NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

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OU QB Rattler transferring … No big surprise here, but Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler, who entered the season as the odds on favorite to be the #1 pick at the 2022 draft, has announced that he has entered the transfer portal. What that means, of course, is that Rattler won’t be entering the upcoming draft unless he has a dramatic change of heart which is unlikely. At this time, there is no indication where Rattler might end up, although as we noted re a couple of other QBs on the transfer portal, college football doesn’t lack for big-time programs looking for a quality passer. Of course, he could always follow his former Sooners’ coach Lincoln Riley, who just made the rather shocking decision to jump ship and head to Southern Cal.

‘Cats, Riders take CFL semis … While the NFL was busy doing its thing this afternoon, the Canadian league got its 2021 playoffs underway. And there will be a renewal of a couple of the league’s fiercest rivalries next Sunday in the conference finals after Hamilton beat Montreal in the Eastern semi-final, while Saskatchewan edged Calgary in OT in the Western playdowns. Hamilton now advances to the Eastern final next Sunday in Toronto, while Saskatchewan will play Winnipeg in the Western title game. The winners of next Sunday’s games will the meet on December 12th in Hamilton in the 108th Grey Cup game.

Two top QBs off to Mobile … The Senior Bowl announced today that two of the top QBs in the 2022 draft class have accepted invitations to participate in this year’s game including Malik Willis of Liberty and Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati. Willis, in particular, is an athletic freak who is a legit first-round candidate with some top 10-15 potential. Meanwhile, Ridder is generally considered to be an early second day prospect who could sneak into the latter part of the opening because of the value of the position. At least, Ridder won’t be lonely in Mobile as he’ll be joined by as many as 5 Bearcats’ teammates including DE Myjai Sanders, who has gotten some second-day interest of his own, along with OLB Darrian Beavers, CB Coby Bryant, S Bryan Cook and WR Alec Pierce. The latest additions also bring the number of players who have accepted Senior Bowl invitations to 85.

Jets win; back out of 2nd pick … While Detroit appears to have pretty much locked up the #1 pick at the 2022 draft, the roller coaster among the NY Jets, Jacksonville and Houston for the 2-3-4 continued unabated today with the Jets defeating the Texans to drop from #2 to #4. That moves the Texans and Jags, who lost to Atlanta today, into the 2-3 slots; however, there is almost no statically significant difference in the strength of schedule figures for the two AFC South teams that it is too early which will have which pick at least for this week. Meanwhile, the 5th pick won’t actually be decided until after tomorrow night’s Monday night game between Seattle and Washington. The Seahawks, somewhat shockingly, would have the 5th pick as of this moment, but would drop down with over the No-names tomorrow.

More star game acceptances … The Senior Bowl released the names of three more players who have accepted invitations to participate in this year’s game including Ohio State TE Jeremy Ruckert, Washington State CB Jaylen Watson and North Carolina LB Jeremiah Gemmel. The latest additions also bring the number of players who have accepted Senior Bowl invitations to 78.

Tide avoids Iron Bowl shocker … Alabama survived a major upset in today’s Iron Bowl when the 3rd ranked Tide drove 98 yards for a tying TD in the game’s final two minutes and then outscored Auburn in overtime to come away with a 24-22 win. THE big question for Alabama, though, was it enough to get them into the 4-team CFP playoff even if they lose next weekend’s conference championship game against top-ranked Georgia. That would give Alabama a second loss on the season and they would need the committee to vault them over several one-loss teams. That seemed almost inevitable 2-3 weeks ago, but it isn’t as clear-cut today. Alabama has had a couple of closer than expected wins of late and needing OT to beat a 6-5 team playing with a backup QB isn’t going to impress anybody. Then there’s the pesky matter of having Notre Dame as the most likely one-loss team Alabama would have to push out of the playoff structure to get a spot. And while Georgia and Alabama have been ticketed for the SEC final for several weeks now, most of the other conference championship game slots came down to the final weekend. Michigan, for example, will play Iowa in the Big Ten conference final next Saturday after Minnesota upset Wisconsin to send the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis; it will be Pitt versus Wake Forest in the ACC final – hands up everyone who had those two in their pre-season pool and Oregon will play Utah in the PAC-12 title just a couple of weeks after the Utes knocked the Ducks out of the national playoff picture. Meanwhile, the Big XII title game will be between Baylor and the winner of tonight’s Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, which is currently tied at the half. And in the one non-Power 5 championship game that anyone should really care about, Cincinnati will play Houston with a chance to be the first NP5 team to get to the playoffs. Should be an interesting week ahead.

