Now that the dust has settled on the college football landscape, we have a better idea of which teams weren’t given a fair shot before the season started and which teams were frauds. No. 9 Florida and No. 6 Texas represent the former. They came into the season with low expectations by most experts, but both have been on winning streaks and can boast of signature wins against quality opponents. Penn State and N.C. State represent the latter. They have had recent losses that have called into question the hype and fanfare they received in the preseason. This week, both teams also have a chance to right the ship against winnable opponents.
As always, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on
DE Brian Burns (Florida State)
By all accounts an athletic freak, Burns has been on a tear recently with four sacks and five tackles-for-loss combined in the past two games. Watching to see how he chooses to attack Clemson tackle Mitch Hyatt on Saturday will be interesting. Burns has more than enough talent to out-maneuver the big tackle with his speed rush, which could force Hyatt to overcompensate, opening up the potential for counter moves.
Other prospects to watch
RB Justice Hill (Oklahoma State)
One of the few jitterbug runners in this year’s class, Hill excels in small spaces and is an exceptional receiver for the Cowboys. He’s been bottled up for the past two weeks, and going against the Texas run defense this Saturday isn’t going to do him many favors. Watching his play to see how he deals with the adversity will be one of the main draws for scouts.
C/G Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State)
Mississippi State is working through a disappointing season, but the interior offensive line and Jenkins in particular have been something the Bulldogs can hang their hat on. This week, his challenge is a Texas A&M team that’s on the rise along with highly-rated defensive tackles Kingsley Keke and Daylon Mack. Both players pose serious challenges to effectively running the ball so Jenkins will be tested in that realm.
WR N’Keal Harry (Arizona State)
One of the premier wide-receiver prospects of the 2019 class, Harry has had a solid but not necessarily spectacular season so far. The junior has been productive in the red zone with five touchdowns, but he really hasn’t gone over 100 receiving yards since the first game of the season. USC sports NFL-caliber players at both corner and safety, so Harry will have a battle on his hands all game long. He did throw an interception against Stanford last game. So, there is that.
ER Sutton Smith (Northern Illinois)
Smith is your classic small-school tweener, at 6’1”, 237 pounds. He’s is too small to play a role as a full-time edge rusher, but he has a proven history of production with fourteen sacks in 2017 and already seven this year. How Smith deals with physically imposing offensive lines will be huge in determining his professional future, so this Saturday’s game against BYU is massively important for the senior.
CB Amani Oruwariye (Penn State)
Although he’s not the twitchiest athlete at the position, scouts will be intrigued by his above-average size and long arms. The senior excels at sticking his hands into the receiver’s chest and breaking up passes at the last moment. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley has been on a roll lately, so a lot will be asked of Oruwariye in this week’s game against the Hawkeyes. It’ll also be interesting to see if he is matched up against their pair of tight ends.
Game of the week
No. 9 Florida vs. No. 7 Georgia
Saturday, 3:30 PM, EST
These two SEC teams are headed in the opposite direction. Georgia is coming off a disheartening loss to LSU while Florida has been riding high on a five-game winning streak. The teams are similar given that most of their NFL prospects are on the defensive side of the ball. Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker is among the best in the country, while his teammate, defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, reminds this writer of former Bulldog who’s now with the New York Jets, Jordan Jenkins.
Florida pass rusher Jachai Polite is one of the biggest risers this season and has started to garner first-round buzz, while the Gator’s secondary, anchored by safeties Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and sophomore Brad Stewart, is one of the deepest in the conference.