Zach's Draft Corner: Rivalries, Taking Stock, and What to Watch
Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
Week 1 is in the books, and with it, a lot of top-end teams walked away with easy wins against middling, sub-division opponents. As the season wears on, you will see better and better matchups. Starting this week, particular games will be peppered in that may not garner the national attention that they should, as they will be the most intense and impassioned games of the season. I’m talking about the “rivalry game.”
I was born and raised in upstate New York, where college sports were an afterthought. I went to undergrad at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, where the closest thing we had to football was a T-shirt sold at the bookstore that read “St. Michael’s College Football: Undefeated since 1979,” the year the Purple Knights’ football team ceased to exist. I knew about professional rivalries and heard about college rivalries, but it wasn’t until I attended the University of Iowa for law school that I truly understood how deep these rivalries run.
“Iowa State is a cadre of hapless JUCO transfers and would-be FCS No. 2 options uniquely engineered to poison my Iowa Hawkeye fandom like a rancid banana peel stuck to the bottom of my compost bin; too far down to reach with my hands, too long ago disgustingly congealed to my life to extract without surgical tools, and painstakingly bringing a much fouler experience to my Saturdays than its feeble existence should permit.” That’s how my law school classmate, Alex Johnson, a born and bred Iowan who has spent his life in the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry, describes the matchup that turns the state of Iowa into a Civil War battlefield for a week every September. While Iowa has historically had the upper hand in this matchup, Iowa State makes the game competitive almost every season. Further, while it’s expected that Iowa should win the game, that isn’t always the case.
“When Iowa loses to its black-sheep-of-the-family little brother ISU like it did as the No. 8 team in the country in 2005, collapsing 23-3 in Ames, the Iowa City campus looks as bad as the freshly-filled-baby-diaper-inspired Cyclone uniforms. Chairs tossed from balconies, garbage cans heaved from top-floor windows, and oh the alcoholic melee—that September 2005 night, there were 45 alcohol-related arrests made in Iowa City, forty-five. That’s what happens when your hometown team loses to a squad with a—you guessed it—45% all-time win rate.” That’s the scene that Alex described to me when remembering how intense fans can get about these rivalries. In the minds of Hawkeye fans, this is how Iowa State is viewed. “I won’t ask you what time of day it is and give a clichéd response to your answer of ‘and Iowa State still sucks.’ They always suck. Even if ISU was the undefeated national champions—which is a nonsensical, Michael Bay-level impossible defiance of physics—they would still suck. At all times of all days, in all places, Iowa State football is the result of a Homer Simpson caliber program design.”
I witnessed nothing different than what was described by my friend. In my first game in the Iowa student section, Iowa demolished Eastern Illinois 37-7. With true freshman, and future 49er savior, Jimmy Garoppolo on the sidelines, Iowa sleepwalked to an easy victory, and the stands were empty by the middle of the third quarter so that we could go back to tailgating. The next week, when Iowa played Iowa State, there was a similar result: Iowa won 35-7. However, outside of the Iowa State fans that left once the game was out of reach, every single Iowa fan stayed put, relishing in every single point scored on their in-state rivals. It was a combination of joy in our victory and relishing in their defeat that I had never seen before. The next two years, Iowa State had the upper hand, and the depression that followed was unavoidable. It wasn’t just a week of wallowing: the entire season was a failure because Iowa had lost to Iowa State. Imagine thinking an entire professional season was a failure because of a single loss in September. That value in a single game just doesn’t exist in the NFL outside of the post-season.
There are also rivalries with historically more balance, such as Notre Dame-Michigan. “Ever wonder what it would be like to challenge your twin brother in front of a stadium of about 100,000 people?” That’s what another classmate of mine, and Notre Dame alum, Matt Callanan said when I asked about his most heated rivalry. “Imagine the 2000s Patriots playing the ‘90s 49ers, the ‘90s Cowboys, the ‘60s Packers; you take your pick. In early September, the stakes are just as high as any NFL playoff game. One loss and you're normally out of the conversation--regardless of when or to who.” The rivalry dates back to the earliest days of college football, where Michigan alum Fielding Yost “no joke, taught Notre Dame how to play football in the first place.”
