We've officially passed the halfway point of the 2018 College Football season, which is crazy to think about. We talked about who helped themselves the most so far this week on the Journey to the Draft podcast, but it's time now to look ahead to Week 7. Here's who you should be watching this weekend!
Game Ball: Ohio State WR Parris Campbell
This is a player who had a strong performance a week ago and helped his stock because of it.
I've written about Campbell in the past, but he ripped off a career performance last week against Indiana, catching nine passes for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The senior now has seven touchdowns in six games this year. He showed off his speed in the open field against the Hoosiers, catching a shallow crossing route in the red zone and beating the defender to the corner before racing to the pylon for his first touchdown. His second score came on a play where he came in jet motion before the snap, no defender ran with him, and he exploded into space for a 71-yard catch-and-run. Campbell will likely never be viewed as a "No. 1" receiver in the NFL, but he can certainly make the transition as an effective weapon in any offense thanks to his speed.
Prediction: Ohio State hosts conference rival Minnesota this weekend and the Buckeyes are overwhelming favorites in the game. The Gophers are starting a freshman walk-on under center, and I don't expect them to be able to hang with an OSU team that won by three touchdowns last week in a game where the Buckeyes didn't even play their best offensively. I'll go with the Buckeyes in a big-time victory that isn't close.
Draft Buzz: Baylor WR Jalen Hurd
This is a player who continues to generate positive attention and has the arrow pointing up with his draft stock at this point in the process.
It's always fun to go through Tony Pauline's Risers and Sliders column after games, and he highlighted a player who I had actually heard some positive things about last week in Baylor receiver Jalen Hurd. He's 6-4, 220 pounds, has experience as a productive running back in the SEC and has been putting up numbers as a starting receiver in the Big 12, so this is a talented kid. I haven't had a chance to study him yet with the Bears this year, and it's something I plan to do soon, but there's definitely going to be a lot of intrigue around him this spring, especially after the Combine where he's going to test like a freak-show athlete.
Prediction: Baylor has a big battle ahead against interstate rival Texas this Saturday. The Longhorns are coming off an emotional win against Oklahoma last week, their fifth straight win and second consecutive on the road. Baylor can throw it around the yard, similar to how Oklahoma, but obviously not quite at that level. I expect the Horns to come out on top by three touchdowns.
Best Pro Comparison: Oregon DE Jalen Jelks
Comparing draft prospects to NFL players is tough, but here's a player with an easy picture to paint when looking at their NFL future through my eyes.
I was a bit bullish on Jalen Jelks coming into the year, one of my favorite defensive linemen in college football. He's 6-5, 244 pounds, has long arms, is twitched up, and has the first step to threaten the edge in the NFL. He's lined up both inside and outside in college, but I like him most off the edge. The senior only has 2.5 sacks on the year, all of which came against San Jose State, Portland State, and Bowling Green. I haven't watched him closely this fall, but I'm still confident in his NFL future. As I watched Jelks, the player he began to remind me of is another former Pac-12 star in Everson Griffen. The two had similar frames coming out of school and have the initial quickness to win high-side against NFL tackles.
Prediction: The Ducks play in one of the best games of the week against Washington. There's going to be a lot of eyes on this matchup with tons of young talent on both sidelines. The Huskies have won this matchup each of the past two years (convincingly, I might add), but I don't know. ... I kind of like the Ducks and their quarterback Justin Herbert here. I know the Huskies have a great defense, particularly in the secondary. I know Washington's offense has put it on Oregon and that's a veteran group there. Both teams have been a bit up and down, even in wins this year, but I'm going with a win by UO.
Small-School Standout: Delaware S Nasir Adderley
This is a player who comes from a lower level of competition but has a very bright future in the NFL.
I didn't know much about Adderley but when he was added to the Senior Bowl Watch List over the summer, I wanted to be sure to study him. I got around to him in late August and I was pretty impressed with what I saw. He's undersized, for sure, but the senior has a cornerback background, displays good route-recognition skills in coverage, and is a solid athlete on the back end. He'll need to go the Senior Bowl or Shrine Game to prove himself, but I think there are tools there to play in the NFL. My biggest concern is his ability to play the run. He can be a bit slow to read and react to things, a major part of playing safety. This Philly kid (he starred at Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania) will almost certainly be drafted next spring.
Prediction: Last week I wrote a scouting report on Elon tackle Oli Udoh, and the Phoenix came through with a surprising win over James Madison. This week Elon takes on Adderley and Delaware. The Blue Hens are a plucky bunch, but after upsetting JMU last week I think Elon walks away with another W.
Philly Connection: Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur
This is a player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or to the Eagles that you should keep a close eye on.
Ben Fennell broke down Shurmur this week on the Journey to the Draft podcast (make sure to listen to the Saturday Scouting section for that report), but he's a big kid in a pro-style offense with solid physical tools to excel at the next level. He has a big test this week against an aggressive Florida defense that sports a nasty pass rush, but Shurmur has been put through the ringer before. A four-year starter for the Commodores, Shurmur – who went to school at St. Joe's Prep here in Philadelphia as the son of former Eagles assistant and current Giants head coach Pat Shurmur – has seen it all before. My feeling is that he'll be able to stick in the NFL.
