Like the NFL, every week of college football holds so much weight for teams and players. You only have 12 games to prove yourself worthy of a shot in the 4 team CFB playoff; one bad week, and you could lose it all. Every single game is important, no matter whom you’re playing.
For the players, it’s a bit of a different story. These guys have worked their entire life to get to this moment, but the work doesn’t end at this level. Many of them hope and dream of a shot in the NFL, and it all starts out there on that field every Saturday. Every week, they must give it their all and give it everything they got, or they could miss their chance of achieving their dream. Each and every game is a chance to impress the scouts and inch one step closer to NFL, for many prospects, they can’t afford to do anything less than that.
Without further ado, here are 5 of the best games to watch for this week which features some of the top NFL draft talent:
Game of the Week: # 15 Ole Miss @ #2 Alabama, 9:15 P.M., ESPN
The game of the week features two SEC teams with tons of NFL talent on both sides of the ball. The Crimson Tide have won 23 consecutive SEC openers and have lost only once at home against Ole Miss in 27 games. Regardless, Alabama is aware that the Rebels are nowhere near an automatic win as they were upset last season for the Tide’s lone loss during the regular season. Clemson transfer, Chad Kelly leads the charge for the Rebels under center and has displayed a special arm in both games this season as Ole Miss has outscored opponents 149-23. Alabama faces their second test of the season after an impressive victory in week 1 against a ranked Wisconsin team.
Five Prospects to Watch
RB, Derrick Henry, Alabama, Junior, 6’2’’, 242
A Heisman Trophy contender, Henry is the #1 RB on most draft boards due to his blend of size, speed and power and is projected to go in the 1st round in this year’s draft. Henry leads the FBS with 6 rushing touchdowns and with a good performance against a tough Ole Miss defense, he could cement himself as the Heisman favorite at this point in the season.
DL, A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama, Junior, 6’3’’, 312
The staple of that defensive front for Alabama, Robinson is a force on that line for the Crimson Tide. Robinson has emerged as one of the best defensive line prospects in the nation and looks to surpass opposing defender, Nkemdiche in this contest between their respective teams. An unmovable rock up on that line, Robinson is among the best interior run stuffers in all of college football.
LB, Reggie Ragland, Alabama, Senior, 6’2’’, 252
The heart and soul of that ‘Bama defense, Reggie Ragland does all the dirty work and his versatility allows Kirby Smart to line him up almost anywhere in the front 7. Ragland is the next of a long line of great Crimson Tide LBs to develop in the Saban regime. A tremendous run defender in the middle of that defense, look for Ragland to line up on the edge with his hand in the dirt as he displays his pass rushing abilities.
WR, Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss, Junior, 6’2’’, 211
Arguably the #1 WR in the nation, the Rebels will need a big game from Treadwell against that tough ‘Bama defense. Treadwell will be the X factor for that Ole Miss offense as a big game from him could very well be what they need to top the #2 team in the nation. A surefire 1st round pick, Treadwell catches almost anything thrown his way with his physicality and ability to attack the ball. A good game from him could catapult his draft stock over other WRs ranked near him.
DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss, Junior, 6’4’’, 296
The former #1 high school recruit from 2013, Nkemdiche has a lot to prove heading into this game against the Crimson Tide. Nkemdiche is an extremely athletic specimen on the defensive line and offers versatility as well. He looks to make an impact against a weak ‘Bama offensive line. Nkemdiche is the highest ranked defensive line prospect on most boards, and is projected to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft.
