College Football Week 7 Picks: 5 Players You've Never Heard Of
With Week 7 already in full swing, including a West Virginia win yesterday, college football still has some sleepers in its midst.
Offensively the star power at quarterback has kept some hidden gems in the spotlight, especially within the Big 12.
Whether it be a quarterback-receiver duo, or a tradition-changing passer, here are five players that you may not have heard of, but soon will.
Robert Griffin III #10 QB
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Robert Griffin III has broken out in a big way this year for the Baylor Bears, leading them to their best start (4-2) since the '05 season.
Griffin, who redshirted after injuring his knee midway through the team's third game last year, has made Baylor a dark horse-contender in the Big 12 South as they are looking for their first bowl appearance since 1994.
Ranked 4th in the nation in passing yards, the redshirt sophomore has thrown for 13 TDs, against only 4 interceptions, and has increased his completion percentage in each game this season, topping out at 73.8% in a loss to Texas Tech last week.
Despite the team's two losses (@ No.4 TCU, @ Texas Tech), Griffin has given hope to a downtrodden Baylor program that had averaged eight losses in their last four season. While he doesn't have the statistics to be seen as a prototypical rushing quarterback, Griffin's athleticism is on display in the pocket and inside the red zone, where he has accumulated five of his six rushing TDs this year.
Baylor will need Griffin more than ever in the second half of the season, as all five teams they play have the potential to be ranked in the Top 25 at week's end, including No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 20 Oklahoma State.
Brandon Weeden #3 QB / Justin Blackmon #81 WR
Oklahoma State's combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon has produced at a level unmatched in college football this year.
Even though they have only played five games, the Oklahoma State battery still has the second-most yards of any quarterback-receiver tandem, behind only Hawaii's combo of Bryant Moniz and Greg Salas, and they have connected on an NCAA-leading 11 touchdowns.
A former second-round draft pick of the New York Yankees, Weeden, who will be 27 on Sunday, shows the poise and maturity at the quarterback position that his age dictates he possess. Intangibles aside, he still has been one of college football's top statistical quarterbacks this season and ranks 10th in the nation in passing yards and is tied for first in passing touchdowns (with Greg Moniz) at 18.
Justin Blackman has had three games with 10+ receptions already this year, and remains the Cowboys' game-breaking playmaker at the wide receiver position. A down field threat because of his size and ability to out jump defensive backs, Blackman has had three touchdowns of over 40 yards, including an 81-yard score in a win against Tulsa.
Oklahoma State will need their dynamic duo to continue their success once the schedule starts to toughen up in October and November. Games against No. 5 Nebraska and No. 6 Oklahoma loom, for the Cowboys, and they hope that Weeden and Blackmon are up to the task.
Geno Smith #12 QB
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Long known for their pedigree of fleet-footed quarterbacks, West Virginia has found a true pocket passer in sophomore Geno Smith.
First in the Big East in passing yards, though he has a leg up because of a Thursday game this week, Smith has bucked the trend of run-oriented quarterbacks at WVU. Combined with a 13-to-2 touchdown to pick ratio, Smith's presence under center has opened up the passing game for Tavon Austin and Jock Sanders to make an impact in the passing game, not to mention the decreased attention on speedster Noel Devine.
Poised to win the Big East, West Virginia (5-1, 1-0) has kept up the winning tradition despite a change in philosophy on offense. With a BCS bowl game in their sights, Geno Smith and the Mountaineers could stamp their own unique legacy on an-already storied West Virginia football program.
Russell Wilson #16 QB
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In his third season as N.C State's leading man, Russell Wilson has the Wolfpack (5-1, 1-0) off to their best start since 2002.
Although he has battled bouts of inconsistency completing passes, Wilson has carried the N.C State offense with 1,802 yards and 18 touchdowns, good for second in the nation in both categories. With 300-yard games in five of his first six games, the undersized QB has dealt with questions of his durability, despite missing only two games in his career to injury.
The ACC is enjoying a competitive and successful season, and the top spot is still up for grabs six games into the year.
Behind Wilson's arm, and the 8th-best passing attack in the country, N.C State has a chance at getting a chance to play in a BCS bowl game.
Jesse Paguaga is a regular contributor to Baseball Digest. He writes as an intern on the Bleacher Report website. Jesse writes for Gotham Baseball, along with Gotham Hoops and Gotham Gridiron. He can be reached at Paguaga@usc.edu and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/@jpags77