How good is Marcus Mariota? This Thursday's clash between the high-flying Oregon Ducks and the gritty Stanford Cardinal will go a long way toward proving just how dynamic Mariota really is. The sophomore stud is battling for Heisman trophy honors with Florida State freshman Jameis Winston and reigning award-winner Johnny Manziel. Mariota has 20 touchdown passes on the season; perhaps more impressively, he has failed to throw a single interception through eight games in 2013. Mariota has also rushed for nine touchdowns. In total, Mariota has almost 3,000 yards from scrimmage in just eight contests.
Mariota's only loss as a starter? That's right, his lone blemish came against Stanford last season, when Mariota was a pedestrian 21-of-37 for 207 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 17-14 OT defeat. Although he did rush for 89 yards, it was arguably the worst game of Mariota's otherwise scintillating career. A year older and a little wiser, Mariota will look to make amends in Palo Alto this Thursday.
Let's see what else is in store for this week's College Football Barometer.
L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri: Washington has been a touchdown machine for the Tigers this season. It doesn't matter who lines up under center; Washington continues to get the job done. Washington has caught nine touchdowns this season from the quarterback combination of James Franklin and Maty Mauk. By contrast, the senior had just five touchdowns in his previous three seasons at Missouri. Washington has finally been able to tap into his big-play ability, averaging 18.9 yards per catch. He has already surpassed his career highs with 36 catches for 680 yards. Capable quarterbacking, a balanced offensive attack and other wide receivers that draw attention from opposing defenses has allowed Washington to break out during his final season in Columbia.
Kenny Williams, RB, Texas Tech: Running backs don't get nearly enough respect in spread offenses, being used to keep opposing defenses honest while also acting as able check-downs out of the backfield. Likewise, just because a team airs it out, doesn't mean it won't run in the red zone. Enter Williams, a junior tailback at 5-foot-9, 225. Williams has scored in each of the last five games for the Red Raiders despite averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. He has eight rushing touchdowns this season. Williams has also caught 15 passes for 153 yards out of the backfield his last four games for Texas Tech. In sum, Williams is a valuable fantasy asset at running back despite the pass-happy team for which he suits up.
Damiere Byrd, WR, South Carolina: Byrd started the season slowly for South Carolina, but has really come on strong lately. The junior has found the end zone in four of his last five games for the Gamecocks. He has also garnered at least 75 yards receiving in three of those five contests. Byrd is in sync with quarterback Connor Shaw, as Byrd caught 40 passes for 600 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012, mostly with Shaw under center. The Gamecocks have a week off before playing an injury ravaged Florida Gators squad, then play host to cupcake Coastal Carolina the following week. As a result Byrd should be in line for more trips to the end zone in the near future.
Philip Nelson, QB, Minnesota: Don't look now, but the Gophers have won three conference games in a row. Nelson has played a vital role in those victories, particularly the last two triumphs for Minnesota. Nelson rushed for two touchdowns while passing for a third in the 34-23 win over Nebraska on Oct. 26. He followed up that performance with the best passing output of his brief career at Indiana last weekend. Nelson completed 16-of-23 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns as the Gophers downed the Hoosiers, 42-39 in a shootout. Nelson has clearly seized the starting job from rushing quarterback Mitch Leidner and should find more success at home against Penn State on Saturday. The Nittany Lions are a mediocre 74th in the nation in points allowed this season, yielding 27.8 points per tilt.
Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas: Williams has been sharing carries with freshman Alex Collins this season. The sophomore Williams got off to a hot start with three-straight 100-yard outputs to begin the 2013 campaign. He then went into a five-game slump, as Collins was the more productive back. However, Williams once again reached the 100-yard plateau against Auburn on Saturday, and the Razorbacks finally ended their five-game stretch against ranked opponents. With matchups against Ole Miss and Mississippi State up next on the slate, Williams could end the 2013 season on a high note. However, be aware that Collins is also in the mix for significant touches out of the backfield.
Devin Fuller, WR, UCLA: Fuller had arguably the best game of his brief career Saturday against Colorado, catching three passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns in the 45-23 rout of the Buffaloes. Fuller has been consistent, if unspectacular, this season. He has at least three catches in every game this season but has notched more than 50 yards receiving in just two of eight games in 2013. In other words, Fuller appears to be more of a possession receiver, and his 76-yard touchdown last weekend looks to be more of an aberration than anything else. Still, Fuller has some value due to his consistent targets, as well as the fact that he has reached the end zone four times this season.
