In what has been a constant theme for the past few weeks: despite the best efforts of COVID’s second wave, we still have college football this Saturday. While the cancelled and postponed games include some likely barnburners, we are still being treated to some gems. That includes the final games in the MAC conference, where an undefeated Buffalo (a team that includes several NFL prospects) reigns supreme. However, their likely challenger for the Championship will be decided in today’s matchup between Ball State and Western Michigan. So, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on:
Bumber Pool LB (Arkansas)
It’s at least been a promising season for the Razorbacks, who unfortunately are finishing out their season facing the juggernaut that is Alabama. If they’re going to put up any kind of fight, Pool, as their defensive leader, needs to have the game of his life. Pool does bring great size and an attacking mentality, as the junior ranks second in the SEC and 13th nationally in tackles, averaging 11.0 tackles per game. Seeing how he tackles running back Najee Harris will be enlightening, as he looks to prove he can be an NFL middle linebacker.
Other players to watch:
Javonte Williams RB (North Carolina)
UNC’s running backs are something else, and while Michael Carter is a speed guy and fantastic catching balls out of the backfield, there are reasons his running mate is a better fit for the NFL. Williams offers much more ‘wiggle’ as an open-field runner and excels making his one cut and immediately getting upfield. Miami has a strong defensive line that will be able to bust into the backfield regularly, so today’s game will be all about how Williams can stay clean and make guys miss.
Jake Burton OG (Baylor)
It’s been a terrible season for Baylor after losing their coach to the Carolina Panthers and beating 22nd-ranked Oklahoma State to end the season might provide at least some comfort. To do that, Burton will really need to protect his quarterback from a group of lean Cowboys defensive tackles. A former grad transfer tackle from UCLA, the senior has made the transition to the interior offensive line and seems to be on the upswing in the past couple of games.
D’Wayne Eskridge WR (Western Michigan)
Every year, the MAC seems to put out a middle- or late-round wide receiver who outplays his draft position, and Eskridge could be that guy this year. He’s a speedster who nonetheless shows great toughness and fight with the ball in his hands. He’s also very impressive on special teams, where he recently earned MAC West Special Teams Player of the Week. This Saturday may be his last game of the season, and the team is going to need a big performance from him to beat Ball State.
Malcolm Koonce EDGE (Buffalo)
If Jaret Patterson is UB’s star on offense, Koonce is the defensive equivalent. At 6’3” and 250 lbs, he’s tailormade as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has rare ability to ‘run the ring’ around tackles, turning the corner and beating them with speed. He need to shore up his effort against the run though, which should be the focus this week against Akron, whose running back Teon Dollard has 641 yards over only five games.
Game of the Week
No. 17 North Carolina at No. 10 Miami
Saturday, 3:30 P.M. EST
This is a game between two explosive offensives fighting for consideration as the third team in the ACC behind Clemson and Notre Dame.
The Tar Heels are seeing a resurgence with new coach Mack Brown, primarily thanks to their offense. Quarterback Sam Howell will be a prospect next year, but his dynamic wide receivers Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown are eligible this year. The real stars of North Carolina’s team are Williams and Michael Carter, both of whom are dangerous in the passing game as well. On defense, linebacker Chazz Surratt holds court as an athletic missile.
Similar to the Tar Heels, Miami has an explosive offense thanks to quarterback D’Eriq King, along with tight end Brevin Jordan. Their defensive prospects are even better though, with edge rushers Quincy Roche and Jaelan Phillips. Phillips especially is a player that will absolutely outplay his draft position.