#1 ALABAMA (5-0) at TEXAS A&M (3-2); 8 PM ET; CBS … The perennial question in the SEC every year, of course, is can anyone in the West beat Alabama? And when the schedule came out earlier this year, just about everybody red-circled this game as the rest of the division’s best chance. However, the game lost much of its national luster when the Aggies lost two straight conference games after starting the season 3-0. One thing we can guarantee, though, is that pro scouts will still be showing up in numbers in College Station this weekend as the Aggies may actually have more top prospects than the Tide. Indeed, the Aggies may have as many as four players with opening round potential including DT DeMarvin Leal (#8, 6-4, 290), who is a legit top 10 candidate, while versatile G/T Kenyon Green (#55, 6-4, 325) has mid-first potential. The Aggies have a couple of later opening round prospect in RB Isaiah Spiller (#28, 6-1, 225) and TE Jalen Wydermyer (#85, 6-5, 255), both of whom are generally considered to be the top prospects at their respective positions. Meanwhile, pro scouts will also be watching DT Jayden Peevy (#92, 6-5, 310) and explosive WR/KR Ainias Smith (#0, 5-10, 190), a pair of second-day type candidates.
Alabama did take some hits this year after 6 former Tide players were selected within the first 24 picks at the 2021 draft, including QB Mac Jones, the 15th player selected overall by New England. But this is Alabama which doesn’t rebuild, just reloads. And reload they have done starting with true sophomore QB Bryce Young (#2, 5-10, 195) who is already generating some Heisman chatter after taking over for Jones.
And the Tide will almost assuredly make it 14 years in a row with at least one player selected in the opening round this coming April, although Alabama may not produce the record number of early picks that we saw in the past 2-3 years. Massive LT Evan Neal (#73, 6-6, 350), in particular, looks to be a first round lock; in fact, he may be a top 10 lock. Meanwhile, both veteran ILB Christian Harris (#8, 6-2, 235) and sophomore OLB Will Anderson (#31, 6-4, 235) are both mid-first round candidates, while Canadian WR Jon Metchie (#8, 6-0, 195), safety Jordan Battle (#9, 6-0, 210), DT D.J. Dale (#94, 6-3, 310), DE LaBryan Ray (#18, 6-5, 295), CB Josh Jobe (#28, 6-0, 195), and TE Jahleel Billingsley (#19, 6-4, 230) are all solid second day prospects.
#4 PENN STATE (5-0) at #3 IOWA (5-0); 4 PM ET; FOX … Hands up everyone who had Iowa and Penn State as the two top-rated teams outside the SEC in the second week of October. Thought so! But the two will in fact be playing what amounts to an elimination game – at least in terms of the CFP playoff – when they meet in Iowa City on Saturday afternoon. At least on paper, visiting Penn State appears to have the more talented roster; the Lions also have more legit prospects for the upcoming draft starting with WR Jahan Dotson (#5, 5-10, 185), arguably the fastest rising player in this year’s draft class. He’s not all that big, but he is an explosive speedster who is on pace to catch 85 passes for almost 1,100 yards and 14 TDs this fall. At the same time, the Lions have a number of solid second day types including safety Jaquan Brisker (#1, 6-0, 200), OT Rasheed Walker (#53, 6-5, 325), OLB Braden Smith (#12, 6-3, 245), and CBs Joey Porter (#9, 6-1, 195) and Tariq Castro-Fields (#5, 6-0, 195)
Iowa doesn’t have quite the star power of Penn State, but the Hawkeyes do have at least one player with opening round potential in C Tyler Lauderbaum (#65, 6-3, 290), who isn’t all that big, but is very athletic and a master technician and is starting to get some legit mid-first round consideration. However, Linderbaum is probably the Hawkeyes only Top 100 type candidate, but they do have a veteran lineup including a number of third day prospects such as RB Tyler Goodson (#15, 5-10, 200), one of the Big Ten’s better backs who is averaging 115 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, other Hawkeyes to watch include G/T Cody Ince (#73, 6-3, 285), DE Zack VanValkenburg (#97, 6-3, 270), CB Matt Hankins (#8, 6-0, 180), LB Jack Campbell (#31, 6-4, 245), and safety Jack Koerner (#28, 6-0, 205).
Bonus coverage: In fact, both of the SEC’s front runners have testy road dates as #2 Georgia (5-0) will be at #18 Auburn (4-1) at 3:30 PM ET on CBS. Good chance to check out rising Auburn CB Roger McCreary (#23, 6-0, 190) who is beginning to get some looks as a possibility to be the second corner off the board this coming April after LSU’s Derek Stingley. Meanwhile, Georgia has a couple of top 15 prospects in massive DT Jordan Davis (#99, 6-5, 340) and disruptive OLB Adam Anderson (#19, 6-5, 230)
In the ‘flying under the radar’ game of the week, Utah (2-2) plays at Southern California (3-2) at 8 PM ET on FOX on Saturday evening. Given that neither team is ranked, even the players’ own families are likely to be tuning into the Alabama-A&M game across the dial; however, this is kind of where we plan to be as this game actually features a trio of terrific prospects including Utah LB Devin Lloyd (#0, 6-3, 235) and DE/OLB Drake Jackson (#99, 6-3, 250) and WR Drake London (#15, 6-4, 210). Lloyd is a rising draft star with top 15 potential who makes plays all over the field; this year for example he has 45 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 picks in just 4 games. For his part, SC’s Jackson is more of a traditional edge rusher, although he is extremely scheme flexible as he has lined up at DE and OLB this fall along with playing some 5T DE in 3-4 looks despite weighing only 250 pounds. Indeed, the fact that he moves around so much likely will keep his numbers down this fall, but he is very much in the discussion as to who is the #2 DE in this year’s draft class after Kayvon Thibodeuax of Oregon. Meanwhile, London has been somethong of a one-man offense so far this fall; he’s a huge receiver with some speed and explosion who has been uncoverable at times this fall; indeed, he’s on pace to post a 115-catch, 1600-yard campaign at his current pace.