Other Prospects to Watch:
RB Kenyan Drake (Alabama)
TE O.J. Howard (Alabama)
CB Cyrus Jones (Alabama)
TE Evan Engram (Ole Miss)
S Tony Conner (Ole Miss)
S Trae Elston (Ole Miss)
#18 Auburn @ #13 LSU, 3:30 P.M., CBS
Another ranked SEC battle shapes up to be one of the best games of the weekend. Auburn and Jeremy Johnson look to redeem themselves after they just barely dodged an overtime upset at the hands of Jacksonville State last week. LSU is coming off a tight win against ranked SEC opponent, Mississippi State. The Tigers of LSU come into the game as the favorite; despite the demolishment they suffered last year as Auburn won 41-7. This game shapes up to be a sloppy, physical affair between two teams with inconsistent QB play. Leonard Fournette, the sophomore phenom looks to run LSU to a victory, as they have not lost at home against Auburn since 1999.
QB, Jeremy Johnson, Auburn, Junior, 6’5’’, 240
The hype was higher than ever entering the season for Jeremy Johnson. Through two games, however, the hype has not been matched as he has thrown 5 interceptions in two games while displaying lousy decision making and accuracy. It seemed nearly impossible not to compare him to former Auburn QB and Heisman winner, Cam Newton due to their big arms, impact on the ground and huge stature. Johnson entered the season as a wildcard, but many viewed him as a first round talent due to his upside and physical tools. He desperately needs a breakout game against LSU to not only rejuvenate his draft stock, but to keep himself as the starting QB in Auburn.
Other Auburn Prospects to Watch:
WR Duke Williams
DE/OLB Carl Lawson
LB Cassanova McKinney
LB Kris Frost
OL, Vadal Alexander, LSU, Senior, 6’6’’, 329
A thick offensive line prospect, Alexander has made the transition back to right tackle for this season after holding down that spot during his freshman year. A future guard in the NFL, Alexander has tremendous size and strength that make him a powerful inside run blocker. He didn’t play well at the right tackle position last week against Mississippi State, so it will be interesting to see how he fairs against lethal Auburn pass rusher, Carl Lawson.
Other LSU Prospects to Watch:
WR Travin Duval
LB Deion Jones
LB Kendall Beckwith
CB Tre’Davious White
#14 Georgia Tech @ #8 Notre Dame, 3:30 P.M., NBC
Perhaps the most intriguing game of Satuday’s slate has the high powered triple option offense of Georgia Tech pitted against the tough defense of Notre Dame. Despite being the higher ranked team, Notre Dame enters the game as the underdog after starting QB, Malik Zaire fractured his ankle last week against Virginia. The team rallied behind sophomore, DeShone Kizer, a highly touted dual-threat QB from the 2014 class. Kizer threw a game winning TD last week and is ready to make his first career start. Georgia Tech has outscored opponents 134-16 through the first 2 weeks, but they haven’t seen a defense like Notre Dame’s. It’ll be interesting to see if the Notre Dame defense can contain them, and if Kizer can keep up with GT’s offense.
DL, Jabari Hunt-Days, Georgia Tech, Senior, 6’2’’, 291
The former linebacker faces his first true test after transitioning up front to the defensive line. On his way to shifting up front, Hunt-Days has gained around 50 pounds and can still play with the same level of quickness that he did before. A playmaker in that LB corps for the Yellow Jackets, he looks to make the same impact up front against and now is his chance to prove himself. While a bit raw at the position, Hunt-Days offers a variety of skills and upside. He can serve as a solid 3-tech DT in a 4-3 defense.
Other Georgia Tech Prospects to Watch:
QB/WR Justin Thomas
FB Patrick Skov
DT Adam Gotsis
S Jamal Golden
LB, Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame, Junior, 6’3’’, 235
It’s hard not to fall in love with a guy like Jaylon Smith. A pure leader and playmaker, Smith gets all over the field to make big plays. He’s extremely versatile and can line up all over the field as well as excel as a blitzer or back in coverage. Smith is a surefire 1st round pick and could very well sneak into the top 10. He faces a true test against the triple-option offense which will force him to take on blockers and consistently win at the point of attack.
