Who to watch in college football: September 27-28

By | September 26, 2019

#5 OHIO STATE (4-0) at NEBRASKA (3-1); 7;30 PM ET; ABC … Ohio State barely broke a sweat as the Buckeyes sailed thru their first 4 games of the season, but could face a real test when they play a quality opponent in Nebraska on the road on Saturday evening. It will also be the first time the Buckeyes make a true national TV appearance this fall and will give draft followers a chance to check out OSU junior DE Chase Young (#2, 6-5, 265), arguably the top non-QB prospect for the upcoming draft. Young, who already has 7 sacks through the first month of the season, isn’t quite as polished as either of the Bosa brothers – Joey and Nick – who were drafted 2nd and 3rd overall respectively in 2016 and 2019, while pro scouts would also like to see his motor run hot all the time. However, there is no questioning that Young has a rare combination of size and athleticism, not to mention a ton of upside. Young is the Buckeyes only lock to be a first round pick this coming April, assuming of course that he actually enters the draft, but OSU do have several solid second-day prospects in junior RB J.K. Dobbins (#2, 5-9, 220), junior MLB Tuf Borland (#32, 6-1, 235), senior safety Jordan Fuller (#4, 6-2, 205) and senior CB Damon Arnette (#3, 6-0, 195), while OLB Malik Harrison (#39, 6-3, 245), DT Davon Hamilton (#53, 6-4, 310) and OGs Jonah Jackson (#73, 6-3, 305) and Brandon Bowen (#76, 6-6, 315) are mid-to-late round candidates.

The Nebraska roster isn’t as talented as Ohio State’s, but the Huskers have at least one legit top 100 prospect in senior DT Carlos Davis (#96, 6-2, 320), a rugged interior run defender who has 2.5 sacks to date this year. In fact, the Huskers have a very experienced defense which also includes DE Khalil Davis (#96, 6-2, 315), Carlos’ twin brother, NT Darrion Daniels (#79, 6-3, 325), OLB Alex Davis (#22, 6-5, 250), ILB Mo Barry (#7, 6-1, 245) and rangy CB Lamar Jackson (#21, 6-3, 215).

#18 VIRGINIA (4-0) at #10 NOTRE DAME (2-1); 3:30 PM ET; NBC … This could be a real trap game for the Irish coming off that tough loss at Georgia last weekend when Notre Dame went toe-to-toe with one of the SEC super powers and more than held their own in a 6-point loss. In fact, Virginia was probably supposed to be something of a cupcake for the Irish, but the Cavs have been solid enough through a four-game winning streak to start the season. And Virginia has the best pro prospect – at least for 2020 – in this game in veteran CB Bryce Hall (#34, 6-1, 200) who could very well be in the mix to be the first corner off the board this coming April. The Cavs also have something of an emerging star in LB Jordan Mack (#4, 6-2, 230), nominally an inside guy who leads the team with 29 tackles including 5 sacks.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s best prospect is rising junior DE Julian Okwara (#42, 6-4, 250), who had 8 sacks last fall, but is off to a slow start in 2019 with just one through the Irish’s first three games. If Okwara doesn’t pick up the pace he could get a challenge as Notre Dame’s best prospect for the 2020 draft from junior OG Tommy Kraemer (#78, 6-5, 320) who also carries an early-to-mid second day grade, while WR Chase Claypool (#83, 6-3, 230), has mid-round potential. Other Notre Dame veterans with later round or free agent possibilities include WR Chris Finke (#10, 5-9, 185), RB Tony Jones (#6, 5-10, 225), OLB Asmir Bilal (#22, 6-2, 230), CBs Troy Pride (#5, 5-10, 195) and Shaun Crawford (#20, 5-9, 180) and safeties Jalen Elliott (#21, 6-0, 210) and Alohi Gilman (#11, 5-10, 205).

#21 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (3-1) at #17 WASHINGTON (3-1); 3:30 PM ET; FOX … Key early season PAC-12 game between a couple of one-loss clubs. At least in terms of the conference race, though, the real pressure is on Washington whose loss came against California, whereas USC’s loss was a non-league game. The good news for UW is that the most interesting prospects in this game are all Huskies. Start with veteran LT Trey Adams (#72, 6-7, 315), who was expected to be a top 10-15 candidate in 2019, but opted to return to school after undergoing back surgery late last season. Healthy again, Adams looks like a top 10 guy again so far this year, although NFL teams are always leery of players with those kinds of health histories. At the same time, junior QB Jacob Eason (#10, 6-6, 230), who transferred from Georgia a couple of years back, has kind of slipped under the radar in this year of the transfer QB, but appears to have solidified a top 10 grade so far this fall. The rangy Eason has completed 73% of his pass attempts to date this fall while throwing for 10 TDs against just 2 picks. Meanwhile, C Nick Harris (#56, 6-1, 302) is somewhat undersized, but is very quick and technically sound. For its part, USC isn’t likely to have anyone drafted all that early this coming April, but do have several solid later round types including WR Michael Pittman (#6, 6-3, 220), DE Christian Rector (#89, 6-4, 270) and LB John Houston (#10, 6-2, 225).