We’ve got some FOOTBALL comin’ round the corner, folks.
I’m gonna start us off with a few honorable mentions. Marquee match-ups litter the weekend slate–both player v. player, and team v. team. All eyes will be on #2 PSU v. #6 Ohio State and #14 NC State v. #9 Notre Dame, as national championship contenders duke it out for venerable playoff positioning. Don’t sleep on #25 Iowa State, as they’ve whirlwinded their way through tough competition on the way to a stiff test against #4 TCU–and, and, and! we’ve got #11 Oklahoma State and #22 West Virginia.
Regular readers know how I feel about Big 12 madness. Kid, meet candy store.
So, some honorable mentions: Oklahoma State Mason Rudolph faces a WVU secondary with some solid pieces, headlined by senior SS Kyzir White. Rudolph has looked positively pedestrian in his games against halfway-decent defenses, and I think WVU’s squad can cause him problems. Rudolph’s arrow is firmly pointed down given his season so far–he needs to right the ship against the Mountaineers on the road.
NC State DE Bradley Chubb v. Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey–fun stuff, folks. I was more excited for this matchup before McGlinchey started to struggle this season, while Chubb has skyrocketed. Given what we’ve seen from Chubb so far this season, he should handle McGlinchey squarely–but if Mike can stymie the Chubb train, he’ll salvage some falling draft stock.
Ohio State LB Jerome Baker bears the worst burden of college football this week: dealing with Penn State RB, Heisman favorite, and likely demigod Saquon Barkley. My question with Baker isn’t athleticism, though–it’s instinct and processing. After the Michigan LBs were eaten alive by PSU zone action, Baker has to be true to his reads and make some good decisions in space to limit Penn State explosive offense. Don’t sleep on Ohio State CB Denzel Ward handling Penn State WR Juwan Johnson on the outside, or the entire Penn State secondary (some decent talent at CB for the Nittany Lions) dealing with the speed of the Ohio State WRs.
Sneaky fun? USC LB Cam Smith against the RB duo in Arizona State: Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage.
Let’s get into some meat and potatoes.
1) NC State offensive weapon Jaylen Samuels v. Notre Dame defensive weapon Drue Tranquill
Of course, there’s a ton to watch in this game: we already highlighted Chubb and McGlinchey, but ND guard Quenton Nelson has some stout competition from those NC State DTs (Justin Jones and B.J. Hill). My eyes, however, will be drawn to this battle of matchup nightmares.
You’ve likely heard some hype about Samuels: the TE/FB/HB/Whatever-back for the Wolfpack, Jaylen Samuels has produced at an absurd rate for such a unique piece (5’11, 223 lbs). He’s too quick for linebackers to cover in space and too strong for secondary members to tackle.
If anyone can stop Samuel’s roll, it’s Drue Tranquill (6’1 230 lbs), the super-quick linebacker or super-strong nickelback. I’m not sure Notre Dame will deploy Tranquill on Samuels, but it feels like a no-brainer. Tranquill has that true hybrid ability–not tweener, but hybrid ability, to eliminate your opponent’s greatest matchup threat. He has instincts, agility, and good technique in both run defense and man coverage. This is an opportunity for him to burst on the NFL Draft scene as an ideal STer with subpackage potential.
Both of these players are supposed to be unsolvable problems for the opposing squad. It’s gonna be a chess match in South Bend, folks.
Bonus: Tons of offensive NFL talent here (NC State WR Kelvin Harmon, RB Nyheim Hines, QB Ryan Finley; Notre Dame RB Josh Adams, WR Equanimeous St. Brown) on both sides of the ball. I’m interested to see if Hines can burn over-aggressive Notre Dame LB Nyles Morgan on a cutback or two.
2) Iowa State LB Joel Lanning v. TCU rushing attack
You’ve probably already heard about Joel Lanning: the Iowa State QB-to-MLB convert who helped spur the Cyclones to their upset bid over Oklahoma by neutralizing the rushing threat of Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield. From that moment on, color me intrigued.
As an ex-QB who successfully flipped sides to the defense, I can tell a few things about Lanning right away: one, he’s wicked smart. You can’t make such a transition–or even play the QB position to begin with–without a strong head for the game. Second, his vision and instincts must be sublime. Sure, you’re reading different keys as a LB, but his ability to diagnose plays pre-snap given his QB experience has already popped on limited tape. And finally, he’s a team player. Combine that selfless position switch with a wrestling background, and I figure Lanning can at least make my squad on special teams.
However, with such limited tape at his new position, every game takes on added weight for Lanning–and, if he’s truly a mobile QB eraser, he’ll be tested by Horned Frog signal-caller Kenny Hill.
Add on to that burden the three-headed monstrous backfield of senior RB Kyle Hicks, sophomore RB Darius Anderson, and sophomore RB Sewo Olonilua, and Lanning’s hands are full. Is he a legit LB prospect? Let’s find out.
Bonus: Don’t sleep on Iowa State WR Allen Lazard duking it out against TCU CB Ranthony Texada, or TCU LB Travin Howard battling Iowa State RB David Montgomery (only a sophomore; still awesome).
3) UCLA QB Josh Rosen v. Washington’s pass rush
Man, Josh Rosen is playing some good football. He has some truly impressive accuracy when dealing to the middle of the field, and his willingness to test tight windows with velocity and touch stands out among college QBs.
The biggest problem with Rosen? His reaction to pressure is quite poor. After a few ticks in the pocket, he’ll start to panic, even if there’s no threat of a pass-rush–and, once it does arrive, he lacks ideal escapability and struggles to get to his checkdown. Now, there’s a serious case to be made that Rosen has good reason to lose his head: his offensive line does him absolutely zero favors. But a young QB that can’t handle pressure will struggle to get decent starting experience in a rush-happy NFL. I need to see Rosen succeed more when blitzed.
Enter the Washington Huskies, T-11th in the nation in sacks/game and 12th in defensive passing efficiency. Headlined by OLBs Tevis Bartlett (8.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks) and Ryan Rowman (4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks), this Washington team can get pressure on you in a multitude of manners (fourteen players have at least 1.0 sacks). Rosen’s pre-snap acumen will be tested by Washington’s multiple fronts, and his post-snap processing and decision-making must be on point if he’s to survive the night.
This will likely be the toughest defense Rosen faces all year (Stanford? Eh). The door of the QB class is open, if Rosen wants to climb those ranks. This will be a big night for his film review in the upcoming months.
Bonus: Taylor Rapp, sophomore free safety for Washington, is an animal. He’ll hunt in the middle of the field, where Rosen likes to do his work.