When discussing how the rivalry has evolved, Matt said “The twin brother syndrome looms large--when someone brings up what happened lately, others bring up the hundred-plus years past. The battle rages on, fueled by booze, college kids crying, and history to rival any rivalry imaginable… The stories are too numerous to list--I had a roommate get a knife pulled on him in the Big House just for wearing an ND jersey. But my senior year takes the cake. We just watched ND and Michigan go back and forth only to see Michigan score a touchdown with 10 second left. Our senior year was ruined. After the game, my roommate and I sat outside in silence for about twenty-five minutes, the only sounds were sighs, and a few Natty Light and bottom-shelf-vodka tears rolled down our cheeks. A year later, the bastard went to Michigan Law.”
Fans doing crazy things on a count of a rivalry are nothing new. Every November, Ohio State squares off against Michigan in the final game of the regular season, and it is one of the biggest rivalries in college football. Brad Nerderman, an Ohio State alum, described to me how “people jump in an ice cold lake in November in Ohio to celebrate hating Michigan. People [have] literally died (one of shock and one of some infection), but hundreds still jump in every year.”
You may have heard about students “storming the field” after a big home victory against their rivals. But have you heard of students storming the field when their team wins on the road? Back in 2002, Iowa fans did just that after a victory against their border rivals to the north, the University of Minnesota. Except that it didn’t end there. The Iowa fans literally tore the Metrodome goalposts out of the ground, paraded the goalposts around the field, took apart the goalposts, and brought their fruit of war out into the streets of Minneapolis.
Minnesota fans didn’t forget this, and a chant was created to express their disdain for the “Idiots Out Walking About” down south. It’s a simple call-and-response chant, where one person yells “who hates Iowa?” The remainder of the crowd responds with a “we hate Iowa!” This is repeated until the Gophers decided to go back in their holes. Here is an example of this very creative cheer. The special part about this example is that it was recorded after a Minnesota football victory in their home stadium. Against Purdue. Minnesota fans will let this chant ring loud and clear against whatever opponent they are facing, just so the world knows “who hates Iowa.”
Throughout “hate week,” or the week before any rivalry game, fans will sport their team’s logo even more often than usual. States become divided, borders between fanbases put up emotional walls that would make Donald Trump blush, and an electricity surges throughout everyone that bears witness to the grandiose display of fandom. On gameday, the cup overflows with hate. For the next year, fans of the losing side will avoid talking about the game whenever possible, unless it is to exclaim that they were cheated out of victory, and fans of the winning team will stand just a bit taller. But over the following weeks, things settle and a normalcy is restored. The sense of community that defines many of these college-crazy towns will break through, and is ultimately strengthened by the annual contest. On Saturday, Iowa will face off against Iowa State, and you can bet that every fan will be on the edge of their seat from start to finish, regardless of the score. However, this year’s game will include a break in the hatred. Between the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, Iowa will perform its new tradition of waving to the kids watching the game from the Stead Family Children’s Hospital that overlooks the field. For a brief moment, everyone in attendance, and everyone watching from home, will shed the weight of the rivalry and regain that sense of community. Two fan bases with a legendary hatred for one another will take part in a simple movement that brings these two together, ignoring the differences that drive them apart. And that is the powerful essence of college football. In that moment, there won’t be Hawkeyes and Cyclones. There will only be Iowans.
Stock up - Will Grier - QB, West Virginia University
After some lackluster performance by other quarterbacks in the opening week of college football season, Will Grier took the lead in my personal quarterback rankings, with Jarrett Stidham taking a close second with his great performance against Washington. While you may say it is "only" Tennessee, Grier still carved up an SEC defense with 429 yards, 5 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 73.5% completion percentage. Tennessee likely has the most talented defense that Grier will face all season until he squares off against Texas Christian University, and Grier threw on them like it was a practice. Not only did Grier fill up the stat sheet, but he showed tremendous accuracy, hitting his receivers in stride at all levels of the field in a way that not only allowed them to make the catch, but to be in the best position to pick up yards after the catch. Grier also showed that he is able to move and has athleticism, even if he will never be a true "running" guy like Johnny Manziel or Lamar Jackson. There is nothing more that Grier could have shown in this game, and I’m looking forward to seeing him make quick work of Big 12 defenses all season long.
