Week 10 of the 2016 college football season is upon us. After this week's premiere of the College Football Playoff Rankings, the end of the season seems all too real now for the programs still in the hunt for a National Championship. This week on the College Draft Podcast with Ross Tucker, I broke down all the best matchups from some of the top games of the week, but let's look at five more matchups that fans should keep their eyes on this weekend.
1. California QB Davis Webb vs. Washington's Defense
Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, California - 10:30 PM - ESPN
You'd think that the player replacing the No. 1 pick in the draft would be a good enough storyline for any senior quarterback prospect, but there's more when you look at the path that Davis Webb has taken to become one of the top passers in college football this season. Webb was named a captain this summer by head coach Sonny Dykes after arriving at Berkeley in the offseason. At his previous stop with Texas Tech, Webb started 14 games in two seasons with the Red Raiders, but lost a pair of quarterback competitions to two of the most productive quarterbacks in the country this year (Baker Mayfield in 2013 and Patrick Mahomes in 2014).
Now, Webb is a senior looking to make a statement as one of the top players at his position in this draft class, and he has the tools to do it. Webb has good size at 6-5, 230 pounds, a strong arm and good touch on downfield throws. He will have a large learning curve next year transitioning to the mental side of the NFL game, but as a Day 3 developmental pick, Webb is as strong an option as any in this class.
Webb may have the toughest test of his career on his hands this week against the Washington Huskies, who are boasting NFL talent at every level. Our good friend Tony Pauline reported this week that junior cornerback Sidney Jones will declare for the draft after the season and likely hear his name called in the middle of the first round. Opposite Jones in the secondary is Kevin King, a senior with corner/safety versatility and strong instincts to play either spot in the NFL. At linebacker, junior Azeem Victor is one of the top playmakers in the Pac-12 while Washington is hoping to get senior pass rusher Joe Mathis back from injury sooner rather than later. This is a defense teeming with prospects, and Webb will have a chance to put his name on the NFL Draft map with a strong outing, albeit long after many of us on the East Coast are asleep.
2. LSU RB Leonard Fournette vs. Alabama LBs Reuben Foster/Shaun Dion Hamilton
Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana - 8 PM - CBS
Alabama-LSU is unquestionably my favorite game of the college football season, and that matchup is home to one of the top individual battles of the fall.
Leonard Fournette is widely known as the top ball carrier in the country. He hasn't had the eye-popping numbers this year thanks to a new-look offensive line, subpar quarterback play and an ankle injury of his own, but he is still a physical freak who presents so many challenges for defenses. Fournette's combination of size, speed, physicality and vision make him a future first-round pick and one of the best players in the country.
Leading the effort to limit Fournette and the Tigers' run game will be the pair of Crimson Tide linebackers inside in their 3-4 defense. Alabama's defensive front is littered with prospects, but Reuben Foster, a senior, and Shaun Dion Hamilton, a junior, will lead the way against the run. Foster is the best senior linebacker in this class, in my opinion, and his instincts, physicality, tackling ability and relentless pursuit of the football make him the ideal candidate to stop Fournette in his tracks.
At 6-0, 246 pounds, Foster matches up with Fournette's size (6-1, 230) and when these two blue chip prospects meet in the hole it will certainly be a collision of two high-speed trains on the same track. Hamilton doesn't quite have the size of Foster, but is a bit more athletic, so expect to see him out on the perimeter when Fournette busts plays outside the numbers. Last year against a strong offensive football team, Alabama limited Fournette to just 31 yards on fewer than 2 yards per carry, a performance the Tide will try to replicate Saturday night under the lights in Death Valley.
3. Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo vs. Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley
Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina - 3:30 PM - ESPN 2
One of the biggest surprises of the college football season has been Syracuse star wideout Amba Etta-Tawo, a player whom we've profiled in this piece before and one of the most productive receivers in the entire country. Playing in a version of Art Briles' Bear Raid offense under head coach Dino Babers, Etta-Tawo has already eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving on the year, catching 66 passes and seven touchdowns. Two weeks ago, he used his 4.4 speed to burn Boston College for 10 catches, 144 yards and a score. He runs a limited route tree and has had issues with drops throughout his career both at Syracuse and at Maryland, but Etta-Tawo's stock could see a huge uptick with a strong showing against the No. 3 Clemson Tigers.
