NFL Draft observers will be treated to the marquee match-up of the regular season on Saturday, as No. 2 LSU travels to take on No. 3 Alabama. The two SEC juggernauts appear to be evenly matched on both sides of the ball, so it should be an entertaining game to boot. If you can only watch one game this week, or even this season, make it this one. There’s more to this week than just that game, though—especially some ranked showdowns in the Big Ten between No. 18 Iowa and No. 13 Wisconsin, as well as No. 4 Penn State and No. 17 Minnesota.
So, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on
EDGE Zack Baun (Wisconsin)
The Badgers’ defense suffered a beat-down last week, cutesy of the Ohio State offense. This week, Baun has said that the team is looking to re-establish their physical nature against Iowa. The 6’3”, 235-lb outside linebacker will need to lead the charge there, as the Hawkeyes have a pair of dominant offensive tackles in Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. Baun has 7.5 sacks on the season, but he’ll find it much harder to earn pressure and hold his ground in the run game against those two.
Other prospects to watch
LB Malik Harrison (Ohio State)
Harrison has been a riser this season, already eclipsing his tackles-for-loss numbers and tying his sack totals from last year. There are some questions about his athleticism—specifically his lateral quickness—that are keeping him from being a lock for the first or even second round. He’ll have a chance to address those questions this week when the Buckeyes welcome Maryland and their dynamic back Anthony McFarland Jr. The Terrapins’ tailback excels at running outside zone and picking his holes, so Harrison will need to demonstrate some lateral agility as well as patience in order to shut down the run.
RB Rodney Smith (Minnesota)
Penn State employs a tackling machine in the middle of their ranks in sophomore Micah Parsons. Parsons presents a real test for Smith—who is one of the more productive ‘backs in football—to continue that production against the Nittany Lions. With that in mind, it’ll be useful for scouts to see if the 210-lb senior is able to run through the big linebacker. Smith needs to show physicality, requiring multiple defenders to bring him down.
TE Colby Parkinson (Stanford)
Parkinson isn’t a new-age tight end. He’s not a guy who’ll wow you with his speed. Instead, he’s a throwback at 6’7” and 251 lbs: a check-down option in the middle of the field and a decent blocker. His 26 receptions for 290 receiving yards and a score attest to that. However, he has a chance to stand out this week, against Colorado, whose linebacking corps are quick but pretty small as a group. Parkinson should be able to run over one or more of them, if he manages to catch the ball in some short zones.
OC Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma)
The Big XII conference is famous for its perceived lack of decent defenses but Iowa State’s defense is an exception. The Cyclones are above average in both points and yards given up. Humphrey’s ability to move and block at the second level will be tested against the Cyclones’ linebackers, who make a ton of tackles and are taught to fly to the ball. While Iowa State doesn’t have one dominant defensive tackle, they’re not afraid to throw in exotic blitzes from all over the place.
Game of the Week
It’s rare to see two top-five teams face off in the regular season, but that’s just what we’ll get this week. It’s almost easier to name the players on these teams who aren’t 2020 NFL prospects. Both teams have future first-round quarterbacks in Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow, lockdown corners in Trevon Diggs and Kristian Fulton, rangy safeties in Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney, as well as a pair of pass rushers in K’Lavon Chaisson and Terrell Lewis. What probably puts Alabama over the top is the fact that their trio of receivers—Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith—are all capable of taking over games. Sorry, Justin Jefferson.