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Week 13 of the college football season -- better known as Rivalry Week -- featured plenty of big performances in big moments. Or, if you're Ohio State and quarterback C.J. Stroud, you may have viewed it as a missed opportunity to further cement your greatness.
After entering halftime with a 20-17 lead, Stroud and the Buckeyes were held to just a field goal in the second half, as he finished with 349 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, with both of his picks coming late in the fourth quarter with the game fairly out of reach.
Credit to Stroud and company for hanging 20 early points on the Wolverines in the first half, but the second half of last weekend's 45-23 loss left much to be desired.
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis threw for 188-2 in a 26-13 win over Louisville while going 11-of-19 passing, which was a nice rebound for a player who has struggled of late. And Alabama quarterback Bryce Young threw for 343-3-1 while also rushing for 48 yards in a touchdown as Alabama dismantled Auburn by a score of 49-27.
As usual, rivalry week lived up to the hype and featured dozens of big plays in big moments. With future NFL prospects still looking to cement themselves in the conversation before next year's draft, let's have a look at some players who showed up in big moments last weekend.
Spencer Rattler, QB (South Carolina)
Passing: 25-of-39 passing, 360 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Rushing: 6 carries, -5 yards, 1 TD
Credit to Spencer Rattler for his performance as of late. He threw for 438 yards and six touchdowns in an upset win over Tennessee two weeks ago and led the Gamecocks to an upset road win over Clemson last week.
In his last four games, Rattler has thrown 11 touchdowns to two interceptions while leading the Gamecocks to a 3-1 record. Considered by some as the No. 1 overall player of the 2022 NFL Draft, Rattler is now hoping to hear his name called on draft day next season. Some team will undoubtedly take a shot on him, but Rattler is going to need to clean up his game a bit as he prepares to take a leap to the NFL.
His 7.5 aDOT ranks outside the top 70 of qualified quarterbacks in the nation while his 7.8 YPA is tied for 39th. Part of the Spencer Rattler experience is taking the good with the bad, which is a nice way of saying he's as capable of pulling off a big play as he is of turning the ball over. Rattler's turnover-worthy play rate has risen each of the last three seasons and currently sits at 4.3% -- a leap from the 3.6% he saw in 2021 when he was benched for Caleb Williams.
Seeing Rattler rip off plays like he did last week on this 72-yard touchdown pass to Antwane Wells, it's evident he has the tools to succeed at the NFL level.
However, in a 2023 quarterback class that's expected to be heavily stacked, he will need to convince scouts he's one of the prospects worthy of high draft capital and an opportunity to start early in his career.
Bijan Robinson, RB (Texas)
Rushing: 29 carries, 179 yards, 2 TDs
Last weekend's rivalry matchup between Texas and Baylor featured a dominant performance on the ground by both Texas running backs. Bijan Robinson, the likely RB1 of the 2023 NFL Draft class turned in one of his better performances of the season -- leading the team with 179 yards and two scores.
Robinson never rushed for more than 23 yards on any carry on the day, but he ripped off five carries of 10 or more yards on the afternoon per PFF with his scores coming from one and two yards out.
With his collegiate career likely drawing to a close, Robinson has only further solidified his status as the best running back of the 2023 class. Averaging 4.05 YCO/ATT, he also leads the nation with 99 missed tackles force, is tied for 10th in runs of 15+ yards (21) and is sixth in breakaway yards (608).
Whether or not Robinson plays in Texas' bowl game is to be determined -- although it's probably unlikely he would. If his career at Texas is indeed over, his next stop would be the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where he will look to solidify his status as the top back in his class. He's well on his way if his 2022 season is any indication.
Keaton Mitchell, RB (East Carolina)
Rushing: 27 carries, 222 yards, 3 TDs
Receiving: 2 receptions, 78 yards, 1 TD
Arguably one of the most exciting running backs in the nation, Keaton Mitchell had a game for the ages in last weekend's win over Temple. Assuming he declares, Mitchell has a chance to be the best running back to come out of East Carolina since Chris Johnson. A former three-star recruit from the 2020 class, Mitchell is perhaps one of the fastest (if not the fastest) players in the nation. In 2021 he was clocked at 22.6 MPH on a 63-yard touchdown against Appalachian State and he's reportedly only gotten faster.
In last week's win over Temple, Mitchell totaled 300 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. Two of his scores came from 49 and 73 yards out, as he once again looked like the most explosive player on the field by a mile.
Now sitting on 1,325 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, Mitchell ranks 14th in the nation in rushing yards and is second in both breakaway yards (765) and breakaway percent (57.7%) among qualified running backs per PFF. His 64 missed tackles forced are good for 12th-most, while his 3.45 YCO/ATT is tied for 64th.
Mitchell has not yet declared for the NFL Draft, but he's a prime candidate to strike while the iron is hot. Since joining the team as a true freshman, where he ran for 88-443-2, Mitchell has only improved over each of the last two seasons. Listed as 5-foot-9, 184-pounds on the team's site, Mitchell lacks the ideal size for the position. However, his speed will intrigue plenty of teams, and we've seen undersized speedsters carve out meaningful roles for themselves at the NFL level.
Dalton Kincaid, TE (Utah)
Receiving: 5 receptions, 102 yards, 1 TD
We've only touched on a few tight ends this season, but we should try to hit on a few more before the year is up. Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid is currently ranked as the No. 3 tight end of the 2023 class per NFL Mock Draft Database and enjoyed a productive 102-yard, one-touchdown day against Colorado. Admittedly, several players went off for Utah in the 63-21 victory, but that doesn't negate Kincaid's performance.
His longest play on the day happened to come on his lone score when he hauled in a 29-yard reception from quarterback Cam Rising just before halftime, but Kincaid was a threat through the air all day.
His production this season has been out of this world, to say the least. With a receiving line of 66-850-8, Kincaid's game against USC was enough to top what some tight ends will do in a season. In that game, which ended in a 43-42 win over the Trojans, Kincaid hauled in an absurd 16 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown -- securing each of his 16 targets.
Our own Eric Froton was kind enough to provide a highlight reel of Kincaid's 16-catch performance.
At 6-foot-4, 240-pounds, Kincaid has plenty of size to translate to the NFL. He's a near lock to be a Day 2 pick and will have one of the more productive resumés of any tight end in the draft.