Jets-Texans hilite Sunday draft sched … With Detroit, which would have the #1 pick overall were the draft held this week, having inched closer to clinching this year’ s top pick after losing on Thursday, the rest of the top selection order for 2022 could be looking at something of a shakeup as a result of Sunday’s action. For starters, the NY Jets which are currently sitting on the 2nd pick overall, will be at Houston, which would have picked 4th this week. Somebody’s gotta win! Meanwhile, Jacksonville, at #3, has something of a winnable game as the Jags will be hosting struggling Atlanta, which has lost 3 of 4 including the past two games by a combined score of 68-3. Meanwhile, the Giants, at #5, will be hosting Philadelphia. As usual, the full, weekly selection order will be posted after the Monday night game.

UCF QB Gabriel to transfer … Central Florida Dillon Gabriel made it official earlier today by announcing that he is taking advantage of the NCAA’s relaxed transfer rules and will enter the transfer portal, presumably with the intention of playing for a Power 5 conference contender next year. Gabriel, a junior who threw for over 3,000 yards in each of his first two seasons at UCF and for his career has thrown 70 touchdown passes against only 14 interceptions, broke his collarbone early this season and missed the remainder of the year. Certainly, Gabriel isn’t likely to lack for suitors as there a bunch of big-time programs out that will be in the market to address their somewhat underwhelming QB rooms.

It is over!!! … You think anybody in the state cares at this hour that the Detroit Lions are the NFL’s only winless team after Michigan ended its long drought against rival Ohio State with a convincing 42-27 win in snowy Ann Arbor this afternoon. Ohio State had won 8 straight against the Wolverines and came into the game as the favorites, but just had no answer for the Michigan rushing game that pounded out almost 300 yards on the ground. The loss also knocks Ohio State out of contention for the CFP playoff, while the door opens for Michigan which moves on to play in the conference championship game next week in Indianapolis, although who they face won’t be decided until after today’s late afternoon game between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Elsewhere, Wake Forest crushed Boston College to advance to the ACC championship for the first time since 2006. The Deacons will face Pittsburgh in the conference final in Charlotte next Saturday in a game featuring two terrific QBs in Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Sam Hartman of Wake.

CFL playoffs start tomorrow … The Canadian league starts its playoffs Sunday afternoon with a couple of semi-final games. Montreal will be at Hamilton in the Eastern semi-final tomorrow afternoon for the right to play Toronto in the conference final next week. KO is set for 1 PM ET with coverage on TSN in Canada and ESPN2 in the U.S. Then it will be Calgary at Saskatchewan in the Western semi at 4:30 PM ET, again on TSN, but on ESPNnews in the U.S. The winner of the Stamps-Riders battle will be at Winnipeg in the Western championship also next weekend. The conference champions will then play for the 108th Grey Cup on December 12th in Hamilton. Bundle up!!

Prospects to watch in rivalry games … There are college games today, but the key contests are tomorrow starting with a potentially titanic matchup between 2nd ranked Ohio State and #6 Michigan for the Big Ten East spot in next week’s conference championship game; of course, both teams are also trying to keep their CFP playoff hopes alive. Here’s a quick preview of who to watch with an eye toward the 2022 draft in tomorrow’s big games.

