Cincinnati v. Indiana
—WR Ty Fryfogle vs. CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
This is an exciting match up of under the veil of ‘guys who are looking to prove they belong at the top of the class. Both are looking to prove their breakout last season was legitimate and are considered closer to top five at their respective positions than they are to being the bona fide top option. Fryfogle is the Hoosiers best chance at generating offense for struggling QB Michael Penix, and a strong showing here would do wonders for his draft stock going against ‘all nickname team’ candidate Sauce Gardner who is looking for a dominant performance in order to keep pace with Derek Stingley and Kaiir Elam in the top CB race.
—QB Watch: Desmond Ridder
Given the state of the franchise I plan on paying close attention to several quarterback prospects this CFB season. Among those signal callers, Desmond Ridder has played himself into an early front runner spot for the ‘Mitch Trubisky/Zach Wilson he came out of nowhere to get drafted in the top 5” award. While Indiana is not the stingiest defensive competition to face I will be curious to see how aggressive and how consistent he plays against a Hoosier squad that had a poor showing the last time they faced a ranked opponent in week 1 against Iowa. If Ridder performs well we should start to see a nice draft stock drum beat begin to build and he will become a must watch prospect week in and week out.
USC v. Washington St
—OT Abe Lucas vs. DE Drake Jackson
As of right now, the defensive end draft pool appears better than last year’s lackluster class, but, by how much, is uncertain. In a group of ‘Kayvon Thibodeaux and who else?’ this is a crucial match up that USCs Drake Jackson is expected to deliver in. As it stands right now, Jackson has not had a sack in seven of his last eight games, which is not great for a guy whose profile is predicated as an explosive rusher with great traits in a Pac-12 conference that offers limited competition. Jackson and Lucas have faced each other twice before, and while Lucas will probably not make the top five tackles list, he is a very steady, solid right tackle. If Jackson fails to dominate it won’t look great while being compared directly to fellow Pac-12 rusher Thibodeaux. Drake Jackson needs a bounce back game in order to be taken seriously as a top 5 pass rusher in this class.
Purdue v. Notre Dame
—Notre Dames OL vs. DE George Karlaftis
Dating back to summer scouting the internet has become enthralled with CFBs own version of ‘the greek freak’ with Boilermaker defensive lineman George Karlaftis. A borderline 5 star recruit Karlaftis, projects as a traditional 4-3 DE whose obvious calling cards are strength and a high motor reminding me of former Saint and current Bengal Trey Hendrickson. However Karlaftis has shown some sneaky burst in pursuit that could continue to entrench him in round one discussions. Even with legendary coach and O-line guru Harry Hiestand no longer in the building the fighting Irish have a very disciplined unit providing a solid test. He will be going against Sophomore backup left tackle Michael Carmody who is a game time decision after spraining his ankle last week. I’d imagine Brian Kelly and Notre Dame will send help to his side. It helps the two gentlemen on the interior are very talented in left guard Zeke Correll and Jarrett Patterson, who is arguably the best college center in the country. While I expect the greek freak to make the most of his opportunity's on the edge, the Boilermakers occasionally kick him inside leaving a true test for him against Notre Dame’s experienced interior, which has the potential to solidify his status as a round one talent.
Alabama v. Florida
—CB Kaiir Elam vs. WR John Metchie III
There is no better test for college prospects than against the Crimson Tide, the NFL’s minor league team. While not loaded from top to bottom with talent, a large portion of these guys will go on to make a NFL roster in some capacity, making opponents flashes against them seem so much brighter given the large dark shadow this juggernaut casts upon the college football landscape. Among those looking for a strong showing, we have a surging hot Kaiir Elam looking to leave his mark on the next wave of well coached Alabama wide receivers. It starts with John Metchie III, who is finally stepping into the spotlight after Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle moved onto greener pastures. Like his predecessors, Metchie is very well coached and nuanced with his route running and has plenty of vertical speed. However, play strength, and questions against press coverage, are his biggest weaknesses to disprove this year, and they are also what Elam should be looking to exploit if he is trying to build off of his impressive start to the season.
Auburn v. Penn St
—CB Rodger McCreary vs. WR Jahan Dotson
Most draftniks became acquainted with McCreary after 2019 when he held his own against the eventual Biletnikoff winner and top ten draft darling Jamar Chase. Since that coming out party McCreary has grown into his own taking over one of the outside cornerback spots at Auburn. Entering his second year on the boundary he’s looking to prove his mettle in what appears to be a crowded defensive back draft class. The Auburn defender will have quite the litmus test waiting for him in happy valley when he lines up across from Jahan Dotson, who had a successful 2020 campaign filling in for the recently drafted KJ Hamler’s workload. What intrigues me the most about this match up is that both players have shown growth as well refinement in their technique, and have consistently produced, but they both share similar concerns for their pro projections— they each have concerns about lack of length. I expect these players to have a long battle the majority of the night and whoever can consistently come up with big plays will potentially be able to springboard their draft stock into the day two conversation.
Small School Spotlight: Marlyand v. Illinois
—OT Jaelyn Duncan vs. DE Owen Carney Jr.
These players have two things in common; they both have been the best players on their team once they arrived on campus, and they both come from schools that did not have many players drafted last year (Maryland had only one player drafted last year). Maryland's schedule does not cater to finding high caliber competition for potential first rounder Duncan to test his foritude against. However, in a battle with Owen Carney Jr., there lies an opportunity to demonstrate his rare tools and mobility for pass protection. Carney on the other hand is looking to get back on track after having a poor showing last week. An impressive game against a tackle of Duncans caliber would go far in keeping the critics at bay.