Who to watch in college football: October 12

By | October 9, 2019

#7 Florida (6-0) at #5 LSU (5-0); 8 PM ET; ESPN … This is what college football fans live for: a matchup of two unbeaten, Top 10 SEC rivals in what amounts to a virtual national playoff elimination game. Its a bonus that this game also features a number of intriguing potential draft-related storylines. Indeed, LSU QB Joe Burrow (#9, 6-3, 220) 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. For the record, through LSU’s first 5 games Burrow has completed a ridiculous 78% of his pass attempts, good for almost 400 yards per game and 22 TDs against just 3 picks. As a result, there is a growing buzz around the NFL that Burrow could ultimately figure among the first QBs off the board this coming April. If Burrow does ultimately sneak into 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 is the star of the group – he’s considered to be a top 10 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), rugged OG Damien Lewis (#68, 6-3, 335) and MLB Michael Divinity (#45, 6-2, 240).

Florida won’t have the same impact at the 2020 draft as LSU, but the Gators have at least one legitimate opening round prospect in junior CB C.J. Henderson (#1, 6-1, 205), a rangy cover corner with a closing burst, although he has been slowed by an injury through the first month and a half of the season. Same for DE Jabari Zuniga (#92, 6-4, 250), who is expected to return to the lineup after missing all or part of three games with an ankle injury. If healthy, Zuniga, who had three sacks in the three games he did play, combines with fellow DE Jon Greenard to give the Gators a potenially disruptive pass rush. Meanwhile, other Gators to watch include RB Lamical Perine (#2, 5-10, 220), MLB David Reese (#33, 6-1, 240), SS Jeawon Taylor (#29, 6-1, 210) and WRs Van Jefferson (#12, 6-1, 200), Tyrie Cleveland (#89, 6-1, 205) and Josh Hammond (#10, 5-11, 195).

#6 Oklahoma (5-0) vs #11 Texas (4-1); Noon ET; FOX … If LSU’s Joe Burrow isn’t the best story in college football this fall, then it just might be OU QB Jalen Hurts (#1, 6-2, 220), who is putting together a Tebow-like season after transferring over from Alabama. So far this year, Hurts, who like Burrow is very much in the Heisman discussion, has thrown for 300 yards per game while rushing for another 100 per. Along the way, Hurts has completed 75% of his passes including 14 for TDs against just a couple of picks. And like Burrow, it appears that pro scouts are warming to Hurts’ potential for the pro game, although he’s more likely to end up a second day pick. Indeed, the Sooners’ best prospect for the upcoming draft is junior WR CeeDee Lamb (#2, 6-1, 190), an explosive big-play threat who is averaging over 24 yards per catch this fall and should be one of the first receivers off the board this coming April if he opts to turn pro this winter. Junior MLB Kenneth Murray (#9, 6-2, 235) won’t go quite as early as Lamb, but he’s also a good one and could get some late second-day consideration. In fact, this is a young Oklahoma team that likely won’t have a lot of players eligible for this year’s draft, although NT Neville Gallimore (#90, 6-2, 310) and LT RJ Proctor (#73, 6-4, 330) are a couple of veterans that could get some later round interest.

If Texas is to hang with the Sooners, they will likely need a big game out of junior QB Sam Ehlinger (#11, 6-3, 230), who emerged last year as a quality college passer and has kept it going this fall as he’s averaged almost 290 yards per game while completing just under 70% of his pass attempts including 17 for scores against just two picks. And while he won’t put up the same rushing yards as a guy like Hurts, Ehlinger can run just enough to help keep defenses honest. Ehlinger should work with a veteran WR corps including rangy Collin Johnson (#9, 6-5, 220), Devin Duvernay (#6, 5-11, 210) and John Burt (#1, 6-2, 205). Should is the operative word though as Johnson has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury, but is expected to play against the Sooners. Meanwhile, the young Texas offensive front is anchored by veteran C Zach Shackelford (#56, 6-3, 305), who should get some late-round consideration this coming April. Same story for Texas defenders Malcolm Roach (#32, 6-2, 290), a physical run-stuffing 3-4 DE, and veteran SS Brandon Jones (#19, 6-0, 205). The Longhorn defender that NFL teams would really like to get their hands on though is sophomore FS Caden Sterns (#7, 6-0, 205), a freshman All-American last fall who leads the team in tackles this year despite missing a game with an injury, but he won’t be draft eligible until 2020.

#10 Penn State at #17 Iowa; 7:30 PM ET; ABC … Figure that most people will be watching either LSU-Florida or USC-Notre Dame (7:30 PM ET; NBC) on Saturday evening. However, the Penn State-Iowa game actually could feature the most interesting draft related duals. Penn State junior Yetur Gross-Matos (#99, 6-5, 265) and junior A.J. Epenesa (#94, 6-5, 280) of Iowa, for example, are arguably 2-3 among edge rushing DEs in this year’s draft class. And you get a two-fer of sorts as Gross-Matos, who has 5.5 sacks in the Lions’ first five games, should spend much of the game going up against Hawkeyes’ junior OT Tristan Wirfs (#74, 6-5, 320), a rising star for the 2020 draft, who currently has top 10 potential of his own.