For those NFL Draft observers tired of watching “Directional Michigan School” take on the number-one team in the country, we will finally be treated to the beginning of inter-conference play for most of the Power 5 Conferences. The Big Ten has an upstart Rutgers team attempting to upset No. 19 Michigan, while in the SEC No. 7 Texas A&M will attempt to fend off No. 16 Arkansas—a suddenly dangerous team. Things in the ACC aren’t quite as entertaining although, despite neither team being ranked, Louisville-Florida State has a handful of prospects worth keeping an eye on. So let’s talk about the games, leave questions on prospects, and enjoy the weekend!
Keep your eyes on:
Trey McBride TE (Colorado State)
The 6’4”, 260-lb senior tight end comes into the week leading all FBS players with 30 catches and is ranked 12th in yards. Not exactly an athletic freak, he gets by on physicality and being a technician. This Saturday, he’ll be competing against some highly touted players in the Iowa secondary. The Hawkeyes’ defense has largely been lockdown, so McBride will need to make the most of any passes that come his way and continue to act as the safety value for quarterback Todd Centeio.
Other players to watch:
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson CB (TCU)
TCU coach Gary Patterson is known for developing elite defensive back prospects, and Hodges-Tomlinson represents his latest piece. The junior doesn’t have great size, but he has the speed and patience to stick in man coverage, and already has an interception in two games. It will be quite the battle this week though as SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai has been incredibly productive, ranking sixth in passing in FBS. Ideally, he’ll be locked down on speedy receiver Reggie Roberson Jr.
Olakunle Fatukasi LB (Rutgers)
Rutgers has been undergoing a bit of a renaissance lately thanks to bringing back former coach Greg Schiano. One of the players leading the turnaround for The Scarlett Knights has been Fatukasi, the brother of New York Jets lineman Folorunso Fatukasi. The inside linebacker leads the team in tackles, while being the defensive leader and one of the primary playmakers thanks to his ability to blitz. His 3.5 sacks also leads the team. He’ll be charged with shutting down Michigan’s newly resurgent rushing attack this week.
Isaiah Spiller RB (Texas A&M)
Considered to be among the top five at his position this season, the junior tailback recently ran roughshod over the University of New Mexico’s defense. The vacation for Spiller might be over though, as the big back will now have to prove himself against an Arkansas defense led by hard-hitting safety Jalen Catalon—who was previously highlighted in this column. Expect to see plenty of hard hits between the two in this contest in what should amount to a one-on-one battle.
S JT Woods (Baylor)
Seemingly a ho-hum game for Woods last week with only four tackles against Kansas, Woods brings great size and has natural skills with playing the run. However, in order to truly improve his draft profile he needs to show he can be better in coverage. In walks Iowa State and their fantastic stable of tight ends, as well as running back Breece Hall. Expect Woods to be challenged early and often in this matchup. If he can excel, draft observes should begin to take greater notice.
Game of the Week
No. 12 Notre Dame at No. 18 Wisconsin
Saturday, 12:00 P.M. EDT
The two teams involved in this matchup should come in angry. The Fighting Irish because their undefeated record is considered to be somewhat of a mirage and the Badgers because of their lingering loss against Penn State.
Wisconsin will look to rely on their defense as always, which is led by linebackers Jack Sanborn, Leo Chenal and nose tackle Keeanu Benton. On offense, their offensive line is strong with guard Logan Bruss and center Kayden Lyles. But the real star is TE Jake Ferguson. He might give the Irish linebackers fits.
Notre Dame is much more top-heavy in terms of prospects, with confirmed star running back Kyren Williams—who arguably is the best tailback in the country—along with Kyle Hamilton, arguably the best overall defender in the country. Similar to the Badgers, their offense also sports a strong center in Jarrett Patterson.