Week 9 is one of the more unexciting weeks of college football for the remainder of the regular season. But that doesn’t mean it’s without any intrigue at all. There are only two ranked matchups this week — one in the PAC-12 and another in the ACC.
Eighth-ranked Oregon travels to No. 13 Utah for a key conference matchup that could determine who participates in the championship game come season’s end.
Later that evening, No. 18 Louisville plays host to No. 20 Duke. One of the main story lines to follow in this one is Blue Devils quarterback Riley Leonard’s health. He had been nursing a lower-body injury and surprisingly suited up and started against Florida State a week ago — but he appeared to re-aggravate the injury. He then exited and didn’t return. The status of his health will have a large impact on the game. The six-point spread that favors Louisville may indicate Leonard is unlikely for Saturday.
There will be prospect matchups you’ll want to watch around the country during Week 9. With a softer slate of overall, you may want to follow along with these three matchups for NFL Draft purposes.
Oregon OT Ajani Cornelius vs. Utah EDGE Jonah Elliss
The Ducks have had one of the best offensive line units in the country all season. They’ll be up against the current sack leader in the Power Five on Saturday afternoon — a game where the Utes will need to keep the game low-scoring in order to remain competitive.
Cornelius is a Rhode Island transfer who has taken the reins as the Ducks’ right tackle in 2023. He may be a guard in the NFL — lacking some of the size thresholds to play tackle he has a lot of what you’re looking for in an interior player with effective stopping power.
Utah edge rusher Jonah Elliss has 10 sacks through seven games this season and 29 total pressures. Elliss has a very strong inside spin counter. His upper body movements are quick and offensive tackles have had a hard time locking him down in pass protection.
Florida State WR Keon Coleman vs. Wake Forest CB Caelen Carson
Coleman has been one of the biggest 2024 NFL Draft risers from preseason up until this point in the 2023 season. You could put his highlight tape up against any one player in the country — Coleman’s may be the best. The matchup issue he presents with his basketball background and unusually good agility for a player standing 6’4” and 215 pounds is what makes him a really nice prospect as an X-receiver at the next level.
A player flying under the radar due to his team’s lackluster play this season is Wake corner Caelen Carson. The Deacons have some intriguing prospects on their defense and Carson is one of them. He’s a very good man-cover corner who will face his stiffest competition so far against Coleman in this game. Carson had some buzz in preseason and this is a huge opportunity for NFL scouts to see it in 2023 against a legit future NFL receiver.
Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders vs. UCLA pass rush
The early season NFL Draft and Heisman hype bestowed upon Sanders — the son of legendary NFL player (and his current head coach) Deion Sanders — has died down very quickly over the past several weeks. After an embarrassing come-from-behind loss to Stanford in their last matchup, Sanders and the Buffaloes will need a major bounce-back performance in order to squeak by No. 23 UCLA and their dynamic defensive front.
One of the major issues for Colorado this season has been the performance of the offensive line. While it’s been a major rough point and Sanders has been forced to run for his life, the junior signal caller hasn’t helped his case with pocket management and simply missing throws. His sky-high stock has come crashing back down to Earth even if he is still a player likely to be drafted in the mid rounds if he does declare.
The Bruins’ defensive line has 24 sacks in 2023 through seven games led by transfer Laiatu Latu. They’ll look to rattle the lackluster Buffaloes offensive line and Sanders on Saturday night.
Game of the Week
No. 8 Oregon @ No. 13 Utah
3:30 PM EDT
There weren’t a ton of options this week, but this PAC-12 matchup seems to be the best of the week considering the opportunity for the Ducks to potentially still contend for the College Football Playoff at the end of the road if they win out. As mentioned earlier, this game has major PAC-12 Championship implications at the end of the season. Whichever one of these teams loses could be out of that hunt.
On offense for Oregon, they’re led by senior quarterback Bo Nix who has another marquee matchup to prove himself against a quality defense for potential NFL Draft implications.
Joining Nix in the backfield at running back is star Bucky Irving. Irving has cemented himself as one of college football’s best backs in 2023. It’ll be something to note for how Irving’s finesse game plays into the aggressive, physical nature of Utah.
The star of the show at receiver for the Ducks is Troy Franklin who has five 100-yard games already this season. He’s steady and won’t disappear in any contest. Franklin continues to make himself money with consistently high-level play in the biggest moments.
We talked about Cornelius earlier and he’s a factor in this game for some of the work he’ll have to do to contain the Utes.
For the Utes on defense, we’ve already mentioned previously that they’re led by Jonah Elliss up front where he assists in neutralizing the opposing passing game as the twitchiest pass rusher for the team. Defensive tackle Junior Tafuna started the season with some injury issues, but he’s a talented prospect in his own right.
Linebacker Karene Reid is legit and has some ability as a coverage player at the second level.
Defensive backs Zemaiah Vaughn and Cole Bishop are a great corner-safety tandem that combine finesse with physicality. Vaughn is a slender player with plenty of length and speed for the corner spot. Bishop brings the lumber at safety and operates best moving downhill.
On offense for the Utes, they’re not an individually talented unit with a bunch of skill. Quarterback Cam Rising is out for the season after suffering a knee injury in last year’s Rose Bowl. Offensive guard Sataoa Laumea is the best healthy prospect for Utah when they have the ball. Laumea has played both right tackle and right guard in his career. He currently occupies right tackle, but he’s likely to kick inside in the NFL.
The Ducks have a couple of studs in the defensive trenches as well led by seniors Brandon Dorlus and South Carolina transfer Jordan Burch.
Iowa transfer linebacker Jestin Jacobs made his Oregon debut last week and brought the physicality to the Ducks’ defense. He’s one to keep an eye on for the remainder of the year, including in this contest.
This Oregon team has a significant edge from a talent perspective with their offensive skill. That alone should allow them to win this game, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has this program rolling at the moment and it’s a home atmosphere.