Prospects preview: Who to watch in college football this weekend.

By | September 9, 2021

#12 OREGON at #3 OHIO STATE; Noon ET; FOX … The question around the NFL scouting community this day is ‘will he?, or won’t he?’ The HE is Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (#5, 6-5, 260), arguably the top-rated prospect overall for the 2022 draft. And the ‘will he’ is whether he’ll be able to play in Saturday’s key intersectional match-up with Ohio State after he sprained an ankle in last weekend’s season-opening win over Fresno State. Thibodeaux hasn’t practiced to date this week and it may simply come down to a game time decision on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Ducks do have several other intriguing prospects for the upcoming draft in RB CJ Verdell (#7, 5-9, 220), CB Mykael Wright (#2, 5-11, 185), WR Johnny Johnson (#3, 6-0, 200) and C Alex Forsyth (#78, 6-3, 305), but none are in anywhere near the same class as #5.

And that could be a problem against Ohio State, which is loaded when it comes to the 2022 draft. The Buckeyes have, for example, what may be the best 1-2 WR combination in the country in Garrett Wilson (#5, 6-0, 195) and Chris Olave (#2, 6-0, 190), both of whom have top 10-15 potential for the upcoming draft.

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); Harrison and Garrett, in particular, both also have first-round potential. And if the Ducks’ Thibodeaux is able to play, he’ll be facing a good test, as both of the Buckeyes’ OTs – LT Nick Petit-Frere (#78, 6-5, 315) and massive RT Dawand Jones (#79, 6-7, 360) – are quality prospects in their own right. So is veteran G/T Thayer Munford (75, 6-5, 320) who has kicked inside to LG.

At the same time, other Ohio State players to watch include RB Master Teague (#33, 5-11, 225), TE Jeremy Ruckert (#88, 6-4, 250), CB Sevyn Banks (#7, 6-0, 200) and safety Josh Proctor (#41, 6-1, 205). How far Ohio State goes this fall, though, could come down to how well redshirt freshman QB C.J. Stroud (#7, 6-2, 220) handles the pressure of the job as he tries to replace Justin Fields, the 11th player selected at the 2021 draft.

#10 IOWA at #9 IOWA STATE; 4:30 PM ET; ABC … You can probably take it to the bank that no stadium will be rocking more than at Iowa State where the Cyclones host cross-state rival Iowa. This is always one of those great rivalry games, but this year it is a little different as both teams are ranked. Indeed, they are both ranked in the top ten with Iowa State at #9 and Iowa at #10. In fact, this is very likely the best team they have ever had at Iowa State. The Cyclones, for example, have one of the top 2-3 RBs in the country in junior Breece Hall (#28, 6-0, 215), a legitimate Heisman candidate who finished 6th in the voting last year after rushing for almost 1,600 yards and 21 TDs last. The Cyclones actually have two Heisman contenders as veteran QB QB Brock Purdy (#15, 6-0, 212) should also get consideration. Purdy’s probably not more than a late-round pro prospect, but he’s an experienced three-year starter who does a terrific job distributing the ball.

Iowa State also features one of the top 2-3 TEs in the country in Charlie Kolar (#88, 6-5, 260) who already has 17 career TDs, while back-up TE Chase Allen (#11, 6-6, 240) would likely start for just about every other team in college football. The Cyclones also have one of the better OLB duos around in Mike Rose (#23, 6-3, 245) and Will McDonald (#9, 6-3, 230). Rose is a tackling machine who led the conference in tackles while also posting 5 picks, the most of any LB in the FBS. Meanwhile, McDonald, a disruptive edge rusher had 10.5 sacks in 2021. Also keep an eye on SS Greg Eisworth (#12, 6-0, 200), DT Eyioma Uwazurike (#58, 6-5, 310), CB Anthony Johnson (#26, 5-11, 195), and WR Xavier Hutchinson (#8, 6-2, 210).

Iowa doesn’t have quite the star power of their state rivals, but the Hawkeyes also have a deep, veteran roster. C Tyler Linderbaum (#65, 6-3, 290), for example, is arguably the top pivot in the 2022 draft class, while RB Tyler Goodson (#15, 5-10, 200) is also a good one. Other Hawkeyes to watch include G/T Cody Ince (#73, 6-3, 285), DE Zack VanValkenburg (#97, 6-3, 270), CB Matt Hankins (#8, 6-0, 180), LB Jack Campbell (#31, 6-4, 245), and safety Jack Koerner (#28, 6-0, 205).

WASHINGTON at MICHIGAN; 8 PM ET; ABC … Oregon at Ohio State is actually only one of two of what should have been two major inter-conference match-ups between the Big Ten and Pac-12 as Washington will also be at Michigan on Saturday evening. Unfortunately, that game lost a lot of its potential luster when the Huskies managed to get themselves upset by FCS Montana in their season-opener. That aside, this game does have potentially the best one-on-one match-up of the weekend when Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson (#97, 6-5, 265) goes up against UW LT Jaxson Kirkland (#51, 6-6, 310) in a duel between two top 15 prospects for the upcoming draft. A couple of other Huskies to watch include TE Cade Otton (#87, 6-5, 250) and CB Trent McDuffie (#22, 5-11, 195), who is starting to generate a little late first-round buzz of his own. Meanwhile, other Michigan players to keep an eye include safety Daxton Hill (#30, 6-0, 192), RB Hassan Haskins (#25, 6-0, 220) and huge RT Andrew Stueber (#71, 6-6, 340).

Bonus coverage: Can you have a weekly prospects to watch report without any reference at all to the SEC? Is that even legal? That reflects in part that several of the top SEC teams are taking the week off playing FCS opponents; Alabama, for example, has drawn mighty Mercer (and Nick Saban wonders why his team isn’t totally focused!) However, there is one really interesting SEC game this week in which Texas plays at Arkansas. Those two of course were fierce Big 8 rivals for years before the Hogs left the conference for the greener pastures of the SEC. But now that Texas is also flipping to the SEC along with Oklahoma, they should be back at it. This year, though, it’s still an inter-conference game (7 PM ET; ESPN) and it should give folks a chance to check out Arkansas WR Treylon Burks (#16, 6-3, 225), a big, sure-handed target who may be the best prospect at the position outside the state of Ohio.

Coastal Carolina was one of the great stories of the 2020 season as the previously unheralded school ran off 11 straight wins last season before losing – by three points in OT – in their bowl game to finish the season 11-1 and ranked 12th in the country. Playing a Sun Belt schedule, the Chanticleers (and we have no idea what a chanticleer is!) don’t get much national TV time, but they will be playing their one game against a Power-5 opponent Friday night when they face Kansas (7PM ET; ESPN2). And that will give people a chance to check out CCU QB Grayson McCall (#6-2, 200), arguably the conference’s best player who completed 69% of his pass attempts last fall including 26 for scores with just 3 picks.