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Published: Nov. 11, 2016 at 10:50 a.m.
Updated: Nov. 11, 2016 at 11:07 a.m.

10 CFB players we'd want with game on the line

There were several fourth-quarter comebacks where big-time NFL players made big-time plays as they willed their teams to a win last weekend.

Those players typically hone that skill during their college days. The 10 players listed below are building a reputation for being a clutch performer, and I expect they'll continue to do the same if given the opportunity to do so in the NFL.

10 Photos Total

  • Teams need a kicker who is able to convert when it counts. Carlson has that ability. His six points were the only offense the Tigers could muster in the last quarter and a half of their win over Vandy last week. Earlier in the season, he carried the team to a win over LSU with his six converted field goals comprising all of Auburn's scoring. He made kick of 50-plus yards in both of those games, which bookend the Tigers' current six-game winning streak. 10

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    10. Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn

    Teams need a kicker who is able to convert when it counts. Carlson has that ability. His six points were the only offense the Tigers could muster in the last quarter and a half of their win over Vandy last week. Earlier in the season, he carried the team to a win over LSU with his six converted field goals comprising all of Auburn's scoring. He made kick of 50-plus yards in both of those games, which bookend the Tigers' current six-game winning streak.

  • The Cowboys have won three games by seven points or less this season, including last week's 43-37 win over Kansas State. In those three games, Washington had a combined 24 catches for 565 yards and six touchdowns. The junior completed the team's 17-point second-half comeback against Iowa State last month with a three-yard score to seal the win. Without quarterback Mason Rudolph's go-to receiver, Oklahoma State would not be in position to contend for a Big 12 title. 9

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    9. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

    The Cowboys have won three games by seven points or less this season, including last week's 43-37 win over Kansas State. In those three games, Washington had a combined 24 catches for 565 yards and six touchdowns. The junior completed the team's 17-point second-half comeback against Iowa State last month with a three-yard score to seal the win. Without quarterback Mason Rudolph's go-to receiver, Oklahoma State would not be in position to contend for a Big 12 title.

  • Over the past three weeks, Cunningham has sealed a victory by chasing down a Georgia ball carrier to prevent a fourth-down conversion, and blocked a field goal attempt by leaping over the line, keeping his team within one score of Auburn late in the fourth quarter. Cunningham hustles to loose balls and uses his height and length to knock down passes as well as field goals. There's not much more one defender can do to help his team win games. 8

    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    8. Zach Cunningham LB, Vanderbilt

    Over the past three weeks, Cunningham has sealed a victory by chasing down a Georgia ball carrier to prevent a fourth-down conversion, and blocked a field goal attempt by leaping over the line, keeping his team within one score of Auburn late in the fourth quarter. Cunningham hustles to loose balls and uses his height and length to knock down passes as well as field goals. There's not much more one defender can do to help his team win games.

  • While he's not the biggest of backs (5-foot-11, 213 pounds, per school measurements), Cook puts it all on the line for the Seminoles each week. He played through a hamstring injury in 2015 that would have sidelined many backs, and still ended up with more than 1,700 yards on the year. Against North Carolina State last week, the Wolfpack defense bottled up Cook and quarterback Deondre Francois throughout the majority of the game. But in the third quarter, Cook ran for 33 yards and a score on three carries, getting the Seminoles back into the game. Even in FSU's loss to Clemson a couple of weeks ago, Cook showed up big, putting up 169 yards and four scores; his big runs that night got the headlines, but his willingness to grind out tough yards between the tackles was even more impressive. 7

    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    7. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

    While he's not the biggest of backs (5-foot-11, 213 pounds, per school measurements), Cook puts it all on the line for the Seminoles each week. He played through a hamstring injury in 2015 that would have sidelined many backs, and still ended up with more than 1,700 yards on the year. Against North Carolina State last week, the Wolfpack defense bottled up Cook and quarterback Deondre Francois throughout the majority of the game. But in the third quarter, Cook ran for 33 yards and a score on three carries, getting the Seminoles back into the game. Even in FSU's loss to Clemson a couple of weeks ago, Cook showed up big, putting up 169 yards and four scores; his big runs that night got the headlines, but his willingness to grind out tough yards between the tackles was even more impressive.

