NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Week 10 marked the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings. All week there has been banter back and forth consisting of people like my father screaming about how the Big 12 was left off yet again. Here’s the fact of it all: it doesn’t matter – not even a little bit.
Consider this: On October 28th of last season the first college football rankings were released. Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss rounded out the list. As you know, only one of those teams advanced to the actual playoff (Florida State).
The committee released the following: 1) Clemson, 2) LSU, 3) Ohio State and 4) Alabama. I had the exact same four, just in a different order (1)LSU, 2) Ohio State, 3) Clemson, 4) Alabama).
Now you ask, what impact does this have on prospects? In some cases absolutely nothing. But in others – such as the case of Cardale Jones – it could have a massive effect.
Jones of course didn’t go pro, but if he did – after just three starts – he could have went as high as a top five pick. You have to have the physical tools of course, but the playoff chase gets talked about. When you talk, hype follows. And once the hype train gets rolling it’s hard to derail.
Week 10 has major match ups for us to feast on, lets dive into the main prospects to watch in each game.
#16 Florida State vs #1 Clemson 3:30 ABC
Florida State poses the last big hurdle for the Tigers as they continue their impressive march to the playoffs. This game will have impressive defensive prospects all over the field, and two elite level players in Clemson DE Shaq Lawson and Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey. I’m particularly looking at Shaq Lawson, as he will face off vs a banged up Seminoles’ offensive line down two starters. That is clearly the biggest mismatch in the game, as the underdog Seminoles matchup well otherwise across the board. I expect Florida State – playing for their playoff lives – to put up one heck of a fight, but I see the more talented team winning. Give me Clemson 27-17.
DE Shaq Lawson: He’s dominated all season long, no matter the competition. Arguably his most impressive performance came against Notre Dame LT Ronnie Stanley, who could be the first LT off the board.
CB Mackensie Alexander: Has been rarely tested this season, but when the ball has been thrown his way Alexander has shown great quick twitch cover ability and has shown supreme ball skills easily knocking passes down over and over. He has played his way all the way into a first round grade in my eyes.
Other prospects: SS Jayron Kearse, WR Charone Peake, DT D.J. Reader, OG Eric Mac Lain
Florida State prospects
CB Jalen Ramsey: He’s been a stout cover cornerback all season long, but I still see him switching back to safety at the NFL level as there have been some hiccups along the way. Nonetheless, the tandem of Ramsey and Marquez White should give Clemson fits on the outside and is the clear strength of the Seminoles’ defense.
OLB Terrance Smith: He is questionable for the game. The top linebacker presence for Florida State, Smith is at his best flying downhill and making plays in the back field. In short spaces, Smith succeeds due to his quick burst, but struggles in the open field. Look for Clemson to try and isolate him as he is also prone to be too aggressive, losing his angles or his man.
Other prospects: SS Tyler Hunter, DT Nile Lawrence-Stample, K Roberto Aguayo, ILB Reggie Northrup
#8 TCU vs #14 Oklahoma State 3:30 FOX
Finally, big time in-conference games will be occurring in the Big 12. Here’s what we know: TCU will move the football and score. They have totaled at least 500 yards seven straight games. QB Trevone Boykin is a legitimate Heisman candidate, and the Boykin-Doctson connection has been as good as any this season. Can Oklahoma State keep pace? The Cowboys will use a dual quarterback attack, which has ranked 12th in passing yards per game this season. I expect TCU’s defense to make just enough plays in a high scoring shootout. Give me TCU (would be first win in Stillwater since 1991), 41-35.
WR Josh Doctson: Doctson is difficult to grade due to the Fun & Gun offense he plays in, but the sheer measurable seem to be there. He’s 6’3 and plays bigger, as his jump ball skills can be second to none. He can track the football as good as any, and is an improving route runner. His stats are off the charts, catching 71 passes for 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns.
RB Aaron Green: In a soft running back class, Green could be one of the prospects to keep your eye on to launch his way to the top. He reminds me of a poor man’s LeSean McCoy, as his jump-cut and stop on a dime ability can be jaw dropping.
Other prospects: OT Halapouliwaati, FS Kenny Iloka, QB Trevone Boykin, WR Kolby Listenbee
Oklahoma State prospects
DE Emmanuel Ogbah: Few defensive ends can truly impact the game from start to finish in college today. Ogbah is one of those edge guys for sure. He is a power edge rusher who can play the run or shed and sack the quarterback, but is unique in the fact he can drop in coverage and looks smooth and fluid. He is the top prospect on the field in my eyes.
