The role of interim leader is a difficult one. You can't use long-term security to project authority. You can't approach things from a developmental perspective because you're expected to succeed right away - and even then, you might not get a full-time gig. In fact, the interim role is a lot harder than the regular one in a lot of ways. So let's take a moment to acknowledge those who were not expected to lead but found themselves forced to this season.
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Before he broke his ankle against Michigan, Barrett was responsible for 65 percent of Ohio State's touchdowns this season. He had one bad game (the loss to Virginia Tech) and one so-so game (the overtime win over Penn State). Other than those? He turned defenses into ice cream you accidentally left on the counter all day. Somehow, Barrett did his best work on the road, and even missing the Big Ten Championship he finished with more total yards than ten FBS teams. BOLD STATEMENT: J.T. Barrett > Wake Forest.
Nick Chubb, Georgia
49 players got more rushing attempts than Nick Chubb did this year. 26 finished with more rushing yards. This is because Nick Chubb is, in scientific terms, "stupid fucking good." Chubb was awesome if you gave him just a few carries, like the 13 he got against Kentucky that turned into 170 yards and a touchdown. Chubb was also awesome if he had to be the entire running attack, as he was against Missouri and Arkansas.
Nick Chubb can do this.
Clint Bowen, Kansas
Clint Bowen has spent so, so, so much time at Kansas, as a player, and then as a grad assistant, and then as a position coach or coordinator. Clint Bowen has spent 15 of the last 18 years working for the Jayhawks in some capacity. That includes some good times, like the 2007 season ending in the Orange Bowl. That also includes some bad times, like basically almost every other year. The point is, if the goalposts get torn down on Clint Bowen's watch over something as seemingly small as Kansas beating a bad Iowa State team, that's fine. Dude had to sit through a loss to Rice.
Artavis Scott, Clemson
Scott wasn't listed as a starter for the Tigers in the first depth chart Dabo Swinney released before the Georgia game. Unsurprisingly, he was only thrown to twice in that opening road loss. The next week, against South Carolina State, Scott set a school freshman record for receiving yards in a single game. No Clemson player finished with more catches or receiving touchdowns than Scott. So why wasn't Artavis Scott the starter from day one? Because Dabo loves an interim winner, dangit.
Dalvin Cook, FSU
He ran past you while you were reading his name. I would criticize your containment technique, but there's not much you could have done anyways. Go get some water.
Tom Mason, SMU
The mustache says "I'm not your dad, but I'm gonna take care of you for the next couple months all the same. Now where do you keep the Bisquick?" Did it go super well? No, but you didn't finish winless, did you, SMU? Tom Mason made you adequate pancakes and beat UConn, and that's good enough.
Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
HE THREW FOR FIVE HUNDRED YARDS AND FIVE TOUCHDOWNS AGAINST YOU, USC. ALL WE TALK ABOUT WAS YOUR GARBAGE ASS DEFENSE ON THE HAIL MARY THAT WON IT FOR ARIZONA STATE BUT DAMN IT AIN'T LIKE YOU DID MUCH THE REST OF THE GAME. YOU KNOW WHO ELSE HAS THROWN FIVE TOUCHDOWNS AGAINST USC? TELL THE PEOPLE, KEITH SWEAT.
Jim Hackett, Michigan
Fired Brady Hoke, for which he may get a dormitory named after him. (Deservedly so.)