The final week of college football's regular season provided the optimal stage for memorable individual performances. With rivalries contested, bowl eligibility on the line, College Football Playoff spots up for grabs and conference races coming down to the wire, stakes were high across the sport.
Some players embraced the spotlight and emerged as heroes. For example, NC State quarterback Ben Finley began the season buried on the depth chart but found himself leading the Wolfpack in a critical rivalry showdown against North Carolina and Tar Heels star quarterback Drake Maye. Against all odds, Finley and NC State won the battle.
For the final edition of the Star Power Index of the 2022 season, we are highlighting Finley and others who shined bright in the last week of the regular season by maximizing the platform offered by Rivalry Week to turn in memorable performances on the big stage.
The College Football Star Power Index isn't a Heisman Trophy watch list or a ranking of NIL earnings potential, nor is it an NFL mock draft. There are plenty of places to find those. This is a rundown of players who are maximizing their platform -- be it for quality performance or other reasons -- to stand out in the sport, whether that be just for a moment or for an entire career.
College Football Star Power Index
J.J. McCarthy, Michigan quarterback
Entering last week's all-important rivalry showdown against Ohio State, McCarthy had gone nine games without completing a pass for 50 yards or more. Against the Buckeyes, he completed two, both of which went for touchdowns while another of McCarthy's bombs went 45 yards for a touchdown. The sudden explosiveness from McCarthy keyed the Wolverines to a 45-23 win as Michigan capped a 12-0 regular season with a victory over their arch rivals. McCarthy's three touchdown passes matched a career high and showed a new element to the former five-star prospect's game.
Regarded primarily as a game manager throughout the season as the Wolverines relied on their rushing attack and defense, McCarthy proved himself to be a lethal passer on the game's biggest stage. His performance recalibrated the expectations for what this team can accomplish as it begins postseason play in the Big Ten Championship Game against Purdue this week before a likely appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines cannot be treated by opponents as a one-dimensional offense.
Jordan Travis, Florida State quarterback
Travis' 13-of-30 passing performance in Florida State's 45-38 rivalry win over Florida tells a false narrative about his performance -- Travis singlehandedly willed the Seminoles to their first win in the series since 2017. The redshirt junior repeatedly evaded Florida defenders and turned would-be sacks into positive plays. He finished with a passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns. A couple of his most insane scrambles came up just short of the end zone, including a pair of third-and-long plays in the red zone that helped turn potential field goals into eventual touchdowns. In a game decided by seven points, those plays proved critical.
Caleb Williams, USC quarterback
Williams was an absolute magician for USC in the Trojans' 38-27 win over Notre Dame. The sophomore quarterback scored three touchdowns on the ground as he made a strong case for the Heisman Trophy in a nationally televised primetime spot against an opponent ranked in the top 15. With a revenge spot ahead against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, Williams can carry his team into the College Football Playoff and solidify his case for individual accolades. If he keeps playing like he's been playing recently, Williams will be the biggest individual star of college football's postseason.
Antwane Wells Jr., South Carolina wide receiver
Last week, we highlighted South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler for his six touchdown passes in an upset win over Tennessee. This week, we highlight his top target. Wells made nine catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns as the Gamecocks pulled off another upset over a top-10 foe by winning 31-30 at Clemson and handing the Tigers their first home loss since 2016. The James Madison transfer is the Gamecocks' leading receiver, and has been Rattler's main target all season. But with 20 catches for 308 yards over the past two weeks, he's taken his game to the next level. His production is also a reminder as transfer season heats up: The FBS ranks aren't the only place talent is found.
Ben Finley, NC State quarterback
Finley began the regular season fourth on NC State's quarterback depth chart, and ended it by leading the Wolfpack to a 30-27 rivalry win over North Carolina. He finished the game with a better completion percentage (67.5%), more yards (271), more touchdowns (two) and fewer interceptions (zero) than counterpart Drake Maye. After Maye insinuated earlier this season that NC State students aren't academically qualified to attend UNC, the outcome seemed especially sweet for Finley.
"It's huge that I'm graduating in December," Finley said. "It's really important that I get my degree here. I never tried to get into UNC. But according to Drake, no, I couldn't have. I think it's good I got a nice degree from NC State in finance and go from there."
Considering that Finley is technically a freshman this season, it's even more impressive that he's graduating already. His first season was 2020 when all players were allowed to retain the year of eligibility amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He redshirted last year, which makes him a third-year redshirt freshman this season. Wherever he goes from here, Finley will have a degree, three seasons of collegiate eligibility and one great memory of a rivalry win over Maye and the Tar Heels.
Devon Achane, Texas A&M running back
Achane is over 1,000 yards rushing, has been a steady set of hands in the passing game and done a nice job of returning kicks for Texas A&M this season. Yet because of the Aggies' struggles, his play has gone under-appreciated. No more. Achane gets an overdue shoutout for his career-high 215 yards rushing in Texas A&M's shocking 38-23 upset win over LSU. There is a reason Achane is the No. 3 running back in CBS Sports' 2023 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, and he showed everyone this past week.