#2 OHIO STATE (10-1) at #6 MICHIGAN (10-1); Noon ET; FOX … Just like old times in the Big Ten with the season coming down to Ohio State and Michigan in their annual rivalry game. Of course, the winner still has to beat somebody in the Big Ten championship game next week, but win those two games and the winner of Saturday’s game can punch their ticket to the 4-team college very good Michigan contain the explosive Ohio State offense led by star redshirt freshman QB C.J. Stroud (#7, 6-2, 220) who has emerged as one of the 2-3 candidates to win this year’s Heisman debate. Of course, Stroud gets lots of help from his friends, including arguably the best receiver corps in college football. Indeed, veteran WRs Garrett Wilson (#5, 6-0, 195) and Chris Olave (#2, 6-0, 190) both have top 15-20 potential for the upcoming draft, although the team’s most productive receiver this fall has actually been sophomore Jaxon Smith-Njigba (#11, 6-0, 200) who leads the team with 69 catches for over 1,100 yards. In fact, anyone in the conference hoping that the Buckeyes will just graduate is probably in for a big disappointment as the team’s leading rusher – freshman TreVeyon Henderson (#32, 5-10, 215) – also won’t be draft eligible for a while, although Ohio State does have one of the deeper draft classes in the country for 2022. The Buckeyes, for example, do have two of the fastest rising players in this draft class in OT Nick Petit-Frere (#78, 6-5, 315) and safety Ronnie Hickman (#14, 6-1, 205), both of who could also get significant first-day interest. The Buckeyes also feature one of the better defensive fronts in college football which includes DEs Zach Harrison (#9, 6-5, 265) and Tyreke Smith (#11, 6-3, 260) and DT Haskell Garrett (#92, 6-2, 300), both of whom also at least some have first-round potential. At the same time, other Ohio State players to watch include massive RT Dawand Jones (#79, 6-7, 360), veteran G/T Thayer Munford (75, 6-5, 320) RB Master Teague (#33, 5-11, 225), TE Jeremy Ruckert (#88, 6-4, 250), and CB Cam Brown (#26, 6-0, 190).

Whether the Michigan defense can slow down the OSU offense may come down to how much pressure the Wolverine’s star pass-rushing DEs Aidan Hutchinson (#97, 6-6, 270) and David Ojabo (#50, 6-5, 250) can get on Stroud and company. Hutchinson in particular, is a top 5-10 candidate for the upcoming draft with the length, quickness and motor of an elite pass-rushing defensive end, while Ojabo, who isn’t as big or technically proficient as his more heralded teammate, but may actually be a better athlete, is a rising prospect that just explodes off the edge and is starting to get some top 10 interest of his own. For the record, in fact, both have 10 sacks on the year with Ojabo chipping in 5 forced fumbles, although Hutchinson clearly does attract considerably more attention from opposing defenses. Pro scouts will also keep an eye on MLB Josh Ross (#12, 6-2, 225) who isn’t all that big but just flies around the field and veteran FS Daxton Hill (#30, 6-0, 195) on defense and RB Hassan Haskins (#25, 6-1, 220), OG Chuck Filiaga (#66, 6-4, 340), OT Ryan Hayes (#76, 6-6, 310), OT Andrew Stueber (#71, 6-5, 340), and TE Erick all (#83, 6-4, 245).

#3 ALABAMA (10-1) at AUBURN (6-5); 3:30 PM ET; CBS … One of the huge questions hanging over the upcoming CFP is whether the committee that runs the show would include a two-loss Alabama in the final four if the Tide were to lose to Georgia in next weekend’s conference championship game. The simple answer is that they probably try like to heck to make it happen, but it would be very interesting if the team on the bubble was 11-1 Notre Dame. Of course, for all that to happen Alabama has to get by Auburn in their annual Iron Bowl tilt for at least state bragging rights. And the Tide will certainly be favored in this one with Auburn coming in at just 6-5, although this is one of those traditional rivalries where you just have to throw the records out. As well, to be fair, Alabama has not been as dominant as in recent years with that loss as well as several other too-close for comfort calls. The issue for Alabama is that they haven’t always been able to shut down high-powered passing attacks this fall. Certainly, there haven’t been many issues on the other side of the ball where their young QB – sophomore QB Bryce Young (#2, 5-10, 195) – appears to be Ohio State’s Stroud’s main rival for the Heisman. And while Alabama may not produce the record number of early picks that we saw in the past 2-3 years, the Tide is still loaded with top draft talent. Massive LT Evan Neal (#73, 6-6, 350), for example, looks to be a top ten lock, while veteran ILB Christian Harris (#8, 6-2, 235) and sophomore OLB Will Anderson (#31, 6-4, 235) are both mid-first round candidates, with WR Jameson Williams (#1, 6-2, 190) a rising star in the receiver corps who should also get some first day consideration. At the same time, Canadian WR John Metchie (#8, 6-0, 195), safety Jordan Battle (#9, 6-0, 210), DT D.J. Dale (#94, 6-3, 310), CBs Jalyn Armour-Davis (#5, 6-0, 190) and Josh Jobe (#28, 6-0, 195), and TE Jahleel Billingsley (#19, 6-4, 230) are all solid second day prospects.

