The first half of the college football season is in the books, and the second half is ready to begin with a series of conference contenders set to meet up. No. 7 Penn State looks to remain a Big Ten leader against No. 16 Michigan, which promises to be a defensive struggle. No. 12 Oregon travels to No. 23 Washington to put the final nail in the Huskies’ coffin and pre-season expectations. Finally, an AAC contest between No. 19 SMU and Temple sees two surprisingly effective passing offenses face off with the title of conference on the line.
So, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on
OT Mekhi Becton (Louisville)
There are a lot of differing opinions regarding the Louisville left tackle’s pro prospects, with some outlets designating him as a middle-rounder while others have him rated as high as the first. Those judgments may start to come together after this week when the Cardinals play No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers have one of the more aggressive front sevens in college football and Louisville will be starting their backup quarterback. If Becton can hold them off, he’ll be doing a great service to his draft stock.
Other prospects to watch
SS Ashtyn Davis (Cal)
Despite losing their past two games to PAC-12 contenders ASU and Oregon, the Golden Bears’ defense continues to roll. Davis is a cornerstone of their secondary and, as if to prove it, he had an interception of Justin Herbert last week. This week, his challenge will be slowing down Oregon State’s Isaiah Hodgins, who just so happens to be ranked fourth in the country in receiving yards. Showing scouts that he can hold up against elite passing offenses will be important for the senior safety.
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan)
A player who some analysts pegged as a riser going into the season has yet to actually produce. With only 12 receptions for a whopping 129 yards, the junior wideout hasn’t exactly earned his keep, let along stood out to scouts. That may change this week, as Michigan’s only chance to upset Penn State might be through attacking the Nittany Lions’ average corners through the air.
RB AJ Dillon (Boston College)
Everyone knows what Dillon represents: a 6’0”, 250-lb battering-ram of a running back. He’s a player who can run straight ahead into a pile and get positive yardage. Luckily for him, the junior is being asked to do a bit more in the passing game, as his seven receptions on the year are close to matching his career-high of eight. That added versatility should serve his team well this week against N.C. State, who allow on average only 66 (!!) rushing yards allowed per game, thanks to their imposing defensive line.
LB Michael Pinckney (Miami)
It’s been a disappointingly slow start to the season for Miami, but they did just manage to upset a ranked Virginia squad. That upset happened because the Hurricanes’ defense was lights-out. The leaders of that defense are their linebackers, including Pinckney who offers NFL-caliber speed and playmaking ability. This week will be another test, as Georgia Tech’s new offense seems to have recently found its feet by setting a season high last week with 379 total yards and the 23 points scored.
Game of the Week
No. 17 Arizona State at No. 13 Utah
6:00 PM, EST
It’s nice to see two new entrants competing for the PAC-12 title, as both Utah and Arizona State haven’t been this relevant in a while. Both teams are quite balanced, with suffocating defenses and decently strong offenses. The Utes are all about the running game, with their senior tailback Zack Moss, who can run over you, but also has the speed and agility to make big plays. On defense, they rely on their lengthy defensive backs in the secondary, Jaylon Johnson and Julian Blackmon. The Sun Devils are much the same, although their bell-cow running back, Eno Benjamin, hasn’t found his footing yet. What they have had success with, however, is their passing game. Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has come out of nowhere and now ranks ninth in receiving yards.