November is here for college football, which means the regular season is on its last legs. We're on the precipice of postseason all-star game announcements, bowl season and the College Football Playoff. Most teams are entering the most important games of the fall. 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.
1. Pittsburgh QB Nathan Peterman vs. Clemson Defense
*Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina - 3:30 PM - ABC *
In a senior quarterback class starving for a player to rise above the rest, Pitt's Nathan Peterman may be that guy. At 6-2, 225 pounds, he's got decent size and has only started for a year and a half for the Panthers, but the senior presents a number of enticing traits for the next level. The Tennessee transfer plays in a pro-style system, has solid physical tools and has improved his accuracy from a year ago. His numbers are average, especially when compared to the passers from the bevy of spread systems across the country, but Peterman has the look of a player who could catch some buzz late in the draft process.
That buzz could start even earlier for Peterman with a strong showing against a talented Clemson defense, led by star cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, who had an interception and a handful of tackles in last week's matchup against Syracuse. At linebacker, Ben Boulware is a senior leader who patrols the middle of the field, and the Tigers' young defensive line is led by sophomore stud Christian Wilkins, a 300-pound lineman who was forced to slide out to defensive end this summer and leads the team in sacks. This is an aggressive unit that brings a lot of problems to the table for opposing quarterbacks, so Peterman will have his work cut out for him on Saturday afternoon.
2. Michigan RB De'Veon Smith vs. Iowa LB Josey Jewell
*Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa - 8:00 PM - ABC *
De'Veon Smith is flying under the radar a bit in this running back class considering that he's a senior and there are so many talented juniors at the position around the country. Even on his own team, he gets overshadowed by the fact that they have so many stars at other positions, but Smith is an absolute grinder out of the backfield. With strong vision, a punishing running style and third-down value as a receiver and as a blocker, Smith is as well-rounded as it gets. Some will question his overall athleticism to be a starter in the NFL, but at his size and with his skill set, Smith is almost a sure bet to stick in the NFL in some kind of role.
Smith has another good test this week in the Iowa defense. Defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson is generating some buzz, but the real name in the front seven is linebacker Josey Jewell. At 6-2, 235 pounds, Jewell had exactly one scholarship offer from a big-time program coming out of high school, and he made sure to fulfill his end of the bargain for the Hawkeyes. The junior could still go back for another year of eligibility, but there are rumors that he could declare for the draft after the season. With 20 tackles in the last two contests against Penn State and Wisconsin, Jewell is a productive player who will be charged with stopping Smith in his tracks in this game.
3. Washington WR John Ross vs. USC CB Adoree' Jackson
*Husky Stadium, Seattle, Washington - 7:30 PM - FOX *
The biggest game of the weekend happens out west, where the upstart Washington Huskies take on USC in a battle with postseason implications. Washington's biggest names on offense, for the most part, are sophomores like quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin, who both are unable to declare for the upcoming draft.
One player who continues to make headlines, however, is wide receiver John Ross. At 5-11, 190 pounds, Ross is drawing some comparisons to former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson because of his explosive speed down the field and quickness in and out of breaks. One thing that has stood out to me when watching the Huskies is that not only can Ross stretch the field, but he's also a factor in the red zone because of his aggressiveness at the catch point, and ability to quickly get on top of defenders and get them on his backside hip in fade situations. Ross tore up the Cal secondary a week ago to the tune of six catches, 208 yards and three touchdowns, and he will be a big test for the USC secondary.
Leading the way in the Trojans' defensive backfield is junior Adoree' Jackson. USC's Team MVP a year ago because of his abilities on defense, offense and special teams, Jackson is also a two-time All-America in track and field as a long jumper, where he nearly qualified for the Olympics this spring. Jackson may be more athlete than cornerback at this stage of his career, but he certainly has the foot speed to stick with Ross. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has allowed Jackson to shadow receivers all over the field in the past. It would not surprise me at all to see USC do that with Jackson on Saturday, making this a truly fascinating one-on-one battle out west.
4. USC WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster/Darreus Rogers vs. Washington CBs Sidney Jones/Kevin King
*Husky Stadium, Seattle, Washington - 7:30 PM - FOX *
Typically, I try to fit in a tight end matchup, but I couldn't exclude the "other" receiver/defensive back matchup in this Washington-USC game. JuJu Smith-Schuster is considered by many to be a potential first-round pick at wide receiver when he does come out of school. The junior's production has been hit or miss this season, but with his size-speed combination and reliable hands, he is a very intriguing prospect. Darreus Rogers, a senior, is not the kind of athlete that Smith-Schuster is, but is a contested-catch guy who can go up and fight for passes and come down with the reception.
