My picks for the best of the best on offense and defense through the first seven weeks of the college football season:
QB: Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Washington’s Jake Browning (23 TD passes, 2 INTs) has made this one close, but the Cardinals’ spectacular sophomore leads the nation with 30 total TDs (15 passing and 15 rushing) and also is No. 3 in rushing yards per game (139). That’s almost 50 yards per game more than the next-closest QB.
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RB: Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
The only player in the country with over 1,000 rushing yards, Pumphrey is already at 1,111 and it’s come in only six games. He’s also shown he’s getting stronger in games, averaging 7.6 yards per carry in the second half (compared to 5.7 in the first half).
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RB: Dalvin Cook, Florida State
This is a terrific, explosive all-around RB. The Noles’ schedule has been pretty tough -- they’ve faced three ranked opponents -- and he’s still run for 900 yards and is averaging 129 rushing yards per game and another 51 receiving.
WR: Corey Davis, Western Michigan
The best player on a 7-0 Western Michigan team, Davis has 44 catches for 652 yards and 10 TDs, which is tied for the most in the nation.
WR: Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
He’s gotten healthy in the past month and torched defenses. In the Sooners’ past three games, Westbrook has caught 26 passes for 574 yards and eight TDs and also has three plays of 60 yards or longer in the past three games. That’s more than 30 teams had in all of 2015.
TE: Evan Engram, Ole Miss
A terrific vertical threat, Engram leads all tight ends with 590 receiving yards, and has caught five TDs. Against ranked opponents, he’s been especially dangerous, averaging eight catches for 123 yards and a TD in three games.
OL: Pat Elflein, Ohio State
He’s been the rock of the Buckeyes team that returned only five other starters. OSU’s rebuilt O-line is paving the way for the Buckeyes to average over six yards per carry and 6.5 yards per catch on first downs, and they’re also second-best in fewest TFLs allowed.
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OL: Billy Price, Ohio State
Aaron Taylor is the chair of the Joe Moore Award, honoring great line play in college football. This week I asked him about the most impressive O-linemen he’s observed. The first guy he mentioned was Elflein. The second was Price.
OL: Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
The Badgers’ left tackle has been a standout and their best O-lineman, emerging after transferring up from Division III UW-Stevens Point with impressive athleticism for being a 6-foot-6, 315-pounder and outshining many more touted offensive tackles.
OL: Cody O’Connell, Washington State
The mammoth 6-foot-8, 350-pound junior, a first-year starter, has been a big reason why the Cougars have a much-improved run game (WSU has already run for twice as many TDs as it had all of 2015). He has graded out by Pro Football Focus as the nation’s No. 1 guard.
OL: Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia
The Mountaineers have been able to juggle some different parts due to injuries and a player suspension and still have held up exceedingly well. Orlosky, one of the smartest players in college football, is a big reason why they have and have allowed only four sacks in five games.
DL: Derek Barnett, Tennessee
The leader of a beleaguered Vols team, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound junior is the only one of UT’s four-best defensive players not sidelined by injury. Barnett has 11.5 TFLs and six of them came in Tennessee’s three games against ranked opponents.
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DL: Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
Even though he’s missed a game and been hobbled by a leg injury, he’s still had a huge impact on games and is the focal point of opponents’ game plans. Garrett has six TFLs, four sacks, six QB hurries and a forced fumble in five games.
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DL: Ejuan Price, Pitt
There are many more-hyped edge rushers, but none that are any more productive than Price, who has piled up 13 TFLs, nine sacks, nine QB hurries and three forced fumbles in seven games.
DL: Ed Oliver, Houston
You could make a case for another freshman DT here (Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence or his teammate Christian Wilkins), but I’m going with Oliver. He leads all D-linemen nationally with 43 tackles and five pass breakups playing from the DT spot in a 3-man front. And his run defense grade of 89.7 tops all DTs, according to PFF. He also has nine TFLs.
LB: Reuben Foster, Alabama
The Tide’s top tackler with 41, Foster also has three QB hurries and two passes broken up and is the emotional leader of the SEC’s top run defense.
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LB: Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
He’s coming off a 19-tackle performance in the win over Georgia, and leads all linebackers with 13 TFLs. He also leads all Power 5 players with 81 total tackles and he has 55 tackles and nine TFLs in four SEC games.
DL/LB: Joe Mathis, Washington
I considered about a half-dozen Huskies but opted to make room for Mathis, who has been a terror, especially in the Stanford game. He has 7.5 TFLs, five sacks and one pass broken up for a ferocious defense.
DB: Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
He’s not only produced one of the highlights of the season with his dazzling off-balance INT, but according to PFF, he’s also allowed only two catches for just seven yards on the 10 times he’s been targeted this season after missing the first couple of games with a hamstring injury.
DB: Justin Evans, Texas A&M
The Aggies' leading tackler with 48 stops, he also leads all SEC DBs with 33 solos and has three INTs and three TFLs, six passes broken up and one blocked kick.
DB: Malik Hooker, Ohio State
One of the Buckeyes’ new batch of stars, the rangy 6-foot-2, 208-pounder is tied for third in the nation in INTs with four and also has 29 tackles as a ball-hawking stud for Greg Schiano’s secondary.
DB: Jalen Tabor, Florida
Teams typically know better than to try this guy too much, but he still has broken up five passes, has four INTs and a pick-six.
K: Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
He’s practically become Mr. Automatic, making 19 of 20 field goals, including 12 of 13 on attempts of 40 yards or more. He’s also had 40 touchbacks on 52 kickoffs.
P: Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
The Utes’ standout leads the nation by more than a full yard average at 49.1 yards per punt.
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KR: Quadree Henderson, Pitt
He has three returns of 80 yards or longer; no one else has more than one. He’s also the only player with two kickoff returns for TDs.
All-Purpose: Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
He does EVERYTHING for Michigan and even has Jim Harbaugh evoking the name Jim Thorpe. Peppers has 10 TFLs in six games, and averages 18 yards per punt return, 20 yards per carry and 32 yards per kick return to go with five QB hurries and one forced fumble and 26 solo tackles.