NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
We have reached Week 7 of the College Football schedule, also known as the unofficial halfway point of the season. Let’s take a peak of my personal top 4, as well as the most important games this weekend impacting the NFL Draft
- Ohio State: I wonder, is anybody truly impressed with Ohio State this season? Their toughest test, Virginia Tech, lost their quarterback halfway through what was a dog fight. Ohio State has since beat Hawaii and Western Michigan soundly, squeaked by Northern Illinois and Indiana and looked largely unimpressive last week in a 21 point home win vs Maryland. They do remain #1, but aren’t as rock solid as they seem.
- LSU: They rank 6th in total defense, 5th in total run defense. Combine that with the best player in College Football in Leonard Fournette, and you have a winning combination. Quarterback Brandon Harris hasn’t been awful either. His stats aren’t amazing by any stretch but he has yet to throw an interception this year. My eyes tell me LSU is better than some of these offensive juggernauts.
- Utah: The Michigan win suddenly looks better and better, as Utah continues to handle their schedule behind one of the best backs in the country, Devontae Booker. Up next for the Utes, home games vs Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA and Colorado and road trips to USC, Washington and Arizona. An undefeated season is looking more and more possible.
- Clemson: I know, the Big 12 powers (TCU, Baylor) aren’t listed. Fact is, Clemson has quality wins on their resume in a way neither TCU or Baylor does. I’ve been impressed with Deshaun Watson as well. He has turned it over some, sure. However he’s completing 69% of his throws and has been a dual threat as well. As of right now, they get my slightest of slight nods.
Just missed the cut: 5)TCU 6)Baylor 7)Alabama
#10 Alabama vs #9 Texas A&M 3:30 CBS
The first of two major SEC tilts Saturday. The traditional, bruising Crimson Tide clash with what seems to be the only team in the SEC capable of a passing offense, Texas A&M. People seem down on ‘Bama, and I’m not sure why just yet. Their lone loss, a flukey-esque loss at home vs a very talented Ole Miss squad, and now all of a sudden the ‘Alabama Dynasty’ is over. Not so fast. There may not be a better front 7 in the country on defense, and the stable of backs with young play makers on the perimeter keep the offense capable. The positives for A&M, the Aggies had a bye week to prepare for the Tide. Conspiracy? Alabama fans think so. Since 2007 Alabama has played 25 teams coming off a bye (10 more than any other team in the country). Up next for Bama? Tennessee. You guessed it, the Vols are off this week. Nonetheless, I’ll take the road grader offense of Bama to wear down this Aggie front, and maul the Aggies offense. I’ll take Alabama in a close, lower scoring game than people would expect. 23-20.
DT/DE A’Shawn Robinson: When reviewing his Georgia tape, it was evident that the Bulldogs’ front actually did a pretty nice job on Robinson. He was all too often stood up at the point of attack, but displayed good ability at times to continue to flow down the line and chase down Nick Chubb. He had a better performance last week vs Arkansas, and remains a dominant force as is the headliner of a stellar group up front for the Crimson Tide.
RB Derrick Henry: Henry has now rushed for a touchdown in 11 straight games, an Alabama record. He runs hard, physical and has deceptive speed in the open field. He has all the makings to be a productive back at the next level.
TE O.J. Howard: After being shut out vs Georgia, Howard caught 3 passes for 17 yards last week. The production isn’t there in the offense, but the overall talent and potential is.
ILB Reggie Ragland: He’s been all over the field. Similar to Patriots’ LB Dont’a Hightower, Ragland is an explosive tackler, he finishes who he hits and pays very smart and instinctive. One of my personal favorites.
Other prospects: DE Jonathan Allen, RB Kenyan Drake, OLB Ryan Anderson, CB Cyrus Jones , DL Jarran Reed C Ryan Kelly
C Mike Matthews: A strong centerpiece to the offensive line, although undersized. He is athletic in tight spaces and can hold his own against bigger defenders. He is key to A&M’s attack.
OT Germain Ifedi: He’s played well this year, but has yet to face a defensive front as talented as Alabama. Worth a close watch Saturday.
WR Ricky Seals-Jones: Great size (6’5 235) and athleticism, but the redshirt sophomore just hasn’t been able to put it all together yet. He caught 5 passes for 34 yards last week, and really needs to play to his potential to help the Aggies pull one off this week.
P Drew Kaser, OGJoseph Cheek,RB Tra Carson
#7 Michigan State vs #12 Michigan 3:30 ESPN
Undefeated Michigan State heads to the big house as 6 point underdogs to face #12 Michigan. The fighting Harbaugh’s have been arguably the most impressive team in the country this season, and looks to keep that train rolling vs top quarterback prospect Connor Cook. Michigan from a prospect standpoint is truly astonishing. At the start of the season, there wasn’t much to get excited about. Now? They arguably have the top cornerback and top tight end in the country. Harbaugh effect? Maybe. Michigan State I believe is the much more talented team, but I’m struggling to bet against Michigan this year. This is the most relevant game The Big House will host in an awful long time, and I’m going to drink the Harbaugh Kool-Aid. Fun betting sidenote, Michigan State is 0-6 this season against the spread. Do with that what you may. Give me Michigan by 3.
