NCF Nation: 2013-midseason-rerank

Reranking the SEC's top 10 players

October, 14, 2013
It’s never easy to come up with the 25 best players in the SEC heading into the season.

There’s a lot of projection involved, and there are always players who come out of the woodwork and others who simply don't live up to their billing.

But as we reach the midway point of the season, at least now we have some real performances to evaluate. So we’re taking a second shot at reranking our top 10 based on what the players have done to this point.

Again, this is not a ranking of where players sit on NFL draft boards. Rather, it’s a ranking reflecting how they have played during the first part of this season and their impact on their teams.

We took injuries into consideration. For instance, Florida’s Dominique Easley was playing better than any defensive lineman in the league, but only played in the first three games. The same goes for Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who’s missed most of the last three games. Both are great players, but they didn't play in enough games to be included in our midseason list.

Here’s what we came up with:

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesAs good as Johnny Manziel was last season when he won the Heisman Trophy, he's arguably been even better this year.
1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (preseason: No. 2): He's the reigning Heisman Trophy winner for a reason, and he's making a strong bid to win it for the second straight year. Manziel was sensational this past week in leading the Aggies to a last-second win on the road at Ole Miss, and even in Texas A&M's lone loss of the season to Alabama, Manziel put on a show with 562 yards of total offense and five touchdown passes. He's the Michael Jordan of college football. The only real way to defend him is hoping he's off his game, which rarely ever happens.

2. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (preseason: No. 5): With all the injuries the Dawgs have incurred on offense, Murray is carrying that team and playing the best football of his career against a killer schedule. He did have a costly interception late against Missouri last week, but he threw eight touchdown passes and only one interception in the two wins over LSU and South Carolina. He's accounted for 20 touchdowns, which leads the SEC, and is right behind Manziel in passing with 304 yards per game.

3. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU (preseason: unranked): One of the most improved players in college football, Mettenberger has blossomed under first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and is a big reason the Tigers are lighting up scoreboards like never before under Les Miles. Mettenberger leads the SEC in passing efficiency, is completing 66.7 percent of his passes, and has thrown 15 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. In LSU's only loss (to Georgia), Mettenberger threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns.

4. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina (preseason: unranked): The Gamecocks had a good feeling coming out of the summer that Davis was primed for a big season. But he's been even better than anybody expected and has set the pace among a star-studded group of running backs in this league. Davis leads the league in rushing with 742 yards (an average of 123.7 yards per game) and has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of his six games. He also has nine touchdowns and has shown the ability to hit the big play with three runs of 50 yards or longer.

5. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (preseason: No. 6): The move from right tackle to left tackle for Matthews has been a snap, and he's playing as well as any tackle in America right now. The Aggies' offensive line, period, is playing lights out, and having a player with Matthews' expertise, talent and experience anchored on that left side is invaluable. The Aggies have given up only seven sacks in six games and are averaging nearly 600 yards of total offense per game.

6. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (preseason: No. 8): Mosley's sheer numbers on defense aren't going to blow you away. But turn on the tape and watch everything he does for that Alabama defense, from making the calls to getting everybody lined up to always being in the right place at the right time. Mosley leads the Tide with 48 total tackles and is one of the surest tacklers in the league. He's also excellent in coverage and is one of those guys who's always making key stops or pass breakups when Alabama needs it most.

7. Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU (preseason: unranked): After a rocky offseason that nearly cost Hill the rest of his career at LSU, he's bounced back with a vengeance. Hill is second in the league in rushing with 715 yards (an average of 119.2 yards per game) and really didn't get started until the third game. He was suspended for the opener and carried it only six times in the second game. But he's rushed for more than 100 yards in four of his last five games and was a straight-up man running the ball last week against that vaunted Florida defense.

8. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (preseason: No. 17): He's the one-on-one matchup no defensive coordinator wants to think about. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Evans was held in check last week against Ole Miss, but that was the exception. He leads the SEC with an average of 122.8 receiving yards per game and has caught five touchdown passes. Nobody goes up and gets the ball like Evans, who pulled in seven passes for a remarkable 279 yards against Alabama. He's averaging 23 yards per catch.

9. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (preseason: No. 14): The Commodores' record-breaking senior leads the SEC with 47 catches and is second to Evans in receiving yards per game (118.2). With Chris Boyd dismissed from the team and not playing this season, opposing defenses have shadowed Matthews at every turn, but he's continued to produce. He has five touchdown catches and is averaging 15.1 yards per catch. His consistency is what sets him apart. In his last 15 SEC contests, he's averaging more than 120 receiving yards per game.

