The last week of the college football regular season was the perfect stage for memorable individual performances. With competition, cup eligibility at stake, college football playoff spots up for grabs, and conference racing approaching the wire, the stakes in the sport were high.
Some players have found themselves in the spotlight and become heroes. For example, NC State quarterback Ben Finlay started the season lost in the depth chart but found himself leading the Wolf Pack in a critical showdown against NC and Tar Heels star Drake May. Against all odds, Finley and the state of North Carolina won the battle.
In the final edition of the 2022 Season Star Power Index, we highlight Finley and others who shone brightly in the last week of the regular season, making the most of the platform offered by Rivalry Week to transform into unforgettable performances on the big stage.
The College Football Star Power Index is neither a Heisman Trophy watchlist, nor a zero-income earning potential ranking, nor NFL fictitious draft. There are many places where they can be found. This is a rundown of players who make the most of their platform – whether it be for quality performance or for other reasons – to stand out in the sport, whether momentarily or for a lifetime.
College Football Star Power Index
J. J. McCarthy, defensive back from Michigan
Starting a huge rivalry against Ohio State last week, McCarthy went nine games without passing for 50 or more yards. Against the Buckeyes, he completed two, both of which went for touchdowns, with another bomb McCarthy flying 45 yards for a touchdown. McCarthy’s sudden explosiveness led the Wolverine to a 45-23 win, and Michigan ended the regular season with a 12-0 win over their archrivals. McCarthy’s three touchdown passes matched a career high and showed a new element in the former five-star prospect’s play.
Considered primarily a game manager throughout the season as the Wolverines relied on their fast-paced attack and defense, McCarthy proved to be a deadly passer on the game’s biggest stage. His performance changed expectations for what this team can achieve as it kicks off post-season play this week in the Big Ten Championship Game against Purdue ahead of a likely college football playoff appearance. Wolverines cannot be viewed as a one-sided attack by opponents.
Jordan Travis, Florida State quarterback
Travis’ 13-of-30 pass in Florida State’s 45-38 win over Florida misrepresents his game – Travis single-handedly bequeathed to the Seminoles their first series win since 2017. The redshirted junior evaded Florida defenders on numerous occasions. and turned potential sacks into positive games. He finished with a passing touchdown and two rushing touchdowns. A couple of his craziest fights came close to the end zone, including a pair of thirds and long runs in the red zone that helped turn potential field goals into possible touchdowns. In a game that was decided by seven points, these moves were decisive.
Caleb Williams, USC quarterback
Williams was the absolute magician for USC in the Trojans’ 38-27 win over Notre Dame. The sophomore quarterback scored three touchdowns on the ground as he made a strong case for the nationally televised prime time Heisman Trophy against a top 15 opponent. With a rematch ahead of Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, Williams could lead his team to the college football playoffs and solidify his position in individual honors. If he continues to play the way he has lately, Williams will become the biggest individual college football star in the postseason.
Antwine Wells, Jr., South Carolina wide receiver
Last week, we celebrated South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler for his six touchdown passes in an upset victory over Tennessee. This week we highlight its main goal. Wells threw nine for 131 yards and two touchdowns as the Gamecocks upset another top 10 opponent with a 31-30 win over Clemson to give the Tigers their first home loss since 2016. Transfer James Madison is the Gamecocks wide receiver leader and has been Rattler’s main target all season. But with 20 catches for 308 yards in the past two weeks, he’s taken his game to the next level. His work is also a reminder of the height of the transfer season: FBS ratings are not the only place to find talent.
Ben Finlay, North Carolina State quarterback
Finlay started the regular season fourth on the NC state quarterback depth chart and ended it by leading the Wolf Pack to a 30–27 win over North Carolina. He finished the game with a better completion percentage (67.5%), more yards (271), more touchdowns (two), and fewer interceptions (nil) than his counterpart Drake May. After May implied earlier this season that NC State students did not have the academic qualifications to attend the University of North Carolina, Finley found the result especially pleasing.
“It’s great that I’m graduating in December” Finley said. “It is very important that I get my degree here. I never tried to get into UNC. But according to Drake, no, I couldn’t. .”
Considering Finley is technically a freshman this season, it’s even more impressive that he’s already graduated. Its first season was 2020, when all players were allowed to retain a year of eligibility amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He was redshirted last year, making him a third-year redshirt freshman this season. Wherever he goes from here, Finley will have a degree, three seasons of varsity law, and one great memory of beating May and the Tar Heels.
Devon Achane Texas A&M running back
Acane has rushed for over 1,000 yards, has been a consistent passer and has done a great job returning shots for Texas A&M this season. However, due to Aggie’s struggles, his game was left underappreciated. No more. Acane receives belated praise for a career-high 215 yards in Texas A&M’s shocking 38-23 win over LSU. There’s a reason Achane is ranked third on CBS Sports’ 2023 NFL prospects, and he showed it to everyone last week.