Stock down - Florida State University’s Offense
Whereas Will Grier couldn’t have shown any more in his game, Florida State just didn’t show up. In the passing game, Deondre Francois threw three very ugly interceptions, took four sacks, and was generally inaccurate throughout the entire game. Two additional fumbles made this a turnover party for the Seminoles, and it’s a wonder that their defense kept Virginia Tech to only 24 points. In a single bright spot, running back Cam Akers did have an 85 yard run. However, it is literally a single bright spot, as the run didn't result in a touchdown, and Akers finished the day with 82 total yards rushing. Yes, Akers had an 85 yard run, ran the ball thirteen other times, and finished with 82 yards rushing; she ran for minus-3 yards on 13 carries outside of his big run. The Seminoles were messy all around, and could never get into any sort of rhythm. This could be a rough year in Tallahassee.
Stock up - Jerry Tillery - DT, Notre Dame
Last week, I said that Jerry Tillery needed to use his sheer strength and athleticism to get by interior linemen instead of worrying about the textbook handfighting and technique. Tillery did just that against Michigan. He was a constant disruptive force in the Michigan backfield, pressuring the quarterback multiple times, finishing one for a sack, and forcing the game sealing fumble late in the game. Tillery led a defense that allowed only 275 total yards to a projected playoff contender, only 58 of which were rushing yards. This very well could be Tillery’s breakout game if he continues on this trajectory towards being a first round pick.
Stock down - Shea Patterson - QB, University of Michigan
Shea Patterson was the unfortunate “benefactor” of Tillery’s monster game. Patterson was supposed to be Jim Harbaugh’s savior, but instead looked like simply one more underachieving quarterback in Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure. Patterson took 3 sacks, threw an interception, lost a fumble, and just never looked comfortable in Michigan’s gameplan. Now, this could be a result of Michigan’s play-calling, which didn’t have an identity at all. Harbaugh seemed to try entirely different schemes based on the drive, running a full spread on one drive, a Chip Kelly-esque hurry up offense on the next drive, a slow, pro-style system on the third drive, and an exclusively pistol offense on the fourth. Regardless, Patterson looked uncomfortable in all of them, and he just didn’t show the traits that look like they could translate well to the next level.
Stock up - J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - WR, Stanford University
Back in my wide receiver preview, I said that you should learn Arcega-Whiteside’s name before it becomes a household name. Well, it didn’t take long, as Arcega-Whiteside dominated San Diego State with six catches for 226 yards and three touchdowns in his first game of the season. Stats are one thing, but what was most impressive was all the different ways he scored. One touchdown was a long 80-yard play in which he broke a tackle and outran the rest of the defense. The second touchdown was a jump ball in endzone that Arcega-Whiteside brought down with ease, like a rebound when he was still playing basketball. On the third touchdown, Arcega-Whiteside lined up in the slot and completely boxed out a cornerback on a seam route, leaving the defender no chance to make a play. Arcega-Whiteside’s size, length, and great hands were on full display, and his name will surely be thrown around a lot more.
Stock down - Bryce Love - RB, Stanford University
As good as Stanford’s passing game was, the Cardinal ground game was just as bad. For Bryce Love, 16 of his 18 carries went for 3 yards or less, and his longest was only 14 yards. Play-calling was certainly an issue, as 11 of his 18 carries came predictably on first down. More creative play calling could help Love. However, as far as draft stock goes, if he needs to be with a creative play caller to have success, that means he isn't talented enough to create on his own. If he needs that type of help in college, that's a huge red flag for his chance to succeed in the pros as an every-down running back.