Other Notre Dame Prospects to Watch:
WR Will Fuller
OT Ronnie Stanley
DL Sheldon Day
CB KeiVarae Russell
California @ Texas, 7:30 P.M., FOX
While it doesn’t feature the NFL prospect firepower of other games, Jared Goff headlines this matchup as he looks to continue to make his case as the top QB in the country. Texas were the victims of a week one romping against Notre Dame; Charlie Strong and co. will try to improve against Power 5 competition as Jerrod Heard makes his case as the team’s starting QB over the struggling Tyrone Swoopes. Goff and the Golden Bears should continue to roll against the Longhorns after outscoring opponents 108-21 to start the season. Texas has failed to play with any sort of passion early on in the season; perhaps a change at QB will provide a spark.
QB, Jared Goff, California, Junior, 6’4’’, 215
In a fairly weak QB class, Jared Goff is the guy who has emerged as the top QB of this year’s draft class, at this point in the process at least. Goff has completed over 70% of his passes this season and has coasted Cal to consecutive victories to open the season. A pure gunslinger at the QB position, Goff possesses excellent qualities you want from your QB. Not only does he have great arm talent, he is a smart QB who does a great job of reading plays and diagnosing defenses. Goff is a prime candidate to be the first QB selected in this year’s draft, and very well could go first overall.
Other California Prospects to Watch:
RB Daniel Lasco
WR Bryce Treggs
G Jordan Rigsbee
LB Hardy Nickerson
RB, Johnathan Gray, Texas, Senior, 5’11’’, 206
With lackluster play at QB, Gray will be called upon to heavy a carry load for the Longhorns early on this season. Coming out of high school as a highly touted RB, he hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations, but he’s been a steady producer for that Texas running game. Through the first 2 games to start the season, he has averaged a miniscule 3.4 yards per carry in limited carries. Look for him to breakout against the Golden Bears as he needs to turn in some good performances this year if he wants a shot at getting drafted.
Other Texas Prospects to Watch:
WR Marcus Johnson
DE Caleb Blueitt
DT Hassan Ridgeway
CB Duke Thomas
#19 BYU @ #10 UCLA, 10:30 P.M.
The Cinderella team of the college football season thus far has been the Cougars of Brigham Young after backup QB, Tanner Mangum has led them to consecutive victories to open the season on Hail Mary weaves late in both games to win. First, they upset Nebraska on the road despite starting QB, Taysom Hill going down. They then beat a ranked Boise State team. UCLA entered the season with incredibly high expectations and have been led to consecutive victories behind the arm of true freshman, Josh Rosen; a guy who many consider to be a top draft prospect in 2018.
DE, Bronson Kaufusi, BYU, Senior, 6’8’’, 280
Kaufusi leads the charge of all BYU draft prospects due to his intriguing, massive, 6’8’’, 280 pound size. The former LB proves to be a much better fit at DE due to his size and lack of coverage skills. A bit of a raw prospect, his size will have NFL scouts drooling on draft day. Kaufusi is the best pass rusher on the team and his role against UCLA will be vital. His stock will be interesting to monitor throughout the remainder of the year as it should soar after the combine.
Other BYU Prospects to Watch:
WR Mitch Mathews
WR Devon Blackmon
OT Ryker Mathews
LB Harvey Langi
LB, Myles Jack, UCLA, Junior, 6’1’’, 232
The “jack of all trades” is among the best LBs in all of college football and even sees time in the backfield as a running back. Jack is an impact player on that defense for the Bruins and is as hard-nosed as they come. A heat-seeking missile when pursuing offensive players, Jack is so dynamic and brings another dimension to that defense for UCLA. A sure tackler who gets all over the field to make plays with his quickness, Jack can also be an extremely effective cover guy in space. Like previously mentioned, Jaylon Smith, Jack is another LB who looks to sneak into the top 10 of this year’s draft.
Other UCLA Prospects to Watch:
RB Paul Perkins
WR Jordan Payton
DT Kenny Clark
CB Fabian Moreau
Upset of the Week: SMU over #3 TCU