College Football Star Power Index: Cade Klubnik emerges as viable Clemson option, Bo Nix goes wild for Oregon

The final weekend of October is fast approaching, and the narratives surrounding this college football season are taking shape as the first batch of College Football Playoff Rankings are set for release on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Amid the struggle for positioning in conference and national races, new stars continue emerging from unexpected places as players maximize their opportunities to become superstars in a team sport.

This week’s edition of the Star Power Index features a mixture of predictable faces as well as former three-star prospects who were overlooked but have emerged as stars. That’s the beautiful thing about college football: Players often emerge from the shadows to become heroes within their fan bases.

TCU running back Kendre Miller was recruited as a three-star athlete, Oklahoma State safety Jason Taylor II had no other Power Five scholarship offers, according to his 247Sports profile, and Wisconsin safety John Torchi was a walk-on best known for playing quarterback in high school, but now they’re shining in the Star Power Index.

The College Football Star Power Index isn’t a Heisman Trophy watch list or a ranking of NIL earnings potential, nor is it an NFL mock draft. There are plenty of places to find those. This is a rundown of players who are maximizing their platform — be it for quality performance or other reasons — to stand out as the biggest names in the sport, whether that be just for a moment or for an entire career.

College Football Star Power Index

Cade Klubnik, Clemson quarterback

Is it possible for a 2-of-4 passing performance to register more emphatically than Klubnik’s did against Syracuse? The freshman entered in relief of DJ Uigalelei during the third quarter of Clemson’s 27-21 win and quarterbacked the Tigers back from a 21-10 deficit. He didn’t do much, totaling just 19 yards passing and 15 yards rushing, but the fact that Clemson’s struggling offense suddenly stopped turning the ball over and began scoring when he entered is fascinating. Still, coach Dabo Swinney insists there is no quarterback controversy and Uiagalelei remains the No. 1 option ahead of the former five-star prospect Klubnik.

Can the Tigers win a national title with Uiagalelei, though? He’s improved since last season, but his lackluster showing against Syracuse underscored the many lingering imperfections. Swinney turned to him in a moment of need and the team responded well, so Klubnik is officially in the picture now even if he’s not the starter. It’s going to be difficult for Swinney to put that toothpaste back in the tube. If Uiagalelei struggles on the road against a solid Notre Dame defense next week, Klubnik may find himself with far more than four pass attempts against the Fighting Irish. It was a limited sample size, sure, but with playmaking abilities like this, perhaps Klubnik should be getting regular playing time regardless of Uiagalaelei’s performance.

Kendre Miller, TCU running back

It took Miller seven games to surpass the number of rushing yards he amassed in 10 last season as the junior running back racked up a season-high 153 yards in TCU’s 38-28 win over Kansas State. Both of Miller’s touchdown runs came in the second half as the Horned Frogs completed their rally from an early 28-10 deficit. 

Miller’s workload has steadily increased all season, culminating with back-to-back games of over 20 carries carries and more than 100 yards in big wins the past two weeks. Miller has scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game during TCU’s 7-0 start, and has seven touchdowns over the past four games. Not bad for a prospect who was regarded as a three-star athlete and ranked among the lowest players TCU signed in the Class of 2020.

Bo Nix, Oregon quarterback

Since Oregon’s season-opening loss to Georgia, “good Bo” has been the only version of Oregon quarterback Bo Nix that we’ve seen. The ex-Auburn signal-caller developed a reputation over three seasons in the SEC for his mercurial play with catastrophic lows often following highlight-reel throws or creative runs. But in reuniting with Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who was his offensive coordinator at Auburn as a freshman, Nix has rediscovered the mojo that made him so promising as a freshman.

He led the Ducks with five passing touchdowns in a 45-30 win over UCLA on Saturday in a monumental Pac-12 showdown. Now, Oregon is in the driver’s seat of the league and Nix may find himself playing in bigger games for Oregon than he ever did at Auburn as the Ducks try and clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game along with a New Year’s Six bowl appearance. With 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions, Nix’s 165.9 quarterback rating is more than 35 points higher than it was for his best season at Auburn.

Jason Taylor II, Oklahoma State safety

Oklahoma State ranks 117th nationally in total defense, a far cry from last season’s fifth-ranked unit which keyed the Cowboys’ 12-2 season. But the defense came up with big plays when it mattered most in a 41-34 victory over Texas last week, and there was no bigger hero than Jason Taylor II. The senior safety picked off Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers twice and recorded a game-high nine tackles.

Taylor read Ewers’ eyes all the way on a critical fourth-and-8 play late in the fourth quarter and ran from the middle of the field to pull down a critical interception that helped cement the outcome. He was injured while awkwardly flipping out of bounds, which made for a rough ending to an otherwise memorable performance.

John Torchio, Wisconsin safety

According to Torchio, he played like *crap* in Wisconsin’s 35-24 win over Purdue. Even so, he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after picking off two passes and running one of them back 31 yards for a touchdown. The pick-six put the Badgers ahead 14-0, and his second one set up a quick Wisconsin touchdown that made it 28-3 early in the third quarter.

Figuring out this Wisconsin team is nearly impossible, but in two of three games so far under interim coach Jim Leonhard, the defense has looked like its old self.

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