What a week on the college football schedule with 7 games featuring ranked teams going head-to-head. And most of the games also have huge conference and national implications. Needless to say, these games also include many of this year’s top draft prospects. Here in chronological order are the 7 games between ranked teams and the players we’ll be watching in each:
#7 Penn State (7-1) at #24 Michigan State (6-2); Noon PM ET; FOX … Penn State finishes up its stretch from heck in which the Nittany Lions had to play Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State in back-to-back-to-back weeks. PSU is 1-1 in that stretch after losing a heart-breaker at Ohio State last week which pretty much eliminated from contention for divisional title. However, run the table and Penn State still a shot at earning a national playoff berth as a wild card. The game also gives scouts another opportunity to evaluate Penn State RB Saquon Barkley (#26, 5-11, 230), the consensus top prospect for the upcoming draft other than the QBs (and just maybe the best prospect overall. And scouts – not to mention Barkley himself – will be looking for a bounce-back performance from #26 after he was held to just 44 yards on 21 carries against the stacked Ohio State defense.
#4 Clemson (7-1) at #20 North Carolina State (6-2); 3:30 PM ET; ABC … The ACC Atlantic title and a spot in the conference championship game will be pretty much on the line when NC State hosts defending national champion Clemson in a must-see game for NFL teams looking to augment their pass rush at the 2018 draft. Indeed, this game features three of the top DE prospects in NC State’s Bradley Chubb (#9, 6-4, 275) and Clelin Ferrell (#99, 6-5, 265) and Austin Bryant (#91, 6-5, 265), who are 1-2-5 respectively on the latest GBN DE ranking for the upcoming draft. Chubb, in particular, who has 7.5 sacks and 17 total tackles for loss thru 8 games, is starting to draw some top 5 interest for the upcoming draft. Meanwhile, the Clemson duo combine with DTs Christian Wilkins (#42, 6-3, 310), another potential top 5 candidate, and super soph Dexter Lawrence (#90, 6-4, 300) to give the Tigers arguably the best defensive front in college football. Pro scouts also want to see how emerging NC State junior QB Ryan Finley (#15, 6-3, 205) handles the pressure from that Clemson front.
#21 Stanford (6-2) at #25 Washington State (7-2); 3:30 PM ET; FOX … It doesn’t look like anyone from the PAC-12 is going to make the national playoffs, but the Rose Bowl is still on the table for the conference champion and Stanford and Washington State are locked in a 3-way battle with Washington for the North divisional title. This game also gives a little national pub to Stanford RB Bryce Love (#20, 5-10, 195) who – with apologies to Penn State’s Saquon Barkley – has been the best player in college football so far this fall, although he isn’t getting the same ‘love’ from pro scouts. For the record, Love is averaging just a shade under 200 yards per game and a ridiculous 10-plus yards per carry this fall. In fact, his value to the Stanford offense was never better on display last weekend when Love didn’t play because of an ankle and the Cardinal struggled to beat a lousy Oregon State team. Love isn’t all that big at just 5-10, and a bulked up 195, but he can fly. Indeed, Love still holds a couple of national age-group 100M records. However, he’s also more than just a track guy playing football as he has great instincts, patience and vision and can turn on a dime. Meanwhile, WSU QB Luke Falk (#4, 6-4, 223) will also be looking for a bounce back game against the Cardinal after he was pulled from last week’s game for the second time this year. Also keep an eye on mammoth WSU OG Cody O’Connell (#76, 6-8, 370), a two-time All-American who is one of the best offensive linemen in the country.
#5 Oklahoma (7-1) at #11 Oklahoma State (7-1); 4:00 PM ET; FS1 … Also known as Bedlam, the battle of Oklahoma is also a de facto elimination on the way to the first Big XII championship game as the Sooners and Cowboys are currently in a 4-way tie for the conference lead with Iowa State and TCU. And in the sometimes wacky Big XII where just about everybody plays a wide-open offense and not so much defense, this one could be a real shoot-out with QBs Baker Mayfield (#6, 6-1, 210) of Oklahoma and OSU’s Mason Rudolph (#2, 6-5, 230) leading the way. Both are considered to be potential late-first round candidates for the upcoming draft. Indeed, more than one scout will tell that the Sooners’ Mayfield would be the conversation for the #1 pick overall if he were just 2-3 inches taller. Along with Mayfield and Rudolph, keep an eye OU OT Orlando Brown (#78, 6-8, 345) and Oklahoma State WR James Washington (#28, 6-0, 205), both of whom also have opening round potential, while Sooners’ DE/OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (#31, 6-0, 240) is an emerging egde-rusher.
#19 LSU (6-2) at #1 Alabama (8-0); 8 PM ET; CBS … LSU-Alabama isn’t quite it used to be a couple of years back as LSU isn’t quite what it was a couple of years back. Still, its still LSU and Alabama and pro scouts will be out in droves. In particular, they’ll be interested in LSU DE/OLB Arden Key (#49, 6-6, 265) who was once considered to be the consensus #1 prospect for the upcoming draft after posting 12 sacks last fall. However, Key’s stock has fallen after an off-season from heck in which he left the team for a period for personal reasons, underwent shoulder surgery and gained a bunch of weight so hopes to use the opportunity against the Tide to rehab his grade. Same for teammate RB Derrius Guice (#5, 5-11, 220) who entered the season rated on a par with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley as the top back in this year’s draft, but has been held back by injuries through the first half of the campaign. Meanwhile, Alabama CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick (#29, 6-1, 202) has emerged as arguably the best all-around DB in college football and is currently pushing for a top 5 grade. In fact, the Tide has a full line-up of draft prospects including WR Calvin Ridley (#3, 6-0, 190), RBs Damien Harris (#34, 5-10, 225) and Bo Scarbrough (#9, 6-1, 235), OG Ross Pierschbacker (#71, 6-3, 305), DL Da’Shawn Hand (#9, 6-3, 290) and Da’Ron Payne (#94, 6-2, 310), LB Rashaan Evans (#32, 6-2, 235), SS Ronnie Harrison (#15, 6-2, 215) and P J.k. Scott (#15, 6-5, 205).
#13 Virginia Tech (7-1) at #10 Miami (7-0); 8 PM ET; ABC … While Clemson and NC State do battle for the ACC Atlantic division, Virginia Tech will be at still unbeaten Miami to play for what in a sense will be the Coastal crown. The guy to watch in this game is Hokies’ junior OLB Tremaine Edmunds (#49, 6-5, 250), a potential second-day prospect who is on pace to post a second-straight 100-tackle season.
#22 Arizona (6-2) at #17 Southern California (7-2); 10:45 PM ET; ESPN … Two words: Sam Darnold. The USC redshirt sophomore QB is potentially the most enigmatic player in this year’s draft class. He entered the season as the runaway consensus favorite to be this year’s top prospect. But he has had his ups-and-downs this fall including way too many turnovers, although talk to scouts around the league and most still see him as a top 5 guy. Still, they’d like to see better production. Meanwhile, for those that haven’t seen him play yet, Arizona sophomore QB Khalil Tate is simply one of the most exciting young players in the country.