Best College Football Players You Didn’t Watch in 2020

min read
Andrew Doughty @DoughtyBetMGM Jul 24, 2021, 10:42 AM
Jaret Patterson Buffalo
(Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

Google “Jaret Patterson underrated.”

You’ll find dozens of result pages filled with articles, videos, and tweets proclaiming Buffalo Bulls running back Jaret Patterson one of the most underrated players in college football. Typically, overwhelming underrated popularity leads to proper credit or, in some cases, an overrated over-correction akin to teams skyrocketing in college football odds. There’s nothing typical about Jaret Patterson.

One year after rushing for 1,013 yards in 2018 as an unknown redshirt freshman who, as the nation’s 3,158th-ranked recruit, accepted his lone FBS scholarship offer, Patterson shattered the Buffalo program rushing record with 1,799 yards in 2019. He did so on 312 carries over 13 games, an average of 5.8 yards per carry on 24 carries per game. When the MAC announced a six-game conference-only schedule for 2020, Paterson needed to average 6.95 yards per (if he averaged 24 carries per game again) to become the first-ever Buffalo player with three straight 1,000-yard seasons.

And he needed to do it as the most-feared offensive player in the conference. 

“He's incredibly difficult to bring down,” Kent State head coach Sean Lewis said before facing Patterson and Buffalo in November. “Usually one guy doesn't do it on his own. You've got to get multiple hats to the football, which stresses you in a lot of different ways with the number of hats you're committing to the running game. He's a very patient runner, especially on their outside zone play. He's the complete package. They've found different ways to get him the ball in space, and when he gets it and gets a crease he knows how to finish it.”

Patterson was difficult to bring down in the Bulls’ 70-41 win. He was patient, especially in the outside zone, the complete package, and finished … a lot. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound sophomore ran for a program-record 409 yards and FBS-record-tying eight touchdowns in front of a small audience on CBS Sports Network. Even against a light schedule of 12 p.m ET kickoffs, Patterson’s day was dwarfed by Michigan-Penn State on ABC, Kentucky-Florida on ESPN, and other Power Five matchups on more widely available and widely watched channels.

Aided by three outstanding offensive linemen in center Mike Novitsky, guard Jacob Gall, and tackle Jake Fuzak, Patterson ran for 664 yards in Buffalo’s other five games. He finished the season with 1,072 yards on 141 carries, an average of 7.6 yards per carry, well above the 1,000-yard requirement of 24 carries per game and 6.95 yards per carry. He was one of only three FBS players to average more than 7.5 yards on at least 140 carries, one of whom you didn’t watch this season: Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert.

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The latest transfer to thrive elsewhere after escaping the Sarlacc that is Kansas football, Khalil Herbert was dominant in his first season with the Hokies. Hebert’s 1,182-yard season was largely lost in the ACC and national picture (as was the performance of his best offensive lineman, tackle Christian Darrisaw) as North Carolina’s two-headed monster of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter combined for nearly 2,4000 yards, Clemson and Notre Dame barreled toward a conference championship rematch, and Virginia Tech limped through another season of mediocrity. To be fair, you might’ve watched Khalil Herbert far more than Jaret Patterson, therefore it’s more appropriate to say you didn’t watch enough of Khalil Herbert this season.

You also didn’t watch BYU running back Tyler Allgeier as Zach Wilson’s NFL Draft stock exploded and the Cougars played a soft schedule, App State running back Camerun Peoples as Louisiana and Coastal Carolina dominated Sun Belt headlines, and South Carolina running back Kevin Harris as everyone kept not caring about the Gamecocks.

Coastal Carolina and Louisiana’s Sun Belt success also kept Arkansas State quarterback Layne Hatcher off the radar. A former three-star recruit who transferred from Alabama in 2019, Hatcher earned the starting job in late-September 2019 and split time with Logan Bonner in 2020. Unlike a typical split-time quarterback who labors through a subpar season, Hatcher was mostly sensational, posting a 9.5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio despite ranking 4th nationally in yards per attempt (10.6). He was one of the lone bright spots in the Red Wolves’ four-win season, their worst since 2010.

You also didn’t watch Nevada quarterback Carson Strong as the entire Mountain West was mostly ignored, nor did you watch one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the country, Memphis’ Brady White and Calvin Austin III, as Cincinnati stole every ounce of attention in the American. UCF receiver Jaylon Robinson flew under the radar, too, as did South Alabama receiver Jalen Tolbert and North Texas receiver Jaelon Darden. 

“He’s a stud,” North Texas head coach Seth Littrell said of Darden in December. “I’m proud of him. He deserves it because of the amount of work he puts in off the field when no one else is around. He has all the tools. He is one of those players who don’t come around often.”

Defensively, you didn’t watch Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound redshirt junior was Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated linebacker and one of three consensus First-Team All-Americans. Yet, even has Tulsa flirted with conference championship contention and earned their first-ever spot in the College Football Playoff Rankings, Collins never became a household name like fellow consensus First-Teamers Joseph Ossai and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. The same goes for Collins’ teammate, defensive tackle Jaxon Player.

You also didn’t watch another Buffalo player, linebacker Kadofi Wright, one of the nation’s coverage linebackers, nor did you watch Tulane linebacker Nick Andersen, Georgia State linebacker Jordan Strachan, or San Jose State defensive tackle Cade Hall.

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM.

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About the Author

Andrew Doughty

Read More @DoughtyBetMGM

Andrew Doughty is a sports betting writer for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.

Andrew Doughty is a sports betting writer for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.