With Week 8 of the college football season in the books, here's a look at who's on the rise and who's in decline based on the weekend's action.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, QB: There hasn't been a lot of buzz surrounding Prescott's prospects as an NFL quarterback, but more and more NFL scouts are beginning to appreciate his game as a dangerous dual-threat playmaker. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior has become a more precise pocket passer while exhibiting the the athleticism and mobility to chew up defenses with designed quarterback runs and impromptu scrambles. Prescott showcased his dynamic skills with a six-touchdown effort in the Bulldogs' 42-16 win over Kentucky that included a 300-yard passing performance (25 of 35 for 348 yards and three scores) and a 100-yard rushing day (13 carries for 117 rushing yards and three scores). While some observers have tagged Prescott as Tim Tebow-like due to his role in Dan Mullen's offense, I believe he should draw comparisons to the late Steve McNair during the pre-draft process. With a 14:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a completion rate of 66.1 percent through eight games, Prescott's efficiency in the passing game will encourage several teams to take a long, hard look at the electric playmaker.
Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, Oklahoma, RBs: Bob Stooops' program has churned out some some big-time NFL running backs(Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray), but the Sooners' current dynamic duo has created quite the buzz in NFL circles. Perine and Mixon powered the Sooners to a 63-27 win over Texas Tech behind a spirited effort that saw each player notch 100 yards rushing. For Perine, it's only the second time he has surpassed the 100-yard mark in 2015 after registering six 100-yard games a season ago with his rugged approach. Mixon recorded the second 100-yard game of his career, exhibiting the shifty running style that made him one of the top recruits in the 2014 class. If the Sooners continue to show a renewed commitment to the run, scouts will finally get to see Stoops' young runners showcase their immense talent and potential as workhorse runners.
Cameron Smith, USC, LB: Whenever a defender registers a hat trick (three interceptions) in a primetime game, it raises his profile in the NFL scouting community. Thus, scouts are already taking notes on Smith's game after watching the freshman pick off Utah QB Travis Wilson three times in the Trojans' win. Smith exhibited exceptional instincts, awareness and recognition in jumping routes. He also displayed outstanding hands and ball skills in snagging picks. In addition, Smith showed tremendous athleticism and explosiveness on a pick-six return that changed the momentum of the game. With coaches and scouts always hunting for playmakers on the second level, Smith's spectacular performance against the Utes will earn him high marks in meeting rooms around the NFL.
Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss, OT: The top offensive tackle in college football enjoyed a solid 2015 debut in the Rebels' 23-3 win over Texas A&M. Tunsil neutralized the Aggies' Myles Garrett on the edge for most of the game, exhibiting the strength and agility that scouts covet in an elite left tackle. Although Garrett made a few splash plays off the edge, Tunsil's stellar performance will pique the interest of scouts.
Seth Russell, Baylor, QB: The junior quarterback has been spectacular for most of the season, but he didn't bring his A game against Iowa State. Russell completed only 16 of 37 passes for 197 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Although his scattershot play didn't slow down the Bears' offense, he struggled to find the kind of rhythm that leads to the unit blowing the doors off of Big 12 defenses. The school announced Monday that he'll undergo season-ending surgery after breaking a bone in his neck in the fourth quarter vs. the Cyclones, so his value is certainly on the decline in NFL circles.
Al Golden, former Miami head coach: I'm not trying to kick a man when he's down, but the ex-Miami head coach deserves a spot on this list based on the Hurricanes' putrid performance against Clemson. Despite having a roster full of future NFL draftees, Miami was blanked 58-0 in front of its home fans. Granted, the Tigers are one of the best teams in the country and feature an explosive offense loaded with NFL-caliber talent, but the Hurricanes have too many good players to get blown out of their building. Moreover, the Hurricanes are residing in the cellar of the ACC's Coastal Division and look nothing like a premier program. With that in mind, it's not a surprise that Golden was forced to hand in his playbook on Sunday.