Stock up - Rodney Anderson - RB, University of Oklahoma
With the departure of Saquon Barkley, college football needed a new running back who was the complete package: large, fast, powerful, all of it. Let me introduce you to Rodney Anderson. Oklahoma absolutely dominated Florida Atlantic, so Anderson only had five carries. With those five carries, Anderson racked up 100 yards, two touchdowns, and a long of 65 yards. On his short touchdown run, Anderson was weaving through defenders and around blockers, not just running a straight-line through open holes. On his long touchdown run, Anderson showed speed to get around the edge, strength to break tackles downfield, balance to break those tackles along the sideline, and more speed to separate from everyone behind him. Anderson is a complete running back and an athletic freak. Look for him to show up here plenty of times throughout the year.
Stock down - Ahmmon Richards - WR, University of Miami
At his best, Ahmmon Richards can make Odell Beckham Jr.-esque plays. At his worst, he faces the same injury concerns that have plagued Odell Beckham Jr. throughout his short career. Miami’s week one game against Louisiana State was Richards at his worst, as he got hurt again. Richards banged up his knee on his only catch in the first quarter and missed the remainder of the game. Reports are that he should be ready to go again this weekend, but he needs to stay healthy for the rest of the season or else scouts are going to give him the label of injury prone, which no prospect wants.
Stock up - Dwayne Haskins - QB, Ohio State University
There are two different ways you can raise your stock. The first, if you are a known commodity, is to show that you have become everything that scouts said you could become. The second, if you are an unknown commodity, is to burst on the scene on a big stage and show you belong in the conversation. Haskins and his six career pass attempts did the latter, putting up 313 yards and five touchdowns in his debut start. Haskins showed great arm strength coupled with a quick release and the decision-making to throw safe passes. For his first career start, this is a great set of traits to work with. Haskins does still need to improve a little on ball placement, but that could improve with more experience as he gets more used to the system and his teammates. He did throw one interception, which came on a play where he was progressing through his read, saw a receiver break open across the middle, and attempted to throw the ball quickly without resetting his base. This led to a high throw behind the receiver that was easily picked off. However, in his first start, he exceeded all expectations for an Ohio State team that is looking to win another Big Ten Championship.
Stock down - Nick Fitzgerald - QB, Mississippi State University
Fitzgerald is a senior quarterback, which, on a college team, should be the biggest of all leaders in the locker room. In Fitzgerald’s case, when you are trying to prove that you belong in the conversation as a draftable quarterback, being a leader is even more important. Instead, Fitzgerald watched Saturday’s game from the sidelines, as he suspended for this game due to a March rule violation. Even more concerning is that Mississippi State dominated without him. The Bulldogs’ backup quarterback threw for 364 yards and five touchdowns, while running for 109 more yards with two more rushing touchdowns. Not only will Fitzgerald’s leadership be questions, but also is he just a product of the system? Fitzgerald definitely needs to come back strong and prove himself as a passer, but it may be better to just forget about him.
Stock up - Nick Brossette - RB, Louisiana State University
Brossette has a similar story to Dwayne Haskins as the heir apparent to Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice as the starting running back for LSU. His first test was a tough Miami Hurricanes team with a strong defense. All Brossette did was torch that vaunted Miami defense to the tune of 125 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. Brossette showed great vision to find the holes in the line and to use his downfield blockers, balance in his cutbacks when the open spot was behind him, and good power to always fall forwards with contact. If Bryce Love is going to start to fade from the top running back conversation, Brossette may be the guy to take his place.
The sheer amount of college games on at any given time can be completely overwhelming. Every week, in the TV Guide section of my column, I will choose the top two games at any given time slot and outline the various prospects you can watch in those games. That way, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and hit the “Previous Channel” button on your remote to toggle between games chock full of pro prospects. Here is your guide for week two (all times Eastern).
Friday, September 7
Texas Christian University at Southern Methodist University - 8:00 PM, ESPN 2
TCU plays in the Big 12, but they certainly do not seem like they belong there. Rather than relying on a spread out, high octane offense, TCU is led by the best defense in the conference. Ben Banogu (senior defensive end, #15), Ty Summers (senior linebacker, #42), and Ross Blacklock (redshirt sophomore defensive tackle, #90) form the backbone of a dominating front seven for the Horned Frogs. TCU does still have some offensive firepower, with the speedy KaVontae Turpin (senior wide receiver, #25) being a gamechanger on offense as a receiver and on special teams as a returner.
