Who to watch in college football: November 11th

November 9, 2023

#3 Michigan (9-0) at #10 Penn State (8-1); Noon ET; FOX … Third-ranked Michigan has been rolling along all season, but the truth of the matter is that they also haven’t really haven’t had to play a very taxing schedule to date; indeed, the Wolverines toughest opponents so far this fall have probably been Rutgers and UNLV. All that changes this weekend, though, as they’ll face white-out conditions on Saturday when Michigan plays at 9th ranked Penn State in what should be a true test. And going against the Nittany Lions will give Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy (#9, 6-2, 205), one of the hotter guys at the position for the 2024 draft these days, the opportunity to show pro scouts that he is more than just a very efficient game manager. McCarthy, who is being thought of as a mid-to-late first round prospect these days, though, is the only Michigan player who is a lock to be picked in this year’s draft (if he indeed enters) but both DT Kris Jenkins (#94, 6-2, 305) and rising WR Roman Wilson (#1, 6-0, 195) are close. Meanwhile, Michigan also features one of the best RB tandems in the country in Blake Corum (#2, 5-8, 215), who has made a nice comeback from a knee injury last season, and Donovan Edwards (#7, 6-0, 210) who is arguably the better athlete, but whose carries are way down this fall with Corum back in uniform. The Wolverines also have one of the top OG combos around in veterans Zak Zinter (#65, 6-5, 325) and Trevor Keegan (#77, 6-5, 320) along with a solid veteran C in Drake Nugent (#60, 6-2, 305). And continuing the good players come in pairs theme, the Wolverines also have a solid pair of ILB’s in Junior Colson (#25, 6-2, 245) and Mike Barrett (#23, 6-0, 240) who are 1-2 on the team in tackles, although neither makes a lot of impact plays. Meanwhile, other Michigan players to watch include WR Cornelius Johnson, OT LaDarius Henderson, DT Karsen Barnhart, DE Josaiah Stewart and DB Mike Sainistil (#0, 5-10, 180).

The big question for Penn State, which desperately needs a win to keep any conference and/or national hopes alive, is which version of the Lions shows up on Saturday – the group that’s dominated much of their season or the group that struggled mightily in their disappointing loss at Ohio State a few weeks back when they just couldn’t get anything going especially on offence. Certainly, the Lions look like they have the talent, at least on paper, to hang with the Wolverines. Indeed, in OT Olu Fashanu (#74, 6-5, 320), a potential top 5-10 candidate for the upcoming draft, PSU has the highest rated player in this game, while the Lions also have several other possible first rounders including CB Kalen King (#4, 5-10, 90), who’ll be looking for a bounce back outing after struggling against the Buckeyes’ star WR Marvin Harrison in the Ohio State loss, along with rising prospects DE Adisa Isaac (#20, 6-3, 250), who leads the team with 6.5 sacks, and angular, big-play WR Keandre Lambert-Smith (#1, 6-1, 185). For good measure, the Nittany Lions also feature several of the very best young players in the country in RBs Nicholas Singleton (#10, 6-0, 225) and Kaytron Allen (#13, 5-11, 225) and LB Abdul Carter (#11, 6-3, 250), but the key to any success they might have against Michigan could be true soph QB Drew Allar (#15, 6-5, 245) who has generally been solid this fall, but was downright bad in the Ohio State game.

#18 Utah (7-2) at #4 Washington (9-0); 3:30 PM ET; FOX … And speaking of QBs under the microscope this weekend, pro scouts will be watching Washington’s Michael Penix (#9, 6-3, 215) very closely when the Huskies put their unbeaten record on the line against the always pesky Utah Utes. No question that Penix is having a terrific season as he leads the country in passing with almost 360 passing yards per game; he’s also completed 69% of his throws, while throwing for 26 scores. Pro scouts, though, are a little more divided on Penix, who is a very accurate, instinctive passer, but has a somewhat complicated injury history and isn’t very mobile.

It certainly hasn’t hurt Penix’ chances that’s he’s throwing to one of the better receiver corps in the nation featuring Rome Odunze (#1, 6-3, 215), who appears to be in the mix to be one of the first 4-5 receivers off the board next April, rising junior Ja’Lynn Polk (#2, 6-2, 205) and veteran possession receiver Jalen McMillan (#11, 6-0, 195). The Huskies offence also features one of the hottest offensive linemen in this year’s draft class in LT Troy Fantanu (#55, 6-4, 320), another potential first-rounder, though he may have to ultimately kick inside as he lacks prototype length for an OT. For good measure, the Huskies also have one of the better rush-end pairs in college football in DEs Bralen Trice (#8, 6-4, 275) and Zion Tupuola-Fetui (#4, 6-4, 255), although neither has piled up big numbers so far this year and will likely be looking for something of a breakout game versus the Utes.

In fact, this game could be something of an ER fest as Utah also has one of the most productive DEs in the country in Jonah Elliss (#83, 6-2, 250) who is a little undersized, but is quick, agile and has a Bosa/Crosby type motor. Indeed, he’s currently tied for the national lead in sacks this fall with 12. Meanwhile, S Cole Bishop (#8, 6-2, 210) is also a good one who can make plays in coverage as well as in the backfield.

