It’s the first weekend of November in college football, which means we have got a star-studded Saturday awaiting us. There are a handful of huge matchups with not only postseason implications but also NFL Draft stocks for key prospects on the line. This is one of those "park it on the couch or barstool from noon until midnight" kind of days. Here’s who you should be watching in all of the key games!
Game Ball: West Virginia WR David Sills
This is a player who had a strong performance a week ago and helped his stock because of it.
West Virginia, still smarting a bit from its upset loss a couple of weeks ago against Iowa State, blew the doors off of Baylor last Thursday night, and senior wide receiver David Sills was a big part of it. At 6-4, 210 pounds, the former high school quarterback phenom reeled in five passes for 139 yards and a pair of scores, and he looked impressive doing it. Sills has followed one of the craziest journeys in recent memory to be one of the senior class’ top wideouts. He will be a player to watch in the pre-draft process with his wingspan and natural ball skills. The Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine will be big for him in the spring.
Prediction: In one of the biggest games of the weekend with potential College Football Playoff implications, West Virginia and Texas face off in Austin. The Mountaineers are coming off of that big win, while the Longhorns will try to rebound off a tough loss against conference foe Oklahoma State where they got down early and marched to a near comeback. Most of the experts are going with Texas here, citing the Horns’ victory over West Virginia last year, but that was the game where star quarterback Will Grier left with an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. I think West Virginia wins this one in a tightly fought battle. This should be a fun game to watch.
Draft Buzz: Michigan TE Zach Gentry
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.
In a senior class starving for tight end talent, one name that has gotten buzz this fall has been Michigan senior Zach Gentry. One week after Tony Pauline mentioned him on the Journey to the Draft podcast, Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy name-dropped him on the show as a player who has helped himself most this season. At 6-8 and over 260 pounds, the senior has an NFL frame and has turned in some big performances this year (including a seven-catch, 112-yard outing against Maryland a month ago). Coach Jim Harbaugh has a history of developing young tight ends, and Gentry may just be the next man on that long list.
Prediction: The Wolverines host Penn State this weekend, and while the Nittany Lions won last year’s battle I expect Harbaugh and Michigan to take this one. That defense is ferocious, PSU quarterback Trace McSorley is banged up, and I think Michigan rolls at home by at least two scores.
Best Pro Comparison: Louisiana Tech EDGE Jaylon Ferguson
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.
If you’ve been following along, you may be aware of the fact that this is being billed as the "Year of the D-lineman" with so many potential stars up front in this class. Not only are there a lot of big-name studs at the top, but this class has a lot of depth as well. One of those players is Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson. At 6-5 and at nearly 260 pounds, the senior defensive end lines up inside and outside and is really stout at the point of attack in the run game. Watching him as a junior, I could see the potential there as a pass rusher, though he still needed refinement. With his body type, he reminded me a lot of Kony Ealy, a former second-round pick out of Missouri a few years ago. Ealy never lived up to that draft slot, but he was an intriguing prospect out of college. It wouldn’t shock me if some view Ferguson similarly entering the NFL.
Prediction: Louisiana Tech has their yearly bout with Mississippi State on the docket this week. MSU is one of the most mercurial teams in the country. I have no idea what to expect from the Bulldogs on a weekly basis. That being said, I do find it hard to see them losing to Ferguson and Louisiana Tech. Put me down for MSU in this one by a couple of scores.
Small-School Standout: Marshall WR Tyre Brady
This is a player who comes from a lower level of competition but has a very bright future in the NFL.
One of the bigger sleepers in this senior class, Marshall wideout Tyre Brady isn’t getting much buzz yet, but I expect that to change in a couple of months. At 6-2 and over 200 pounds, Brady has a very similar skill set to Alshon Jeffery coming out of college. He’s got good size, knows how to use it, and looks very natural catching the football. He’s not a crisp route runner, but he has deceptive speed, like Alshon did at South Carolina, and plays the ball extremely well in the air. I think he projects well as a starting outside receiver in the NFL.
Prediction: The Herd takes their show on the road this week to take on Southern Miss, who just a couple of weeks ago put up a good fight on the road against Auburn. This should be a relatively tight game, but I don’t think the Eagles’ defense has enough horses to keep up with Marshall in the passing game in critical situations. I like Marshall here by a touchdown.
Philly Connection: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
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.
We had Mike Mayock on the Journey to the Draft podcast this week and one of the players I was excited to get his take on was Deebo Samuel, the star receiver from South Carolina. Last year, as a junior, Samuel led his team in touchdowns despite only playing in three games due to a broken leg. He’s phenomenal after the catch, with the ability to make people miss and run away in space, despite the fact that he’s not a true burner in the open field (kind of similar to Golden Tate). Samuel hasn’t hit the ground running as fast as many would have liked this year, but he’s still one of the top receivers in the country.
A teammate of Duce Staley’s son with the Gamecocks, Samuel is coached by co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon, a former college receiver himself. McClendon played at the University of Georgia, and graduated the same year as former Eagles wide receiver Reggie Brown.
