We’re in the swing of things now, man. Coming off of an excellent Thursday night match-up (what?!) between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams (WHAT?!?), it just feels like football season. I think that USC-Texas game is what really did it for me. I’m here for every upset, every triple overtime, every photo finish. Let’s get crazy.
More than a few games have fun potential in Week 4. #12 Florida State plays only their second game of the season–and their first without Deondre Francois–against a talented NC State squad. Offensive juggernauts #6 Oklahoma State and #16 TCU look to stay in stride with #3 Oklahoma in the Big 12. #1 Alabama faces off against Vanderbilt’s FBS-leading defense–in Nashville–and I desperately need somebody to stop me from putting all my money on Vanderbilt covering the spread.
All wistful wishes for football madness aside, we’ve got good battles on the docket for this weekend–not only for teams, but for prospects as well. Here are my three to watch this weekend:
Georgia LBs Lorenzo Carter and David Bellamy v. Mississippi State OT Martinas Rankin
Carter and Bellamy, both seniors, made some noise a few weeks ago. Notre Dame’s standout OT Mike McGlinchey has never looked more human, than when these Bulldog edge rushers regularly got the better of him with speed and hand usage. Bellamy particularly impressed, showing the agility to drop into space, defend the read option, rush the passer–essentially, do whatever he was asked.
On the flip side, you have an intriguing tackle prospect in Martinas Rankin. Rankin always had the athletic profile, as well as the flashes of dominance. Consistency was the pursuit in 2017, and so far? So good. Mississippi State pulled off a statement victory over LSU last week, and Rankin was tasked with handling premier EDGE Arden Key for the majority of the game. He showed great hand placement, tenacity, and anchor–and enough foot speed to hang.
If Carter and Bellamy are legit prospects as edge rushers, they should flash the same dynamic ability against Rankin; but if Rankin can handle Carter and Bellamy as well as he did Key, his name will start popping more and more in draft circles everywhere. There’s money to be made on Saturday.
Washington WR Dante Pettis v. Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver
Talk about two guys who have really impressed this season. With Isaiah Oliver, you could see it coming down the mountain. Despite playing behind NFL CBs in Ahkello Witherspoon and Chidobe Awuzie last season, then-sophomore Oliver popped on tape with excellent reactionary quickness, solid length, and a knack for addressing the catch point. Having stepped into a more prominent role on the Buffs defense, Oliver has continued producing. In only 3 games this season, he has 5 PBUs and 2 INTs (2016: 7 PBUs and 1 INT in 14 games).
With Dante Pettis, I wasn’t as much of a believer. I thought him athletically limited and unprepared to step into the WR1 spot vacated by now Cincinnati WR John Ross. But Pettis has responded well to the added volume, adding excellent catch point ability to his already detailed routes and trusty hands–oh, and he averages a punt return TD per game.
Both Pettis and Oliver will face one of the toughest tests of their 2017 this Saturday. Oliver, a true junior, may see another season to square off against primary WRs; but Pettis, a true senior, must demonstrate that he can still produce when covered by superior athletes. There’s something to prove in Boulder tomorrow night.
NC State QB Ryan Finley v. Florida State’s defense
Ryan Finley, a transfer from Boise State, has me excited as an Alex-Smith type quarterback. He throws with excellent anticipation, he’s poised within the pocket, and he can move when needed. He’s a rhythm thrower that can keep your offense on schedule moving down the field.
Keep an offense on schedule is a tough task against this Seminole secondary, however. S Derwin James looked himself again against Alabama in Week 1, lining up all over the formation and wreaking havoc wherever he good; CB Tavarus McFadden flashed his usual tenacity and quickness when lined up across from Alabama WR Calvin Ridley. Despite the box score, the FSU defense more than did their job in that Week 1 loss to the Crimson Tide. I’m excited to see more, and I’m sure they’re excited to show it, against NC State.
But the Wolfpack offense has the quarterback, and offensive weapons (TE Jaylen Samuels is a stud), to put this defense to the test. Over two weeks of rust may do the Seminoles no favors, and boost Finley’s draft stock in the process.