Lowsman Trophy Watch: Finally, The Government Gets Something DoneS

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.

DADI NICOLAS • DE, Virginia Tech
Dadi (pronounced, fantastically, as "Daddy") has yet to start a game in his college career, but is still the obvious rep for Tech's nightmarish front four, which terrorized Pitt quarterback Tom Savage Saturday for eight sacks and 20 QB hurries in a 19-9 win. Nicolas, a native Haitian, led the team with seven tackles and three sacks off the bench, most of it coming from a new position for him, "Whip," which sent him off the edge as a standup outside linebacker rather than his usual job as a conventional end. (Seniors James Gayle and J.R. Collins are holding down the end spots just fine, thanks: As a team, the Hokies have more sacks this season than any other FBS defense.) Altogether, Pitt managed a pathetic 210 yards of total offense and didn't score a touchdown until the final two minutes, while Nicolas played himself into a more permanent role.

TEXAS'S OFFENSIVE LINE
The answer to the question, "What is Texas's basic offensive philosophy?" changes from one week to the next, occasionally from one quarter to the next. Against Oklahoma, though, the game plan began up front with Kennedy Estelle, Mason Walters, Dominic Espinosa, Trey Hopkins, and Donald Hawkins, and never wavered in a thorough, 36-20 upset that defied any attempt at logic. Running against a depleted OU front seven, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown combined for 243 yards on 52 carries, the first Texas backs in the history of the series to go over 100 yards apiece in the same game; with the Sooners increasingly focused on the run, Case McCoy had time to carve up the secondary in the second half, and wasn't sacked all game. Seriously, do you know how hard it is to make Case McCoy look good?

NATE ORCHARD • DE, Utah
Once recruited as a wide receiver, Orchard created all kinds of havoc in the Utes' 27-21 upset of Stanford, finishing with five tackles and a pair of sacks in the second half that both resulted in fumbles by Cardinal QB Kevin Hogan. Here they are!

ISAIAH NEWSOME • FS, Louisiana-Monroe
With the ULM offense stuck in neutral against Texas State, Newsome made his own offense by taking a pair of interceptions to the house from 71 and 75 yards out, respectively, supplying the first two of the Warhawks' three touchdowns in a defensively driven 21-14 win. They certainly needed them: Newsome's returns alone covered more yards than the Monroe offense had gained in the entire game before its final possession, a 75-yard drive for the decisive score.

DERRICK STROZIER • CB, Tulane
Last week, Strozier returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown against North Texas, a critical play in a narrow, 24-21 win. On Saturday, he struck again on a 99-yard interception return for the Green Wave's only touchdown in regulation, a critical play in an eventual 36–33 upset of East Carolina in triple overtime. (Brace yourself: The win improved Tulane–Tulane, which is Tulane–to 5-2 for the season.) Strozier also added eight tackles (one for loss) and a pair of passes broken up, helping keep ECU out of the end zone until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.

JERMAURIA RASCO • DE, LSU
Rounding out our tour of the Open Container State… Although Rasco finished with just four tackles against Florida–only one solo, only one for loss–he still managed to stand out as the most disruptive member of a rotation that much more closely resembled a vintage LSU front than it has at any point this year. In their first three SEC games, the Tigers were ripped for 437 yards by Auburn, 494 by Georgia and 468 by Mississippi State; against Florida, they allowed 240 and held the Gators without a touchdown in a 17-6 slugfest. Amid the carnage, Rasco was credited with four of the team's five official QB hurries.

OUTSIDER OF THE WEEK: Terry Baggett • RB, Army
Defying the specter of a federal shutdown that threatened the game, Baggett went off for 304 yards and four touchdowns against Eastern Michigan, setting the single-game academy rushing record in a 50-25 blowout. Two of those scoring runs covered more than 60 yards, including a 96-yarder in the third quatrer that stands as the longest run by any FBS player this season; Baggett's total for the game is also the first 300-yard rushing performance of the season. Making him arguably the single most productive domestic employee of the U.S. government.

SEASON STANDINGS
1. Anthony Barr • LB, UCLA
2. Jake Matthews • OT, Texas A&M
3. Kyle Fuller • CB, Virginia Tech
4. Vic Beasley • DE, Clemson
5. Kyle Van Noy • LB, BYU
6. Chris Borland • LB, Wisconsin
7. Ryan Shazier • LB, Ohio State
8. Jason Verrett • CB, TCU
9. Aaron Donald • DT, Pittsburgh
10. Cyril Richardson • OG, Baylor


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.