Jaret Patterson reminds us that Group of 5 talent can put on a show
If you watched college football weekend, you witnessed one of the best performances in college football history. Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson rushed for 409 yards and an NCAA record eight touchdowns in the Bulls 70-41 win over Kent State this weekend, and it was a good reminder for many. There's this stigma surrounding Group of 5 programs that they can't compete at a high level. While Buffalo wasn't playing against a Power 5 opponent, they reminded us that great football can be played at any level.
Patterson's performance turned heads on Saturday, but it's not the first time he's done this. Heading into the 2020 season, Patterson was gaining popularity thanks to his final stretch in 2019. Three games of 170+ yards, including a monster performance against Bowling Green, along with 12 touchdowns ended his season. He's already topped that stretch in the four games he's played this year.
Patterson has three games of 290+ yards rushing. That should be the only stat we need to state. He now has two games over 300 yards rushing and Saturday's 409-yard performance. In his last seven games, Patterson's rushed for 1,583 yards and 28 touchdowns. The things that he's doing are incredible and the stuff of legendary players. It's also a reminder that players in the Group of 5 are capable of greatness and that you shouldn't judge them because they're not in a Power 5 conference. If you truly like college football, greatness is everywhere.
Before opting out, Memphis running back Kenneth Gainwell was one of the best backs in the country. His versatility made him unique and helped him rise up NFL Draft boards everywhere. UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel and wide receiver Marlon Williams are two of the best at their positions. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder is leading the Bearcats to a potential College Football Playoff appearance. Grant Wells and Marshall are undefeated and looking dangerous in Conference USA. The list goes on and on of talented players that aren't on Power 5 rosters.
How would we know the name Zach Wilson if we just paid attention to the Power 5 teams? BYU's quarterback is rising up draft boards with his talent. Same with NDSU's Trey Lance. Coastal Carolina is thriving behind the play of a solid defense and quarterback Grayson McCall (20 touchdowns to just one interception). Louisiana and Arkansas State pulled off upsets against Big 12 teams. Liberty is 2-1 against ACC opponents thanks to the play of former Auburn transfer quarterback Malik Willis. Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins is a potential Heisman candidate with his play, and his team should play for a conference championship. UTSA had a program that won seven games the last two years and has that exact same number this year behind the legs of running back Sincere McCormick, college football's leading rusher.
As a college football fan, I wish for others to get the same enjoyment out of the sport as I do. You don't have to be a fan of these teams to get something out of it, and there's validity to the belief that these teams can play. Jaret Patterson just set a record, but he won't be the last player to do so. Talent can be found everywhere, and this was just the tip of the iceberg of the players you can watch. Teams like Buffalo, Cincinnati, BYU, Marshall, Liberty, Coastal Carolina and Tulsa (and more) are fun to watch this year, and I'd hate for someone to limit their entertainment because of a superficial label.