There were great performances across college football in the first month-plus of the season. The 10 players listed here stood out most to me over the last five weeks.
Some were expected to be at the top of the heap before the year began, but others have surprised at their ability to rise to the forefront. If they are able to continue their strong play as conference action starts in earnest in October and continue that momentum into November, then the postseason awards will come rolling in -- as will interest from NFL scouts.
10. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
2017 Stats: 159 of 245 (65 percent) for 2,135 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs.
The Bruins (3-2) haven't succeeded to Rosen's satisfaction. However, the junior still leads with country with 17 touchdown passes and 427 passing yards per game. And frankly, the second-half comeback he led against Texas A&M in the season opener is still buying him capital with NFL teams, even with the five interceptions he's thrown over the past three weeks (two losses).
9. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
2017 Stats: 116 carries for 823 yards (7.1 average), 7 TDs; 14 catches for 119 yards (8.5 average), 2 TDs; 5 kickoff returns for 203 yards (40.6 average), 1 TD.
Like Love, Penny had big shoes to fill with the all-time leading rusher in FBS history, Donnel Pumphrey, leaving for the NFL. He's stepped up his game, pressing the line while leading the 5-0 Aztecs to wins over Pac-12 foes Arizona State (216 yards, one TD) and Stanford (175 yards on 32 carries, one TD). He's second to Love in rushing yards per game (164.6) and has San Diego State thinking about a bowl berth against a Power Five team.
8. Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
2017 Stats: 60 tackles (31 solo), 8.5 for loss (including 2.5 sacks), 1 INT, 4 pass breakups, 1 fumble forced, 1 fumble recovery.
Jewell's been fantastic. NFL scouts and All-American voters have taken notice of the senior linebacker's ability to cover the field. He's averaging 12 tackles per game for the Hawkeyes, racking up 8.5 stops for losses. Not only is Jewell attacking the backfield, but his ability to move in coverage has been as impressive as ever.
7. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
2017 Stats: 28 catches for 647 yards (23 average), 5 TDs.
Washington and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph (who could have easily been on this list) are again one of the top duos in the country. Washington has topped 100 yards receiving in four of five games, leading the country with 647 yards on just 28 catches (23.1 yards per catch). He nearly got to the century mark (98 yards) against Furman on just two receptions. While Washington scores regularly by beating overmatched cornerbacks on posts, his hands and cuts make him a solid contributor in the underneath game, as well. Fortunately for Rudolph, he usually has the time to find his guy downfield.
6. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Brown is becoming the dominant tackle that scouts figured he would develop into. Baker Mayfield's blind-side protector has lost weight over the course of the past couple of seasons, which means he has become quicker and more fluid in pass protection. And, of course, the son of the late NFL tackle Orlando "Zeus" Brown has the huge frame to move defenders off of the line of scrimmage in the run game.
5. Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
2017 Stats: 29 tackles (15 solo), 12 for loss (including 5.5 sacks), 1 fumble forced, 1 pass breakup.
Chubb leads the FBS with 12 tackles for loss, and is tied for fourth in the nation with 5.5 sacks. He dominates in the run game with power and is consistently chasing quarterbacks with hustle. Offensive lines must account for him on every snap.
4. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
2017 Stats: 23 tackles (17 solo), 3.5 for loss, 3 QB hits, 3 forced fumbles, 1 blocked kick.
I rated Oliver as the top player in college football before the season, and only the super seasons put forth by Barkley, Mayfield, and Love could keep him from reaching the top of this list. His statistics (17 tackles, 3.5 for loss) don't tell the full story of his impact. Trust me -- offensive coordinators do not want to deal with his speed and tenacity. Oliver is suffered an MCL sprain in last week's game, but he hasn't been ruled out of this week's game against SMU as of this writing. The true sophomore won't be eligible for the 2018 draft, but NFL general managers are quite aware of his game.
3. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
2017 Stats: 98 carries for 1,088 yards (11.1 average), 8 TDs.
Christian McCaffrey's replacement with the Cardinal is averaging a ridiculous 11.1 yards per carry while ranking ninth in the country with 98 carries. The junior has gone from curiosity to the top rusher in the FBS with 1,088 yards just five weeks into the season. Love's offensive line has created holes for him, to be sure, but his ability to turn on the jets has allowed him to have at least one 50-yard run in every game this season.
2. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
2017 Stats: 76 of 101 (75 percent) for 1,329 yards, 13 TDs.
The Sooners put forth the most impressive win of the year by beating Ohio State in Columbus in Week 2. Mayfield led the way there (27-35, 386 yards, three scores), planting his flag literally and figuratively. He has tossed 13 touchdowns in four games and yet to throw an interception. His scrambling, control of the offense, throws over the top of defenses and leadership abilities have Oklahoma on the road to the College Football Playoff -- although they'll have another tough road test at Oklahoma State for Bedlam on Nov. 4.
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
2017 Stats: 86 carries for 574 yards (6.7 average), 4 TDs; 27 catches for 386 yards (14.3 average), 2 TDs; 8 kickoff returns for 258 yards (32.2 average), 1 TD; 1 passing TD.
The Heisman front-runner has been electric, hurdling defenders, running through tackles and exploding into the open field for big gains. He's been a key receiver for quarterback Trace McSorley, as well, catching 27 passes in five games after bringing in 28 all last season. Barkley's blocking on the Nittany Lions' game-winning touchdown against Iowa showed NFL scouts he is willing and able to do whatever it takes to win.