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.
TRENT MURPHY • LB, Stanford
Even in a losing effort, Murphy continued his season-long trail of destruction at USC, finishing with season highs for total tackles (eight) and tackles for loss (four) against the Trojans with a forced fumble for good measure. (Two of those TFLs were sacks, moving Murphy into the national lead with 12 sacks for the year.) As a team, the Trojans finished with 23 net rushing yards on 0.9 per carry, their worst effort on the ground in a win since the turn of the century.
Not to be outdone, Anthony Sarao, Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey combined for 29 tackles, three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one interception against the Cardinal, consistently shooting gaps and outmaneuvering blockers despite a huge size disadvantage against the Stanford line. (Pullard checks in at 230 pounds, standard for a college linebacker, but Sarao is listed at 215, and Bailey–who plays a roving linebacker/safety hybrid–at just 200. At one point, Bailey beat Stanford's 310-pound All-American guard David Yankey at the point of attack by diving underneath Yankey's block and wrangling tailback Tyler Gaffney around the ankles for a short loss, all in one fluid, athletic motion.) Against Oregon, the Cardinal dominated on third down, converting 14 of 21 and amassing a 25-minute advantage in time of possession; against USC, they were just 4 of 12 on third down, due mainly to the fact that eight of those attempts had them facing 3rd-and-5 or longer.
KAREEM MARTIN • DE, North Carolina
The headliner of UNC's trip to Pittsburgh was Martin's counterpart at Pitt, Aaron Donald, who lived up to his All-America billing with three tackles for loss. On a banner day for gaudy defensive stat lines, though, it was impossible to overshadow Martin's eight tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, two passes broken up, and two QB hurries in a wild Carolina win. Altogether, the Tar Heels finished with a dozen stops in the Pitt backfield (including seven sacks) for a net of -94 yards, leaving Panther QB Tom Savage as the most-sacked quarterback in the nation.
RYAN SHAZIER • LB, Ohio State
The defense didn't make any statements at Illinois–the Illini finished with 420 yards and 35 points, as many as they've scored at any point in an ongoing, 20-game Big Ten losing streak–but Shazier did, putting All-America teams on notice with 16 tackles, four TFLs, two sacks and a forced fumble that resulted in Illinois coaches nearly coming to blows on national television. Shazier ended the game as the Big Ten leader in both solo tackles and tackles for loss, just off his prolific 2012 pace in both categories.
ROY PHILON • DT, Louisville
As far as the box score is concerned, the impact of interior linemen is usually more implied than explicit, if it can even be implied. But there was no missing Philon's contribution to the Cardinals' win over Houston, which came to seven tackles, four TFLs and a sack in a 20-13 slugfest. Altogether, Houston managed just 195 yards of total offense, nearly 300 yards below its season average, which goes down as its worst output in any game since a 2003 loss at Michigan. Although the Cougars did not turn the ball over, they managed just 13 first downs and a single play that gained more than 20 yards.
K.J. MORTON • DB, Baylor
The Baylor offense was its usual, overwhelming self against Texas Tech, easily exceeding 300 yards by ground and air despite missing three key starters in a 63-34 blowout. After a track meet of a first quarter, though, the defense was a force in its own right over the last three, led by Morton, who finished with nine tackles, three TFLs, four passes broken up, a forced fumble and an interception. Tech scored three touchdowns in the first 15 minutes, and two touchdowns the rest of the way.
OUTSIDER OF THE WEEK: • Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State
Ideally, we'd never consider honoring the same player in this space two weeks in a row, but Bibbs isn't giving us much of an option. Last week, he got the nod for racking up 312 yards and four touchdowns on the ground against Nevada. On Saturday, he followed that by churning out 291 yards and six touchdowns at New Mexico, the fifth consecutive game he's accounted for three TDs or more. Through 11 games, Bibbs has scored 25 times, five more than any other FBS player.
1. Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
2. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
3. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
4. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
5. David Yankey, OG, Stanford
6. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
7. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
8. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
9. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
10. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M