For its part, Auburn has only one legit top 100 prospect and that’s veteran CB Roger McCreary (#23, 6-0, 190), a possible early second day pick who’ll get a nice test by the likes of Alabama’s Williams and Metchie. And it doesn’t get a whole lot easier for the Tigers with veteran QB Bo Nix (#10, 6-3, 215), who it feels like has been playing forever, is out with an injury. He’ll be replaced by rangy sophomore T.J. Finley (#1, 6-6, 250) who can throw the ball through a wall; its just he can’t always hit the wall. Auburn, though, does have something of a rising star at RB in sophomore Tank Bigsby (#4, 5-11, 210), while veteran LBs Zakoby McClain (#9, 6-0, 220) and Chandler Wooten (#31, 6-3, 235) lead the defense.

#9 OKLAHOMA (10-1) at #7 OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1); 7:30 PM, ABC … Has any once-beaten traditional football power ever gotten less respect than Oklahoma; indeed, with all the negativity around the program this fall, one would have thought the Sooners were 5-4 and struggling. However, the style points haven’t always been there as the Sooners struggled too often in games they should have won in cakewalks, although they’ve looked better – sometimes – since true freshman Caleb Williams (#13, 6-1, 220) replaced veteran Spencer Rattler (#7, 6-1, 200) during the dramatic comeback win over Texas last month. In fact, that Rattler finds himself on the bench these days may be one of the biggest shocks in college football this fall as he came into the season generally considered to be the top QB prospect for the 2022 draft with the potential to go first overall. However, while he did complete 75% of his pass attempts, he could never really get the O in OU rolling. And instead of the draft, Rattler is likely to bide his time on the Sooners’ bench the rest of the year and then bolt for the transfer portal as soon as it’s safe to get out of town.

With Rattler apparently off the board, the Sooners best pro prospects are a pair of defensive stars in DT Perrion Winfrey (#8, 6-4, 295) and LB Nik Bonitto (#11, 6-3, 240), both of whom are potential early second round prospects, while RB Kennedy Brooks (#26, 5-10, 215) has some later second-day prospects. Meanwhile, other Sooner veterans to watch include safety Pat Fields (#10, 6-0, 205), DE Isaiah Thomas (#95, 6-5, 265) and WR Michael Woods (#8, 6-0, 200).

On the other hand, there hasn’t been any QB controversy at Oklahoma State where rising junior Spencer Sanders (#3, 6-1, 210) has a lock on the job, although he’s more of a dual-threat type who isn’t likely to get much interest from NFL teams whenever he does enter the draft. In fact, it doesn’t look like anyone from the program is likely to be drafted until the later rounds this coming April. The Cowboys, though, are a veteran group that has a number of players who could get one of those late calls including RB Jaylen Warren (#7, 5-8, 215), WR Tay Martin (#1, 6-2, 190), OG Josh Sills (#72, 6-5, 325), C Danny Godlevske (#51, 6-2, 300), DE Brock Martin (#9, 6-3, 250), LB Malcolm Rodriquez (#20, 5-11, 225), and safeties Kolby Harvell-Peel (#31, 6-0, 210) and Jason Taylor (#25, 6-0, 215).

