I'm taking a mulligan on watching college football this weekend to go gallivanting with super heroes in New York City, but rest assured, your weekly NFL draft preview is still here. We have our usual great slate of conference games, and although injuries are taking their toll here and there, you still have a solid set of early games to pick from, and plenty of prime time options.
Game of the week
(23) Cal at (5) Utah
10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN
It's a battle of the two remaining unbeatens in the Pac-12 and features a great matchup between possibly the best quarterback in the nation and an excellent defense that picked Oregon apart two weeks ago. Jared Goff just keeps padding his stats each game, ranking seventh in completion percentage and yards and third in touchdown passes out of all FBS passers. He's doing it on a team that is widely considered to be lacking in extra NFL pieces, with guard Jordan Rigsbee, running back Daniel Lasco, and safety Stefan McClure as the main options, and a handful of other seniors that scouts will do their due diligence on.
Powering Utah's offense is the powerful running back Devontae Booker and dual-threat senior QB Travis Wilson. They have a decent but unspectacular center in Siosi Aiono. Their defense is strongest in the front seven, with linebackers Jared Norris and Jason Whittingham, and edge rushers Jason Fanaika and Pita Taumoepenu. Senior safety Tevin Carter has also been productive this season.
This game likely rides on Goff's production. On paper, the Utah roster is stronger than Cal's, but when Goff gets into a throwing rhythm he can't be stopped. If he can avoid the pressure that sunk Oregon and keep completing passes, he'll make this a game. At the end of Saturday, we might have an idea whether or not Goff should enter next year's draft.
Five guys I'm paying attention to this week
1. Carl Nassib, ER, Penn State
Nassib, a former walk-on whose brother Ryan is the backup quarterback of the New York Giants, is one of the nation's sack leaders. Indiana has a solid left tackle prospect in Jason Spriggs, but their quarterback situation is in flux after Nate Sudfeld injured his ankle versus Ohio State. Whether it's Sudfeld or the inexperienced but mobile Zander Diamont starting for the Hoosiers, the experienced Indiana line will be good competition for Nassib.
2. Emmanuel Ogbah, ER, Oklahoma State
The 6'4" 275 pound junior is on pace for over 15 sacks and 20 tackles for loss so far in an excellent season. West Virginia has a productive and mobile passer manning the offense. This should be a good showcase for Ogbah's talents.
3. Evan Boehm, OC, Missouri
Coming into 2015, I had Boehm earmarked as one of the better senior centers, but the Mizzou offense has been very disappointing this year. Florida just beat Ole Miss, and playing against them should be a good chance to see if Boehm is holding his own in individual matchups.
4. Joe Schobert, OLB, Wisconsin
Schobert had a monster game against Iowa, and now leads the FBS in sacks. Watching him play against Iowa and Alabama, I'm not sure if he ends up as a full-time pass rusher or more of a traditional linebacker full-time. He sifts through traffic really well, but his pass rushing role doesn't let him gain much experience in coverage.
5. Bryce Williams, TE, East Carolina
Williams is building some hype, as a well-built tight end that can be relied upon in the passing game. Now East Carolina is playing against BYU, which has only allowed seven passing touchdowns while collecting nine interceptions. Will Williams be able to use his size to get open for some receptions?
Discussion topic for the week
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, following a season-ending knee injury, decided to withdraw from school immediately and declare for the 2016 NFL draft. Jack, a junior who has starred at both linebacker and running back for the Bruins, has an insurance policy that pays out if he's not a first round pick, so he didn't have much risk to that decision, other than his obvious injury recovery. Now some people are saying LSU's star running back Leonard Fournette should take his career another step further and sit out his third season altogether to avoid suffering an injury that might sink his draft stock.
Are these players justified if they choose to leave school early and start training full-time with professional staff in order to reduce their injury risk? Should they be allowed to enter the NFL at a younger age? Should schools be providing insurance for their athletes to give them an incentive to stay in school longer?