Jeff Godfrey, WR, Central Florida: Godfrey came to UCF as a highly touted quarterback recruit. When his time under center didn't go as planned, his athleticism allowed him to switch to wide receiver. While he is still learning the nuances of his new position (no small task making the switch at the collegiate level), Godfrey appears to have found his groove for the surprising Knights. Godfrey hauled in three touchdowns in the 62-17 rout of UConn on Oct. 26. He also caught a touchdown pass in the prior game at Louisville, in which the Knights shocked Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals. Godfrey remains a risky play against Houston this week, but he might be finally figuring things out at wide receiver. In a game that should be a shootout against 7-1 Houston this weekend, Godfrey is certainly a sleeper to keep on your radar.
Jake Rudock, QB, Iowa: Rudock suffered a sprained knee in Saturday's 28-9 loss to Wisconsin and had to leave in the third quarter. He wasn't playing all too well at the time of his departure, having completed 12-of-24 passes for 109 yards and an interception. Coach Kirk Ferentz has indicated that Rudock should be fine for the next game, but his recent play hasn't exactly made him a hot commodity. The sophomore gunslinger has six interceptions in his last five contests. Rudock has just one touchdown in his last two starts. Still, the silver lining is that Rudock and the Hawkeyes get to play lowly Purdue on Saturday. The Boilermakers are 1-7 on the season and give up 37.1 points per game. As a result, if Rudock is healthy, he could still be a decent option despite his recent rough stretch of play.
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami: As if the loss to in-state rival Florida State on Saturday wasn't bad enough, the Hurricanes lost their star playmaker and one of the nation's best running backs for the remainder of the season due to a broken ankle. In eight games, Johnson averaged 6.3 yards per tote en route to 920 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The Hurricanes have an extremely capable backup in Dallas Crawford, who should be immediately added to fantasy rosters if not already taken. Crawford has scored nine touchdowns this season, including a four-game stretch in which he scored two touchdowns per contest. Crawford also showed he can carry the rushing load with a 33-carry, 137-yard outburst at North Carolina on Oct. 17. Eduardo Clements and freshman Gus Edwards will also see touches out of the backfield as Johnson remains shelved.
Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest: Another costly ACC injury comes in the form of Campanaro, one of the elite wide receivers in the country. Campanaro broke his collarbone Saturday and likely will miss the remainder of the regular season. Campanaro was on pace to record career highs across the board. He caught 67 passes for 803 yards and six touchdowns in 2013 for the Demon Deacons. It will be difficult for both Wake Forest as well as fantasy owners to replace the production of Campanaro. The second-leading wide receiver statistically for the Demon Deacons is freshman Jonathan Williams, who has 15 grabs for 212 yards in 2013, and has caught just two passes in his last two games. A matchup with Florida State this weekend certainly won't help matters, either.
Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh: Savage hasn't exactly been bad recently, but he hasn't shown the same promise since his six-touchdown performance at Duke on Sept. 21. Savage has five touchdowns and three interceptions in five games since that breathtaking outburst, while crossing the 200-yard passing mark in just two of those five tilts. Savage has also rushed for two additional scores over that span, though. Pittsburgh has four games left this season; two of those games feature ranked opponents in Notre Dame and Miami. As a result, Savage is only an average option the rest of the way. In any event, it certainly doesn't seem as though he has another six-touchdown game up his sleeve.
Storm Woods/Terron Ward, RB, Oregon State: The Beavers have been on a slide, and the lack of a running game could be the main culprit. In fairness to Woods, he suffered a scary injury earlier this season and has not been the same since that time. Meanwhile, Ward is the leading rusher for the squad, but has just 277 yards on the ground. In his defense, he has been decent in the passing game, accumulating 24 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Woods has 35 grabs for 320 yards and a touchdown through the air. Still, both backs average less than four yards per carry. With Sean Mannion airing it out with great frequency, mostly to Brandin Cooks, there have been fewer touches for the rushers out of the backfield. The task gets no easier for the Beavers as the season winds down, either; OSU faces Arizona State, Washington and Oregon in the last three games of the year. There are better running-back options out there at this juncture.