November brings a beautiful ritual in college football as seniors across the country are honored when they take the field for the last time at their home stadiums. Whether they have been on campus just three years and are headed to the NFL Draft or have been on campus for six years and collected two degrees, it can be emotional when players say their farewells.
With walk-ons and three-star prospects sharing the same field as five-star prospects who are signed to high-dollar sponsorship deals, college football is unique for the breadth of its characters. Future NFL stars share the field every week with players who will never play beyond college, and sometimes it's those from the latter category who wind up stealing the spotlight.
Such was the case for Ohio State redshirt senior receiver Kamryn Babb on Saturday. Though the Buckeyes still have one home game remaining against Michigan, last week's game against Indiana likely marked the final opportunity for Babb to get some playing time in a blowout. After an injury-plagued career, Babb took advantage of the opportunity and scored a fourth quarter touchdown that resonated far beyond Columbus, Ohio.
For providing that moment, he is one of the players highlighted in this week's Star Power Index for shining -- for better or worse -- on the sport's big stage.
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
Quinn Ewers, Texas quarterback
We warned you that the hype train was spinning out of control after Ewers had a good game against Oklahoma on Oct. 8. In four games since the Longhorns' 49-0 win over that hapless Sooners squad, Ewers has completed just 49% of his passes with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Texas did not score an offensive touchdown in a 17-10 home loss to TCU last week as Ewers completed just 17 of 39 passes for 171 yards and an interception. Nowhere in college football has a more mediocre player seized a greater share of the spotlight than with Ewers at Texas. His talent is obvious, but it turns out the declarations of his greatness after the Oklahoma game were premature and likely a bit unfair considering he is still only 19.
Michael Penix Jr., Washington quarterback
Short-term and long-term redemption arcs for Penix played out in real-time during one of this season's most-entertaining primetime games on Saturday as Washington upset Oregon 37-34. Penix threw an ill-advised and seemingly fatal interception early in the fourth quarter before launching a game-tying touchdown pass to Taj Davis when finally given another chance. The redshirt senior finished 26 of 35 passing for 408 yards and two touchdowns as he tightened his grip on the national lead in yards passing per game. Penix's reuniting with his former offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer, has paid incredible dividends for both parties. DeBoer's first season as Washington's coach has been a smashing success, and Penix has revitalized an injury-plagued career that had stalled out with the Hoosiers.
Ladd McConkey, Georgia wide receiver
Brock Bowers was considered the No. 2 tight end in the 2021 recruiting class, Darnell Washington was ranked the No. 2 athlete in the 2020 class, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint was ranked a top-100 player in the 2020 class and Kearis Jackson was an Under Armour All-American from the 2018 class. All have been productive as pass catchers for No. 1 Georgia this season. But no one has more receptions for the Bulldogs than McConkey. In the sea of blue-chip talent, the undersized former three-star prospect whose other offers were from Army, Bucknell, Furman and Georgia Southern, has proven to be the most lethal receiver for the nation's top-ranked team. In UGA's 45-19 win over Mississippi State, McConkey scored as a receiver and as a runner when he took a reverse pitch 70 yards on a critical possession early in the third quarter. The Stetson Bennett to McConkey connection may look like a fraternity league partnership, but it's proving to be one of the best in college football.
Kamryn Babb, Ohio State wide receiver
No one deserved the spotlight this week more than Babb, who found the end zone for the first time in his college career at the end of Ohio State's 56-14 win over Indiana. The redshirt senior has been through four ACL tears that have kept him from making on-field contributions for the Buckeyes. But in seeing his teammates celebrate his score and listening to their comments after the game, it's clear Babb has been making meaningful contributions to the Buckeyes for years, even if they haven't shown up in the box score.
"Kam has just been a number of things for this team," fellow receiver Emeka Egbuka said. "It is hard to describe all the things he has done for me personally. He has helped me re-establish my relationship with God, and fast forward to now; he is my roommate and one of my closest brothers on the team. He just means so much to everyone in this program."
Chop Robinson, Penn State defensive end
Penn State's defense suffocated Maryland's offense in a 30-0 win with seven sacks. Two of them came from a particularly painful source for the Terrapins as Robinson made his presence felt against his former team. A five-star prospect in the Class of 2021, Robinson still ranks as the 10th-highest signee for Maryland in the 247Sports era, but he's playing for the Nittany Lions now and was apparently quite motivated to perform against the Terrapins.