Brad McClenny/USA Today Images

College football Week 12: Players to watch

After a week of cancellations, postponements and only one top-five team in action, we are rewarded with a huge week of games. Clemson is back in action after losing to Notre Dame. We are also treated to Oklahoma State-Oklahoma and USC-Utah.

We also have some pleasant surprises. BYU, Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina are all playing as top-15 teams. Who knew that Indiana-Ohio State would be the biggest game in the Big Ten regular season? Or that Wisconsin-Northwestern was a close second?

We still have a bevy of canceled and postponed games ... most notably Miami's game with Georgia Tech that forced the ACC to shuffle its schedule. No. 5 Texas A&M will not play this week, and neither will Marshall nor Louisiana. We are getting close to the end of the season, and the pandemic is wreaking havoc on the schedule as well as the rosters of some top teams.

As for the players that will be on the field this week, here are 14 to watch for. 

 
1 of 14

Malik Cunningham, Louisville

Malik Cunningham, Louisville
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With running back Javian Hawkins opting out of the rest of the season to enter the NFL Draft, the Louisville offense will be carried by quarterback Malik Cunningham. He has been up and down all season, but when he has been good, the Cards look like a much better team than their 2-6 record indicates. Against Virginia Tech a few weeks ago, he threw for 350 yards and three TDs, but his three interceptions were killers in the 42-35 loss. His legs led the way despite a loss to Virginia last week (197 yards, two TDs), which may be what the Cardinals offense will look like the rest of the way. Louisville hosts Syracuse on Friday night. 

 
2 of 14

Kevin Harris, South Carolina

Kevin Harris, South Carolina
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Harris' 243 yards and five touchdowns against Ole Miss last week weren't enough for Will Muschamp to keep his job. Maybe interim head coach Mike Bobo will decide to keep feeding Harris the ball. He's had an up-and-down season. He's had big games this season, capped by a 171-yard effort against Vanderbilt in October. Harris has had multiple touchdowns in four of his last five games. South Carolina hosts Missouri on Saturday. 

 
3 of 14

Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina

Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Most of the spotlight for Coastal Carolina has been on quarterback Grayson McCall (and deservedly so), but receiver Jaivon Heiligh has been a key component to the offense's success. He's been a big play receiver -- averaging 17.4 yards per catch -- who has scored six touchdowns this season. The Chanticleers are ranked 15th heading into their Sun Belt East division showdown with Appalachian State on Saturday. 

 
4 of 14

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Is there any player in the country who will be looked to more than Trevor Lawrence this weekend? After Lawrence missed two games after testing positive for the coronavirus, the Tigers need their Heisman candidate. Clemson had to come back to beat Boston College and lost in a valiant effort at Notre Dame. The Tigers' room for error has shrank to next to nothing, and Lawrence will need to be in rhythm from the jump to win at Florida State. 

 
5 of 14

Graham Mertz, Wisconsin

Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

There is no wiggle room for the Badgers. After having two games canceled, Wisconsin not only needs the rest of its games to happen, but it also needs to play really well while winning them. Northwestern is a tough task this week, meaning Mertz needs to be on. He was a bit sluggish in last week's domination of Michigan (the Badgers ran for 341 yards in that game), but much of that could be attributed to his own COVID-19 battle as well as the three weeks he spent away from the team. With a full week of preparation, look for him to have a big game against the Wildcats. 

 
6 of 14

Marvin Mims, Oklahoma

Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Sooners were written off after losses to Kansas State and Iowa State but find themselves back in the mix for the Big 12 championship. Welcome to Bedlam Week as Oklahoma hosts rival Oklahoma State in a huge game that will all but eliminate the loser from winning the conference. Mims has had a great freshman season and has been a big play threat for the Sooners. A few games ago against TCU, he caught just four passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns -- including a 61-yard TD reception. 