CB Kevin Peterson: A long, rangy cornerback who can put his hands on the receiver and redirect routes constantly. Once receivers get past the initial contact however, Peterson can struggle – particularly if the quarterback has more than adequate time to throw. With improved technique, I can see him starting in the NFL someday.
Other prospects: DE Jimmy Bean, ILB Ryan Simmons
#2 LSU vs #4 Alabama 8:00 CBS
The must watch game of the weekend. Interesting note here: LSU hasn’t played a road game since late September, a game which they struggled a little at Syracuse. The good news for the Tigers is they have the perferct formula to win in a hostile environment – run with success, keep the clock in your favor, get timely third down conversions and get off the field on third down. Here is why I think LSU wins: they will get nasty upfront with Alabama. Tennessee surprisingly was able to control the middle of the field for four quarters, which kept the Vols in the game until the end. LSU will be able to do much of the same and force Alabama to play in a phone booth. And where Alabama was simply the better team with better athletes vs the Vols, that won’t be the case vs LSU. Fournette will have success, and I expect Brandon Harris to make a couple big throws when needed. I think LSU will simply smother Alabama, and win a close low scoring affair. Give me LSU 17-13.
ILB Reggie Ragland: Ragland will be in the spotlight as the Tide goes head to head with the nation’s top running back, Leonard Fournette. Although it won’t be 100% on his shoulders, I expect Robinson and Reed to do plug their gaps and put the task of dragging #7 to the ground to Ragland. My top ILB at the moment, he can all but solidify his position.
DT A’Shawn Robinson: When facing a top interior offensive line and the monster that is Leonard Fournette, it is imperative for Robinson to play well. He’s one of the top DTs in the country, and combined with Reed should give LSU all they could ask for and then some.
RB Derrick Henry: In a class that is murky past Ohio State’s Zeke Elliot, Henry continues to grind his way to the top. He has over 1,000 yards and has hit pay dirt 14 times this season. In what should be a bruising, physical game Henry should be front and center for ‘Bama.
DT Jarran Reed: A’Shawn Robinson gets all the love, but Reed has been dominant this season. Absorbs blockers and can shed with ease. His strength is to plug the middle and force runners to bounce outside, where Alabama has the athletes to track the play down.
Other prospects: TE O.J. Howard, RB Kenyan Drake, CB Cyrus Jones, DE Jonathan Allen, C Ryan Kelly
RB Leonard Fournette*: This is the game we have been waiting for to see just how outrageous Fournette is, right? His worst game of the season so far was his poor effort vs South Carolina. Poor by his standards anyway. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry rushing for 158 yards and just one touchdown. Poor.
CB Tre’Davious White: The big news of the game for LSU: Their stud cornerback will return from injury just in time for Alabama’s star true freshmen WR Calvin Ridley. Ridley played a huge role in beating Tennessee a few weeks ago, and is clearly the go-to guy for the Tide. Ridley has 525 yards receiving on 45 catches, and should draw White’s attention most of the night.
OG Vadal Alexander: The top offensive line prospect in this game, Alexander has been rock solid all season long. Great mobility for his size and consistently gets to the next level, Alexander will be a top offensive line prospect off the board in the spring.
ILB Kendell Beckwith: As Ragland is in the defensive spotlight for Alabama, Beckwith will get that same stage for the Tigers. Arguably the best athlete on the Tigers roster outside of Fournette, Beckwith can fly all over the field and use great instincts to rack up the tackles in a hurry. LSU will need his physical nature against Henry and his athleticism vs the change-of-pace Kenyan Drake.
FS Jalen Mills: His presence in the secondary cannot be overstated, as Lane Kiffin loves to test the opposing secondary vertically early and often. If LSU can force Alabama to play in a phone booth similar to what Tennessee did to the Tide’s offense, I really like LSU’s chances of pulling this one out.
Other prospect filled games to watch: #5 Notre Dame vs Pitt 12:00 ABC, #11 Stanford vs Colorado 1:00 Pac12, Rutgers vs Michigan 3:30 BTN, #7 Michigan State vs Nebraska 7:00 ESPN