Michigan State prospects
LT Jack Conklin: It is possible he plays vs Michigan, and if he does it would be huge. The Spartans have desperately missed their star LT, and Michigan can pose a big pass rush threat.
QB Connor Cook: At times this year his offensive line has been overwhelmed, making him look like he is overwhelmed. I think he needs to diagnose the blitz better, but at the end of the day the offensive line needs to stand tall for Cook to improve his play. His completion percentage may not be jaw dropping at 59.9% (has been under 60% all four years at MSU) but still has a solid touchdown to interception ratio at 6:1.
DE Shilique Calhoun: Shows good recognition skills, has a pretty solid get off and has excellent hand placement. His combination of rush attacks has led to 5 sacks thus far, and looks to build on his rising draft stock.
Other prospects: OT/C/OG Jack Allen, WR Aaron Burbridge, CB/S Demetrious Cox, DE Lawrence Thomas,TE Josiah Price
CB Jourdan Lewis: He’s played as well as any cornerback in the country so far. He’s holding opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of just 23% when targeted. Point blank, he’s a phenomenal athlete who plays with a high football IQ. He’s been one of the fastest risers this season.
LB Desmond Morgan: A good at most, not great at anything type of player. Nonetheless, Morgan has been very solid for the Michigan defense this season bringing a pretty well rounded skill set to the table. His leadership is one of his best attributes.
TE Jake Butt: He’s been one of the biggest risers this season as well. Butt went from a prospect off the draft radar to a potential TE1 come spring time. He’s big 6’6 250lbs, quick for his size and catches the ball with soft hands. He also can be a force in the run game – without question a top prospect to watch.
Other prospects: DE Chris Wormley
#8 Florida vs #6 LSU 7:00 ESPN
For as long as cross division rivalry’s have existed, this game is the one that always leads to issues. The Gators and Tigers (not really rivals at all) are stuck playing each other every year. Like most, this match up pits two of the top SEC teams against one another. This week has been brutal for Florida. First, they lost starting quarterback Will Grier for the season due to a suspension, and then in more ugly fashion lost redshirt freshmen defensive back Deiondre Porter for good after he was arrested on felony charges. And after all that – we still have a football game to play. We know Leonard Fournette will see 25+ touches. We also know, Florida will run run and run some more until new starting quarterback Treon Harris gets comfortable in Death Valley. I don’t think Florida is good enough to beat LSU, in Death Valley, at Night, at their own game. I’ll take LSU 27-17.
CB Vernon Hargreaves III: He’s been noticeably off so far this season, hampered by a hamstring injury. Nonetheless still shows he is one of the most complete cornerbacks in the country. I’d expect him to move around a little bit vs LSU and not stay locked in on one man.
WR Demarcus Robinson: After some early season woes, and a demotion, Robinson has turned it on lately catching 20 passes combined these last 3 weeks. If Florida does threaten the ball deep he could be the top option.
DE/DT Jonathan Bullard: Florida’s best defensive linemen added to the season long chatter (myth) that his team can stop Leonard Fournette. Although I don’t believe Florida is capable of doing so, Bullard would be the one that would have to step up and play out of his mind to stop #7.
*RB Leonard Fournette: At this point, what more can you say? He’s averaging 8.6 ypc, has scored 12 touchdowns and has over 1,000 yards already.
OG/OT Vadal Alexander: All the talk is about Leonard Fournette, but Alexander has been stellar as well this season and has a chance to be a top 15 prospect this spring.
CB TreDavious White: One of the ball hawks and arguably the best cover back LSU has had since the departures of Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, White is arguably (gasp) the top cornerback to watch in this game in regards to the 2016 NFL Draft.
ILB Kendell Beckwith: An every down linebacker who seems to be in on every tackle for the Tigers. He excels at filling and finishing, and rarely is caught out of position. A top ILB prospect.
Other prospects: FS Jalen Mills (questionable), WR Travin Dural, TE Dillon Gordon, P Jamie Keehn, OLB Lamar Louis
Other prospect laden games to keep an eye on:
THURS #18 UCLA vs #15 Stanford 10:30 ESPN, FRI #21 Boise State vs Utah State 9:00 CBSSN, SAT West Virginia vs #2 Baylor 12:00 FOX, Louisville vs #11 Florida State 12:00 ESPN, USC vs #14 Notre Dame 7:30 NBC, Penn State vs #1 Ohio State 8:00 ABC, Arizona State vs #4 Utah 10:00 ESPN