‘Sup, family? Welcome to Week 7 of college football, which–speaking plainly–does not look terribly exciting.
That’s how I began last week’s post. So, essentially, trust nothing I say.
I fell into the trap. I forgot that, at least one week of every college football season since the dawn of time, everything explodes. Top-10 teams drop like flies; underdogs string together impossible comebacks; the Big-12–well, the Big-12 is straight foolishness every week. That’s not unique.
So, dear reader, I beg your forgiveness. Never again will I be so foolish as to doubt college football’s capacity to astound.
Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey v. USC EDGE Uchenna Nwosu
McGlinchey makes a repeat appearance on our weekly preview, and with good reason. I’m just waiting for one of these offensive tackles to separate himself from the pack. After Texas’ Connor Williams, the feather in the cap of this OT class, went down with injury, the door was opened for players like Washington’s Trey Adams, Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown, Mississippi State’s Martinas Rankin, and McGlinchey to drastically improve their draft stock. Adams is out for the year with an ACL; Rankin is hampered by an ankle injury; Brown and McGlinchey have been solid, and that’s about it.
Essentially, Western Michigan Chukwuma Okorafor is a stud, and after that, it’s a mess.
Given McGlinchey’s recent struggles as a LT (his previous, far more impressive seasons came from RT) with speed around the edge, this primetime matchup with USC and Nwosu is a big one. The NDT team has been mighty impressed with Nwosu’s performance for USC so far (check out Assistant Director Joe Marino’s full breakdown here). He has the burst, twitchiness, and technical refinement to really challenge McGlinchey’s discipline and athleticism.
Nwosu’s undersized, so expect him to do everything he can to stay disconnected from the massive McGlinchey. McGlinchey, on the other hand, must get his paws on Nwosu without over-committing, as Nwosu has the inside rush to make him pay. The chess match should be a good one all game long.
North Carolina CB M.J. Stewart v. Virginia Tech WR Cam Phillips
This matchup? Sneaky fun. M.J. Stewart and Cam Phillips both won’t threaten the first round, but they’re solid players who have spots on NFL rosters–and, given that they’re middle-tier guys, they can really see a boost in their draft stock with a standout performance against stiff competition.
Let’s start with Stewart. He plays both the outside and the nickel position–we know NFL teams love that versatility–and leads UNC with 8 PBUs on the season. At the NFL level, he’s most definitely a nickel guy–but his quick-twitch and mental processing at that position are quite sound and undeniably valuable. He tackles well in space, too, and plays the running game nicely (4 TFLs this year).
He’ll see a lot of Cam Phillips this Saturday, who’s only 4 receptions away from the all-time Hokie record in receptions. Phillips isn’t significantly taller or stronger than Stewart, but he’s got great open-field quickness and has RB vision and evasiveness. While VT used him well in years past, Phillips’ ability as a multi-dimensional threat has blossomed without Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges taking up targets on offense.
Really, this is one of those mouth-watering strength-against-strength battles. Phillips lines up in the slot a ton and excels at making tacklers miss; Stewart is one of the country’s top slot corners, and is a sure tackler. If you want to see some good one-on-one football, tune in here.
Penn State LB Jason Cabinda v. Michigan OL
Okay, this isn’t exactly a prospect-on-prospect matchup–though, for that Michigan offensive line, be sure to watch LT Mason Cole. He’s probably an interior lineman at the NFL level (he has experience at center), but Michigan plays him at tackle because he’s simply their best offensive lineman.
Michigan’s inept offense found a spark last week against Indiana, as junior RB Karan Higdon went for 200 yards and 3 TDs. Recent reshuffling on the offensive line (Juwann Bushell-Beatty now starting at RT) helped Michigan grind up 271 ground yards.
Michigan’s rushing attack features a ton of pullers, counters, and even fullbacks (they still have those?!). When you’re a linebacker staring into the teeth of this offense, you have to be willing to play an unselfish, physical brand of football. If a puller or fullback pops up in the hole, you gotta fly down the field and stun that guy in the hole, clogging up the offense and trusting your teammates to make the tackle.
Jason Cabinda has been climbing up my draft board recently, but he faces a tough test against Michigan’s physical brand of football. NFL Draft Scout has Cabinda weighing in at 232 lbs., which is a little on the low side–but Cabinda seems tightly wound and is certainly unafraid of contact. I’d like to see him read and react quickly, set the physical tone early, and then keep up the intensity for four quarters.