Bonus coverage … For those that didn’t get their fill of football on Thanksgiving Day and can’t wait for the really big college rivalry games Saturday including Ohio State at Michigan for all the marbles in the Big Ten East, there are a number of decent college games on Friday worth a look.  It all starts with a Mountain West contest between #22 San Diego State and Boise State at Noon ET on CBS. (And for those that care about these things that’s actually a 10 AM KO local time.) Hopefully everyone gets an early wake up call as both teams have aspirations of making the conference final next weekend. San Diego State, in particular, has one of the deepest 2022 draft classes of any non-Power 5 team in the country outside Cincinnati. In fact, folks in the NFL scouting community can’t stop buzzing about SDSU P Matt Araiza (#2, 6-2, 200) who leads all of football this fall with a 51.8 yards per punt average, which if it holds up would set an NCAA single-season high. Araiza, who also kicks FGs, has 6 punts longer than 70 yards this fall, whereas no one else has more than two. He’s currently listed as the 55th best prospect overall on the GBN Big Board. And Araiza actually isn’t the Aztecs’ top-rated prospect. That honor belongs to rising DE Cameron Thomas (#99, 6-5, 270), who is among the top edge rushers in college football with 9.5 sacks; he’s currently #27 on the GBN board. Meanwhile, other SDSU players to watch with some later round potential include RB Greg Bell (#34, 5-11, 200), LT Zach Thomas (#76, 6-5, 300), TE Dan Bellinger (#88, 6-6, 255), DT Jonah Tavai (#66, 6-4, 305), LB Caden McDonald (#54, 6-3, 235), CB Tayler Hawkins (#9, 6-1, 205) and safety Trent Thompson (#18, 6-2, 200.) Meanwhile, Boise State isn’t likely to have anyone selected all that early this year, but might have a later prospect or two including WR Khalil Shakir (#2, 6-0, 190), LT John Ojukwu (#70, 6-5, 310), C  Jake Stetz (#68, 6-2, 310), DE Shane Irwin (#55, 6-3, 260) and DB Kekaula Kaniho (#28, 5-10, 190).

More heartbreak in Detroit as Lions inch even closer to top pick with loss to Bears … The Detroit Lions were close again in today’s early Thanksgiving day triple header, but in the end, once again, close wasn’t enough as the Lions fell 16-14 to Chicago on a last-play FG. The win drops the Lions to 0-10-1 and leaves them firmly in control of the #1 pick overall at the 2022 draft. Indeed, unless the Lions win at least two of their final 5 games then the pick will be theirs as every other team in the league currently has at least two wins.

How about a little egg with that turkey … While the NFL takes center stage on Thanksgiving, there is one major rivalry game on the college schedule with Mississippi State hosting #9 Mississippi in the annual Egg Bowl. Starts at 7:30 PM ET Thursday evening on ESPN and features two of the very best QBs in college football. Presumably, everyone has heard of Ole Miss’ Matt Corral (#2, 6-1, 210), who is generally considered to be the top prospect at the position for the 2022 draft. Corral is also believed to be in thick of the race for the Heisman Trophy along with QBs C.J. Stroud of Ohio State and Alabama’s Bryce Young, neither of whom is draft eligible this year. As well as the latter two have played this fall, the actual leading passer among non-draft eligible players this year has been Mississippi State’s Will Rogers (#2, 6-2, 210), who is third nationally in passing yards per game with just over 370. And while Rogers isn’t draft eligible, pro scouts should be trooping to Mississippi State anyway as LT Charles Cross (#67, 6-5, 310) is eligible and he’s got some top 10 cred. In fact, Cross should get a test in this game as he’ll be facing Ole Miss DE Sam Williams (#7, 6-5, 265) who has 10.5 sacks this year and should get at least some second day interest come April. Meanwhile, other Rebels to watch include scatback Jerrion Ealy (#9, 5-8, 185) who is averaging 7.4 yards per carry, WR Dontarrio Drummond (#11, 6-1, 220), LB Chance Campbell (#44, 6-2, 240) and FS AJ Finley (#21, 6-2, 210).