While their best prospect in years (wide receiver Courtland Sutton) recently left for the NFL, SMU still has some talent to watch. Jordan Wyatt (senior cornerback, #15) likely would have joined Sutton as a vaunted prospect in 2018, but tore his ACL and decided to return for his senior season. Richard Moore (junior linebacker, #14) is another late round prospect on the Mustang defense, while Xavier Jones (junior running back, #5) and Braeden West (senior running back, #6) are looking to keep SMU’s offense rolling. Look out for Levon Livingston (junior offensive tackle #76) on the offensive line. He is lean but very tall at 6’7”. He could seemingly add muscle at the NFL level, and has the sound technique to be a sleeper in the middle rounds.
Saturday, September 8
University of Arizona at University of Houston - 12:00 PM, ABC/ESPN 2
Arizona has had a rough go of it lately and does not much talent even though they are in a Power 5 conference. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (senior safety, #6) is really the only draftable prospect in 2019, but the Wildcats are still worth watching for Khalil Tate (true sophomore quarterback, #14). Tate is one of the most exciting players in the country as a dual threat quarterback who routinely makes you think of peak Colin Kaepernick. That alone will make this game worth watching on a pretty lackluster early slate.
However, the main draw of this contest is that you get to watch Houston’s top-three prospect in Ed Oliver (junior defensive tackle, #10). Playing for Houston, you won’t get to see him play live too much, so you should take advantage of his nationally televised contest. Isaiah Johnson (senior cornerback, #14) transitioned from wide receiver, and is a tall (6’3”), physical cornerback that benefits from the disruptive presence that is Oliver.
University of California Los Angeles at University of Oklahoma - 1:00 PM, FOX
None of the other noon contests are really worth watching, so stick to Arizona/Houston for an hour and then bring UCLA/Oklahoma into the fold. For UCLA, with 49er legend Chip Kelly calling the plays, Caleb Wilson (junior tight end, #81), Soso Jamobo (senior running back, #1), and Bolu Olorunfunmi (senior running back, #4) make up an offense that is capable of putting up a lot of points. Rick Wade (junior defensive end, #90), Nate Meadors (senior cornerback, #22), Keisean Lucier-South (junior linebacker, #11), Josh Woods (senior linebacker, #2), and Adarius Pickett (senior safety, #6) are all draftable prospects on defense, but are all more likely to be late round picks that will be fighting for roster spots.
For Oklahoma, Rodney Anderson (junior running back, #24) hopes to take advantage of a relatively weak UCLA defense to work his way into the Heisman conversation. “Hollywood” Marquise Brown (junior wide receiver, #5) can benefit from defenses potentially focusing on Anderson. Ben Powers (senior guard, #72), Bobby Evans (junior tackle, #71), and Dru Samia (senior tackle, #75) anchor a line that should open plenty of holes for Anderson and Murray to run. While the Big 12 isn’t known for its defense, Prentice McKinney (senior safety, #29) and Caleb Kelly (junior linebacker, #19) are both talented enough to hear their names called next April.
University of Buffalo at Temple - 3:30 PM, ESPN 3
Like I said, the slate early on Saturday isn’t great. If you have the ability to do get games on ESPN’s online platform, this is a good way to spend your time waiting for better matchups to start. Later in the season, better games will make watching Buffalo an afterthought, but there are three legitimate prospects worth watching for the Bulls. Anthony Johnson (senior wide receiver, #83) is trying to be WR1 in this class, and Tyree Jackson (junior quarterback, #3) is the gigantic, big-armed quarterback hoping to be the next Josh Allen. Both have the potential to occur, as Johnson is extremely talented and Jackson has shown nothing worse than what Allen put on tape. On defense, Khalil Hodge (senior linebacker, #4) has the sideline-to-sideline ability to be the leader of an NFL defense someday.
Temple may not have a ton of talent, but Aaron Ruff (senior guard, #56) has the strength and the athletic ability to make the leap to the NFL. So at least there’s something.
