Who to watch in college football: October 22

October 20, 2022

#14 SYRACUSE (6-0) at #5 CLEMSON (7-0); Noon ET; ABC … The resurgence of the Syracuse program has been one of the better stories in college football this year as the 6-0 Orange are one of just 9 remaining unbeaten teams across the country. Needless to say, SU will be tested Saturday when they play at #5 Clemson in what should really be called the ‘real’ Orange Bowl. Hwever, the Orange do have some players to at least push Clemson which of course has its sights set on getting back to the CFP playoff this year. RB Sean Tucker (#34, 5-10, 205), for example, has been one of the most consistently productive backs in the country over the last couple of years; indeed, he’s on pace to pile up over 1,700 yards from scrimmage this fall, including close to 1,400 yards on the ground. As a result, Tucker has some serious second-day potential. Same for disruptive LB Mikel Jones (#3, 6-1, 225) who isn’t all that big, but is very quick and aggressive getting into the backfield. The Orange also have a very good CB in Garrett Williams (#8, 6-0, 190), along with a promising LT candidate in Matthew Bergeron (#60, 6-5, 325). The key Orangeman against Clemson, though, will likely be QB Garrett Shrader (#6, 6-4, 230) who has really blossomed this year as a dual-threat weapon for Syracuse. Shrader, who had been a sub-55% passer prior to this year, has completed almost 70 % of his throws his fall including 12 scores against just 3 picks, while he has also run for over 300 yards. Meanwhile, other Orange prospects to watch include rising ILB Marlowe Wax (#2, 6-1, 240), RT Dakota Davis (#57, 6-5, 335), who will likely kick inside at the next level, DE Caleb Okechukwu (#93, 6-3, 270), and PK Andre Szmyt (#91, 6-1, 200). For good measure, the Orange also feature two of the better 2nd year players in the country in CB Duce Chestnut (#0, 6-0, 200) and rangy WR/TE Orondes Gadsen (#19, 6-5, 200).

After stumbling last year, Ckemson appears to be back on track to at least be back on track to at least challenge for a CFP playoff berth led by one of the best defenses in the country outside Georgia. Indeed, the Tigers’ D feature a pair of top 10 prospects for 2023 in DT Brian Bresee (#11, 6-4, 305) and DE Myles Murphy (#98, 6-5, 275), while both DE KJ Henry (#5, 6-3, 255) and DT Tyler Davis (#13, 6-2, 300) should get some second-day consideration. Clemson also has one of the top pure LBs in college football in Trent Simpson (#22, 6-3, 240) who’ll get some first-round consideration of his own. Whether the Tigers get back to the CFP playoff this year, though, may ultimately depend on getting continued solid play from QB D.J. Uiagalelei (#5, 6-4, 235) who has a 64% completion mark and has thrown for 17 scores against just two picks. plays this fall. It certainly helps that he has super soph RB Will Shipley (#1, 5-11, 205, who’ll be a top prospect in 2024, to hand off to. For good measure, the Tigers also have a pretty good offensive front including LT Jordan McFaddne (#71, 6-2, 305), who’ll also likely have to make the switch inside at the next level, OG Walker Parks (#64, 6-4, 315) and C Will Putnam (#56, 6-3, 315).

#9 UCLA (6-0) at #10 OREGON (5-1); 3:30 PM ET; FOX … Somewhat surprisingly, the last remaining PAC-12 team with a shot at the national playoff is UCLA which puts its CFP hopes every much on the line against Oregon on the road. Certainly, nobody really expected the Bruins to be still in the hunt this deep into the season, but UCLA has been scoring points by the bushel this fall with an offense led by dynamic dual-threat QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (#1, 6-1, 205). Thompson-Robinson is another QB the NFL isn’t quite sure what to make of at this point, but it is hard to argue with his production which includes a lusty 75% completion rate, 15 TDs against just two picks one pick and close to 1,500 yards passing along with another 230 yards and 4 scores on the ground. And if he does end up being selected on the third day this year he could have several new friends join him including RB Zach Charbonnet (#24, 6-0, 220), who is on pace to run for 1,500 yards this fall, and rangy WR Jack Bobo (#9, 6-5, 215), a transfer from Duke. However, while the offense gets most of the headlines, the Bruin prospect that pro scouts are most intrigued by is OLB Laiatu Latu (#15, 6-4, 255), a transfer from Washington who is among the FBS leaders in sacks with 6.5.

That 5-1 record is actually a little deceiving for Oregon as the Ducks only loss came on the opening weekend when they went east and lost to defending national champion Georgia in Atlanta. Like UCLA, Oregon, which has averaged almost 50 PPG since that loss in Georgia, is also lead by one of the better dual threat QBs in the country in Auburn transfer Bo Nix(#10, 6-2, 215) , who also has a 70%-plus completion percentage, has 12 TD throws against three picks and has run for 330 yards and 8 scores in his new home. The Ducks’ best prospect, though is MLB Noah Sewell (#1, 6-2, 255), a latter first-round prospect, although CB Christian Gonzalez (0, 6-2, 205), a Colorado transfer with prototype length along with track speed, has also really caught the attention of pro scouts. Meanwhile other Ducks to watch include G/T TJ Bass (#56, 6-4, 315), C/G Alex Forsyth (#78, 64, 315), DT Brandon Dorlus (#3, 6-3, 290), LB Justin Flowe (#10, 6-3, 220) and DJ Johnson (#2, 6-3, 270), a former top-recruit who has shifted back and forth between ER and TE at Oregon.

Bonus coverage: Figure that Alabama (6-1) will be very testy when they host Mississippi State (5-2) Saturday evening after losing last week at Tennessee. And that’s a good thing as it will make the date with the Tide all that more challenging for record-setting Bulldogs’ QB Will Rogers (#2, 6-2, 210) who has been as efficient as any QB in the country over the past couple of years, but isn’t all that high on draft boards around the league as he is an all dink-and-dunk system QB who struggles when he has to get the ball down the field. Still, Rogers is the kind of QB teams like to bring in as a 3-4 round prospect to see what they can do. And if Rogers isn’t necessarily their cup of tea, teams can check out rising State CB Emmanuel Forbes (#13, 6-0, 180) who IS starting to get some late-first round consideration.