The huge matchup weekend for Week 7 of the NCAA D-1 schedule did NOT disappoint! 3 games featured showdowns between unbeatens who all ranked in the top bakers’ dozen going into the weekend. Of the 3 games the highest ranked showdown was the big SEC game of Alabama @ Tennessee. BRYCE YOUNG as back from his shoulder injury and HENDON HOOKER took the Heisman Stage with his arm and his legs. When the smoke cleared the 52-49 VOLS win literally bumped ‘Bama from the top of the rankings list. And it left ‘Bama fans asking what the heck happened to their team’s secondary which was torched multiple times by the tandem of HOOKER to WR JALIN HYATT. This is not the first time the Crimson Tide secondary has been burned deep this season. Why is this happening to a team which during the SABAN Era has sent multiple DB to continued success in the NFL?
I happen to be in agreement with Senior Bowl boss JIM NAGY, who opined that Offensive Coordinators seem to be creating match up issues that create open receivers streaking far up field. And this is to a great extent exacerbated by teams playing hybrid S/LB types to help control opponents’ running games and intimidate receivers in the middle of the field. But some of those DB just can’t keep up deep with many of today’s top wideouts. Both of Alabama’s starting S, JORDAN BATTLE & DeMARCO HELLANS are basically hybrid LB types who are punishing and proficient tacklers. But they lack true DB speed in coverage. So as long as opponents can hold off ‘Bama’s pass rushers, their QB’s should see sone receivers open running deep. You can coach -up DB coverage skills, but if they flat out get outrun it won’t matter much eventually.
General notice to any/all boaters cruising down river from Knoxville, please be on the lookout for 2 goalposts missing from Neyland stadium following VOLS big win over Alabama. Thank you.
Meanwhile, up in Ann Arbor, Michigan played host to PENN STATE, with both of them also undefeated. After about 3 hours+ the Nittany Lions were sent back to Western PA with a Loss to their credit and a soon to be double digit national ranking spot, per usual. Once again the Penn State Offense, which has been mediocre at best, during the 9 years with JAMES FRANKLIN as Head Coach failed to consistently move the football. Slowly and steadily the Wolverines marched up and down the field, while their D shut down QB/SEAN CLIFFORD and the stoic Penn State Offense; final score Michigan 41, Penn State 17. I will say this once again, so Nittany Lion fans listen up… this vanilla offensive approach to College Football in 2022 has got to go. Clifford needs stand on the sidelines with a clipboard and head set while true frosh DREW ALLAR takes over the starting QB job, which he is likely to then keep for 3 years, until going pro one year early. Wake up folks!
And finally we had an undefeated match-up between BIG 12 unbeatens Oklahoma State @ TCU. TCU won at home by a 43-40 score in an absolute shoot-out, overtime contest. Finding TCU in this position is an absolute tribute to new HeadCoach SONNY DYKES who took over a program which had slumped to records of 5-7, 6-4 & 5-7 under Gerry Peterson, who agreed to leave the program after a 20-year run at TCU. The usual glut of fleeing transfers greeted Coach Dykes. But he and his staff have clearly picked up the pieces after arriving from SMU. QB MAX DUGAN is back in a starting role and leading their Offense quite effectively. Oklahoma State is guided by the vastly under-appreciated HC MIKE GUNDY. GUNDY played QB for the Cowboys and is in his 18th year as Head Coach at his Alma Mater. GUNDY and his staff are coming off a 12-2 campaign. They lost their long time DC to Ohio State and are adjusting to a new style on D. I feel safe in saying that over the past 2 decades of the GUNDY regime, he has done with 3 & 4-Star recruits, what others do with 4 & 5-Star recruits. The most prominent pro prospect on either team to my eyes is TCU wideout QUENTIN JOHNSTON, #1. JOHNSTON is a 6’4/212# deep threat who started the season a bit slow, but has exploded in October. He had a double digit 14-catch game against then undefeated Kansas, and in this one he had 8 receptions, for 180 yards & 1 TD. JOHNSTON continues to be in my Top 25 prospect list and is almost sure to be a 2023 NFL First Rounder.
GEORGIA has reclaimed the No. 1 Ranking slot, that they held much of last season. They pummeled SEC football doormat VANDERBILT 55-0. But to answer one question quite clearly, once and for all, I do NOT feel that QB STETSON BENNETT is a pro prospect. I think he made a great decision to return to college to run that UGA Offense one more season. I might also add that if he wants to play pro football somewhere I would encourage him to pursue the XFL/USFL avenues, especially if either puts a team in Georgia next year.
Spent a bit more time watching MAZI SMITH/DT/Michigan against Penn State last Saturday. You gotta luv the look of the guy when he trots out onto the field at 6’3/320#. And he moves pretty well once the ball is snapped. But he does not control the game, or L-of-S. Despite being the Athletic’s number one ‘athletic freak’ in college football for 2022, he is not particularly dominant out on the field. Against Penn State he was in on 4 tackles… end of stat sheet in the box score section for him. He reminds me a bit of B.J. RAJI/B.C./PACKERS, who could dominate at times and in other games you barely noticed his presence. I might use a Draft Pick on MAZI in Round 3 or 4, if I needed a big, powerful road block who is also athletic for his girth and position. But I do NOT see CASEY HAMPTON or CHRIS JONES in this young man. In other words he is not a Day One Draftee.
However, I did see a guy who might just be coming into his own as an elite football player in the Michigan/Penn State contest. And his name is MICHAEL MORRIS, #90, who has grown into a 6’6/280 lb. defensive presence. He was much more active to the ball than Jones in my eyes. Against Penn State MORRIS had 4 tackles, 2 solo, including 1 TFL and 1 QBH. He also deflected a pass around the L-o-S. He is Draft eligible and if he comes out I could see him I Round 3/4 area, especially if he shows out at Combine, which I think he would do.
Speaking of Michigan I have to say, one more time, that I have been totally impressed with the running of another Michigan guy… BLAKE CORUM. I had sorta written him off as a little guy last season. However, he may be short, but he’s not small. He is strong at contact, shows good after contact balance, and runs away from people. I don’t care what he runs in shorts, he is eating up opposing defenses this year, and they don’t catch him from behind. He just missed 1, 000-yards rushing last year, but his 6.7-ypc and 11 TD are telling. He may be short at 5’8, but 210 lbs on that frame is impressive, considering his speed. Corum already has 901 yards rushing at 6.2/ypc, including 13 TD. This guy can be anAustin Ekeler type RB for some NFL Team. He is Top 100 in my book.
I had the foresight to label the USC/Utah a must watch last Saturday night. In addition to being a barn burner of a contest I was treated to an absolute break-out game for a young man who has been asked to step up into a prime role in the Utes Offense. His name is DALTON KINCAID, the now No. 1 TE on the Utes roster after BRANT KUITHE went down to injury for the season. He was the team’s #2 returning receiving option with 36 catches in 2021. That number looks like a joke punch line at this juncture. Against the Trojans he was Utah’s top weapon in combination with QB Cam Rising. KINCAID was targeted 16 times and caught all 16 of those throws. Doing some serious after-catch running he tallied 234-yards and 1 TD. He has nice size at 6’4/240, soft hands and is a smooth route runner. He is absolutely pro material. In fact with a bit more physicality to his game I see some Kittle in this guy. And if you watched this game you know that several of his catches were special.