Who to watch in college football this weekend

September 15, 2022

After the first couple of weeks on the college football schedule which featured some truly big games between traditional powers, it does appear as if there are any games in the class this weekend. However, there are still a number of intriguing match-ups with some intriguing prospects for the 2023 draft. Let’s start with Miami at Texas A&M later on Saturday evening.

#13 MIAMI (2-0) at #24 TEXAS A&M (1-1); 9 PM ET; ESPN: Big opportunity for Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke (#9, 6-4, 225) to show what he can do against a quality opponent on the road on the national stage. Van Dyke is generally considered to be at least a top 5 prospect at the position, but he’s been kind of all over the board over the last 6 months or so. However, after both Will Levis and Antony Richardson of Kentucky and Florida respectively struggled when the two teams met last weekend the door could have been opened for Van Dyke to move up closer to the top 2-3. He certainly has the size and arm talent, but needs to be a little more consistent with his decision-making and accuracy.

Van Dyke could be joined in next April’s opening round by LT Zion Nelson (#60, 6-5, 320), who like his QB is flirting with a top 5 grade at his position. At the same time, CB Tyrique Stevenson (#2, 6-0, 210), a Georgia transfer should get plenty of second day interest, while TE Will Mallory (#85, 6-5, 245) is something of an underrated player at the position and could get some looks early on the third day. Meanwhile, WR Frank Ladson (#8, 6-2, 205), G/T DJ Scaife (#51, 6-3, 315), LB Caleb Johnson (#40, 6-1, 235) and DT Leonard Taylor (#56, 6-3, 305) could all be later round candidates.

Needless to say, this game lost some of its lustre when the Aggies were upset last weekend by Appalachian State. In fact, A&M may still be a year or two from getting back to national prominence as they have a very young team that starts as many as 13 freshmen and sophomores. However, the Aggies had what was considered to be the top recruiting class in the country in 2022 which included 8 5-star recruits including DE Walter Nolen, arguably the #1 recruit overall, as well as QB Connor Weigman who could start to see meaningful playing time sooner rather than later. And while the Aggies don’t necessarily have a lot of veteran talent they do have the consensus top safety in the 2023 draft class in Antonio Johnson (#27, 6-2, 195). At the same time, scatback Devone Achane (#6, 5-9, 185) is something of a rising star at the position, while WR Ainias Smith (#0, 5-10, 190) is a big-play threat averaging 18.5 yards per reception this fear. Both are very fast and could get some late second, early third day interest.

#1 GEORGIA (2-0) at SOUTH CAROLINA (1-1); Noon ET; ESPN: At this time last year, South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler (#7, 6-1, 215), then at Oklahoma, was considered to be the top QB prospect in the 2022 draft class. Just a few rough weeks later, though, Rattler lost his job to freshman Caleb Williams and ultimately didn’t enter the draft al all and instead transferred to the ‘other’ SC to try and revive his draft prospects. It remains to be seen how far Rattler gets in the process, but he’ll certainly have his chance this week when the Gamecocks host defending national champion and top-ranked Georgia in the SEC opener for both. And just in case anyone has forgotten the Bulldogs won last year’s title thanks in large part to one of the most dominating defenses in recent college history. That unit did take some hits at the 2022 draft where 5 former Bulldog defenders were selected in the opening round including DE Travon Walker, the first player picked overall, but still return at least three top 15 prospects for this year’s draft including DT Jalen Carter (#88, 6-3, 300), CB Kelee Ringo (#5, 6-2, 210) and ER Nolan Smith (#4, 6-3, 235). USC, though, does have a pretty good corner with top 10-15 potential of its own in Cameron Smith (#9, 6-0, 190), while DT Zacch Pickens (#6, 6-3, 305), WR Antwane Wells (#3, 6-1, 210), and TEs Austin Stogner (#18, 6-5, 250) and Jaheim Bell (#0, 6-3, 235) all have late second, early third day possibilities.

#12 BYU (2-0) at #24 OREGON (1-1); 3:30 PM ET; FOX: One of the things we like to do at this time of year is check out players on teams that don’t get a lot of national TV exposure later in the year when conference play starts in earnest. BYU, which as an independent not named Notre Dame, is just such as example, although we should see more of the Cougars starting next fall when they join the Big XII conference. For now, though, playing at Oregon will give Cougars like QB Jaren Hall (#3, 6-1, 205) and LT Blake Freeland (#71, 6-7, 315) a chance to show thier stuff for this year’s draft. Hall isn’t very big, but has a bit of Drew Brees in his game, while Freeland, at over 6-7 has prototype LT length and feet. Meanwhile, other Cougars to watch include RB Chris Brooks (#2, 6-0, 230), a Cal transfer, WRs Puka Nacua (#12, 6-2, 210) and Gunner Romney (#18, 6-2, 95), TE Isaac Rex (#83, 6-5, 250), and OG Clark Barrington (#56, 6-4, 305)

FRESNO STATE (1-1) at #7 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (2-0); 10:30 PM ET; FOX: And speaking of programs one doesn’t get to see much of on national TV, Fresno State gets a chance when they play at USC late Saturday evening when you can check out Bulldogs’ QB Jake Haener (#9, 6-1, 200), another smaller QB but one who can fling it; he’s currently in the top 10 in the nation in passing with a 75% completion rate. Like BYU’s Hall, Haener likely won’t be an early pick, but is a solid veteran college QB who could be good value in the mid- to later rounds.