University of Colorado at University of Nebraska - 3:30 PM, ABC
While this Saturday does include a few current rivalries, it also includes a meeting of former rivals dating back to the days of Kordell Stewart and Tommy Frazier battling it out for Big 12 supremacy. Each of Colorado and Nebraska has moved on to new conferences, but the rivalry could be reborn on Saturday. For Colorado, Evan Worthington (senior strong safety, #6) and Rick Gamboa (senior linebacker, #32) are hoping to make enough noise in the PAC-12 to get drafted next April. Travon McMillian (senior running back, #34) is the focal point of the Colorado offense, and while his upside is limited, he still has mid-round value as a reliable back. McMillian will be running behind Aaron Haigler (junior offensive tackle, #64), and hoping to keep Alex Kinney (senior punter, #89) off the field.
For Nebraska, most of the talent is not eligible for the draft, coming with new head coach Scott Frost and his convincing recruiting. For those who are eligible to be drafted, Stanley Morgan Jr. (senior wide receiver, #8) is looking to put offseason troubles behind him and prove he is worth a mid- to late-round flier. Jerald Foster (senior guard, #67) anchors the Nebraska offensive line, while Freedom Akinmoladun (senior defensive tackle, #91), Mick Stoltenberg (senior defensive tackle, #44), and Luke Gifford (senior linebacker, #12) hope to revive the “Blackshirt” defense that made Nebraska so formidable in the past. Morgan may end up being the only prospect drafted from Nebraska this year, but each of these young men has a chance to work their way up the ranks with a strong season.
Iowa State University at University of Iowa - 5:00 PM, FOX
This game will be a must watch if you want an idea of what a rivalry can be in college football. Iowa State has one of their strongest teams in years, and hopes to take the title of the best team in Iowa. Led by the single season record holder for broken tackles in David Montgomery (junior running back, #32), a journeyman quarterback who caught fire last year in Kyle Kempt (senior quarterback, #17), and a giant receiver looking to work his way out of Allen Lazard’s shadow in Hakeem Butler (junior wide receiver, #18), Iowa State’s offense is well-rounded and dangerous. Brian Peavy (senior cornerback, #10), Willie Harvey (senior linebacker, #2), and D'Andre Payne (senior safety, #1) are all decently strong prospects on defense, meaning that passing on the Cyclone defense could be difficult.
On the other side, Iowa is led by the top tight end in the nation in Noah Fant (junior tight end, #87). Nate Stanley (junior quarterback, #4) and Nick Easley (senior wide receiver, #84) will look to battle Iowa State in the air, while Keegan Render (senior center, #69) and Ross Reynolds (senior guard, #59) will hope to open some holes in the running game against a potentially weaker Iowa State front seven. On defense, Anthony Nelson (junior defensive end, #98), Matt Nelson (senior defensive end, #96), and Parker Hesse (senior defensive end, #40) all are capable of causing disruption in the backfield, while Amani Hooker (junior safety, #27) and Jake Gervase (senior safety, #30) form a solid safety duo in the secondary. Miguel Recinos (senior kicker, #91) is a generally reliable kicker, and could work his way into draft consideration with another strong season.
University of Wyoming at University of Missouri - 7:00 PM, ESPNU
Wyoming’s normally strong defense was beaten up last week and hopes to rebound. Unfortunately for them, they square off against potentially the best offensive talent they will face all season. Leading the way are Andrew Wingard (senior safety, #28) and Marcus Epps (senior safety, #6). Carl Granderson (senior defensive end, #91) is also an intriguing prospect with the potential to go as high as the second round next year.
For Missouri, Drew Lock (senior quarterback, #3) could improve his standing amongst the top quarterbacks by dissecting a tough Wyoming secondary. Albert Okwuegbunam (redshirt sophomore tight end, #81) and Kendall Blanton (senior tight end, #11) will have their work cut out for them against the Wyoming safeties, so Lock may look to Emmanuel Hall (senior wide receiver, #84) for production. Paul Adams (senior tackle, #77) will look to keep Lock upright and Corey Fatony (senior punter, #26) off the field. On defense, Terez Hall (senior linebacker, #24) has the athletic profile of an SEC linebacker, but has had difficulty having the production of a star linebacker with the lack of a supporting cast. However, his traits are good enough that he should be drafted next April.