Miami (6-3) at #5 Florida State (9-0); 3:30 PM; ABC … Florida State has put together arguably the season’s quietest 9-0 record; however, pro scouts have hardly been sleeping on the ‘Noles as they have a couple of prospects with top ten potential including rising WR Keon Coleman (#4, 6-4, 215), a big target who has emerged as the top-rated receiver in this year’s draft class after Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison, and DE Jared Verse (#5, 6-4, 260), who has not had the kind of explosive season many expected after he posted 9 sacks last fall, but he’s still a very good all-around edge rushing candidate. In fact, FSU has one of the most dynamic 1-2 WR combinations in the country as Johnny Wilson (#14, 6-2, 240), another big target, has some second-day possibilities of his own. Meanwhile, other ‘Noles to watch include CB Fentrell Cypress (#23, 6-0, 190), RB Trey Benson (#3, 6-0, 225), TE Jaheim Bell (#6, 6-3, 240), DTs Fabian Lovett (#0, 6-3, 320) and Braden Fiske (#55, 6-4, 300), OT Robert Scott (#52, 6-5, 315) and S Akeem Dent (#1, 6-0, 190), each of whom has at least some second-day potential, while QB Travis Jordan (#13, 6-1, 215) is a solid solid veteran who has posted some impressive numbers to date this fall including a 19-2 TD-to-interception ratio, although he is still considered to be more a third-day prospect. 

Miami came into the season with high expectations and looked all the part of a contender through the first month of the schedule, but three losses since, including inexplicable defeats at the hands of Georgia Tech and NC State, doomed those hopes and dreams. Still, the Canes can be a tough out, especially if QB Tyler Van Dyke (#9, 6-4, 230), who wasn’t all that long ago considered to be a potential top ten candidate, plays like he did that first month of the campaign when he completed well over 70% of his pass attempts and had just one pick. The past 4 weeks, though, have been a struggle as Van Dyke has had 10 passes picked off, while throwing for only 5 scores. In fact, Van Dyke isn’t the Canes’ best prospect as he is considered to be more of a late second-day type while DT Leonard Taylor (#56, 6-3, 300) is a legit mid-to-late first round possibility and S Kamren Kinchens, arguably the top safety candidate this year, is an early second round prospect who could conceivably get some late opening round interest. Meanwhile, other Hurricanes to watch include OG Javion Cohen (#70, 6-4, 305), an Alabama transfer, C Matt Lee (#55, 6-3, 295), OT Zion Nelson (#60, 6-5, 310), WR Xavier Restrepo (#7, 5-10, 200) and SS James Williams (#20, 6-4, 210).

#9 Mississippi (8-1) at #2 Georgia (9-0); 7 PM ET; ESPN … Unfortunately, neither TE Brock Bowers nor OT Amarius Mims, Georgia’s top two prospects for 2024, will be playing Saturday because of injury., although it hardly seems to matter to the Dawgs who just keep rolling in large part because they still win mostly with defence. Indeed, Georgia appears to have quality prospects at just about every position on the D with the headliners including DT Nazir Stackhouse (#78, 6-2, 320), LBs Jamon Dumas-Johnson (#10, 6-1, 245) and Smael Mondon (#2, 6-3, 225), CB Kamari Lassiter (#3, 6-0, 180) and safeties Javon Bullard (#22, 5-11, 105) and Tylee Smith (#23, 5-10, 205). However, the unit’s best prospects are actually sophomores DE Mykel Williams (#13, 6-5, 265) and S Malachi Starks (21, 6-1, 205), both of whom figure to be elite prospects in 2025. Meanwhile, players to watch when Georgia has the ball include C Sedric Van Pran (#63, 6-4, 310), arguably the top prospect at the position for the upcoming draft, along with OT Xavier Truss (#73, 6-6, 320) and WR Dominic Lovett (#6, 5-10, 190).

In Ole Miss, Georgia will be meeting up with one of the surprise teams in the conference, if not the country as the Rebels come in 8-1 and ranked in the top ten. Ole Miss, though, doesn’t necessarily have much in the way of top prospects for the upcoming draft, although they do have a solid veteran ball club with a number of players that should get at least some third-day consideration including QB Jaxson Dart (#2, 6-2, 220), WRs Tre Harris (#9, 6-2, 205), arguably the team’s best prospect who is averaging almost 20 yards a reception this fall, Jordan Watkins (#11, 5-11, 190) and Dayton Wade (#19, 5-9, 175); G/T Jeremy James (#78, 6-4, 305); C Caleb Warren (#54, 6-4, 310); DEs Cedric Johnson (#2, 6-3, 265) and Jared Ivey (#15, 6-5, 265) and DT JJ Pegues (#89, 6-2, 315). There is a pretty good chance, though, that Ole Miss is a bigger factor at the 2025 draft as the team’s best player is sophomore RB Quinshon Judkins (#4, 5-11, 210) who figures to be a leading prospect next year.