There have been some great rivalry games already this year in college football. The Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State was one of the most exciting games of the year — in college or the NFL. Likewise, the game between USC and UCLA was terrific as well.
Hopefully Rivalry Weekend, which sees some of college football’s fiercest rivalries play out, will live up to the games already played.
For our purposes, there should be several games on the slate this weekend with match-ups worth watching as the New York Giants march toward a high pick in a potentially pivotal draft.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some games.
Michigan vs. Ohio State
FOX - 12pm
Ohio State’s defensive line is a reason to watch each and every one of their games. There is the distinct possibility that all of their starters and back-ups will be going on to play on Sundays, and that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. While not all of them are draft eligible this year, Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, and Dre’Mont Jones could all interest the Giants if they are looking to add to their defensive line in April’s draft.
They also provides an excellent test for Michigan’s Mason Cole.
We’ve said before that the Giants were, reportedly, very interested in the Michigan offensive lineman before he announced that he would be returning for the 2017 season. Cole is versatile enough to play any of the interior line positions, as well as move out to offensive tackle in a pinch. Depending on what happens with the Giants’ offensive line in free agency, a dependable and versatile offensive lineman like Cole could very well interest them again.
We should also be keeping an eye on Ohio State center/guard Billy Price. I’ve mentioned price before as (probably) the top center in the draft, with the versatility to be one of the better guards as well. Michigan’s Maurice Hurst is an athletic, disruptive defensive tackle, and the battle that side of the line of scrimmage should be interesting as well.
Auburn vs. Alabama
CBS - 3:30pm
It was nice of the schedule makers to give us the weekend’s marque match-up in the middle of the afternoon. The Iron Bowl is always a significant game for these two schools. While Alabama generally has National Championship expectations every year, the perceived success or failure of either school’s season can often be boiled down to which one won this game.
As it just so happens, a berth in the College Football Playoffs may also hang in the balance. Alabama is currently the top ranked team in the country, but Auburn is not far behind, just out of the play-offs at 6th. Both teams are talented, physical football teams, with plenty of players worth watching.
As usual, Alabama is flush with soon-to-be NFL talent.
Calvin Ridley is (probably) the top wide receiver (for the moment), while running backs Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris are the kind of big, powerful running backs the Giants currently lack.
On defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick is the player to watch. Though Da’Ron Payne who, besides having a fantastic name for a DT, could interest the wide-body loving Giants. Fitzpatrick, however, is generally regarded as the top cornerback in the country, with the size and physicality to play safety as well. He is also a playmaker who is always around the ball and reportedly has a sky-high football IQ and work ethic.
But as usual with Alabama, the best way to watch their games is simply to watch and enjoy them while taking note of which players jump off the screen and go back to them later.
On the Auburn side of things, left tackle turned right guard Braden Smith is a player that coaches are just going to love. He isn’t flashy and probably won’t blow scouts away in shorts, but he just does everything well in pads. He has great feet for a guard, playing with sound technique and angles, and every bit of toughness you could want. He isn’t in Quenton Nelson’s (OG, Notre Dame) stratosphere, but Smith should quickly get a starting job on an NFL offensive line.
Behind Smith is Kerryon Johnson, the leading rusher in the SEC. While Johnson certainly benefits from Auburn’s offensive scheme, he is a talented runner. He reportedly modeled his running style on Le’Veon Bell, and his performance against the talented Alabama defense could have a big impact on his draft stock.
Washington vs. Washington State
FOX - 8pm
There are a few directions I could have gone in this time slot, but this game gives those of us on the east coast a chance to watch two teams that we rarely get to see before 10:00pm.
Both teams have quarterbacks worth watching.
Washington State’s Luke Falk was considered to be one of the top senior QB prospects coming in to the season, ahead of even Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Falk is smart, quick, and accurate, but doesn’t have a great arm.
Washington’s Jake Browning is athletic and strong-armed, but his accuracy can be erratic. In some ways, Falk vs. Browning is similar to the Rosen vs. Darnold conversation in California (though neither Washington player is as good as either of the California players).
Washington State pass rusher Hercules Mata’afa (another great name), is an undersized but twitchy pass rusher with an ultra-high revving motor. His fit in the Giants’ defense might depend on who is calling that defense in 2018. At 6’1”, 240, he could be a fit as a SAM linebacker in a 4-3 Under (the role currently occupied by Devon Kennard) or as a pass rushing linebacker in a 3-4 front.
The Washington Huskies defense is very talented, with defensive tackle Vita Vea leading the way. Vea is one of those rare defensive tackles with the size and power to be a true nose tackle, but who also have impressive athleticism and movement skills. Linebacker Keishawn Bierria has the look of a 3-down WILL linebacker at the next level, though he is a bit undersized (listed at 6’1”, 220 pounds).
Wide receiver Dante Pettis has emerged as a playmaker for Washington’s offense after the departure of speed demon John Ross. Pettis is a well rounded receiver who is dangerous with the ball in his hands — he owns the NCAA record for career punt returns touchdowns. His ability to stretch the field as well as threaten as a returner should interest the Giants, who could use both another good receiver (as their lack of depth behind Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard shows) as well as a good returner.
Which games and prospects are you watching on Rivalry Weekend?