Clemson at Texas A&M - 7:00 PM, ESPN
Clemson’s defense manhandled Furman University last week, as expected. This week, Christian Wilkins (senior defensive tackle, #42), Dexter Lawrence (junior defensive tackle, #90), Clelin Ferrell (junior defensive end, #99), Austin Bryant (senior defensive end, #7), Kendall Joseph (senior linebacker, #34), Mark Fields (senior cornerback, #2), Trayvon Mullen (junior cornerback, #1), and Tre Lamar (junior linebacker, #57) will get a better test in an explosive Texas A&M offense. On offense, Mitch Hyatt (senior tackle, #75) looks to work his way into the top tackle conversation, while Hunter Renfrow (senior wide receiver, #13) and Kelly Bryant (senior quarterback, #2) hope to work their way into draftable conversations. Greg Huegel (senior kicker, #92) is another kicking prospect who has a chance to make it into the NFL with a strong senior season.
On the other sideline, Texas A&M has seen a downtick in talent over the past few seasons. However, they still have a few prospects worth mentioning. Colton Prater (junior tackle, #76) has the physical profile and the traits to be a top tackle prospect if he can be more consistent. He will be blocking for Trayveon Williams (junior running back, #5), who is the focal point of the Aggie offense. Daylon Mack (senior defensive tackle, #34) and Kingsley Keke (senior defensive tackle, #8) may not be the Clemson defensive line, but are both strong prospects in their own right who can garner some buzz with a strong performance against one of the top teams in the nation.
University of Southern California at Stanford - 8:30 PM, FOX
For a nightcap, we have the second major rivalry game of the day with Stanford-USC. It seems like every year we say that USC is finally back, but this year, it may actually be the case. Tyler Petite (senior tight end, #82) and Daniel Imatorbhebhe (junior tight end, #88) form one of the best tight end duos in the country. Toa Lobendahn (senior guard/center, #50) leads the offensive line with the skill of a tackle but the length of a guard. Cameron Smith (senior linebacker, #35) and Marvell Tell III (senior safety, #7) could easily be Day 2 picks on defense, while Porter Gustin (senior outside linebacker, #45), Iman Marshall (senior cornerback, #8), and Christian Rector (junior defensive end, #89) could be later round prospects if they are able to put USC back on top of the PAC-12.
Stanford’s powerful offense will look to find balance, with Bryce Love (senior running back, #20) hoping to rebound from a weak first game and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (junior wide receiver, #19) looking to maintain his dominating week one performance. Kaden Smith (junior tight end, #82), Nate Herbig (junior guard, #63), Jesse Burkett (senior center, #73), A.T. Hall (senior tackle, #75), Brandon Fanaika (senior guard, #71), and Trenton Irwin (senior wide receiver, #2) all hope to continue their strong start from last week. On defense, Bobby Okereke (senior linebacker, #20) and Alijah Holder (senior cornerback, #13) will be tested against USC. Jake Bailey (senior punter, #14) is one of the best punting prospects in the nation, and may be a difference-maker if the game turns into a field position battle.
Michigan State University at Arizona State University - 10:45 PM, ESPN
Michigan State features the above-mentioned Brian Lewerke (junior quarterback, #14), who leads an offense with some dynamic and balanced weapons, including Felton Davis III (senior wide receiver, #18), L.J. Scott (senior running back, #3), Matt Sokol (senior tight end, #81). On defense, Khari Willis (senior safety, #27), David Dowell (junior safety, #6), Justin Layne (junior cornerback, #2), Raequan Williams (junior defensive tackle, #99), and Joe Bachie (junior linebacker, #32) all have hopes of being drafted from a talented Michigan State team that could compete for a Big Ten East Division title this year.
Arizona State may not have the numbers of other schools, but their top-end talent is up there with anybody. N'Keal Harry (junior wide receiver, #1) is the WR1 for many scouts, and a dominating performance against a Big Ten defense could go a long way towards cementing his status there. Manny Wilkins (senior quarterback, #5) will do everything he can to help him get there, but is also a late-round possibility at quarterback in his own right.
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