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As conference play heats up around the country in college football, some of the sport’s stars are beginning to separate themselves from the pack as true difference-makers for their teams. In Week 5, it was Big Ten running backs who stole the show as October dawned with a handful of players turning in particularly impressive performances on the ground against league foes.
But stars can come from anywhere in college football, and they often capture our attention for a variety of reasons. A sport with 131 FBS teams produces a fun mix of characters, some of whom wind up as one-hit wonders and others who stay in the spotlight for the entirety of their careers.
As the season moves closer to its midway point, it’s time for another edition of the Star Power Index to show who is shining the brightest. This isn’t a Heisman Trophy watch list or a ranking of earnings potential based on players’ name, image and likeness, nor is it an NFL mock draft. There are plenty of places to find those. This is a rundown of players who are maximizing their platform — be it for quality performance or other reasons — to stand out as stars in the sport.
College Football Star Power Index
Max Duggan, TCU quarterback
If you want to know why coaches slow-play quarterback competitions and don’t name starters until the last minute, look no further than TCU. First-year coach Sonny Dykes didn’t announce a starter entering the season-opener but ultimately went with Chandler Morris for the job. When Morris went down with an injury in the first game, the Horned Frogs turned to senior Max Duggan.
A seasoned and productive veteran, Duggan could have been a hot commodity on the transfer market if he’d known earlier that Morris would win the job amid the transition from Gary Patterson to Dykes. Instead, TCU entered the season with an excellent backup, and that bit of roster management has paid huge dividends.
The Horned Frogs are 4-0 after Duggan passed for 302 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in TCU’s 55-24 win over Oklahoma on Saturday. He added 116 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for good measure in a dominant effort that thrust TCU into the Big 12 title conversation. He’ll presumably be under center again this week when the No. 17 Horned Frogs take on No. 19 Kansas in a Big 12 showdown.
Miyan Williams, Ohio State running back
Ohio State’s depth chart is typically a collection of four and five-star players, which makes it all the more noteworthy that Miyan Williams has popped for the Buckeyes. The former three-star prospect capitalized on the injury-related absence of star sophomore TreVeyon Henderson on Saturday to tie a school record with five rushing touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 49-10 win over Rutgers. Williams’ 189 yards marked a career high and showed just how deep Ohio State is across the board.
“We always want to invest in Ohio guys,” coach Ryan Day said of Williams, who is from Cincinnati.
That investment is paying off in a big way for the Buckeyes, who will be hard-pressed to keep Williams off the field even with Henderson back on the field.
Blake Corum, Michigan running back
Anyone who runs for 133 yards against Iowa’s defense, like Corum did in a 27-14 win for Michigan on Saturday, deserves some recognition. But at this point it’s not just about a single game for Corum, who has already run for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns in five games. The junior split carries with Hassan Haskins last season but is thriving in a featured role this season and is on track for a special year.
This isn’t a case of Corum inflating his numbers against poor opponents, either. Of Corum’s 93 carries, 59 have come in Michigan’s two Big Ten games over the past two weeks. He torched Maryland for 243 yards and two touchdowns in Week 4 and showed against the Hawkeyes that his productivity can translate against one of the nation’s top defenses.
Chase Brown, Illinois running back
Speaking of Big Ten running backs enjoying impressive performances against stingy Big Ten West defenses, how about Chase Brown? The Illinois junior ran for 129 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries as the Illini dominated in a 34-10 win at Wisconsin on Saturday. The outcome led to the dismissal of Badgers coach Paul Chryst and continued Brown’s streak of five straight 100-yard performances to begin the season.
Brown leads the nation in rushing with 733 yards and has been the face of Illinois’ 4-1 start. The Illini face Iowa’s defense this week, but at this point it would almost be more surprising if Brown didn’t surpass 100 yards rushing considering how well Corum ran against the Hawkeyes last week.
Clark Phillips, Utah defensive back
Oregon State nearly pulled an upset of USC in Week 4, but the Beavers were soundly rebuffed by Utah on Saturday as Phillips became the only FBS player this season to intercept three passes in a game. His trio of picks, which included a 38-yard pick six, propelled the Utes to a 42-16 win and helped set up a high-stakes Pac-12 clash between No. 11 Utah and No. 18 UCLA this week.
Phillips is ranked as the No. 33 overall prospect in CBS Sports’ 2023 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, and it’s not hard to see why. He was a All-Pac-12 performer last season and now has seven career interceptions.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA quarterback
The Pac-12 this season has centered around a strong group of transfer quarterbacks such as Caleb Williams at USC, Bo Nix at Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. at Washington. But one of the league’s old wily vets shined brightest in Week 5 as Dorian Thompson-Robinson out-dueled Penix in a 40-32 win for UCLA. The victory improved the Bruins to 5-0 and earned them a No. 18 ranking this week ahead of a showdown with No. 11 Utah.
Thompson-Robinson completed 24 of 33 passes for 315 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Huskies while adding 53 yards and another touchdown on the ground. He’s thrown 11 touchdown passes and just one interception while completing 74.3% of his passes this season, and is on track for his best campaign yet in his fifth season with the Bruins.
Oh, and that one touchdown run against Washington? Yeah, it was nasty.
Minnesota ranked among the best in the nation in myriad offensive categories entering Week 5 action, but the Gophers were stifled agains Purdue, thanks in part to Cam Allen. The Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Week picked off two passes to lead the Boilermakers defense in a 20-10 upset win at Minnesota. Purdue was the victim of two heartbreaking losses against Penn State and Syracuse early this season, but the campaign got new life thanks to Saturday’s stifling defensive effort.
The Boilermakers were driving with a chance to tie the game late in the first half when Allen came down with his first pick. Then, the senior safety picked off Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan again with 1:52 remaining to seal the outcome.