As we head into the final full weekend of the 2022 College Football schedule I can’t help but wonder what upsets we might encounter between now and Sunday. The Final Four teams had a rough time prevailing last weekend. Both Michigan and TCU had to settle for final seconds field goals in their games. Georgia was never in serious trouble, but by the same token it might be safe to say that they never had the “safe” advantage on the scoreboard that they have grown accustomed to most of the last 5 seasons. And Ohio State, though being in charge most of the day, had to be wondering which of their star players might be the next to go down with a serious injury.
So now we head for “the Game” to be played in Columbus on Saturday. And it is entirely possible, though still not likely, that this could be more of a passing game than usual between these two physical teams; MICHIGAN @ OHIO STATE. I say that because we have no serious indication that any of these teams’ top RB will be in action. Due to injuries neither TreVeyon Henderson, nor Miyan Williams are expected to play. For Michigan, Blake Corum hurt his knee last week, and Donovan Edwards, his back-up, are both expected to sit this one out with injuries as well. Could it mean a passing frenzy might develop? History says not likely, but both teams have a very good QB and a plethora of receivers. For my money, the team that is most willing to unleash its passing attack is the most likely to jump off to a perhaps insurmountable edge on the scoreboard in the first half. This one should be interesting to say the least. TCU should have little difficulty taking care of a .500 team in Iowa State. Same with Georgia at home to GA Tech.
The odd-man out game could be Southern Cal hosting Notre Dame. The Trojans have won some big games this Fall and this would be a big Win if they take care of a resurgent Fighting Irish contingent. Methinks the NCAA committee would like nothing better than to include a flashy, West Coast team like the Trojans if they beat Notre Dame and then win a PAC-10 Title game.
Let’s get back to last weekend’s games for a bit here. I have heard the saying that statistics are for losers, but I can’t really agree with that in most instances. When it comes to college football, and with pro prospects at work, I find stats to be a most useful validation for special players. And last weekend felt like the latter was in clear view when the game dust settled.
TEXAS put Big-12 darling Kansas through the meat grinder with a 55-14 Win @ Kansas. And their likely first round RB BIJON ROBINSON led the way, carrying the ball 25 times for 243-yards and 4 TD. ROBINSON continues to remind me of a guy named ERIC DICKERSON, who pushed around opposing defenses every week in the old Southwest Conference, and then the NFL. Screw the devaluation of the RB slot in the NFL. I would take ROBINSON in the Top 12 of Round One in the next Draft, and settle for 5 controlled, affordable years of 1,000+ yards per season in a heart beat if I ran an NFL team from the GM’s office.
ANTHONY RICHARDSON, Florida QB, who is uber-talented, but inexperienced as hell, showed what he can be on a good day, more of which certainly lie in his future. The Gators lost on the road, to a resurgent Vanderbilt team 24-31. But RICHARDSON had the kind of day he may show on a weekly basis if he chooses one more season in school and waits to join the pro game in 2024. RICHARDSON passed for 25/42- 60%- 400 yards & 3 TD, 1 INT. Behind a leaky OL, and with a mediocre crew of wideouts the sky may be the limit for this 6’4/230-pounder. If he works hard on his technique and ability to read defenses, he could dominate the 2023 college season, especially if HC NAPIER hits that transfer portal to bring in a couple of talented wideouts for him to throw to.
CHASE BROWN/RB, has been the offensive leader for the resurgent Illini under HC Bret Bielema. BROWN, a Canadian who may never see action in the CFL, is a workhorse who carries their Offense. He nudged past 1,000-yards rushing last season, and with one game left on the regular season schedule, he has 1582-yards at 5.1 ypc this year. He also catches well out of the backfield, and has Top 100 draftability potential. Against Michigan last weekend he struggled to get going in the first half, but rallied in the second half as the Illini took over the lead. At the end of the day BROWN carried 29 times for 140-yards and 2 TD. He should test well at the Combine and force some team to draft him in the Top 100.
Speaking of workhorses let me not forget to mention RB MOHAMED IBRAHIM of Minnesota. Head Coach PJ FLECK likes to tell his players to “keep rowing the boat”, but he just luvs to pound the rock in the running game. Last season their top RB, IBRAHIM, played one game and gained 163-yards, then lost the rest of his season to a leg injury. He is back and has gotten stronger and better as the season progressed. So last week in a loss at Iowa, FLECK gave the ball to IBRAHIM 39 times, and the powerful 5’10/210 strong man gained 263 yards and 1 TD. He should end up as a middle round draftee if his medical all checks out at the Combine.
Out on the West Coast some USC Trojans absolutely showed out in a big intra-city rivalry win over UCLA, 48-45. Their top receiver, PITT transfer, JORDAN ADDISON, showed why he may be the first WR taken in the 2023 NFL Draft. Using a combination of speed, quickness, sure hands and sideline mastery, ADDISON caught 11 balls for 178 yards and 1 TD. I do not remember seeing any drops. He’s LYNN SWAN with more speed.
But the real story for me, was sophomore QB Transfer CALEB WILLIAMS who followed his Coach Lincoln Riley out West after starring for him in Oklahoma last season. WILLIAMS completed 32/43- 74%- 470 yards and 1 TD. He also ran with the ball 8 times for 33 yards and another TD. WILLIAMS has NFL size at 6’1/215 and I am guessing his athleticism will be off the charts at the NFL Combine. But it won’t be this coming year. He is a Sophomore, so mark him down for that 2024 Draft most likely, which I think will be QB R-I-C-H!!!
It has hard to find comparable stats from a defensive player to match up with these offensive super novas, but I want to mention a young man who transferred from Alabama to Arkansas and absolutely exploded in his first role as a full-time starter; DREW SANDERS, OLB, 6’5/230. This young man does it all leading their Defense. He had 10 Tackles, 4 solo, 1/2 Sack against Ole Miss in a big 42-27 stomp of the Rebels. He now has 96 tackles on the season with a wrap up game against Missouri this weekend to eclipse the 100 Tackle mark. Within those tackle numbers he has included 8.5 Sacks and 3 FF. To the delight of NFL Scouts he also recorded 1 INT & 3 PD. This young man is likely to explode at the Combine and put himself on the cusp of a late First Round Pick, if he declares for the Draft.
Those are my shining stars form last weekends games, and in most cases the entire season as well. I am coming to the conclusion that this 2023 NFL Draft is not going to be the QB bonanza that most of us thought it would be before 2022 season play began. But I am impressed with the overall depth once again, as a large number of young players took their games to a higher level than we thought they would based on 2021 play. It may get confusing at times trying to figure out where so many players have moved to, but the Football Gods have given Draftniks a bountiful harvest of late blooming players in their new homes, once again this season.
Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans! Be grateful and be kind.