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CFB Barometer: Who's Up, Who's Down Week 1

Daniel Kennedy

Kennedy covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for RotoWire. A veteran reporter, Kennedy has covered sports for various newspapers in the Southeast.

The college football season begins with a bang this week with several premier matchups littering the Week 1 schedule. North Carolina squares off against South Carolina to kick off the season Thursday in Columbia. Two more clashes between the SEC and ACC highlight Saturday's slate, with Virginia Tech taking on No. 1 Alabama and Clemson tussling with Georgia in the nightcap. Among the game's brightest stars, these games will feature Heisman hopefuls Jadeveon Clowney and Tajh Boyd, as well as Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron and Sammy Watkins.

With that in mind, let's look at players who could be - and are already - making headlines this season in the first edition of College Football Barometer.


Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma -
Knight upstaged junior Blake Bell to secure the Sooners' starting quarterback position, allowing coach Bob Stoops to open up the playbook this season. The departure of Landry Jones affords Knight, a redshirt freshman, the opportunity to step into an offense that produced more than 4,000 passing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns by the quarterback last season. He does lose his top two pass-catching targets, but their replacements - Jalen Saunders and Trey Metoyer - were both named to the Biletnikoff Award watchlist. Knight likely will be an underrated fantasy asset all season.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri -
His 2012 season was marred by largely failing to live up to the expectations heaped upon a consensus top-three recruit. Unproductive and overwhelmed, Green-Beckham was suspended midseason before ultimately showing glimpses of why the 6-foot-6, 225, receiver should be a matchup nightmare for defenses in his second season. Settling into the role of top playmaker, he hauled in 242 receiving yards and four touchdowns the last four games last season. Green-Beckham has impressed this preseason and should be in line to see a quantum leap as a sophomore.

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor -
Can Petty make it three in a row? Last year, Nick Florence bested the video game numbers posted by Robert Griffin III the season prior. Petty, a junior, has enormous shoes to fill in replacing coach Art Briles' brilliant proteges, but Briles said his newest quarterback might be the best yet. While it remains to be seen whether a player with 140 career passing yards can put together a 4,000-yard passing season, it would not pay to bet against the Baylor offensive system.

James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State -
Yet another highly-touted recruit who has not quite lived up to the hype, Wilder turned a corner last season while running behind starter Chris Thompson. The junior had 635 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in part-time duty, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Thompson and his 100 carries are now gone. In his stead, Wilder should shine as the Seminoles' full-time back and make his long-awaited impact.


Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M -
What an offseason it has been for the Heisman Trophy winner. As a freshman last year, Manziel electrified the college football world with more than 5,000 combined yards. A widely-publicized scandal, however, has left the Aggies quarterback a serious question mark for 2013. School officials said there are no plans to sit Manziel for the season opener, but an ongoing NCAA investigation makes him a risky play. When he is on the field, the signal caller might be the nation's top fantasy player. The question is whether he will be on the field for the full season.

Anthony Wilkerson, Barry Sanders, RB, Stanford -
Replacing a 1,500-yard rusher is no easy task. That is exactly what the Cardinal must do following the departure of Stepfan Taylor. Fortunately, Stanford has done an outstanding job recruiting members of its backfield. A whole host of rushers will form a committee this year in Palo Alto. During the Jim Harbaugh/David Shaw era, however, one running back usually emerges as the workhorse. Once the committee establishes a pecking order, Sanders or Wilkerson should prevail to shoulder a majority of the load.

Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida -
Perhaps the most intriguing redshirt decision this season resides in Gainesville with Will Muschamp. The son of former NFL running back Fred Taylor is considered by some to be the most talented member of the Gators' backfield committee, which includes Matt Jones and Mack Brown. Despite his true freshman status, Taylor is buzz-worthy because of an injury to Jones, the lead member of the backfield. Officially ruled out for Florida's opener, Jones could return Week 2. If the Gators have confidence in their lead back, they may sit Taylor this season. If he plays, keep tabs on the talent.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan -
Coach Brady Hoke has named Toussaint the starter. Assuming this means he will garner a full workload, it could spell big things for the senior. Things appeared to be a little messy in the Wolverines backfield at the start of summer - with five players vying for carries - but seem to have cleared tremendously. With Denard Robinson and his 177 carries from last season gone and Hoke running a more traditional pro-style offense, Toussaint may finally have the breakout season many expected.


A.J. Blue/Romar Morris, RB, North Carolina -
In the absence of dynamic tailback Giovani Bernard, who will now suit up for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sundays, the Tar Heels will attempt to split his carries between Blue and Morris. With a quarterback poised to set ACC records this season and an impressive receiving core, North Carolina might shift to an even more pass-happy offense. Between the division of carries and increased touches for the passing game, there are plenty of red flags for the backfield in Chapel Hill.

Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State -
Robinson led the Big Ten in receiving last year with 77 receptions, 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season as starter. So why is he on the decline? For starters, he loses the Big Ten's leading passer from last season, Matthew McGloin. Besides the graduation of McGloin, the situation has not improved this summer with a quarterback controversy that is still brewing days before the season starts. Factor in the mouths to feed in an offense that returns several pass catchers, and this does not bode well as a friendly situation to pad Robinson's stats.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State -
A tumultuous offseason stemming from an alleged assault put Hyde in the crosshairs. Despite no charges being filed, he is suspended for at least the first three games of the season, with no guarantee he will regain his role as unquestioned starter for the Buckeyes when he returns. Expect coach Urban Meyer to take a long look at Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn and Jordan Hall in trying to establish depth at the running back position. As a result, expectations for Hyde must be tempered, even after he is back on the field.

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State -
An incoming freshman and jaw-dropping talent, the hype train for Winston has left the station. After fans were wowed by EJ Manuel, some in Tallahassee expect an encore from his successor. Despite the pedigree, these expectations might prove unrealistic for a player adjusting to his first year in FBS. While the talent is there, it will likely take time for Winston to adjust to the offense and absence of departed running back Chris Thompson, who was a weapon for Manuel in the passing game.