10. James Franklin, QB, Missouri (preseason: unranked): It's a shame that Franklin separated his throwing shoulder last week in the win over Georgia and will now be sidelined for the foreseeable future. In the year of the quarterback in the SEC, Franklin was playing as well as anybody. He'd accounted for 17 touchdowns and was one of three quarterbacks in the SEC (along with Manziel and Murray) averaging more than 300 yards per game in total offense. Franklin's command of the Tigers' offense had been outstanding.

Reranking the Pac-12's top 10 players

October, 14, 2013
Bristol apparently felt the Pac-12 reporters weren't getting enough hate mail, so they asked us to rerank our top 10 players from the preseason top 25 ranking at the midway point. No easy task, mind you. Things change. Perceptions change. Rosters change (No. 20, for example, is no longer playing).

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonMarcus Mariota is not only the No. 1 player in the Pac-12, but he might be the top player in the nation.
So both halves of the Pac-12 blog banged their heads together and came up with a midseason ranking that is flawless and immune to criticism. Non-skill players are always tough to evaluate, but even tougher with a reduced body of work, so keep in mind that the postseason list will have linemen, defensive backs, etc., and will be a stronger reflection of the conference as a whole. Consider this an appetizer to the surf-and-turf postseason list.

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon (preseason ranking: No. 1): We’re pretty confident we got this one right. He’s thrown for 17 touchdowns, run for eight more and has zero turnovers. He’s deserving of his Heisman front-runner status and leads all quarterbacks in adjusted QBR.

2. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington (preseason: No. 15): The workhorse back leads the Pac-12 with 149.8 yards per game and 899 yards on 159 carries. He’s had 100-plus yards in five of six games this season.

3. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State (preseason: unranked): He wasn’t even the clear starter when we first put the preseason list together. Now he leads the nation with 2,511 passing yards and 25 touchdowns to just three interceptions.

4. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA (preseason: No. 4): With 26 tackles, including four sacks and a league-high 10 tackles for loss in five games, Barr has made his case as the league’s premier defender thus far.

5. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (preseason: No. 22): When Mannion is throwing, Cooks is usually catching. He leads the nation in catches (63), receiving yards (944) and receiving touchdowns (11). Phenomenal first half.

6. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford (preseason: No. 7): He has emerged as one of the most dynamic defensive playmakers in the country. He’s tied for the league lead in sacks with five, backed up by eight tackles for a loss. He also has an interception returned for a touchdown.

7. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA (preseason: No. 5): He’s completing 68 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns in the air and three on the ground. More importantly, he has the Bruins 5-0 and playing confident football.

8. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (preseason: No. 6): Despite missing the first game of the season for disciplinary reasons, the nation’s leading rusher from last year has kept up his form. He’s averaging 142.2 yards per game with 569 yards on 115 carries while rushing for five touchdowns.

9. Keith Price, QB, Washington (preseason: unranked): The question with Price was whether he’d return to his 2011 form. He has done that and then some. He’s the league’s most accurate passer at 69.3 percent with 12 touchdowns to four interceptions.

10. Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford (preseason: unranked): It was a toss-up here between Montgomery and Colorado’s Paul Richardson, who could be No. 10B. Richardson has more yards, but they both have five receiving touchdowns. The difference has been Montgomery’s special teams contributions the past two weeks. He’s returned kicks of 99 and 100 yards for touchdowns and leads the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards per game with 196.5 -- 20 yards per game more than Cooks, Sankey and Carey.

Reranking the Big 12's top 10 players

October, 14, 2013
In August, this blog reviewed the 25 best players in the Big 12 entering the 2013 season. Now, midway through the season and just as conference play really starts to get interesting, it's time to wipe the slate clean and start over.

The No. 3 player in our preseason list, TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, is out for the season. Others have had good or great starts to their seasons but didn't hold onto their top-10 spots. Here, then, is our new take on the 10 best players in the Big 12 at midseason.

