Week 10 of the college football season was filled with star performances from all over the sport as the first week of November delivered with yet another thrilling slate of games. While some Heisman Trophy hopefuls such as Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker struggled, the beauty of college football is that it's not a star-driven game.
Anyone can emerge on any given week to cement their place in school lore. While plenty of attention is paid to the Heisman race and the NFL Draft stock of select players, memorable performances come from unexpected places on a regular basis. With 131 teams playing at the FBS level and each of those teams allowed to carry up to 85 scholarship players, the pool of candidates who have a chance to shine on the big stage is vast.
Among those maximizing their platform in the game to shine on the big stage this past week were a freshman kicker, a former walk-on quarterback and an offensive player at Iowa. Yes, an Iowa offensive player did something worth highlighting in a positive way.
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 as the biggest names in the sport, whether that be just for a moment or for an entire career.
College Football Star Power Index
Stetson Bennett, Georgia quarterback
Silence can be deafening, and the silence from Stetson Bennett's doubters speaks volumes. Skepticism over Bennett's worthiness to be a starting quarterback for one of the nation's top programs has followed the undersized former walk-on since 2020, and things were no different entering this season despite his national title-winning performance last season. But we aren't hearing much of it after his showing in the Bulldogs' 27-13 win over Tennessee last week. Bennett outplayed Hesiman Trophy hopeful Hendon Hooker while accounting for all three of UGA's touchdowns without turning the football over.
Though nine games, Bennett is completing 67.6% of his passes for 2,606 yards with 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He's also run for six touchdowns after scoring just once on the ground last season. The Bulldogs aren't quite as defensively dominant as they were last season, but they are positioned to defend their national title because Bennett has taken his play to new heights. He answered the call in a huge spot against the Vols.
Michael Barrett, Michigan linebacker
Barrett is a redshirt senior whose claim to fame in high school was as a dual-threat quarterback. His road to a starring position on the Wolverines defense has been a five-year journey through a redshirt, special teams duties, changing schemes and fluctuations in playing time. That perseverance paid off in a significant way during the Wolverines's 52-17 win at Rutgers last week. With Michigan locked in a close game during the third quarter, Barrett essentially took things over with two interceptions in less than a minute of game time. He returned the first one 21 yards to the Rutgers 10-yard line, which set up a Michigan touchdown two plays later.
On the first play of the Scarlet Knights' ensuing offensive possession, Barrett took a deflected ball all the way to the house to make it 35-17. Barrett's interceptions keyed a 28-0 third quarter for Michigan that turned a 17-14 deficit into a 42-17 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Tanner Mordecai, SMU quarterback
Mordecai fueled SMU to a win in the highest-scoring regulation game in college football history as he threw for nine touchdowns and ran for a 10th in the Mustangs' 77-63 victory over Houston. His nine touchdown passes tied a single-game FBS record. He was also the only player in FBS history to post seven passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a single half, per ESPN Stats and Info. In a surprise to no one, he was named the AAC's Player of the Week. In another sign of the game's absurdity, the Cougars and Mustangs combined for more points (140) than Houston and Cincinnati did in their most-recent basketball matchup (136).
Kaleb Johnson, Iowa running back
The odds of Iowa producing a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week this season seemed negligible, but running back Kaleb Johnson picked up that honor in Iowa's surprisingly dominant 24-3 win at Purdue. Johnson tallied 200 yards rushing and a touchdown and added a couple of receptions with a performance good enough to also earn him Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. He became just the second player in program history to run for 200 yards in a game, and the performance stands out even more because of how inept the Hawkeyes had been offensively entering the game. Iowa fans probably aren't ready to take back their gripes with this offense, but at least Johnson gives them something to be hopeful about in the future.
Jared Brown, Coastal Carolina wide receiver
Buy stock now. Coastal Carolina's redshirt freshman receiver could have been ticketed for speeding if he'd be in a school zone when he took an option pitch 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Chanticleers' 35-28 win over Appalachian State last week. The creativity that coach Jamey Chadwell employs in getting Brown the football is emblematic of why Chadwell deserves a shot at one of the Power Five openings in this coaching cycle.
But behind every innovative play call are players talented enough to make the coach look good, and Brown is becoming one of the most dynamic playmakers in the Group of Five ranks early in his career. He's caught 39 passes for 701 yards and five touchdowns while adding 183 yards on 18 carries. In total, he's averaging 15.5 yards per touch.
Rece Verhoff, Marshall kicker
Verhoff was the only player to score in Marshall's 12-0 win over Old Dominion. His four field goals ranged from 23 to 33 yards, so it's not as if the degree of difficulty on the kicks was particularly high. But when you literally account for every point scored in a conference victory as a true freshman, you deserve a shoutout. In a prime example of how silly some programs are about media access rules, Verhoff was not made available for interviews after the game because he is a freshman. In the name, image and likeness era, coaches would be wise to allow any player on their roster the chance at exposure, especially after such a clutch performance at the Group of Five level. We see you, Rece. Nice job.