The best moments of college football are when blue chip programs with long-standing rivalries are both competing at a high level. We’ll get that in a high-profile matchup during Week 8 with No. 7 Penn State visiting No. 3 Ohio State at “The Shoe” for a noon matchup.
A battle of two slightly underwhelming SEC teams that have something to prove in the mid afternoon window with No. 17 Tennessee traveling to Bryant-Denny Stadium to take on No. 11 Alabama.
Sixteenth-ranked Duke might not have starting quarterback Riley Leonard for their primetime matchup with No. 4 Florida State. But the Blue Devils have proven to be assignment sound and stout on the defensive side of the ball.
Quarterback Caleb Williams and the No. 18 USC Trojans will look to rebound against No. 14 Utah after being blown out by Notre Dame just a week ago. Williams combusted in the first half against the Irish and another tough defense is on deck.
Let’s showcase three prospect matchups we’re looking forward to in Week 8. Let us know what you’re watching in the comments below!
Ohio State WR Marvin Harrison Jr. vs. Penn State CB Kalen King
It’s been well-documented that Marvin Harrison Jr. is the best wide receiver prospect in years. Harrison has the NFL pedigree to go along with the production and high-end athletic traits. Harrison has yet to find a cornerback who can matchup with him one-on-one over the course of a game. He’s a virtual lock to be a top-five pick next April.
Penn State cornerback Kalen King isn’t stuffing the stat sheet in 2023 (one pass defensed) nearly to the extent as 2022 (three interceptions and 15 passes defensed). King should see plenty of action on Saturday afternoon as the Buckeyes won’t shy away from throwing to Harrison no matter how open he is. Overall assistance in draft stock strongly favors King with a strong performance in this one as he needs to prove he can stand up to Harrison’s talent.
Duke OL Graham Barton vs. Florida State EDGE Jared Verse
The Blue Devils’ football program isn’t known as an offensive line factory historically. However, Duke has a bona fide top-50 selection in this coming NFL Draft with Barton who currently mans the left tackle spot for his team. He has the athleticism and nastiness to play the position at a high level. One of the main concerns for him as a tackle is that he doesn’t have great arm length to play the position. He’ll have a huge matchup to monitor in this weekend’s game against Florida State.
We talked about Penn State cornerback Kalen King having something of a quiet season compared to his 2022 output statistically. A similar statement can be said for Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse who has only posted 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss at the midway point of the season. Verse was progressively better at the end of 2022 against better competition. This is a similar step up in competition for Verse who dominated former Syracuse tackle and high-end NFL Draft selection Matthew Bergeron in 2022. He’ll have the chance to do the same against Barton. Verse’s stock may be slipping ever so slightly, but he has a strong baseline of traits and high effort to keep first-round status.
South Carolina WR Xavier Legette vs Missouri CBs Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw Jr.
The Gamecocks have one primary receiving threat who clearly has outpaced the others on the South Carolina squad. Xavier Legette currently sits at 716 receiving yards on the season with the second leading receiver at 214 yards. Legette is 6’3”, 225 pounds and can roll. He has some unique wiggle to his game for a guy his size. Legette will be targeted early and often in what should be a competitive game with Missouri.
Missouri cornerbacks Kris Abrams-Draine and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. will key in on stopping Legette in this matchup. Abrams-Draine has one of the best statistical outputs from a corner in the country with 31 tackles, nine passes defensed, and four interceptions through seven games. Rakestraw is an aggressive defender who’s questionable for this matchup after missing last week’s game against Kentucky.
Game of the Week
No. 7 Penn State @ No. 3 Ohio State
This matchup is one filled with elite athletes, prospects, and story lines to watch. Both squads have two of the best players in college football at their respective positions in addition to evenly built teams. Both programs are in quarterback limbo at this time. We’ll see how Penn State’s Drew Allar and Ohio State’s Kyle McCord fare when they face two of the best defenses they’ll see all year.
When Penn State’s on offense in this game, there will be an elite prospect on the field for the Nittany Lions in left tackle Olu Fashanu — a young and excellent pass protector who would have easily competed to be the first offensive tackle off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft. Right tackle Caedan Wallace is a name to note facing a strong set of edge rushers for the Buckeyes.