[+] EnlargeBryce Petty
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBryce Petty has efficiently led Baylor's explosive offense.
1. QB Bryce Petty, Baylor (preseason ranking: NR) Petty entered his first season as a starter with impossibly high standards. He’s surpassing them. He’s the Big 12’s leading passer, he had a TD-INT ratio of 13-1 and he leads the nation in yards per attempt (14.8) -- and he’s just getting started. The triggerman of the highest-scoring offense in college football will be challenged more in Big 12 play, but so far, he’s needed fourth-quarter snaps in only one game.

2. CB Jason Verrett, TCU (preseason: 1) He’s the best cover man in the conference, and it’s probably not even close. Verrett leads the Big 12 in pass breakups with 10 and nabbed his first interception against Kansas. He’s well on his way to matching last year’s total of 22 passes defended, which led the nation. Opposing offenses know to avoid the All-American, but he’s still making a major impact for the Horned Frogs.

3. RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (preseason: 5) He wants to be a Heisman contender, but right now he’ll have to settle for the title of most explosive back in college football. Seastrunk leads the Big 12 in rushing on 13 carries per game. He’s averaging just a shade under 10 yards per carry. He’s sharing the load right now, but expect Seastrunk’s workload to increase as the Bears’ schedule gets much more difficult late.

4. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (preseason: 10) Jeffcoat leads the Big 12 in sacks with five, has seven tackles for loss and, most important, he’s staying healthy. The senior is finally playing up to his elite potential and has made big plays for the Longhorns, including the game-clinching interception at Iowa State and two key sacks against Oklahoma. It’s possible fellow Texas DE Cedric Reed joins him on the postseason list: Reed leads UT in tackles and pass breakups and has similar sack/TFL numbers.

5. OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor (preseason: 2) The mammoth 6-foot-5, 340-pound lineman is the star of a Baylor offensive line that consistently bullies opponents and paves the way for 302.2 rushing yards per game. The Bears' line has also kept Petty relatively safe, with just seven sacks in five games. Richardson is one of the best guards in college football and has a long NFL future ahead of him.

6. TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (preseason: NR) In a league with so few impact receiving tight ends, Amaro has been an absolute revelation in 2013. He’s developed into a dangerous target in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense with a Big 12-leading 47 catches for 606 yards and a touchdown. He’s put up nearly 200 more receiving yards than any other tight end in the country and makes life easy for Tech’s freshman passers.

7. DL Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech (preseason: NR) Texas Tech's transition to a 3-4 defense this season is working out just fine for Hyder, and the senior end/tackle could end up being a serious contender for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year if the Red Raiders remain a conference title contender. Nine of his 27 tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage, and Hyder has two sacks and two forced fumbles.

8. WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor (preseason: NR) You can make just as good a case for Tevin Reese making this list, but Goodley gets the nod on better stats and the pure surprise factor. Baylor’s fifth-leading receiver last season has become its best downfield threat. He’s No. 1 in the Big 12 with 669 yards, and his touchdowns catches have gone for 72, 61, 63, 65, 83 and 27 yards.

9. C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma (preseason: 4) Oklahoma’s line took a bit of a hit against Texas but has otherwise impressed this season, and Ikard is its unquestioned leader. It has helped lead the way for the No. 2 rushing offense in the conference. Ikard is as versatile and accomplished as any lineman you’ll find in this league and should probably be ranked much higher than ninth.

10. RB Johnathan Gray, Texas (preseason: NR) We considered several players for this final spot, and a lot more than 10 merit inclusion. Gray, a true sophomore, is playing up to his five-star potential. He leads the Big 12 in rushes and is No. 2 in yards, with big performances against Oklahoma (123 yards) and Kansas State (141) and has emerged as Texas’ workhorse in the absence of David Ash.

Reranking the Big Ten's top 10 players

October, 14, 2013
We've reached the midseason point, so it's time to go back and revisit our list of the top players in the Big Ten.

In the preseason, we ranked the Top 25 players based on past performances and potential for the 2013 campaign. You can see that list here. Now that we've had a half-season worth of actual data, we're re-ranking the Top 10, based mostly on this year's performance, with a little second-half potential thrown in. As you can guess, this list looks a lot different than it did in August. Take a gander:

[+] EnlargeMelvin Gordon
Mike McGinnis/Getty ImagesMelvin Gordon's 870 yards and eight touchdowns on a mere 90 carries has made him the No. 1 player in the Big Ten.
1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (Preseason ranking: 22): We knew Gordon had serious superstar potential when we ranked him in the preseason. He's met and even exceeded our expectations as the Big Ten's most dangerous offensive weapon.

2. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin (Preseason: 6): Somehow, Borland -- who's been around since 2009 -- has gotten even better as a fifth-year senior, and he's a clear choice right now as the league's defensive MVP.

3. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State (Preseason: 8): Penn State has been light on complementary receivers at times this year, but it hasn't stopped Robinson from dominating and putting up huge numbers as the league's best wideout.

4. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska (Preseason: 13): With Taylor Martinez injured, Abdullah has stepped up and become the Cornhuskers' leader on offense. He's right behind Gordon as the Big Ten's top running back right now.

5. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State (Preseason: 4): There's not a faster or more destructive linebacker in the Big Ten, and Shazier is at his best in big games. He'll give Borland a push for that defensive MVP award in the second half.

6. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (Preseason: 10): The league's best defensive back got punished for his physical play by tight-whistled refs at Notre Dame. No matter. He came back the next time out with two interceptions at Iowa.

7. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (Preseason: 1): Miller has missed a lot of time and didn't look fully sure of himself at Northwestern. but as he showed in the Wisconsin game, he can change a game like no other. He could do major damage in the second half.

8. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (Preseason: 2): It's hard to get a read on just how well Lewan has played as many of his teammates have had their share of problems. But he's still the league's marquee offensive lineman.

9. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin (Preseason: 16): How does this guy keep getting so open? Because he's fast, smart and really good at his job.

10. Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State (Preseason: 7): Stats don't matter with Bullough. He's the leader and the on-field brain for the best defense not only in the Big Ten, but quite possibly the nation.

Dropped out from preseason list: Northwestern RB Venric Mark (No. 5), Ohio State CB Bradley Roby (9).
Now that we are midway through the season, it is time to take a look at our preseason Top 25 player countdown and do some reranking based on performance to date in 2013. You can see that our top 10 looks different than it did in August. We made this list based on how these players have played and the impact they have had on their team, in the league, and nationally, too.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTajh Boyd has been sublime through the first half of the season, with 15 TDs and just two interceptions.
1. QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson. Previous ranking: No. 1. Boyd leads the ACC in total offense (328.3 YPG) and passing yards per game (297.2 YPG), and has 15 TD passes and just two interceptions. He is No. 2 in the Heisman Watch.

2. QB Jameis Winston, Florida State. Previous ranking: Not ranked. Winston has been terrific in his first collegiate season, ranking just behind Boyd in total offense (315.2 YPG) and passing yards (288.2) while ranking No. 4 in the nation in adjusted QBR. He is No. 4 in the Heisman Watch.

3. DT Aaron Donald, Pitt. Previous ranking: No. 10. Donald has been outstanding for the Panthers this season, leading the country in both sacks per game (1.60 average) and tackles for loss per game (2.40 average). He has at least one sack in each game this year.

4. DE Vic Beasley, Clemson. Previous ranking: Not ranked. Beasley has nine total sacks and 12 tackles for loss, ranking just behind Donald with an average of 1.5 sacks per game and 2 tackles for loss per game. Beasley's development as an every-down player has helped Clemson improve defensively this season.

5. RB Andre Williams, Boston College. Previous ranking: Not ranked. Williams has been the biggest surprise this season, as he leads the ACC with an average of 139.7 yards per game. That average ranks him No. 6 in the nation.

6. RB Duke Johnson, Miami. Previous ranking: No. 3. Johnson is the only other back in the ACC averaging more than 100 yards per game, as he ranks right behind Williams (114.4 YPG). He leads the ACC in all-purpose yards (190.8 YPG).

7. CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech. Previous ranking: Not ranked. Fuller leads the ACC and ranks in the top 10 nationally in passes defended with 1.7 per game. His leadership in the secondary cannot be underestimated.

8. QB C.J. Brown, Maryland. Previous ranking: Not ranked. Brown missed last week with a concussion but has been outstanding in his return from a torn ACL. He ranks No. 3 in the ACC in total offense (282.2 YPG) and his ability to run has made him an even bigger threat.

9. WR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest. Previous ranking: No. 13. Campanaro has been one of the best receivers in this league for a while, and this season is no different. On a mediocre Wake Forest offense, he leads the ACC in receptions per game (8.8) and receiving yards per game (116.4).

10. WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson. Previous ranking: No. 2. Watkins has gotten off to a much better start this season than last, with 36 catches for 582 yards and four touchdowns, on pace for a 1,000-yard season.