With three of the four College Football Playoff teams (Georgia, Alabama, Oregon) having a soft schedule this week, it’s time for the other teams on the cusp to make their moves in proving that their wins are all the more impressive. That means No. 8 Oklahoma needs to take care of business against No.13 Baylor and No. 8 Michigan has to prove their offense can get it done against Penn State’s defense in their own house. So, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on:
EDGE DaMarcus Mitchell (Purdue)
While his teammate George Karlaftis gets a lot of press as a prospect, there’s reason to think Mitchell might be the better pro prospect, thanks to a higher athletic ceiling, fit as a pure pass rusher and versatility. He’s been a bit in and out of the lineup due to injury, but luckily he will be available for what should prove to be the pivotal game of the season. Ohio State has a strong pair of tackles, so there’s reason to think the senior will see his fair share of one-on-one matchups.
Other players to watch:
WR Ainias Smith (Texas A&M)
Smith’s tape—specifically in the Aggies’ upset of Alabama—is extremely impressive for a prospect who doesn’t seem to be getting much hype right now. He’s a smaller, shiftier receiver who’s used on a variety of passing concepts and seems comfortable and smart playing against zone. All stuff that could speak to his transition to the next level. This week, he’ll have a chance to greatly add to his receiving totals, as the Aggies will likely be attempting to keep with Ole Miss’ dynamic passing offense.
OT/OG Ikem Ekwonu (NC State)
#DraftTwitter has been all over the draft-eligible sophomore tackle the last several weeks, but seems to be split on whether he can be considered a run-first right tackle in the NFL, or a pure interior guard. Regardless, his mentality and attitude along the offensive line is noticeable and makes him a must-watch for fans. It should be highly entertaining—as well as educational—to watch him take on some of the Wake Forest linebackers and safeties when he gets to the second level of the defense.
P Matt Araiza (San Diego State)
Punters aren’t often mentioned in this column, but Araiza is in the middle of what is, perhaps, the best season for a college punter ever. He’s the punter version of Josh Allen; a booming leg able to kick the ball anywhere on the field. He already has a 90-yard and 86-yard punt against Hawaii and Air Force respectively. He’s on pace to beat the average net-punt yards for both college football and the NFL. This week, we’ll see if he can produce any more highlights against Nevada.
Game of the Week
No. 19 Purdue at No. 4 Ohio State
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST
With two massive conference upsets under their belts, Purdue will have their eyes set squarely on Big Ten leader Ohio State.
Although their recent success has largely been driven by their offense, a lot of the team’s more notable draft prospects are on defense. This includes their pair of dynamic defensive ends George Karlaftis and the aforementioned DeMarcus Mitchell, as well as linebacker Jaylan Alexander. The one to watch on offense is wide receiver David Bell, who just racked up 217 yards against Michigan State.
Ohio State has their own group of pass rushers in Tyreke Smith and Zach Harrison, but the biggest battle of the game will be between the Boilermakers’ pass rushers and Buckeye offensive lineman. Of the group, guard Thayer Munford and tackles Nicholas Petit-Frere and Dawand Jones all have solid NFL futures. Elsewhere on offense, receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson don’t offer great size, but have almost everything else you’d want.