There are lot of unique features to like about college football uniforms. There’s the classic get-ups from schools like Notre Dame and Alabama, and the stylish, ever-changing equipment put out by programs like Oregon.
But one minute detail that often gets overlooked nowadays are the helmet decals featured by teams like Ohio State and Florida State. It uses a reward system to honor players who have special performances or made impact plays with a sticker to put on one’s helmet. The more plays you make, the more stickers you accumulate.
This season, NCAA.com will install the same system. Every Sunday we will choose three standout players from the weekend to earn “stickers” for their team. Let’s see who has the most decorated helmet at the end of the season.
Louisville – Cardinals defense
At this point, it’d be unfair to give Lamar Jackson a sticker every week.
But arguably the most impressive factor in Louisville’s convincing victory Saturday was the performance of its defense. Is it cheating to pick the whole unit? Either way, it gets the nod this week.
The Seminoles jumped up to No. 2 in last week’s rankings after posting 45 points on a very good Ole Miss team and 52 on a depleted Charleston Southern out of the FCS. Freshman quarterback Deondre Francois shined in his first two starts and Dalvin Cook remains one of the most explosive running backs in the nation.
But the Seminoles were held to under 300 yards on offense Saturday and Cook, who rushed for 273 yards combined in FSU’s previous two contests with the Cardinals, was stifled to 62 total yards on offense in round three.
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In a balanced defensive effort, Louisville recorded three sacks of at least nine yards on Francois and played good coverage on go-to receivers Travis Rudolph (two catches) and Ryan Izzo (one). Florida State finished 2-of-13 on third down conversions and was held to 10 points well into the fourth quarter before a couple of garbage time scores.
The eye-popping numbers go on and on for the Cardinals defense. It’s been more than just Jackson that’s led Louisville to its new No. 3 ranking.
Michigan – Jabrill Peppers (linebacker/safety/wide receiver)
Not too long after Florida State bowed out against Louisville, it appeared another top four team was in trouble in Ann Arbor.
No. 4 Michigan was on the ropes against an unranked Colorado team that opened up Saturday’s game with the opening two touchdowns.
Quickly in a 14-0 hole only three minutes into the first quarter, the Wolverines needed a spark – a jolt that soon came from multi-positional “athlete” Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers’ first impact came on the defensive side. Lined up at linebacker, Peppers made his presence felt with some big hits en route to eight first half tackles near or behind the line of scrimmage.
During this run of Peppers’ impact plays on defense, Michigan awoke and went on a 24-7 run to take the lead at the half. By the end of the third quarter, the Wolverines’ lead grew to 10 as the Buffs kept battling.
Then Peppers provided the exclamation mark on a 45-28 Michigan win.
With less than 12 minutes left in regulation, Peppers took a Colorado punt return back 54 yards for the touchdown, weaving through the middle of the field hardly touched. That was the final score from either side and gave the Wolverines all the cushion they needed.
Peppers’ final stat line: a career-high nine tackles, one sack, a touchdown and 204 all-purpose yards. That’ll spark a comeback.
Ohio State – Noah Brown (wide receiver)
J.T. Barrett no longer has the reliable Michael Thomas or Braxton Miller to throw to on the outside in a completely refigured offense for this year’s young Buckeyes. But Barrett may have found a new top weapon in Noah Brown.
Brown caught five passes for four touchdowns and 72 yards Saturday night to help lead the No. 3 Buckeyes over No. 14 Oklahoma 45-24 in a hostile environment in Norman. The highlight of the night came on Brown's third touchdown when he somehow reached around his defender’s back and pinned the incoming ball against the Sooner’s body for the score.
If that’s not the catch of the year, it’s hard to imagine what we’ll see next that tops it.
That touchdown grab came in the final minute before halftime and gave the Buckeyes a commanding 35-17 lead that it would not relinquish after the break.
It’s been a tough road back to the field for Brown, who missed all of last season with a fractured leg. The sophomore receiver came into Saturday’s matchup with only four career catches and a single touchdown.
Coming into the season, there was plenty of questions surrounding Ohio State’s inexperience on both sides of the ball. But its new look defense has stepped up, freshman Mike Weber has shined at running back and Barrett looks in control under center.
If Brown can continue to put up big numbers as a consistent threat, newly-minted No. 2 Ohio State will be in a good position come time for the heart of its Big Ten schedule.
2016 helmet sticker leaders: Louisville (2), Arizona State (1), Arkansas (1), Clemson (1), Georgia (1), Houston (1), Michigan (1), Ohio State (1)
(Photo credits: Michelle Hutchins | Louisville Athletics, Aaron Doster | USA Today Sports, Kim Klement | USA Today Sports)