Who to watch in college football: November 9

By | November 7, 2019

#1 LSU (8-0) at #2 ALABAMA (8-0); 3:30 PM ET; CBS … Okay, so maybe ‘game of the century’ gets overused a bit, but if there is indeed, a ‘game of the year’ this fall, this is it as the two top-rated teams in the country meet in a huge SEC West showdown. The winner, of course, has a clear path to the national championship playoffs, although there is a really good chance that the loser of Saturday’s game will also still get a CFP bid. That’s for a few weeks down the road though. This weekend the focus will clearly be on the QBs, both of whom are projected to be early picks at the 2020 draft. The big question for the week for Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (#13, 6-1, 220) is whether he plays at all after sitting out the past couple of weeks with a high-ankle sprain. The consensus appears to be that he will play which will give him the chance to solidify his status as the top prospect overall for the upcoming draft. For the record, Tagovailoa has thrown almost 310 yards per game so far this fall as he has completed 75% of his pass attempts including 27 for TDs versus just 2 picks. Saturday’s could be even a bigger opportunity/test for LSU QB Joe Burrow (#9, 6-3, 220) who may just be the best story in college football this season. A prototype journeyman game manager throughout his career, Burrow has blossomed into a legit Heisman candidate this fall as he has the usually moribound Tigers’ offense averaging 55 points per game. Along the way, Burrow has completed a ridiculous 79% of his pass attempts, good for just over 350 yards per game and 30 TDs against just 4 picks. As a result, Burrow has gone from a virtual draft afterthought to a first-round prospect with legitimate top 10 potential.

The QBs, though, are only the tip of the iceberg of the 2020 draft talent that will be on the field Saturday in Tuscaloosa. In addition to Tagovailoa, for example, Alabama could have as many as a half dozen first-round prospects for the upcoming draft. Like Tagovailoa, for example, junior WR Jerry Jeudy (#4, 6-1, 195) is a potential top 5 candidate for this coming April, while fellow junior WR Henry Ruggs (#11, 6-0, 190), one of the fastest players in college football, isn’t all that far behind. Meanwhile, DeVonta Smith, yet another accomplished junior WR gives the Tagovailoa a third terrific target, while junior RB Najee Harris (#33, 6-1, 230) carries the load in the run game. At the same time, junior LT Alex Leatherwood (#70, 6-6, 310), who is expected to kick inside at the next level, is a solid later opening round prospect as are a small army of defensive players including DT Raekwon Davis (#99, 6-6, 315), junior FS Xavier McKinney (#15, 6-1, 200), CB Trevon Diggs (#7, 6-1, 210), and OLBs Anfernee Jennings (#33, 6-3, 260) and junior Terrell Lewis (#24, 6-4, 255), who have combined for ten sacks to date this fall.

If the Tigers’ Burrow does ultimately end up in this year’s opening round, he should have plenty of LSU company as junior FS Grant Delpit (#7, 6-2, 205), senior CB Kristian Fulton (#1, 5-11, 200) and sophomore OLB K’Lavon Chaisson (#18, 6-3, 250) each has first-round potential. Delpit, the star of the group, is considered to be a top 10-15 candidate, although he hasn’t had the impact so far this fall as he had in 2019 when he had 5 picks along with 5 sacks. Meanwhile, wide-body 5T DE Rashard Lawrence (#90, 6-2, 310) should get some second-day consideration, along with rising junior LT Saahdiq Charles (#77, 6-4, 295) who isn’t all that big or physical, but is very quick and athletic, and junior MLB Jacob Phillips (#6, 6-3, 235). Also keep an eye on junior WR Justin Jefferson (#2, 6-2, 195) and rugged OG Damien Lewis (#68, 6-3, 335).

Bonus Big Ten coverage: While the LSU-Alabama game is going to grab all the headlines this weekend, there are also a couple of Big Ten games involving ranked teams that will at least be worth a long look especially by draftwatchers. At Noon ET, Saturday on ABC, for example, #5 Penn State plays at surprisingly unbeaten Minnesota, the 13th ranked team in the country. In fact, to call Minnesota surprising is probably a gross understatement and with the equally unbeaten and nationally ranked Nittany Lions in town, the Gophers will have the opportunity to prove they belong. What makes Minnesota’s run this year so surprising is that this is a very young team with few seniors. However, those seniors will finally get the chance to play a game of import on national TV and give guys like underrated possession WR Tyler Johnson (#6, 6-2, 205), gritty RB Rodney Smith (#1, 5-10, 210) and active OLBs Kamal Martin (#21, 6-3, 245) and Carter Coughlin (#45, 6-3, 245) some much deserved exposure. Meanwhile, Penn State junior Yetur Gross-Matos (#99, 6-5, 265) is the Nittany Lion to watch for the upcoming draft.

At the same time, you’ll have to run your DVR later in the afternoon when Iowa plays at Wisconsin opposite the Bama-LSU game on FOX at 4 PM ET. That will give folks another chance to check out Iowa’s two top 10-15 prospects in junior OT Tristan Wirfs (#74, 6-5, 320) and junior DE A.J. Epenesa (#94, 6-5, 280) going up against Wisconsin’s top prospects including junior C Tyler Biadasz (#61, 6-3, 325) and RB Jonathan Taylor (#23, 5-11, 220), along with LBs Zack Baun (#56, 6-3, 235) and Chris Orr (#54, 6-0, 225).