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Instant analysis: Tracking CFB's top 10 players in Week 12

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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 12th 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 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11


1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (at Houston, Thursday, 8 p.m.)
Last week: No. 1
Week 12 stats: 20-of-43 for 211 yards, TD. 25 carries for 33 yards (1.3 average).
Reuter's analysis: It was tough going for Jackson and the Cardinals in Houston on Thursday night. The sophomore made a few excellent throws early, displaying a quick release as he hit out and slant routes. The majority of his throws, however, were more errant than usual, as he avoided freshman phenom defensive tackle Ed Oliver and others running through the out-of-sync Louisville offensive line. Coming out of halftime, Jackson looked more like himself, throwing darts and running aggressively. He unfortunately cost his team that momentum (and a likely touchdown) with a red-zone fumble in the third quarter, something he's had issues with when on the run because he holds the ball loosely. Jackson started pressing at that point, taking sacks (Houston got to double digits) and failing to make throws that he typically does when protected. The loss was a team effort, and Jackson couldn't elevate his game to carry the load.

2. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M (vs. Texas-San Antonio, Saturday, 12 p.m.)
Last week: No. 2
Week 12 stats: 8 tackles (4.5 sacks).
Reuter's analysis: Garrett took the field for the Aggies against the Roadrunners even though he's still healing up from injury. He didn't quite look 100 percent, but his talent came through and he wound up with 4.5 sacks. He used his speed around the corner and power to collapse the pocket. Garrett has been lining up as a stand-up rusher more often as the season has gone on. He did so often in the second half of this game, and despite not being at full strength, he looked to have the agility and strength make that transition in the NFL. He dropped into coverage a couple times after faking a rush and looked just fine in that role. Overall, it was a good performance against a UTSA team that wasn't going down easy in College Station.

3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (vs. Florida, Saturday, 1 p.m.)
Last week: No. 3
Week 12 stats: 12 carries for 40 yards (3.3 average).
Reuter's analysis: Fournette was not expected to play against Florida, but after a pre-game scuffle broke out, he asked to suit up. After Derrius Guice fumbled near the goal line, LSU coaches decided to play Fournette. The junior star flashed his cuts and power on some runs, but looked more hesitant than usual on others due to his ankle injury and the strength of Florida's rush defense. While not as explosive as usual, he settled the offense a bit, giving Guice a chance to cool down before he got carries again in the mid-third quarter. Once Guice proved reliable again, Fournette had a seat to rest his ankle. I'm sure Tigers fans will wonder if their team would have won with Fournette in the game at the end.

4. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (vs. The Citadel, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Last week: No. 4
Week 12 stats: 11-of-20 for 184 yards, 3 TDs. 3 carries for 55 yards (18.3 average).
Reuter's analysis: Despite less than stellar statistics, Trubisky's pinpoint accuracy was on display again in the Tar Heels' blowout of The Citadel. When the game was still close, he threw great out routes and an effortless deep touchdown pass down the middle to his favorite target, Ryan Switzer. On another passing touchdown later in the first half, Trubisky looked off the safety for a full three seconds before coming back to his first read for the score -- that's something you don't see enough from college quarterbacks. Late in the first half, Trubisky showed why he was rated a dual-threat quarterback out of high school when he took off for a big run as Citadel defenders covered downfield. Though he spent most of the third quarter handing off the ball and throwing short passes in game-management mode with a big lead, Trubisky had another big run on an option play at the end of the third quarter. Why he was in the game with a 41-0 lead, I'm not sure.

5. Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan (vs. Indiana, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Last week: No. 5
Week 12 stats: 5 tackles (2 for loss), 1 pass breakup. 2 carries for 2 yards. 4 punt returns for 29 yards, 1 kickoff return for 18 yards.
Reuter's analysis: Peppers wasn't heard from much in the Wolverines' disappointing first half against Indiana. He made a physical tackle on a running play, but was more often negated by linemen at the point of attack. Peppers was also forced into coverage at times, and was ignored on those plays. In the second half, he didn't have to make many plays, either. The junior had a nice tackle behind the line to slow down an Indiana drive, showing how explosive he can be when attacking a gap instead of facing the strength of a lineman. His typical playmaking on offense and special teams was also missing, as he only had a couple of opportunities in those roles. But scouts know that Peppers consistently does the things coaches want of him on the outside, getting outside of runs to force the play inside. They won't worry about his production in this game.

6. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama (vs. Chattanooga, Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Last week: No. 7
Week 12 stats: 6 tackles (2 for loss)
Reuter's analysis: It didn't take long for Allen to make an impact against Chattanooga's overmatched offensive line. He knifed into the backfield on the game's first play. Allen's versatility is incredible -- he even lined up as a stand-up rusher in the first half. He was unblockable when man-up inside. Chattanooga triple-teamed him on one play early because he simply moved his man side-to-side to two-gap inside. He nearly picked off a screen pass after recognizing the play immediately. Allen didn't have many splash plays in the second half, though he didn't blow his assignments when in the game. It was an abbreviated night for him due to the Tide's strong lead in the fourth quarter.

7. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (at Wake Forest, Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Last week: No. 7
Week 12 stats: 23-of-33 for 202 yards, TD. 7 carries for 47 yards (6.7 average), 2 TDs.
Reuter's analysis: Watson scored his third and fourth rushing touchdowns of the season (he had 12 last year) in the first half against Wake Forest. He was also throwing darts early, hitting slants on time and throwing a perfect fade to Mike Williams for the team's third touchdown of the first quarter. His accuracy in the intermediate game wasn't great. One of his attempts was an overthrow to an open receiver on a longer out route -- the exact type of throw scouts want to see him make. In the second half, Watson and the Clemson offense were conservative with a comfortable lead, so Watson made safe throws and picked up first downs with his feet when not handing off to Wayne Gallman. The junior had a seat midway through the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.

8. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama (vs. Chattanooga, Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Last week: No. 9
Reuter's analysis: It was interested to watch Robinson against Keionta Davis, Chattanooga's excellent defensive end. Though Davis didn't beat Robinson for a big play, the left tackle had troubles controlling the quick and strong DE. Robinson lurched toward the DE (which has been an issue for the tackle in the past), and was shed accordingly. When he wasn't matched up against Davis early, Robinson dominated on the edge as a run and pass blocker, as you'd expect. He again showed enough agility to hit second-level targets in the run game, and tossed aside smaller defenders coming his way. In the fourth quarter, Robinson appeared to jam his shoulder on a block, and went to the locker room before the game was done. Overall, it wasn't a great night for Robinson.

9. Tim Williams, LB, Alabama (vs. Chattanooga, Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Last week: No. 10
Week 12 stats: 1 tackle for loss.
Reuter's analysis: Williams suffered an injury early in the game, and didn't reenter the game until the third quarter. He nearly picked up a fumbled snap upon his return, coming off the ball hard enough to completely avoid a cut block by the left tackle. The linebacker didn't play much after that because of the big lead Alabama possessed.

10. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (at Wake Forest, Saturday, 7 p.m.)
Last week: Knocking on the door
Week 12 stats: 6 catches for 58 yards (6.7 average), TD.
Reuter's analysis: Williams showed off his physicality and strong hands early in the game. Scouts already can envision Williams moving the chains on slants at the next level, stemming the route and boxing out his opponent. He saved a late throw from Deshaun Watson later, reaching back to corral it for a first down. Scouts saw enough from the game's top receiver to know he's a future alpha.

6 knocking on the door

Jamal Adams, S, LSU (vs. Florida, Saturday, 1 p.m.)
Last week: No. 8
Week 12 stats: 5 tackles
Reuter's analysis: Offenses that don't challenge Adams with vertical routes, allowing him to attack plays downhill, will pay a price. He came downhill multiple times vs. the Gators, joining in on tackles around the line. Adams lined up in Cover 2, single-high and in-the-box looks during the game, showing the versatility that NFL scouts want to see in a safety. When playing back, Adams had the speed and awareness to cover those deep routes, making the Gators' threats ineffective. Late in the game, however, when Florida was driving for a go-ahead score, Adams (and a few of his teammates) were unable to stop the Gators from pushing the pile. The Tigers couldn't pull out the win.

Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State (at Michigan State, Saturday, 12 p.m.)
Last week: Knocking on the door
Week 12 stats: 1 tackle, 1 INT.
Reuter's analysis: The cold and windy weather, as well as the average arm strength of Michigan State quarterback Tyler O'Connor, kept Conley from being challenged often on Saturdya. But in the end, he made two big plays to seal the win over MSU. The Spartans went nearly the entire game without a reception past the line of scrimmage by a receiver. Conley did look smooth in press-bail technique, and played the slot and outside with aplomb. The corner was leapfrogged by running back L.J. Scott outside, but Conley actually didn't go that low on the attempted tackle -- it was a great play by Scott. Conley's best play came late in the game when he defended a corner route, preventing O'Connor from going to his first read (he threw the interception on his check-down option.) He won't get any credit on the stat sheet for that play, but scouts will see it. Then Conley finished the game by bringing in a desperate pass late, coming off his man in deep coverage to track the ball and high-point it for the pick. He'll be tested a lot more next week against Michigan.

Luke Falk, QB, Washington State (at Colorado, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Last week: Knocking on the door
Week 12 stats: 26-of-53 for 325 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT. 4 carries for minus-4 yards.
Reuter's analysis: Falk had trouble finding receivers that could catch the ball while looking into the sun in the first quarter. Eventually, they couldn't help but catch his throws, though, because he placed perfect passes on speed outs (just over the defender to the sideline). Falk's ability to put air under his passes to give receivers a chance to make a play is impressive. His ability to see blitzes and adjust the play at the line is also appreciated by scouts, and he also checks to run plays. Given the lack of freedom to change plays that most college quarterbacks are granted, the trust his staff places in him is worth noting. The second half, however, was not his best, as the Colorado defense stiffened up. Falk is not fleet of foot; though he managed to pick up a 4th-and-one with his feet in the first quarter, his lack of running ability left him vulnerable when his targets were covered. He made a couple of questionable decisions in the red zone, and sailed some passes with his over-the-top delivery. And his willingness to put air under the ball can bring defenders into play. The game basically ended on a sack when he failed to feel pressure from the backside while waiting for a receiver to get open. Falk's inability to move the ball against a game Buffaloes defense, as well as his defense's inability to make stops, resulted in the Cougars' first conference loss.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (vs. Syracuse, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Last week: Knocking on the door
Week 12 stats: 28 carries for 225 yards (8.0 average), 4 TDs.
Reuter's analysis: Cook made history Saturday, breaking the Florida State career rushing record (previously held by Warrick Dunn). He broke the record on a 41-yard rush in which he showed great speed to the outside, coming off the left tackle to explode for the huge gain. Cook is one of the better runners in the country at staying upright after being tripped up, keeping his feet moving to get every possible yard. He runs with a low center of gravity, which allows him to change direction quickly and accelerate to exploit cutback lanes. As usual, Cook did little things to help the team win, as well, including standing his ground in pass protection on the Seminoles' first touchdown pass and acting as a lead blocker for Deondre Francois runs. Unfortunately, Cook's second fumble of the game came after he was injured early in the fourth quarter. He was able to get off the field and stay on the sideline as the Seminoles completed the victory over the Orange.

Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State (ankle injury; didn't play vs. Ohio State)
Last week: Unranked

Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA (vs. USC, Saturday, 10:30 p.m.)
Last week: Unranked
Week 12 stats: 4 tackles, 1 pass breakup.
Reuter's analysis: McKinley had 10 sacks coming into the rivalry game against USC, and faced his toughest foes of the year in left tackle Chad Wheeler and right tackle Zach Banner. He switched sides regularly, standing up and playing with his hand down. McKinley generally does pretty well holding his ground in the run game, and even stuffed pulling Trojan guards early on. Banner put him to the turf on a Ronald Jones touchdown run, however, to no one's surprise given the 100-plus pound weight advantage Banner has in that matchup. McKinley also lost contain on a Sam Darnold option play for a big gain. Nonetheless, McKinley's closing speed in the open field was impressive. He covers 10 yards in the blink of an eye to attack quarterbacks or chase down running backs. His best pro position might be rush linebacker in a 3-4 system, and UCLA coaches showed scouts his agility in coverage by dropping him on occasion and using him to spy Darnold as a runner. Though McKinley didn't make enough plays to stop USC from controlling the ball and getting the win, scouts will be able to see plenty of potential in his game.

Dropped out: Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown, Jr. (knocking on the door last week), Tennessee DE Derek Barnett (knocking on the door last week).

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @chad_reuter.

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