Lowsman Trophy Watch: Another Notre Dame LB Steps Up

Each week, Football Outsiders recognizes the most outstanding college linemen, defenders and other darkhorses from the previous weekend who are habitually overlooked in the hype for that other award (whatever it's called). These are the Lowsmen.

Don't be fooled by the stat line: Although Ole Miss finished with 464 yards of total offense, that is what happens when you run 89 plays and put the ball in the air on most of them. But the game belonged to the Auburn pass rush, which sacked Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace six times and generally hounded him from start to finish in a validating, 30–22 win. Between them, starters Dee Ford, Nosa Eguae, Gabe Wright and LaDarius Owens were in on 14 tackles, eight of them for loss, and true freshman Carl Lawson stole the show with four TFLs off the bench. (For what it's worth, the official box score also credits the defense as a whole with 17 QB hurries, although hurries are a notoriously unreliable statistic from team to team. Suffice to say, the Tigers brought the heat.) Given time, Wallace made some plays against the Auburn secondary, including a pair of touchdown passes to his top target, Donte Moncrief, that brought the Rebels within striking distance in the second half. Under such consistent pressure, though, with the running game relegated to an afterthought, he finished just 25-of-48 passing with a pair of interceptions. The first, a botched screen pass in the first quarter, was returned 78 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Robenson Therezie, extending Auburn's early lead to 13–3. The Rebels spent the rest of the game in catch-up mode, and paid the price.

2. PRINCE SHEMBO LB, Notre Dame.
Through five games, Shembo had failed to record a single sack or tackle for loss, and Notre Dame's pass rush as a whole–a consistent strength in last year's run to the BCS title game – was MIA in losses to Michigan and Oklahoma. Against Arizona State, Shembo made up for it by dropping ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly three times, accounting for half of the Irish sack total in a 37-34 upset. One week after ripping USC for 261 yards on 7.5 per carry, the Sun Devils managed just 65 yards on 2.6 per carry against the Irish, including 52 negative yards on plays that ended behind the line of scrimmage. Only further validating USC's decision to ditch Lane Kiffin at the airport.


3. SHAYNE SKOV • LB, Stanford.
Continuing a theme, Skov was the most active member of the Cardinal's typically aggressive front seven, racking up 15 total tackles and a pair of sacks in a hard-fought, 31-28 win over Washington. As a team, Stanford had six tackles for loss and five sacks, its best numbers of the season on both counts, and needed every one of them to bail out the secondary against the Huskies' superior receivers. The Huskies' final, fourth-down pass to end the game was not a catch, but it would have been if not for the pressure that forced QB Keith Price to ad lib outside the pocket.

4. DAMIEN PROBY • LB, Northwestern.
Along with Collin Ellis and Tyler Scott, Proby made life as difficult for Ohio State as it's been at any point in the Buckeyes' 18-game winning streak, finishing with a team-high 12 tackles (seven solo, five assists) and a forced fumble that thwarted an impending OSU touchdown drive in the third quarter. At the time, the turnover preserved a 10-point lead, but couldn't put enough gas in the rest of the defense's tank to keep OSU from scoring on three of their next four possessions for the win.

The Cowboys' senior trio combined for 22 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions against Kansas State, just enough to get a very sluggish-looking offense out of a very bizarre game with Big 12 title hopes intact. (K-State set the tone for the day by draining eight minutes off the clock on its opening possession while failing to cross midfield, then scoring on its second possession on the first play. Courtesy of a Gronkowski, of course.) All of Oklahoma State's takeaways came in the second half, and although only two of the them led to points–and only a pair of field goals at that–it was all the help the offense needed in a 33-29 escape.

OUTSIDER OF THE WEEK: Lorenzo Doss • CB, Tulane.
Tulane–which, again, is Tulane–is 4-2 after a dramatic 24-21 win over North Texas, giving the Green Wave as many wins halfway through the schedule as they've managed in any season since 2002. No one had a bigger role in that Saturday than Doss, only a sophomore, who accounted for the Wave's third and final touchdown by taking his second interception of the game to the house from 59 yards out in the third quarter. (That came less than two minutes after Tulane's second touchdown, a 62-yard return off a blocked field goal.) For the season, Doss is one of a handful of players tied for the national lead with four picks, and Tulane's defense as a whole ranks No. 1 nationally with 18 takeaways.

1. Anthony Barr • LB, UCLA. Top draft prospect leads the nation in forced fumbles and has multiple tackles for loss in every game.
2. Kyle Fuller CB, Virginia Tech. Versatile, disruptive senior has delivered big plays in coverage against Alabama, on special teams against Marshall and against the run at Georgia Tech.
3. Jake Matthews • OT, Texas A&M. Just look at the time and space Johnny Manziel had to ad lib a bunch of Manzielian shit against Alabama and Arkansas.
4. Shilique Calhoun • DE, Michigan State. No longer the Spartans' leading scorer after accounting for three touchdowns in the first two games, but still the most productive player on the nation's No. 1 total defense.
5. Cyril Richardson • OG, Baylor. True, the Bears lead the nation in passing and pass efficiency, but don't mistake them for a passing offense: They're also No. 2 in rushing on 50 carries per game.
6. Ryan Shazier • LB, Ohio State. Machine-like vet leads the Big Ten in solo tackles and tackles for loss, the latter for the second year in a row.
7. Vic Beasley • DE, Clemson. South Carolina's other pass-rush specialist is on pace for 21 sacks, eight more than Jadeveon Clowney in 2012. (Jadeveon Clowney in 2013 is just keeping it chill.)
8. Jason Verrett • CB, TCU. Horned Frogs are banged up in the front seven and can't score to save their lives, but the secondary has kept them in every game.
9. Dante Fowler Jr. • DE, Florida. Takes over for for Dominique Easley as anchor of the best d-line in the SEC, and therefore in the country.
10. Chris Borland • LB, Wisconsin. Well on his way to another All-Big Ten nod based strictly on his tendency to tackle everything in sight in violent fashion, but if there's any doubt, his key role in a crazy fake punt should tip the scales in his favor.

The Lowsman Trophy Watch was created by Robert Weintraub. Want to nominate a player for the Lowsman? Drop us a line.

Matt Hinton writes about college football for Football Outsiders and SB Nation's Football Study Hall. Follow on Twitter, @MattRHinton.