With no direct matchups between ranked teams, this weekend of college football promises to be a bit more low key than the past few weeks. However, that only means it’s the perfect time to catch up on those prospects starting for bad teams to see how they fare against great competition. Matchups like Oregon’s secondary against UCLA’s tight ends and receivers, Oklahoma State’s linebackers against Iowa State’s running backs, and NC State’s offensive line against Miami’s defensive one. This all makes those seemingly noncompetitive games watchable from a draft perspective. So, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on:
QB Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh)
Although he carried some minimal hype coming into the season, one of the biggest surprises of the college football landscape has been how well the senior from New Jersey has played. It’s not like Pitt’s slate of ACC opponents has been a gauntlet, but having only one interception to go with almost 2000 yards and 21 touchdowns is massively impressive to say the least. This week’s game against Clemson offers what could be a shifting of the guard in the conference, with the Tigers suffering through a rare down year.
Other players to watch:
C Doug Kramer (Illinois)
Despite all of the press turmoil surrounding the Illinois program recently, one thing that has stayed consistent for them has been the play of their center. A starter since his freshman year, the now-super senior has been a strong pass blocker throughout his career. He should be a shoo-in for the Senior Bowl. Against Penn State’s aggressive, blitzing defense, we’ll see how he handles communication and confusion at the line.
DE George Karlaftis (Purdue)
Although the statistics haven’t been there for the junior pass rusher, he’s been one of the most disruptive players in the Big Ten this season. He brings a powerful, stocky build at 6’4” and 275 lbs and there are reports that he is a major gym rat in terms of weight lifting. It’ll be interesting to see how he competes this Saturday against Wisconsin’s offensive line, specifically fellow prospect Logan Bruss.
LB Mike Jones (LSU)
A Sophomore transfer from Clemson, Jones has been adjusting to the LSU 4-3 defense on the fly as the Tigers’ nickel safety/linebacker type player. At some point, he may make the transition to full-time starter. That time could be now, thanks to the high-powered, fly-by-night offense being brought to town by Ole Miss. LSU will need all the coverage help they can get from their linebacking corps.
Game of the Week
USC at No. 13 Notre Dame
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EDT
A game in which this author will be scouting in person, the draw here will be USC’s high-flying passing offense against the physical Notre Dame secondary. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is a potential top-five pick in the draft and has elite range—enough to slow down USC receiver Drake London and quarterback Kedon Slovis.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame runner Kyren Williams will be dodging and avoiding defensive end Drake Jackson coming off the edge. Jackson was held without a sack in their most recent game against Utah, but had two in the previous contest against Colorado.