Cordrea Tankersley is one of the most talented defenders in the country, and one of the top cover men in a draft class chock full of blue chip cornerbacks. At 6-0, 194 pounds, Tankersley has everything you want in a starting corner - size, speed, ball skills, competitiveness and quickness in and out of breaks. Last year, Tankersley suffered from lapses in technique which resulted in him allowing a handful of deep balls downfield, but he has really refined everything he does as a senior. He is projected to be a first-round pick in April. Clemson does not always travel its cornerbacks from side to side, though the Tigers did at times last year. If that happens, expect to see Tankersley on Etta-Tawo for the majority of this matchup, and a battle that could determine the outcome of the game.
4. Shepherd TE Billy Brown vs. Fairmont State's Defense
Ram Stadium, Shepherdstown, WV - 12:00pm ET - American Sports Network
In the Week 2 edition of Saturday Scouting, I put you on notice about Shepherd tight end Billy Brown, a Division II receiver who many see as a future NFL tight end because of his size (6-4, 244 pounds). All he's done since then is catch 58 passes for 949 yards and 13 (!) touchdowns in eight games for the undefeated Rams. Brown prepares for the final home game of his career Saturday against another undefeated team in Fairmont State. This is the biggest game of the year for either team with postseason implications. One of the best small-school players in this draft class, Brown is capable of being a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses down the road in the NFL. I'd like to see him develop as a blocker, but I'm really excited about his future. In the right system, he could be a potential starter.
Fairmont State's defense has been really strong all season long, ranking second in the Division II level with 12.1 points allowed per game and third in turnovers with 27. Two playmakers to focus on in this matchup are cornerback Jacob Jean-Charles and defensive back Emanuel Ivey.
5. South Carolina's Offensive Line vs. Missouri DE Charles Harris
Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina - 4 PM - SEC Network
South Carolina has a pair of draft-eligible tackles in senior left tackle Mason Zandi and redshirt Malik Young. Zandi has freakish size at over 6-8, 305 pounds, but entering the year was considered an undrafted free agent by most scouts and analysts. Young took over the starting right tackle job from incumbent D.J. Park, but the Gamecocks have had too many issues protecting the quarterback. So far this season, no team in the SEC has allowed more sacks than Will Muschamp's offense (24), meaning this could be a big game for the Mizzou defensive line, and one player in particular.
Coming into the season many analysts, including myself, viewed Charles Harris as one of the best pure pass rushers in the country after a sophomore season that included six sacks for a Missouri defense that just churns out first-round pick pass rushers. That production has not followed suit this year as a junior, as the Kansas City native has just 3.5 sacks on the year, with three of them coming in one game against Georgia. At 6-3, 235 pounds, Harris has a very good first step and, most importantly, the mindset of a top pass rusher, knowing how to use a variety of moves to set up tackles and get to the quarterback. Harris desperately needs another big game or two to get back into the national spotlight, but regardless I think he'll still end up being a relatively high draft pick when it's all said and done.
One player who garnered a ton of buzz this week after a strong performance on Tuesday night "MACtion" was Western Michigan standout receiver Corey Davis. The senior receiver set a conference record against Ball State when he caught 12 passes for a whopping 272 yards - yes, 272 yards in one game - and three touchdowns. The No. 18 Broncos are led by their passing attack, and Davis is the catalyst. He's the real deal on the outside, boasting very good ball skills and a size/speed combination that you can't teach. Davis is also a very skilled route runner, showing the ability to beat press coverage consistently, even against the Big Ten opponents on the schedule. He's used to dealing with extra attention from defenses and winning in the air. He, to me, is the best receiver in the senior class. Expect to hear a lot more about Davis in the coming months.
I've already written about two prospects outside the "Power 5" conferences with Brown and Davis, but let's wrap this up with one more. Unlike the other two players, this prospect started his career at a bigger school and transferred to the FCS level. Lamar cornerback Brendan Langley, who I was introduced to by the one and only Mr. Pauline, is a converted wide receiver who played multiple positions earlier in his career at the University of Georgia before transferring this offseason. At 6-0, 192 pounds, Langley has very good size for the cornerback position. His ball skills as a former wide receiver are certainly tools to develop in the NFL. Langley has pro speed (reportedly can run the 40 in the 4.4s), can press at the line of scrimmage and has been very productive in their zone-heavy scheme. If he can find a similar situation in the NFL, Langley could thrive at the next level.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. 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.