on Saturday night. The credit goes to senior tailback Rashaad Penny, who has thrived as the lead back.

    Last fall, he rushed for 1,005 yards and 11 touchdowns as Pumphrey’s understudy, averaging 7.4 yards per carry, and Penny has been even better in a bell-cow role. He leads the FBS with 588 rushing yards and has added four touchdowns, averaging 8.3 yards per carry.

    Penny rushed for 216 yards and a touchdown in a 30-20 win at Arizona State, and he shouldered a big load Saturday, carrying 32 times for 175 yards and a score in a wild win capped by a 23-minute power outage in the fourth quarter. If Penny keeps this up, however, there will be no shortage of electricity in the Aztecs backfield.

Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

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    Bryce Love has been a big-play factor in Stanford's offense.
    Bryce Love has been a big-play factor in Stanford's offense.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Following a 20-17 upset loss at San Diego State on Saturday night, Stanford is 1-2 and out of the Top 25 polls. The Cardinal surely miss do-everything tailback Christian McCaffrey, now with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, but the play of junior tailback Bryce Love has softened the blow.

    Love showed flashes last season behind McCaffrey, averaging 7.0 yards per carry. He’s been even better as the clear No. 1 back. He has 524 rushing yards in three games, second best in the FBS. And he’s doing it with limited work, carrying only 43 times. That works out to an unbelievable 12.2 yards per carry, with runs of 53, 62 and 75 yards.

    A suggestion for the Cardinal offense: Show Love some love. You’re probably going to be happy with the results.

D'Angelo Brewer, RB, Tulsa

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    D'Angelo Brewer has been electric in Tulsa's offense this fall.
    D'Angelo Brewer has been electric in Tulsa's offense this fall.Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Tulsa is 1-2, but the Golden Hurricane are nothing if not entertaining to watch. Philip Montgomery’s offense is known for its passing prowess, but senior tailback D’Angelo Brewer plays a huge role on the ground as well.

    Brewer broke out last season with 1,425 rushing yards and seven scores. He’s been a workhorse this fall, with 98 carries through three games. His 447 rushing yards are fourth best in the FBS, including a 262-yard, three-touchdown effort against Louisiana and 152 yards and a touchdown in a wild 54-51 loss to Toledo.

    The Golden Hurricane defense is porous, allowing 51.7 points per game. But when Brewer gets the ball, he’s making big things happen and keeping Tulsa in games. He’s below the radar, but maybe he shouldn’t be.

Darren Andrews, WR, UCLA

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    Darren Andrews has been a scoring machine in UCLA's passing game.
    Darren Andrews has been a scoring machine in UCLA's passing game.Associated Press

    UCLA looks like one of the nation’s most exciting offensive football teams with a healthy Josh Rosen under center. Despite a 48-45 loss Saturday at Memphis, the Bruins are averaging 48.7 points per game and look poised to make a run in the Pac-12 South if their struggling defense can hold up its end of the bargain.

    UCLA’s passing game has been excellent, and senior receiver Darren Andrews has been a major benefactor. He has 409 receiving yards through three games, tied for second in the FBS, and is averaging a healthy 136.3 yards per game with six total touchdowns.

    He was Rosen’s favorite target Saturday at Memphis, making 10 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown. If that level of attention keeps up, Andrews will blow past his career bests (55 catches, 709 yards and four scores) that he put up as a junior.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

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    A healthy Josh Rosen has been excellent under center for UCLA so far this fall.
    A healthy Josh Rosen has been excellent under center for UCLA so far this fall.Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Following an injury-shortened sophomore season, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen entered 2017 ready to prove he is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. And while the 2-1 Bruins dropped out of the Top 25 polls this week after a 48-45 loss at Memphis, Rosen certainly doesn’t deserve much blame.

    He is leading the FBS in passing yards and averaging an outstanding 427.7 yards per game. He has 1,283 passing yards with 13 touchdowns against two interceptions, an impressive ratio. In the Bruins’ opener, he threw for 491 yards and four scores in leading the second-biggest comeback in FBS history to stun Texas A&M, 45-44. And even in the loss Saturday, he torched Memphis’ secondary for 463 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.

    Rosen looks like one of the best passers in the college game. And the good news? He’s going to be throwing plenty this season. UCLA’s defense is allowing 38.3 points per game, meaning the Bruins passing attack will have to work hard to stay in games.

Darren Carrington II, WR, Utah

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    Darren Carrington is making a major impact for Utah's offense.
    Darren Carrington is making a major impact for Utah's offense.Associated Press

    Following a 3-0 start, Utah has cracked the Associated Press Top 25, settling in at No. 23. Under veteran coach Kyle Whittingham, the Utes are consistently good, and the Pac-12 is surely taking notice. Utah’s offense has been solid, and senior receiver Darren Carrington II has been excellent.

    He appears ready for a breakout in his final season of college football. Through three games, he has 26 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns. He’s tied for second in the FBS in receiving yardage and is coming off an outstanding game versus San Jose State, reeling in nine catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns.

    Carrington’s best overall season came as a freshman, when he made 37 catches for 704 yards and four touchdowns. He’s on the verge of putting up far better numbers this fall, finding the national spotlight and hopefully bringing the Utes along with him.

Cam Phillips, WR, Virginia Tech

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    Cam Phillips is making big things happen for Virginia Tech's passing game.
    Cam Phillips is making big things happen for Virginia Tech's passing game.DON PETERSEN/Associated Press

    Despite losing multiple key offensive pieces early to the NFL draft, Virginia Tech has started Justin Fuente’s second season strong with a 3-0 record, looking like a force to be reckoned with in the ACC Coastal Division. Freshman quarterback Josh Jackson has been excellent, and he’s established an important relationship with senior receiver Cam Phillips.

    Through three games, Phillips has 27 catches for 417 receiving yards (best in the FBS). He’s averaging 139 receiving yards per game. In Saturday’s 64-17 rout of hapless East Carolina, Phillips went crazy, making 14 catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns.

    Last fall, Phillips made 76 catches for 983 yards and five touchdowns. He already has five scores this year and is on pace to smash those reception and yardage marks, projected to reach 1,807 yards and 117 receptions in a 13-game season. If he can maintain that pace, the Hokies offense should be good enough to contend for a second consecutive ACC Coastal title.