  • It's easiest to include quarterbacks like the Sooners' Baker Mayfield on this list, but let's face it -- Mayfield's looking for one guy this year to make plays down the stretch. There's no coincidence in the fact that the team's six-game winning streak started when Westbrook's season began to take off -- he's averaging eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown and a half over that stretch. Westbrook is dangerous because, despite his lean build, he's not afraid to work the middle as well as take the top off of a defense. That's the guy you need to find for a first down or score when the game's on the line. 6

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    6. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

    It's easiest to include quarterbacks like the Sooners' Baker Mayfield on this list, but let's face it -- Mayfield's looking for one guy this year to make plays down the stretch. There's no coincidence in the fact that the team's six-game winning streak started when Westbrook's season began to take off -- he's averaging eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown and a half over that stretch. Westbrook is dangerous because, despite his lean build, he's not afraid to work the middle as well as take the top off of a defense. That's the guy you need to find for a first down or score when the game's on the line.

  • Peppers can affect a game on offense, defense and special teams, so why wouldn't you want him on your side when the game is on the line? Coaches can plug him in as a Wildcat quarterback to make a big play. He can also be effective on defense late in the game, whether in coverage or around the line of scrimmage. He's created only one turnover so far in his college career, but those will come. Add in his special-teams acumen as a kick returner (don't forget he returned a blocked extra point for two points late in the win over Michigan State last month), and Peppers is a triple threat to be a fourth-quarter hero. 5

    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    5. Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan

    Peppers can affect a game on offense, defense and special teams, so why wouldn't you want him on your side when the game is on the line? Coaches can plug him in as a Wildcat quarterback to make a big play. He can also be effective on defense late in the game, whether in coverage or around the line of scrimmage. He's created only one turnover so far in his college career, but those will come. Add in his special-teams acumen as a kick returner (don't forget he returned a blocked extra point for two points late in the win over Michigan State last month), and Peppers is a triple threat to be a fourth-quarter hero.

  • Despite being severely banged up, Garrett gave it everything he could in the fourth quarter last week in the team's loss to Mississippi State. When healthy, he'll come for the ball all day long, whether attacking the quarterback or ball carriers that run to his side of the field. The combination of his pure athleticism, hustle and toughness make him what scouts call a "war daddy." 4

    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    4. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

    Despite being severely banged up, Garrett gave it everything he could in the fourth quarter last week in the team's loss to Mississippi State. When healthy, he'll come for the ball all day long, whether attacking the quarterback or ball carriers that run to his side of the field. The combination of his pure athleticism, hustle and toughness make him what scouts call a "war daddy."

  • Forget about last weekend's game against Alabama, when the Tide shut down Fournette -- I want the LSU RB carrying the ball in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. His toughness helps his team eat up the clock and his explosiveness with the ball in his hand can turn any carry or reception into six points. Also, Fournette is a good pass protector, so defenses can't just key on the run when he lines up in the backfield. 3

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

    Forget about last weekend's game against Alabama, when the Tide shut down Fournette -- I want the LSU RB carrying the ball in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. His toughness helps his team eat up the clock and his explosiveness with the ball in his hand can turn any carry or reception into six points. Also, Fournette is a good pass protector, so defenses can't just key on the run when he lines up in the backfield.

  • Watson hasn't been as consistent this season as NFL scouts would have hoped. But his ability to put mistakes behind him and focus on the task at hand late in the game has been impressive. It's often said that defensive backs need short memories, but so do quarterbacks, as they cannot dwell on interceptions and missed opportunities. Watson's confidence in himself and his teammates will carry him to success in the NFL. 2

    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

    Watson hasn't been as consistent this season as NFL scouts would have hoped. But his ability to put mistakes behind him and focus on the task at hand late in the game has been impressive. It's often said that defensive backs need short memories, but so do quarterbacks, as they cannot dwell on interceptions and missed opportunities. Watson's confidence in himself and his teammates will carry him to success in the NFL.

  • There's nobody I'd rather have leading my team late in a game than Jackson. Whether by air or ground, he's coming to get you on every drive. Two weeks ago against Virginia, he put the team on his back (arm and feet might be more appropriate) on the game-winning drive, <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000731484/article/grading-the-big-5-week-9-grade-for-louisville-qb-lamar-jackson">preventing the upset on the road</a>. That's just the first of many fourth-quarter victories he's likely to pull off with his elite skill set and competitive nature. 1

    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

    There's nobody I'd rather have leading my team late in a game than Jackson. Whether by air or ground, he's coming to get you on every drive. Two weeks ago against Virginia, he put the team on his back (arm and feet might be more appropriate) on the game-winning drive, preventing the upset on the road. That's just the first of many fourth-quarter victories he's likely to pull off with his elite skill set and competitive nature.