It’s Week 8 of the college football season and the race for the playoffs is starting to get interesting.
Without further ado, let’s get right to the action
Alabama vs. Texas A&M (3:30 p.m., CBS)
The Alabama Crimson Tide has been rolling over every team in their way this year. They have been so dominant, that even though the Aggies are the sixth-ranked team in the nation, Alabama is STILL favored to win by 17.5 points (as of this writing, anyway).
The leaner, faster ‘Bama defense (and special teams) have scored 11 touchdowns so far this year. They have players to watch all over their team, but with the Giants playing Aaron Donald on Sunday, perhaps the Alabama defender to watch is defensive lineman Jon Allen. Allen is in a bit of a prototypical grey area for defensive linemen. At 290 pounds he is bigger than most 4-3 defensive ends, but at 6-foot-3 he doesn’t have the length 3-4 teams normally like for their defensive ends. He could find a home on a 4-3 line as a defensive end — he shows a very good first step and rare flexibility for players with his build. But a more interesting fit is inside at the 3-technique defensive tackle position. He has a similar kind of blend of strength, athleticism, explosiveness, and natural leverage as Donald had coming out.
The matchup to watch, however, is between left tackle Cam Robinson and pass rusher Myles Garrett. Robinson is generally heralded as the top left tackle in the draft -- though off-field red flags likely have him off the Giants’ board — and Garrett is being called the top football player in the entire draft. Tennessee’s defensive end Derek Barnett had a career day against Alabama last week. Will the phenomenally talneted Garrett match (or even exceed) Barnett’s performance?
Oregon State vs. Washington (6 p.m., Pac 12 Network)
It figures that when the Washington Huskies play before dark they would be on a network not many get (or at least not as many as ESPN, ABC, or CBS). But if you can watch this game, make the effort. The Huskies have quietly become one of the best teams in the country, and they have a lot of young players we’ll be hearing about for a long time. Most of them are freshmen or sophomores, and therefore won’t be eligible for the 2017 draft, but the talent is there. I drafted defensive tackle Elijah Quals in my Mini Mock last week, and he could be a player to keep track of. He is similar in build and movement skills to Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison, which seems to be the kind of defensive tackle the Giants want.
Ole Miss vs. LSU (9 p.m., ESPN)
Les Miles might not be at LSU anymore, but they still have some talented prospects. Not only is running back Leonard Fournette expected to return from an ankle injury, but the Tigers have a pair of talented defensive backs in Jamal Adams and Tre’Davis White. Adams is a “do it all” safety who can play free safety, strong safety, linebacker, or even slot corner in a pinch. White has average size and athleticism for the position, but he also has the quick feet, fluid hips, and coverage instincts you want to see from a cornerback.
On the other sideline, the talented Tigers’ defense will have to deal with the potentially dynamic pairing of QB Chad Kelly and TE/WR Evan Engram. Kelly can be one of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football, at times taking games over with his arm and mobility... But at other times he can make frustrating mistakes that swing the game in the other direction. Engram is his top weapon, and while he is listed as a tight end, he is really more of an over-sized receiver in the mold of Jordan Reed or Aaron Hernandez (minus the murder). Engram is a mismatch wherever he lines up in the offensive formation. Too big and strong for a defensive back and too athletic for a linebacker to cover. He can be a headache for defenses, especially when Kelly is playing his best.
After their win over the Baltimore Ravens, and another week of NFL action league-wide, the New York Giants would be drafting 18th overall if the season ended today. So, I’ll be using that position and the CBS Sports Big Board to do a four-round mini mock draft. As per usual, I will hold myself to selecting players ranked within five spots of where the Giants are drafting.
Round 1 - 18th Overall
Zach Cunningham (OLB, Vanderbilt) - There are more well known linebackers from bigger schools in the mix for “top linebacker” in the draft, but Cunningham might wind up being tops in the draft. A long, athletic linebacker, Cunningham has instincts and experience playing inside, but his natural home is a 4-3 WILL linebacker. He can play the run, drop in coverage and get after the passer. Cunningham had a strong 2015, but has burst onto the scene in 2016. Last week he almost single-handedly lifted Vandy over Georgia with an incredible 19 tackle performance.
Round 2 - 50th Overall
Adam Bisnowaty (OT, Pittsburgh) - I don’t think he’ll be here come the spring, but he is now, so I’m taking him. Bisnowaty shouldn’t be a sleeper for regular readers of this series, I’ve been talking about him all year. I firmly believe that the Giants need to spend most of their draft picks reinforcing the offensive line and defensive front seven, so this is my pick. Hopefully Bisnowaty can take over at right tackle and solidify the offensive line for most of a decade with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Ereck Flowers (and either Bobby Hart or Brett Jones).
Round 3 - 82nd Overall
Charles Walker (DT, Oklahoma) - A powerful, athletic defensive tackle, Walker doesn’t have the size the Giants seem to covet inside. What he does have, however, is the ability to be disruptive inside that they currently aren’t getting from their defensive tackles. Walker had a strong 2015 campaign with 10 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks, and a forced fumble.
Round 4 - 114th Overall
Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State) - My third pick for the front seven, which I’m sure will garner more than a few grumbles considering the Giants’ investment in the 2016 offseason. Lewis lead the Buckeyes in sacks in 2015 starting across from Joey Bosa and has four sacks so far in 2016. He is a strong defensive end with good quickness and a knack for beating blockers and getting to the QB. He is also a solid tackler who plays the run well and has a non-stop motor. While he doesn’t have the twitchy speed I think the Giants lack in their pass rush, he is a solid player who could should be able to contribute right away in a rotation.