Heavyweight Pass Rush Bout today:— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) October 21, 2023
Olu Fashanu vs. JT Tuimoloau
Fashanu's allowed just 3 pressures and 1 hit in his last 11 games dating back to '22, still likely OT1. Tuimoloau w/ 10 pressures and 3 sacks last two weeks.
Ohio State didn't notch a pressure vs. Fashanu last yr. pic.twitter.com/udVXTXcuLi
Wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith is the Nittany Lions’ best wideout by a fair margin and can threaten the Buckeyes deep in this game. Tight ends Theo Johnson and Tyler Warren are both clear NFL Draft prospects — second and fourth on the team in receiving in 2023 respectfully. This is a big showcase game for all three pass catchers.
Up front on the defensive side, Ohio State is very strong in 2023 with multiple Day Two or higher selections. J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer are both edge rushers who formerly were very highly rated recruits. They’re not as twitchy like elite Buckeyes pass rushers of old, but they’re strong-handed and will give offensive lines nightmares at the point of attack in the run game. Defensive tackles Tyleik Williams and Michael Hall are two players who could cause problems up the middle for Penn State. Williams will be a 1-tech in the NFL with quality run stopping ability. He’s also knocked down four passes this season. Hall is twitchier and likely to slot in as a 3-technique in the NFL. He’s a dangerous pass rusher who could be a difference maker on Saturday.
JT Tuimoloau's stat line vs. Penn State last season was INSANE— 247Sports (@247Sports) October 21, 2023
-PBU that resulted in INTpic.twitter.com/7zx0yCzQjF
Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg is a player who’s relied upon to be gap sound and strong against the run. He’s not a bad athlete, but his strengths lie in finishing downhill and consistently being in the right place.
Cornerback Denzel Burke is out today for the Buckeyes which is a massive loss for a player who seems destined as a lock to be a top-100 selection in the coming NFL Draft. On the back end, safeties Lathan Ransom and Josh Proctor are must-see and a very talented duo looking to further boost their stock.
We know that the Buckeyes are complete with plenty of offensive skill led by star WR Marvin Harrison Jr. who we’ve mentioned above. You don’t throw generational-prospect terminology around for everyone. But Harrison is deserving of that billing. His counterparts aren’t too shabby either led by Emeka Egbuka who missed last week’s contest to injury. Egbuka has a case to be WR2 to Harrison in this coming class. We’ll see if he’s able to go against Penn State. Julian Fleming is a former highly ranked recruit who doesn’t have the ideal stat line to be a high draft selection, but he has his own wealth of talent being stuck behind a multitude of NFL-level players in his time with the program. Tight end Cade Stover is a talented pass catcher in his own right with reliable hands and controls a big portion of the Buckeyes’ passing game as a 50/50 player and a downfield threat.
Ohio State has a nice running back tandem again led by talented junior TreVeyon Henderson — who’s been banged up multiple weeks and his status is very much in doubt for this week’s game. Miyan Williams is talented as well, and will likely get the bulk of carries if Henderson can’t go in this game.
It’s a down year on the offensive line for Ohio State. Offensive guard Donovan Jackson is the most talented player on the line, but he’s had his fair share of struggles this season in all facets of the game. He will need to perform well to help secure a win.
On defense for Penn State, the edge rushers in Chop Robinson and Adisa Isaac could have themselves a day against abnormally average tackle play for Ohio State. Both players are explosive athletes who will look to get to the outside shoulder of their matchup to win. It will be important to get Ohio State’s McCord moving and uncomfortable throughout this game.
Linebacker Curtis Jacobs is a fierce athlete for the Nittany Lions. His athleticism needs to pop in this game as he’ll be tested against the finest skill talent in the country.
Cornerback Kalen King is a player we’ve already mentioned earlier for his need to have a game where he can prove to put up a fight in a matchup with Harrison. Across from him, Johnny Dixon is a nice prospect in his own right. Dixon will draw plenty of tough matchups whether it’s Harrison or others. He doesn’t have an insane stat line (8 tackles, 2 passes defensed, INT), but he’s a sticky cover man.