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John Raoux/Associated Press
Several weeks into the college football season, the stars of 2020 are separating themselves from the rest of the pack, just like the championship contenders.
With the Big Ten and Pac-12 set to join the fray soon, other big names will begin to surge to the top of the stat sheets. But for now, it’s an early season dominated by SEC, Big 12 and ACC playmakers.
In some cases, like for Clemson quarterback and Heisman Trophy front-runner Trevor Lawrence, it’s expected. Other surprises are playing their way into superstardom, and some elite players are still having big seasons for teams off to subpar starts.
A few sets of teammates are on here, too, but that’s just the way the stats are shaking out so far this season.
With eligibility essentially out the door this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s going to be exciting to see which guys play their way into the top end of the conversation for the NFL draft. For others, it’s about building their reputation on the college gridiron. Plenty of guys on this list have national championship hopes remaining this year, as well.
Let’s take a look at some college football stars putting up ridiculous numbers in the early season.
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L.G. Patterson/Associated Press
Georgia is the nation’s top defensive unit, full of difference-making playmakers who don’t pile up the stats but just embarrass opponents in the box scores. Alabama has a slew of former elite prospects all over its defense. LSU and Florida are off to awful starts but are known as mass producers of defensive talent.
But the best defensive player in the SEC hails from unheralded Missouri.
That would be hard-hitting linebacker Nick Bolton, who was a first-team All-SEC selection a year ago as a sophomore and is off to yet another dominating start.
After a relatively quiet 25 tackles through his first two games, he was still third nationally in that category entering Saturday’s massive showdown against defending national champion LSU. What did he do in such a big game? He had one of the best performances of his collegiate career.
The 6’0″, 232-pound Texas native finished the game with 11 tackles and three pass deflections against the Bayou Bengals.
With the game on the line and the Tigers needing a miracle goal-line stand to pull off the win, Bolton and crew got it. He was playing with an injury, but he helped get a stop on first down. On third down, he anticipated a quick throw to Terrace Marshall Jr. and batted the pass to the ground.
Mizzou got another deflection on fourth down and secured an unbelievable 45-41 upset. Bolton personified the grit of the team playing despite an undisclosed injury, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Dave Matter.
“I’m going through a little pain here and there,” he told Matter. “But pain’s only temporary. Wins are forever.”
Bolton is a winner and a stat-hog, to boot.
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