We’re essentially halfway through the college football season, and yet we haven’t been treated to the start of football for the Big Ten...#2020. Luckily, Michigan, Ohio State and the like are set to debut this Saturday in what will be a truncated season focused on intra-conference games. The exciting matchups there will be Michigan-Minnesota and Iowa-Purdue. Outside of the new conference slate, this week we’ll be treated to a rare North Carolina interstate rivalry game in which two of the teams are ranked.
So let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on
Matt Hankins CB (Iowa)
Iowa fields a young team full of new starters, but the key to the game for the Hawkeyes will largely be the play of their secondary and veteran upperclassman corner Hankins. Set to make his debut this year, Hankins was productive but largely inconsistent in 2019. This season will be about showing he belongs in the discussion of top corners. This week he’ll likely see some time against Purdue’s Rondale Moore, one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the country and a player likely to be selected within the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.
Other prospects to watch
Janarius Robinson EDGE (Florida State)
A potential breakout candidate for 2020 thanks to a productive first half of the year, including last week in FSU’s upset of UNC, Robinson needs to keep it going against a tough Louisville offensive line. Against a top-ranked Notre Dame defense, the Cardinals didn’t give up a single sack. The senior, with his 35-inch arms excels at setting the edge in the run game. The question is if he can be a true, day-to-day pass rusher.
Whop Philyor WR (Indiana)
Philyor is a dynamic slot receiver for the Hoosiers and was an all-around security blanket for quarterback Michael Penix Jr., as evidenced by his 70 catches and over a 1000 yards receiving. He’s not the biggest wideout at 5’11”, but he has great hands and is fearless when faced with contact, which is a quality you love to see in slot receivers. He’ll have a big challenge in today’s game against Penn State, which sports some veteran secondary players in corner Tariq Castro-Fields and free safety Lamont Wade.
La’Kendrick Van Zandt S (TCU)
The 6’1”, 206-lb thumper has had a good start to the season, just by virtue of being able to stay healthy. The former linebacker looks much more comfortable at the strong safety position and has made some huge plays the past couple weeks. He’ll be challenged in both the run and passing games against Oklahoma, a team that loves to put secondary players in a bind over whom to cover.
Daniel Faalele OT (Minnesota)
The closest player to Mekhi Becton in this year’s draft class is the Australian right tackle who plays for the Gophers. Listed on the school’s website at 6’9” and a massive 400 lbs, Faalele has no right moving as well as he does. Needless to say, he is a force in the run game. Although he struggled the most in the early part of the 2019 season, he greatly improved as the season went on and finished strong. A spotless performance against Michigan’s speedy rushers this week would assuage some doubts about his ability to handle pass protection.
Game of the Week
No. 23 N.C. State at No. 14 North Carolina
Saturday, 12:00 PM EDT
It’s somewhat rare to see both of these rival schools ranked, but here we are! For N.C. State, it’s been a slow march towards relevancy this season while UNC has been one of the surprises of 2020 prior to their upset at the hands of Florida State.
For the Tar Heels, it’s all about offense. The team ranks 11th in rushing yards and 19th in passing thanks to the dynamic skill-position duo of wide receiver Dyami Brown and running back Michael Carter. Carter especially has been a revelation this season. The UNC defense does feature one big-time NFL prospect in Chazz Surratt, a former quarterback who plays the linebacker position with almost reckless abandon.
Similar to their opponent, the Wolfpack is led by their offense. Offensive linemen Joe Sculthorpe and Justin Witt provide the protection, while wide receiver Emeka Emezie is a strong possession receiver. Look out for tight end Cary Angeline as well, as the senior already has five touchdowns on the year.