Conference play began in earnest last week, but Week 5 of the college football season still finds teams jockeying for position among their conference brethren. No. 12 West Virginia looks to stay atop the Big 12 against No. 25 Texas Tech; No. 19 Oregon looks to avenge their loss last week against the upstart No. 24 Cal; and No. 4 Ohio State squares off against No. 9 Penn State—a game that will have major implications for the future Big Ten championship.
So, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on
WR Hakeem Butler (Iowa State)
As with many big receivers, there are questions about Butler’s speed, but after he caught 5 passes for a whopping 174 yards against Oklahoma, no one can question his play-making ability. The 6’6”, 225-pound junior has sticky hands and is a bear to bring down. TCU sports an above-average secondary, especially for the Big 12, so this is a good test to see if Butler can earn decent separation on his routes.
Other prospects to watch
LB Khalil Hodge (University at Buffalo)
The service academies’ use of the triple-option always presents a unique challenge to college defenses that are accustomed to dealing with offenses based on the Spread. Hodge has been solid in coverage this season, but Army will test his speed, vision and ability to stay disciplined against the run. The senior is typically a tackling machine, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him come down with 15 or more tackles against Army.
OG Brandon Fanaika (Stanford)
This year’s crop of guard prospects has yet to solidify, with very few analysts declaring any worth a first-round pick. Fanaika is a potential top prospect who nonetheless struggles when dealing with quicker defensive tackles. Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery happens to be one of the most cat-quick defensive tackles in the nation, so their battle will be worth tracking all game.
OT Greg Little (Ole Miss)
Little was a raw, but highly talented prospect coming into the year, and has been as-advertised through the first four games. His movement skills have been an asset in the run game and, according to Pro Football Focus, he has yet to give up a sack. LSU has a very aggressive defense that likes to play games up front and bring extra pressure on blitzes, so Little will be challenged to remain patient and take the correct blocking assignments.
DE Carl Granderson (Wyoming)
Few prospects generated the amount of hype Granderson received from a select few draft analysts. Seeing him in pads, you can see why. He’s 6’5”, 261 pounds with arms for days. However, he has been a mild disappointment thus far in the pass rush department as he has yet to record a sack. Boise State has a mobile, veteran quarterback who will be tough to bring down. It would really help his draft stock if Granderson can bring him down.
QB Will Grier (West Virginia)
Texas Tech is always among the most prolific offenses in college football, so any team they play inevitably needs to keep up with them— often turning the games into track meets. Grier is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, but teams have been reticent to label him as a potential franchise guy due to his limited athletic tools. This match-up will provide him an opportunity to show off his tools.
Game of the Week
No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Eastern
ABC and WatchESPN
A classic Big Ten throw down, both teams have NFL prospects on either side of the ball. Penn State brings edge rusher Shareef Miller, who leads the team in sacks with three, as well as the 6’4” junior wideout Juwan Johnson. The Buckeyes lost all-world defensive end Nick Bosa to an abdominal injury, but they still have quarterback Dwayne Haskins who has been rocketing up draft boards, as well as multiple impact defenders including defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, safety Jordan Fuller and junior cornerback Kendall Sheffield.