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Instant analysis: Tracking CFB's top 10 players in Week 9

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Editor's note: In this space we'll track the top 10 players in college football (based on NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter's rankings) through the ninth weekend of the season. Here you'll find each player's final stats and analysis of their performances. The post will be updated throughout the day as games conclude. All times listed are Eastern.

Tracking CFB's top 10 players: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8


1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (at Virginia, Saturday, 12 p.m.)
Last week: No. 1
Week 9 stats: 24-of-41 for 361 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT. 18 carries for 90 yards (5.0 average)
Reuter's analysis: Jackson spent a lot more time in the pocket than running against Virginia on Saturday, with mixed results. He got off to a rough start, missing on a couple of deep throws to James Quick and failing to throttle down shorter throws to make things easier on his receivers. Virginia came after Jackson as the game went on. He often failed to make quality throws and took some sacks that you wouldn't expect. His interception came off a floater pass over the middle, where he showed the ability to avoid a rush up the middle and set his feet, but the pass came out of his hand poorly. In the second half, though, Jackson threw darts for touchdowns. Then he cemented his Heisman-favorite status with a beautiful fade throw to finish the comeback on the road. Jackson isn't really even-tempered, as he will show emotion after plays, but he doesn't panic in clutch situations -- that's an important and undervalued aspect for an elite quarterback.

2. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M (vs. New Mexico State, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.)
Last week: No. 2
Week 9 stats: N/A
Reuter's analysis: Garrett did not play against New Mexico State Saturday night due to a lower leg injury suffered against Arkansas a couple of weeks ago; he spent the night walking the Aggies' sideline in a walking boot. He didn't look 100 percent when facing Alabama last weekend, so it makes sense to sit him vs. NMSU so he can be healthy for the rest of the SEC schedule.

3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (on bye)
Last week: No. 3

4. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (at Florida State, Saturday, 8 p.m.)
Last week: No. 4
Week 9 stats: 27 of 43 for 378 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs. 17 carries for 52 yards (3.1 average).
Reuter's analysis: Watson moved the ball effectively against an athletic Florida State defense in the first quarter, and showed poise late in the game to help the Tigers get the big road win. He took the team down the field twice for touchdowns using his feet on designed runs early, and was accurate as a passer on those drives. Watson combined with his safety valve, Hunter Renfrow, and also threw NFL-caliber passes to beat Cover 2 coverage. Things got complicated in the middle of the game, though. Watson set up the Seminoles for 10 points off of two interceptions with his poor defensive reads. His inability to come off his first read to find another target yet again showed through, and his staring down of receivers allowed FSU defensive end DeMarcus Walker to knock down multiple throws. Watson overthrew his deep passes more often than not, which prevented his open receivers from getting underneath them. Still, in the end, Watson found open receivers in the Seminoles' secondary when it counted, showing scouts late-game situations are not too big for him.

5. Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan (at Michigan State, Saturday, 12 p.m.)
Last week: No. 5
Week 9 stats: 7 tackles (2 for loss; one sack). 5 carries for 24 yards (4.8 average), TD. 1 punt return for 8 yards. 1 kickoff return for 15 yards.
Reuter's analysis: The Wolverines found themselves down 7-0 early in their rivalry game versus MSU, but they came back with a drive of their own -- finished off by a five-yard, direct-snap run to the right pylon by Peppers. He lined up as a Wildcat quarterback other times during the game, breaking off runs with quickness and a nifty spin move when the blocking was there. On defense, he displayed his speed and aggression by attacking run plays from behind or avoiding blocks in the box. He was hurt when defending an outside run in the first quarter, as he was planted to the turf by a pulling guard. Peppers played through the injury the rest of the game, making the biggest tackle of the game with a sack in the red zone with less than two minutes remaining. Just for good measure, Peppers ran back a blown two-point conversion attempt by the Spartans to score two for his own team. That's one way to get yourself into the Heisman talk.

6. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama (on bye)
Last week: No. 9

7. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama (on bye)
Last week: No. 8

8. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame (vs. Miami, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Last week: Knocking on the door
Week 9 stats: 25-of-38 for 361 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs. 8 carries for 31 yards (3.9 average.)
Reuter's analysis: Kizer was benched in his last outing for throwing into coverage too often. Miami's defense is no joke, but the redshirt sophomore stopped those mistakes so his team could win the game. In fact, he saved the Irish at the end of the game by jumping on a fumble near the Miami goal line. Few quarterbacks are messing around in those piles. He was accurate from the pocket most of the time, using his strong arm and good footwork to deliver passes on the money. Kizer didn't test the 'Canes deep very often, though. In the red zone, Kizer threw two touchdown passes early -- one was a low dart that only his man could get -- but then sailed a couple of others that prevented his team from getting six points. Though he didn't run a lot, Kizer again showed scouts he can effectively move the ball when the defense gives him that option.

9. Jamal Adams, S, LSU (on bye)
Last week: No. 7

10. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida (vs. Georgia, Saturday, 3:30 pm.)
Last week: No. 10
Week 9 stats:
2 tackles (1 for loss; one sack).
Reuter's analysis: Tabor wasn't tested much as the Bulldogs only took occasional shots outside against the Gators' vaunted secondary. When Jacob Eason tried throwing towards the junior corner, he had to check down or eat the ball. Tabor did have a sack in the first half, coming hard off the edge and making a secure tackle on Eason. He played both press and off-coverage, as he posesses the want-to and footwork to knock receivers off their route despite his average size for the position.

5 knocking on the door

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC (vs. Cal, Thursday, 10:30 p.m.)
Last week: Knocking on the door
Week 9 stats: 6 catches for 66 yards (11.0 average). 2 rushes for 25 yards (12.5 average).
Reuter's analysis: USC's win over Cal featured big games for Trojans running back Ronald Jones and receiver Darreus Rogers, but Smith-Schuster made an impact using his length. He used his physicality to separate from corners at the top of his route, shed tackles on the outside and stiff-arm opponents on the run. The junior showed toughness by returning to the field right away after taking a shot to his already-ailing back. Smith-Schuster also showed enough quickness to spin off a hitch and get extra yards. His blocking on the edge was solid, as he helped Jones and others break big runs by eating up corners and blocking down on linebackers.

Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State (vs. Michigan, Saturday, 12 p.m.)
Last week: No. 6
Week 9 stats: 2 tackles (both for loss).
Reuter's analysis: McDowell now has firsthand experience with the NFL-caliber quality of Michigan's offensive line. In the first half, he had trouble getting off the blocks of Michigan right tackle Erik Magnuson. Eventually, he used quick hands and feet to avoid Magnuson. McDowell played inside at times, showing off his elite quickness and strength off the ball, often pushing a very good center in Mason Cole into the backfield. He didn't make any plays, though, until he utilized his strong hands to disengage from blocks. He made a couple of big tackles for loss later in the game, helping to keep his team's comeback bid alive, and reminded scouts of how good he can be when his technique matches his talent.

Tim Williams, LB, Alabama (on bye)
Last week: Unranked

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (vs. Clemson, Saturday, 8 p.m.)
Last week: Knocking on the door
Week 9 stats: 19 carries for 169 yards (8.9 average), 4 TDs.
Reuter's analysis: Cook did the best he could in the first half, taking any crease he could find and wiggling through it. He got through initial contact and fell forward often, belying his reputation as a back relying on speed. His fumble inside the five-yard line nearly cost the team, but he took the next carry (and a Clemson defender) into the end zone. Cook finally broke through in the third quarter, setting up defenders inside, bouncing outside and tight-roping the sideline for 43- and 70-yard scores. His speed in the open field was impressive, as he took away angles from quick Tigers defenders. Cook held up well in pass protection tonight, as well, giving Deondre Francois time to throw downfield. Instead of sulking about a dropped wheel-route pass with five minutes left, he made a nice lead block on a long gain for his fullback, and then finished off the drive himself with an eight-yard score. It was a great night for Cook despite the game's disappointing result for FSU.

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (vs. Miami, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Last week: Knocking on the door
Reuter's analysis: 
Once again, McGlinchey had a solid performance, keeping QB DeShone Kizer's backside clean, and getting out in front of runs and screen passes using his athleticism. Few left tackles in the country are as technically sound in their slide, base, and hands as McGlinchey. The Hurricanes' quickness did give him trouble at times, causing him to lose his balance on reach blocks, and he failed to hit second-level targets at times. But he came off the ball well in the run game, as well, helping the team make plays to score and then hang on at the end of the game.

Dropped out: Illinois DE Dawuane Smoot (knocking on the door last week), Alabama LB Reuben Foster (knocking on the door last week).

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

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