A month into the college football season and the top prospects and top teams seem even more difficult to sort out than before the season began. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin can all stake claims to be number 1 or 2 in the country. Meanwhile, Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy and Ohio State EDGE Chase Young are locked in a fight for the number one spot in the 2020 NFL Draft class.
There were a couple of huge performances this weekend and everyone couldn’t make the risers this week. However, I feel like they deserve honorable mentions. Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb, Washington CB Myles Bryant, Notre Dame EDGE Julian Okwara, and TCU WR Jalen Raegor had huge games on Saturday.
1) DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Alabama’s amazing duo receivers of Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III get all the attention, with Smith flying very low beneath them. Smith changed that course on Saturday with 11 receptions for 274 yards and 5 touchdowns. I did not commit a typo in that stat line. Smith had an insane performance against Ole Miss that put him in Alabama’s record books, and directly in the eyes of NFL Scouts. He won’t be overlooked as a high-quality prospect any longer.
2) Jeffery Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Okudah entered the season as my top-ranked cornerback, and he is solidifying his place there. The biggest knock on Okudah before the season began was his lack of ball skills, coming in with just one interception in his college career. Okudah left the game on Saturday with two interceptions, one of which he was sitting on the ground. He is a fluid cornerback with great hips who is finally starting to show his ball skills. Okudah is making a case to be the best defensive back to come out of DBU in a few years.
3) Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State
Game after game Oklahoma State is running their offense through Chuba Hubbard and game after game he is delivering in a big way. He rushed 25 times for 296 yards and a touchdown. Through five games on the season, Hubbard is averaging 25.6 carries, 187.6 yards, and 2 touchdowns per game. He is proving to be a workhorse running back who is commanding touches. If Hubbard continues to produce numbers like this, not only will his draft stock soar, he’ll also be in Heisman conversations.
1) Anthony McFarland Jr., RB, Maryland
McFarland looked like he was having a break-through season before the game against Penn State on Saturday. He hadn’t faced a real defensive test yet this year and he did not come out looking good. McFarland rushed the ball 9 times for only 24 yards and zero touchdowns, and to make matters even worse, one of those rushes was for 13 yards. Hopefully he can get back on track this week against a Rutgers team that is nowhere near the level of Penn State.
2) Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Etienne is still a top 25 talent, but the game against North Carolina was concerning on many levels for him. The main issue is the fumble that Etienne lost, his third on the year after only fumbling 3 total times in the previous two seasons. He didn’t run as efficiently as we’re used to seeing, not really breaking beyond the second level. Etienne only ran the ball three times in the second half, which could be chalked up to just a coach’s decision, but it really means the coach didn’t trust him down the stretch in a close game. Etienne has fallen behind Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, but he’s still an elite talent.
3) DiCaprio Bootle, CB, Nebraska
While having one of the greatest names in college football, Bootle struggled against a high-powered Ohio State offense on Saturday. He was thrown at all game as he couldn’t keep up with receivers and was often beat over top. Bootle found himself in the wrong position all game and failed to turn around and locate the ball. Overall Bootle has looked good this year, but he was exposed against Ohio State and inconsistent play worries me.
Small-School Prospect Highlight:
Matt Peart, OL, University of Connecticut
The first thing you notice about Peart is his perfect frame for an offensive tackle at 6’7” and 303 pounds. Peart excels in the run game as a big mauler, while needing to clean up his technique in the passing game. He has high upside as a late-round project that can be molded into a possible starter in a few years. Peart will continue to rise through the draft prospect and will be drafted come April.
Top Three Games to Watch this Week:
1) Michigan State vs Ohio State – October 5th
Michigan State has had a bounce-back year this season, with their only loss coming from a surprisingly rising Arizona State team. Michigan State still has major questions at the quarterback position with Brian Lewerke just not looking like the guy. However, they have other big-time talent in prospects such as edge rusher Kenny Willekes, linebacker Joe Bachie, offensive linemen Luke Campbell and Tyler Higbee, safety David Dowell, and defensive lineman Raequan Williams.
Ohio State looks like the most dominant team in college football right now, maybe even more dominant than Alabama. In what looked like a possible trap game against Nebraska on Saturday, Ohio State jumped out to a 38-0 lead at halftime and didn’t let up. Edge rusher Chase Young continues to be a nightmare for opposing offenses and holds the title of best defender in the 2020 Draft class. Ohio State also features cornerbacks Jeffrey Okudah and Damon Arnette, linebackers Malik Harrison and Tuf Borland, running back J.K. Dobbins, wide receiver K.J. Hill, edge rusher Jonathan Cooper, and offensive lineman Thayer Munson.
2) Auburn vs Florida – October 5th
Auburn is a surprising team this year, continuing to prove they belong in the elite category of teams in 2019. They are crushing opponents even with the inconsistencies of true freshman QB Bo Nix. Defensive lineman Derrick Brown is improving every game and has established himself as the best interior defensive lineman in the 2020 Draft class. Auburn also has top prospects in edge rusher Nick Coe, offensive lineman Price Tega Wanogho, defensive lineman Marlon Davidson, and linebacker K.J. Britt.
Florida is also having a surprisingly good year, a bounce-back season after a disappointing 2018 campaign. In one of the better matchups of the year, Florida will have to contain Auburn’s stout defensive line. Florida’s best prospects are cornerback C.J. Henderson, edge rushers Jabari Zuniga Jonathan Greenard, running back Lamical Perine, and linebacker David Reese.
3) Iowa vs Michigan – October 5th
This should be a good matchup between two equally matched teams. Iowa is usually a consistent team and the same has been true this season, albeit a scare against Iowa State a few weeks ago. Iowa has several potential first round players in the trenches in edge rusher A.J. Epenesa and offensive linemen Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson. Iowa also has quarterback Nate Stanley and cornerback Michael Ojemudia.
Michigan has had a rough season so far, barely managing a win in overtime against Army and then getting dominated by Wisconsin. Michigan can’t suffer another loss for not only their playoff hopes, but also their future hopes beyond this season. Michigan’s prospects for 2020 are receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black, cornerback Lavert Hill, offensive linemen Ben Bredeson and Jon Runyan, linebacker Josh Uche, and quarterback Shea Patterson.