Happy Thanksgiving football day … Everyone here at the GBN wants to wish everyone and theirs out there a very happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend. Of course, if its Thanksgiving it means turkey and football. Indeed, there’s the usual triple header of NFL games on tomorrow including one with major draft implications. That’s tomorrow afternoon when Chicago plays at Detroit in the early game on FOX with KO at 12:30 PM ET. The Lions, at 0-9-1 the NFL’s lone remaining winless team, would have the first pick overall if the draft were held this week; in fact, win, loss or draw tomorrow and the Lions would still hold onto the first pick, at least for the next week, because every other team in the league has at least two wins. And the Lions, who have been close more than once this fall, could have a shot here as Chicago could be in some kind of disarray with reports this weekend that head coach Matt Nagy would be fired after the game. The Lions also hope to have QB Jared Goff back for the game after he missed last week with an oblique injury, although his availability could come down to a game-time decision. Meanwhile, veteran Andy Dalton is expected to start for the Bears. Meanwhile, in tomorrow’s other games Dallas will host Las Vegas at $:30 PM ET on CBS while it will be Buffalo at New Orleans at 8:20 on NBC in the nightcap.

College notes: pair of top RBs staying put; rising CB not … This is the time of year when college underclassmen start making noises about entering the upcoming draft. But they all don’t. And one who is not is Minnesota RB Mohamed Ibrahim who announced earlier today that he would be staying in school in 2022. The 5-10, 210-pound Ibrahim, the Big Ten’s RB of the year last fall, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Minnesota’s season opener against Ohio State and hasn’t played since. In that game, Ibrahim had shredded the now 2nd ranked Buckeyes’ defense for 163 yards and 2 TDs on 30 carries in less than three full quarters of play. Meanwhile, Syracuse’s Sean Tucker, the 3rd leading rusher in college football so far this fall, hasn’t been quite as definite, but is hinting that he will return to the Orange next fall, although he will be talking over his options with his family once the season ends before making a final decision. For the record, Tucker, a track star in high school who has already broken Joe Morris’ 43-year-old school single-season rushing record this fall, is only a true sophomore who won’t be draft eligible until 2023, but has faced some pressure to transfer to a better program. At the same time, LSU sophomore CB Eli Ricks is likely transferring after he entered his name in the transfer portal earlier this week. Ricks, a former top-50 recruit emerged as one of the best young corners in the country in 2020 when he intercepted four passes and made some All-America teams, but was limited to just 6 games this fall because of a shoulder issue that ultimately required surgery. Ricks, a Florida native, could very well end up back in the state at one of its big-time programs.

PSU WR headlines latest star game acceptances … The Senior Bowl continues to release the names of players who have accepted invitations to participate in this year’s game. And the latest group of accepted invites includes Penn State WR Jahan Dotson, #23 on the current GBN Big Board, who will be one of the top prospects in Mobile this winter. In addition to Dotson, players who accepted invites today include Tennessee CB Alontae Taylor, Penn State CB Tariq Castro-Fields, and LS Cal Adomitis of Pittsburgh, along with a couple of players from 15th ranked Texas-San Antonio, one of just three remaining unbeaten teams in FBS football, in G/T Spencer Burford and CB Tariq Woolen. The latest additions also bring the number of players who have accepted Senior Bowl invitations to 75.

Pigskin’s weekly prospects review ... As he does every year, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette will be posting a weekly review of prospects who caught his eye in the previous weekend’s college football action. Here’s Paul’s column covering last weekend’s slate of games.

More star game acceptances … The Senior Bowl continues to release the names of players who have accepted invitations to participate in this year’s event in Mobile. The latest group of accepted invites includes OGs Zion Johnson of Boston College and LSU’s Ed Ingram, Washington State OT Abraham Lucas, LSU ILB Damone Clark and Texas CB Josh Thompson. Johnson and Lucas are the top prospects, who are currently rated the 72nd and 95th best overall prospects for 2022 on the GBN Big Board, are generally considered to be the top prospects among the latest grouping. The latest additions also bring the number of players who have accepted Senior Bowl invitations to 69. Meanwhile, the East-West Shrine game, which moves to Las Vegas this year, has released the names of the first dozen or so players that have agreed to play there this year including Indiana WR Ty Fryfogle.

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