 
7 of 14

Michael Penix Jr., Indiana

Michael Penix Jr., Indiana
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn't get much bigger for Indiana football than this week's game at Ohio State. The #9 Hoosiers have their shot to ascend to the top of the Big Ten as a legitimate playoff contender with a win in Columbus. A tall order, yes, but Penix and the Hoosiers have shown that this is a different Indiana program. The defense just shut down Michigan State while the offense is putting up nearly 34 points a game. Penix has been fantastic, throwing for 1,070 yards and totaling 11 touchdowns in the Hoosiers' four wins. Penix's legend has already been established, but a win at Ohio State would make him the face of the program.

 
8 of 14

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Sam Greene/The Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Bearcats are beginning a three-game road trip with a key game at Central Florida. Ridder has been fantastic of late and has made Cincy a serious threat to become the first non-Power 5 team to claim a playoff spot. Against East Carolina last week, he threw for 327 yards, rushed for 75 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns. His passing of late has made him a complete dual threat quarterback who has become nearly impossible to contain. UCF's defense has been much better of late after a horrible start to the season. This should be a fun clash. 

 
9 of 14

Master Teague III, Ohio State

Master Teague III, Ohio State
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Of course, I think that Justin Fields and the passing attack will be a major part of the Buckeyes' offense against Indiana on Saturday. But Teague and the running game will need to show up. Teague has been solid this year and has scored in each of the Buckeyes' three games this season. He will likely need to have a performance similar to the one he had in the win over Penn State (23 rushes, 110 yards, TD). The running attack against a defense that shut out Michigan State last week will be crucial to keep Indiana's own offensive attack from getting any rhythm. 

 
10 of 14

Kedon Slovis, USC

Kedon Slovis, USC
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

USC heads to Utah to face a Utes team that has yet to play a game this season, although Kyle Whittingham's teams typically have a physical defense. Slovis, who has passed for 381 and 325 yards in the Trojans' first two games, will need to cash in his throws for touchdowns (he has three this season). The last time Slovis faced the Utes, he left after the second play of the game due to a concussion. For USC to keep clinging to its playoff hopes, Slovis needs to have a big game. 

 
11 of 14

Zach Smith, Tulsa

Zach Smith, Tulsa
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa has fought through a roller-coaster season and now is ranked for the first time in a decade. Last week, the Golden Hurricane were down 21-0 to SMU before mounting a second-half comeback ... led by quarterback Zach Smith ... to upset the Mustangs, 28-24. Smith threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns (including two in the fourth quarter) to lead Tulsa, which is in a great position to reach the AAC Championship Game. Tulsa hosts Tulane on Thursday night.

 
12 of 14

Kyle Trask, Florida

Kyle Trask, Florida
Brad McClenny/USA Today Images

Trask was a guy no one really knew of before he took over the Gators' offense after an injury to Feleipe Franks last season and now he is in the thick of the Heisman race and has Florida challenging for a national championship. In just six games, he's already thrown for more than 2,100 yards and 28 touchdowns (just three interceptions). Last week, he torched Arkansas for 356 yards and six TDs in a 63-35 win. The Gators have the inside track to get to the SEC Championship Game provided they take care of the four winnable games left on their schedule. Up next: Vanderbilt. 

 
13 of 14

CJ Verdell, Oregon

CJ Verdell, Oregon
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon looks like the best team in the Pac-12, so if the Ducks are to sneak into the College Football Playoff, they will need Verdell to keep performing at a high level. Against Washington State last week, Verdell ran for 118 yards and a touchdown, giving him two 100-yard games in as many efforts ... all the more impressive as he's splitting carries with Travis Dye. He was also active in the passing game, reeling in five receptions. The Ducks host UCLA on Saturday.

 
14 of 14

Zach Wilson, BYU

Zach Wilson, BYU
Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK

Is there any way for the Cougars to get into the playoff? Probably not (they face North Alabama this week and San Diego State next month) but that shouldn't deter you from admiring what Zach Wilson has done this season. He's already thrown for 2,512 yards and 22 touchdowns (and only two picks) and has rushed for eight more scores. Even without a daunting schedule, BYU has been a great story this season. Look for Wilson to pile up some numbers against North Alabama this Saturday. 

More must-reads:

Customize Your Newsletter

+

Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.