Another exciting week of college football features a big-play Ohio State offense going up against a ground-and-pound Michigan State team looking to topple the Buckeyes and eliminate them from Big Ten Championship contention. Meanwhile, over in the AAC conference, Cincinnati hasn’t lost a game but really hasn’t proven much against tough opponents, either. This week’s matchup with a high-flying SMU passing offense should show the College Football Playoff selectors that they can be dominant against in-conference competition, at the very least. So, let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on:
CB Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati)
‘Sauce’ Gardner is a 6’3”, 200-lb physical corner and is sort of famous in college football for never giving up a touchdown over his career with the Bearcats. The program’s defense has been known for its secondary players in recent years and, with three interceptions on the year, Gardner looks to be a possible first-round pick. It will be interesting this week though, as he should be paired against a troubling Mustangs offense that likes to put man corners in binds—and features the likes of shifty wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. and tight end Grant Calcaterra.
Other players to watch:
EDGE Sam Williams (Ole Miss)
Toiling in relative obscurity on a poor defense for his earlier seasons, the senior already has career highs in both sacks with ten and tackles-for-loss with 13. He’s been able to fill into his 6’4” frame quite nicely without losing most of his baseline explosive burst. He also offers some versatility as a standup linebacker or traditional defensive end. This week, he’ll look to add to his double-digit sack total against a pretty solid Vanderbilt offensive line, despite their record being sub-par.
S Xavier Henderson (Michigan State)
If the Spartans are going to slow down the bevy of weapons that Ohio State brings, including their “afterthought” tight ends, Henderson needs to have a strong game. At 6’1”, about 200 lbs Henderson leads the team in tackles with 82, He is in danger of being pigeon-holed as a box-type safety and his chops in coverage are being questioned by some. Michigan State as a whole hasn’t been nearly as dominant against the pass as they have been in the ground game. This week will be very important for the senior.
WR Jaquarii Roberson (Wake Forest)
Generally a bigger slot receiver at 6’1”, Roberson has greatly helped his stock this year, thanks to a handful of games where he was utterly dominant—including against Louisville, UNC and Syracuse. Despite his size, he displays the shiftiness and route-running ability teams want in their slot receivers. This week, he’ll be up against a still-dangerous Clemson secondary and hopefully matched up against Andrew Booth, who is their best prospect on defense overall.
Game of the Week
No. 3 Oregon at No. 24 Utah
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST
A possible prelude to the Pac-12 title game, both teams are known for running the football and stopping the run with their packed defenses. The main draw of the game is another chance to watch 2022 top prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux. The defensive end might be the best player in the nation and teams to form a complete secondary with instinctive defensive back Verone McKinley and cornerback Mykael Wright. On offense, they’re very young, but senior Johnny Johnson III is an intriguing mid- to late-round type talent.
For the Utes, their NFL Draft talent is sprinkled around both sides of the ball, with the main prospects being linebacker Devin Lloyd—who has the mental and physical makeup of a Day Two pick—and tight end Brant Kuithe who acts as kind of a big receiver for the team. Also look out for Nick Ford on the offensive line.