In the final year of the BCS, it does not appear there will be a BCS buster in the mix. Although Louisville will attempt to crash the party out of the AAC, the Cardinals made the Sugar Bowl last season and proved worthy with an impressive victory over the Florida Gators. The rest of the top 25 in 2013 is littered with powerhouse schools from major conferences, including the return of the Miami Hurricanes to prominence. The Hurricanes smashed Savannah State, 77-7, on Saturday, but, more important, quarterback Steven Morris escaped major injury after leaving the game in the first quarter due to an ankle injury. Morris should be fine for the Canes next game at USF.
Who else is on the upswing, and who needs some fine-tuning? Let's take a gander in this week's College Football Barometer.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh - A true freshman out of Erie, Penn., the 6-foot-2, 230, rusher has emerged as the lead dog out of the backfield for the Panthers. Conner rushed 26 times for 173 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's wild 58-55 victory over Duke. It was the second straight 100-yard game for Conner, who ran 12 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns on Sept. 14 against New Mexico. Junior Isaac Bennett has received at least nine carries in each game this season, but Conner averages nearly seven yards per rush and looks to be Pittsburgh's featured rusher.
Tyler Murphy, QB, Florida - The Gators started the year with Jeff Driskel under center, but Driskel had an extremely poor showing Sept. 7 at Miami, then suffered a broken ankle on a pick-six against Tennessee on Saturday. Driskel will require surgery and his season is over. With Jacoby Brissett transferring out of Gainesville, the Gators will be piloted by junior Tyler Murphy in 2013. Murphy showed his dual-threat ability Saturday against the Vols, completing 8-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown, while rushing 10 times for 84 yards and an additional score. The Florida offense looked much more fluid under Murphy's direction. Murphy should play well at struggling Kentucky this Saturday.
Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor - The Bears average 70 points per game, so there's been plenty of ball to go around. Goodley has scored in all of three games, while also surpassing 90 yards receiving in each of those tilts as well. Goodley actually leads Baylor in receiving despite playing alongside senior Tevin Reese, who had nearly 1,000 yards through the air in 2012. The Bears obviously won't score nearly this much as they head into Big 12 play, but the high-powered offense should still yield plenty of opportunities to shine for the junior Goodley.
Rakeem Cato, QB, Marshall - Cato and the Herd have suffered two devastating losses in a row, but from a fantasy perspective the junior quarterback has been on point. Cato has scored at least two touchdowns in every game this season, while also averaging more than 250 yards of total offense. He scored three times at Virginia Tech on Saturday, nearly leading Marshall to its first win over the Hokies in more than 70 years. Cato should have his way with most of Conference USA due to his athleticism and newfound dual-threat ability; Cato has already quadrupled his rushing yardage total from a season ago. With 37 passing touchdowns in 2012 as well, Cato knows how to sling the pigskin. In other words, Cato has all the tools to succeed this season for Marshall.
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan - Gardner's five-touchdown performance against Notre Dame looked to be his coming out party, but instead he's been a model of inconsistency for the Wolverines. Gardner completed only 50 percent of his passes against Akron and UConn over the last two games while tossing five interceptions in that span. His ability to move the chains with his legs will always make him a valuable fantasy asset, however, as he has scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game this season. Still, his accuracy needs some work, and it certainly has been discouraging to see him struggle as a passer at times in non-conference play. If Gardner doesn't work out the kinks soon, he could be in for a rude awakening as Michigan heads into Big Ten action.
John Hubert, RB, Kansas State - Hubert was one of the chief beneficiaries of the Collin Klein era at K-State. With offenses focusing so much effort on stopping Klein under center, Hubert churned up yardage as somewhat of a forgotten man out of the backfield. Hubert hasn't exactly been bad this season; the diminutive senior back has 238 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. However, he averages just 4.1 yards per rush, his lowest total since he was a freshman. Hubert is also a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield, and QB Jake Waters has been decent thus far for the Wildcats. However, Waters is no Heisman candidate just yet, and as a result Hubert is receiving far more attention from defenses this season than he ever did in seasons past. As a result, his production may continue to suffer slightly.
Anthony Wilkerson, RB, Stanford - Tyler Gaffney is the unquestioned starter at running back for the Cardinal, but Wilkerson had just as many carries (18) as Gaffney did in Saturday's 42-28 win over Arizona State. Wilkerson finished the game with a season-high 68 yards on the ground, scoring his first touchdown of the season in the process. It will be interesting to see how Wilkerson is used as the season progresses; will Wilkerson be used more often to spell Gaffney and keep the starter fresh? Or will he simply be used as a change-of-pace back or in blowouts? Keep an eye on Wilkerson's usage.
David Sims, RB, Georgia Tech - Sims is the leading rusher in the triple-option Georgia Tech offense. The senior running back averages 5.6 yards per rush en route to 211 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He also had a 59-yard receiving TD in the Yellow Jackets' season-opening rout of lowly Elon. The issue is that in the triple-threat attack, the quarterback always has the option of keeping the ball himself. Likewise, the multi-faceted running formation can yield a variety of different rushers. As such, Sims could have peaks and valleys in production as the season wears on. Sims notched 99 yards and two touchdowns against UNC on Saturday but also has to face Virginia Tech and then Miami in successive weeks. Sims could see a dip in his stats over the next couple weeks.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama - Cooper was held out of Saturday's tilt with Colorado State due to a toe injury. While there was certainly no need to risk further injury to the star wideout in a cupcake contest, Cooper wasn't exactly tearing it up before the game against the Rams. Cooper had just six grabs for 72 yards in his two prior contests. Cooper was a 1,000-yard receiver as a freshman on last season's championship team, but QB A.J. McCarron has spread the ball around to begin the 2013 campaign. DeAndrew White, Christion Jones and OJ Howard all have more catches than Cooper. If the injury lingers, the Crimson Tide could continue to look to the other talented playmakers on the squad.
Noel Grigsby, RB, San Jose State - Grigsby missed Saturday's loss at Minnesota due to a knee injury and is out indefinitely, a crushing blow to the Spartans and fantasy owners alike. Grigsby gained 1,307 yards on the ground as a junior in 2012, crossing the goal line nine times. Grigsby received just 10 touches in the first two games, ceding carries to fellow senior Jason Simpson. Simpson has carried the ball at least 11 times in each of San Jose State's first three games, and should continue to receive the lion's share of the workload in Grigsby's absence.
Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin - The Badgers remain a power rushing squad, led by Melvin Gordon and James White. Stave is asked to be little more than a game manager, particularly against stronger opponents. That has been evident in the last two games against Arizona State and Purdue. Stave has passed for less than 200 yards in each of those two contests, while compiling just one touchdown and one interception. With a complete lack of mobility outside the pocket as well, Stave is one-dimensional, and that passing dimension is not even above average. As such, Stave is not the greatest fantasy option at quarterback.
DaVaris Daniels, WR, Notre Dame - Daniels delivered a supremely lackluster performance Saturday in Notre Dame's ugly 17-13 triumph over Michigan State. Daniels caught three passes for just six yards, his lowest yardage total ever for a single game in which he registered a catch since coming to South Bend. Daniels had been dynamite just one week earlier, too, hauling in eight passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns at Purdue. The Irish get Oklahoma next; the Sooners are fifth in the nation in points allowed, surrendering just nine points per game thus far this season. Daniels is explosive, but he could be in line for another rough outing against a standout defensive unit.