We did it; we’ve made it through the offseason and the first college football game of the 2019 season is just days away. Every week during the season I will be writing an article recapping the following week with rising and falling draft prospects, a highlight on a small-school prospect, and a look forward to the next week with the top three games to watch. With it being before week one, this article just contains the top upcoming games to watch, but I’ve listed five games instead of three because I’m just too excited about so many games. Football is back!
Top Five Games to Watch:
1) Oregon vs. Auburn – August 31st
This is the best match-up we’ll see in the month of August. So many top teams schedule a weak opponent as a sort of warm-up for the rest of the season. But thankfully Oregon and Auburn decided to give us a great game right off the bat. There are two big storylines in this game and the first revolves around QB Justin Herbert.
Herbert is widely regarded as a top three prospect at QB in this year’s draft class and a top 15 prospect overall. Herbert decided to stay for his senior year to continue to grow and this first opponent is a great test.
The other big storyline is in the trenches. Oregon may have the best offensive line in the country, headlined by Shane Lemeiux, Calvin Throckmorton, and Jake Hanson who are all draft eligible. On the other side of the ball, Auburn is led by defensive linemen Derrick Brown and Big Kat Bryant, as well as EDGE Nick Coe.
2) Duke vs. Alabama – August 31st
The big headline here is our first chance to get a look at all the 2020 draft prospects for Alabama for the first time this year. Alabama has been stacked year after year, but this could be their best class yet. Alabama has the potential to break the modern era record of draft picks from a school in a single year set by Ohio State in 2004 (14). This means there are a ton of guys on this roster to keep your eye on.
The top prospects are wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, linebacker Dylan Moses, defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, cornerback Trevon Diggs, and EDGE rushers Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis. Other prospects to watch are safety Xavier McKinney, running back Najee Harris, offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood, defensive lineman LaBryan Ray, and cornerback Shyheim Carter.
Last year Duke had the big-name prospect in quarterback Daniel Jones who was selected with the sixth overall pick. They don’t have a prospect like that this year, but cornerback Mark Gilbert could see himself as an early round pick. Running back Deon Jackson also has a shot at being drafted, possibly as a late round pickup for depth at the running back position.
3) Georgia Tech vs. Clemson – August 29th
Clemson is in the same boat as Alabama in week one, facing a weaker opponent but with so many top prospects that you just can’t, and shouldn’t, resist catching them play in week one. Last year, Clemson was all about their defensive linemen with the draft, but they’re more balanced this year.
Running back Travis Etienne, wide receiver Tee Higgins, and linebacker Isaiah Simmons headline Clemson’s draft class. They also have big talents in cornerback A.J. Terrell, defensive linemen Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams, offensive linemen Sean Pollard and Tremayne Anchrum, and safety K’Von Wallace.
Georgia Tech has had only three players drafted since 2016 (last pick was kicker Harrison Butker in 2017), but offensive lineman Kenny Cooper looks like a solid mid round pick this year. With Georgia Tech running the triple-option offense, Cooper is a strong run blocker but doesn’t have much experience with pass blocking.
4) Georgia vs. Vanderbilt – August 31st
Georgia is must-watch all season with my number one quarterback prospect in this class with Jake Fromm. He’s a consensus top three quarterback prospect in this draft and has a shot to be picked first overall.
Georgia also has potential first round prospects in offensive lineman Andrew Thomas and running back D’Andre Swift. They also have safeties Richard LeCounte and J.R. Reed, defensive linemen Tyler Clark and Julian Rochester, offensive lineman Solomon Kindley, and wide receiver Demetrius Robertson.
Vanderbilt’s prospect watch-list is a step up from Duke and Georgia Tech. Tight end Jared Pinckney could be a top 5 tight end in this draft class. Meanwhile, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn could see his draft stock soar this year if he builds off what he did last year. He is an explosive athlete that pushes the Vanderbilt offense forward. Wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb is a late round prospect that could be an interesting addition to any team’s offense.
5) Miami vs. Florida – August 24th
The first game of the 2019 college football season has to make this list. It’s also one of the better matchups we’ll see in the first week. Each of these team’s has a handful of prospects that will be selected in this draft.
Florida boasts the only potential first round prospect at this time in cornerback C.J. Henderson, who is my third cornerback prospect but is the first or second for others. Florida also has EDGE rusher Jabari Zuniga who looks like a second or third round prospect. Running back Lamical Perine, defensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton, quarterback Felipe Franks, wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, and linebacker David Reese II should be drafted in the mid to late rounds.
Miami has a pair of stud linebackers in Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney. I had Quarterman pegged for a third-round pick last year before he decided to return to Miami for his senior year. Cornerback Trajan Bandy and EDGE Jonathan Garvin should be later round draft picks.