Prediction: South Carolina takes on Ole Miss with two of the most talented receiving corps in college football going head to head. I expect the Gamecocks to come out of this one with the W because Ole Miss has really struggled defensively to stop anyone. Give me SC by 10.
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. LSU G Garrett Brumfield vs. Alabama DL Isaiah Buggs
Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana - 8 p.m. - CBS
In the highest-profile game of the week, LSU and Alabama face off in a battle of two top-three programs in the College Football Playoff rankings. This is actually my favorite game on the college football calendar on a yearly basis, and this one figures to be a doozy. LSU’s offensive line has been a weak point through most of the season, but the Tigers get some reinforcements back on Saturday night with the return of senior left guard Garrett Brumfield. This kid is built for games like this. At 6-3 with pretty long arms for a guard, Brumfield is naturally strong, powerful, and plays like every opponent made fun of his mama before the snap. The Tigers are glad to have him back in the lineup for this crucial game.
LSU is lucky to get Brumfield back because, plainly, it is going to need all the help it can get against this Tide defense. Alabama is relatively inexperienced on the back seven, but as usual, that defensive line is just loaded with talent. Nose tackle Quinnen Williams looks like a future top-15 pick, as does left defensive end Raekwon Davis. The guy Brumfield expects to see most of on Saturday night, however, is right end Isaiah Buggs. The senior defensive lineman lines up typically on the offense’s left side, sometimes right over the tackle or slightly inside him, depending on the front. Buggs is a quick, penetrating type of defensive lineman. He projects well to a scheme like the one here in Philadelphia where the Eagles ask their players to explode into the backfield. He uses his hands very well at the point of attack, as all Tide linemen do, and his skill set projects well to the pro game. This is a good matchup to watch.
Prediction: I love everything about this matchup going in, and I expect LSU to put up a fight, but at the end of the day I really struggle seeing how the Tigers' offense will put up enough points to match Alabama. Their best bet will be to control the clock and keep it close going into the fourth quarter. This will be the biggest test of the year for Alabama’s young, star-studded offense, but I expect the Tide to roll in the end. Give me Bama by three scores in a game that’s closer than the final result says.
2. Georgia WR Terry Godwin vs. Kentucky CB Derrick Baity
Kroger Field, Lexington, Kentucky - 3:30 p.m. - CBS
Another huge SEC matchup pits Georgia against Kentucky, and the Bulldogs' offense may have finally turned the corner. After rotating sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm with freshman stud Justin Fields, Georgia settled in with Fromm in last week’s win and looked the best it had looked, arguably, all year against a tough Florida defense. This passing game features a bevy of weapons at wide receiver, and senior Terry Godwin is a name to watch. He only has eight catches on the year, but the senior has the longest play from scrimmage for the Dogs this year and has come up with big plays for them in the past. Godwin, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, and Jeremiah Hollomon present a tough test for any secondary.
That receiving corps takes on one of the top secondaries in the entire country this weekend with the Wildcats, who have surprised a lot of people as a top-10 team in the country. With Kentucky, it all starts with that defense, and while the line (and star pass rusher Josh Allen) gets a lot of credit, let’s throw some love toward players like Derrick Baity at cornerback and Mike Edwards at free safety. Baity (6-2, 190 pounds) is long and has the quickness to get in and out of breaks in a flash. He can match up with pretty much anyone in college football because of his size/athleticism profile. I think he projects as a starter on the outside in the NFL.
Prediction: For the same reason I like Alabama over LSU, I like the Bulldogs over the Wildcats in this game. This Kentucky defense is fun, and Wildcats will likely make it close, but I don’t know how the boys in blue can generate enough offense against this ferocious Georgia defensive outfit. I like Georgia by at least two touchdowns.
3. Kansas State RT Dalton Risner vs. TCU EDGE Ben Banogu
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX - 3:30 p.m. - FS1
Let’s wrap things up in the Big 12, where two tough, hard-nosed teams face off with Kansas State and TCU. The Wildcats have a four-year starter on the offensive line in Dalton Risner, who some analysts believe has first-round potential in April’s draft. The right tackle for Kansas State, I actually like Risner a bit more for the inside in the NFL, and he does have experience there from earlier in his career. Risner has long arms and gigantic hands, and his versatility will serve him well in the NFL.
Risner will see a lot of TCU senior pass rusher Ben Banogu, who has four sacks in the last three games, including a pair last week against the Kansas Jayhawks. A transfer from Louisiana Monroe, Banogu is playing a little bit out of position in TCU’s base defense, but when he gets reps outside you can see his potential as a pass rusher in the NFL. This will be one of the first tapes that teams watch from his senior season, so this is a big opportunity for the potential mid-round selection.
Prediction: This isn’t a particularly sexy matchup with two teams that have lost four out of five, but I think TCU takes this one at home by double digits. I don’t think the Wildcats have enough juice offensively to match TCU’s skill talent.
What fun is making predictions if we’re not keeping score?
Last Week: 5-3
Season Record: 47-20
I got burned by an FCS game again with Northern Colorado coming out on top, and I did not see that Northwestern upset coming over Wisconsin! Better luck this week ...
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.