The talented USC receiving corps takes on a Washington secondary that has a pair of skilled prospects as well. Senior defensive back Kevin King has spent time at both cornerback and safety throughout his career. At 6-3, 188 pounds, King seems more like the latter when you first look at him. However, if you watched these two teams play last year, you saw the job that King did on Smith-Schuster, as he made several plays on the ball down the field and looked like a shutdown corner. King has taken a bit of a back seat this season to Sidney Jones, a junior cornerback with size, instincts and toughness. Our friend Tony Pauline reported a couple of weeks ago that Jones will likely declare for the draft after the season, and his matchup against the USC receiving corps will be huge as teams go back to evaluate his film in preparation for April's draft here in Philadelphia.
5. Georgia OL Greg Pyke vs. Auburn DT Montravius Adams
*Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia - 3:30 PM - CBS *
As Georgia keeps plugging on toward bowl eligibility with a freshman quarterback at the helm and an underperforming offensive line, senior Greg Pyke is preparing for his final handful of games with the Bulldogs. At 6-5, 319 pounds, Pyke entered the season having started 23 of the previous 25 games for Georgia. With his size, strength and power at the point of attack, he has been one of the leaders on a group looking to consistently open up holes for star running back Nick Chubb.
Pyke has a battle on his hands Saturday afternoon against the Tigers and defensive tackle Montravius Adams. At 6-3, 300 pounds, Adams reminds me a bit of Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan. He's really tough, holds down the point of attack well and has the athleticism to be a penetrator up front in both the run and pass game. Adams can improve his hand use overall, but he's got the ability to develop into a one-gap defender or a two-gap run stuffer in the NFL, depending on where he ends up. Adams and Pyke will see a lot of each other on Saturday, and it will be a matchup both players need as they transition into the draft process following the season.
In a senior cornerback group loaded with studs, there's little margin for error at the top. Whether you're talking about Iowa's Desmond King (whose biggest knock is his size at just 5-10), LSU's Tre'Davious White (who saw more time in the slot than he did outside in 2016) or Clemson's Cordrea Tankersley (who gave up a lot of big plays as a junior despite having every physical tool at the position you can ask for), everyone had one wart you could point to on an otherwise spotless résumé.
One cornerback who didn't have much to stick your nose up at was Tennessee's Cam Sutton. He gave up just two big plays a year ago, was penalized just once, has NFL size at 5-11, 190 pounds and has all of the mental as well as physical traits for a starting cornerback. Then, on September 17 against Ohio University, Sutton left the game early with a fractured ankle. That meant that the cornerback who had never missed a start in his entire career would be out for an extended period of time, a crushing blow as he tried to establish himself as the No. 1 cornerback in the country. Two months later, Sutton is back at practice and could see the field sooner rather than later for the reeling Volunteers, who have undergone quite a bit of strife since his departure. Sutton is a game-time decision for the Volunteers on Saturday against a surprising Kentucky team. Whether he returns this week or next, expect the senior to try and make up for lost time as one of the top defenders in the country.
From SEC cornerback to FCS wide receiver we go, as I want to introduce you to the best small-school player in the country one year after the Eagles selected Carson Wentz second overall from the same level of football. Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp, like Sutton, started every game of his career entering his senior campaign, but unlike the talented corner he has been incredibly productive once again in his final collegiate season. Kupp will go down as one of the best skill players in the history of the FCS with 389 catches, over 5,000 yards and an astounding 70 touchdowns so far in his career with a handful of games left.
At 6-2, 209 pounds, Kupp is rumored to run in the low-to-mid 4.4s in the 40-yard dash, and his quickness is apparent when you watch him play. Most importantly, he's got sticky fingers at the catch point, with very few drops, and is a slippery route runner who consistently separates at the top of his stem, even when his team faces off against top competition. Against Washington State this year, Kupp racked up 12 catches for 206 yards and three scores. Against Oregon last year, it was 15 for 246 and three touchdowns. Against Washington as a sophomore it was eight for 145 and three more trips to the end zone. Kupp's story isn't finished yet, and how he's viewed this postseason, especially after the all-star games and February's NFL Combine, will help show us how NFL teams see him leading up to April's draft.
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.