Prediction: In two weeks, this Gators defense has racked up 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. They're humming right now up front (keep an eye on star pass rusher Jachai Polite), and I think Vandy will have trouble in this game. I like the Gators by at least two touchdowns.
Three Matchups To Watch
One of the first things NFL evaluators do when scouting college prospects is watch them against the best competition. How did a wide receiver fare against the best cover corner on his schedule? How did a pass rusher do when he faced a top-flight left tackle? How did a quarterback perform against the best defenses on the schedule? These are the first games scouts will look at, and here are three matchups that fit the bill this week.
1. Michigan RB Karan Higdon vs. Wisconsin LB T.J. Edwards
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan – 7:30 p.m. – ABC
Senior running back Karan Higdon is a self-made runner who worked his way up the depth chart to a starting role as a junior. He's been the bell-cow for the Wolverines this year, particularly over the last two weeks, as he's racked up at least 100 yards in each of the last four games and has carried the ball at least 25 times a game over the last two weeks. A competitive kid who runs bigger than his size would indicate, Higdon is a dirty-work kind of runner who will find a role in the NFL backfield. I like the way this kid carries the rock.
Higdon has a tough test this week, however, against a Wisconsin defense that has underachieved a bit this year but is still filled with talented upperclassmen. Some people really like senior middle linebacker Ryan Connelly, but I am a big fan of his teammate next to him in T.J. Edwards. At 6-0 and nearly 250 pounds, Edwards is an instinctive player against both the run and the pass. He's tough and physical downhill and knows how to use his hands, and he's also JUST good enough athletically that I think he can get by as a three-down player. His movement skills will be the big question for him moving into the NFL, but this is a skilled player.
Prediction: All eyes in this matchup will be in the trenches as one of the best offensive lines in football takes on one of the most talented defensive fronts. I think this will be a tight game, closer than most people think, and I'm tempted to pick the Badgers. I think Michigan wins this straight up, however. Michigan's defense has been lights out, allowing running backs to just 2.6 yards per carry. It'll need that defense to show up in the Big House against a dynamic Wisconsin run game, and I think it will. I'll take Michigan here straight up.
2. LSU TE Foster Moreau vs. Georgia LB D'Andre Walker_ Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana – 3:30 p.m. – CBS_
He's not flashy, but I really like Foster Moreau. He's 6-4, over 250 pounds, and competitive as all get out. The senior tight end absolutely gets after people on the ground as a blocker and he's technically sound as a pass protector. He's not a factor in the passing game, but he's a big reason why that LSU team is capable of giving it to teams in the run game. He's not a dynamic athlete, and that will likely keep him from being more than a Day 3 draft pick, but Moreau should last in the NFL for a while.
Moreau will have his hands full with this ferocious Georgia front seven, namely with edge player D'Andre Walker. A stout run defender with heavy hands, a powerful lower half, and a violent demeanor, Walker is a bit short and stumpy for an NFL edge rusher but I think he could be a starter because of his "jack-of-all-trades" nature. An experienced coverage player (he'll man up on Moreau at times in space down the seam) who sets strong edges in the run game and has been fairly productive as a pass rusher this year, you'll hear Walker's name more than a few times in this matchup.
Prediction: I like Georgia in this game by a couple of scores. LSU has been one of the early darlings of college football, and the Tigers are a good team, but Georgia is loaded on both sides of the ball with so much talent.
3. Michigan State WR Felton Davis vs. Penn State CB Amani Oruwariye_ Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pennsylvania – 3:30 p.m. – Big Ten Network_
One of the most intriguing senior receivers in the country, wide receiver Felton Davis has made some outstanding catches over his career. At 6-4 and over 200 pounds, he's got gigantic hands that show up at the catch point where he can go up and win over defenders and make the toughest of catches look simple. Davis can be a bit frustrating in that he can also make the simplest catches look tough, but he's absolutely a receiver who the Nittany Lions have to account for on the perimeter in this game. He had a career game against PSU last year with 12 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown ... you know Lions fans remember that one.
Penn State senior corner Amani Oruwariye will see plenty of Davis in this matchup. The senior corner has size and length to contend with him at the catch point at 6-1, 203 pounds. He saved the Nits in overtime in Week 1 with a clutch interception as they escaped with a win over Appalachian State, and he got a second interception in Week 2 against Pitt. In fact, Oruwariye racked up an interception against the Spartans a year ago in this matchup as well. I haven't seen a ton of this kid, but people speak highly of him and this will be a good opportunity for him to shine.
Prediction: The Nittany Lions lost a heartbreaker to Ohio State last year then lost a week later in upset fashion to Michigan State. You know that James Franklin pounded that home to his team as it sat home last week during the bye, especially as Michigan State let a game through its fingers against Northwestern. Normally, that would put Penn State on upset alert, but I think the Lions bounce back with a big win here. They'll win by three scores.
What fun is making predictions if we're not keeping score?
Last Week: 5-3
Season Record: 30-13
I'm not upset about picking Oklahoma in their upset loss to Texas, mainly because I watched the whole game and was thoroughly entertained through the entire affair. Elon upsetting James Madison was the one I did not expect to happen, way to go Phoenix!
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.