Welcome to the second week of the college football season!
There are several promising games early today, but there are three games that just jump off the schedule.
The folks who schedule the games decided to torture us this week by putting all three potentially great games on at the same time Saturday night. First, we have the reigning national champion Clemson Tigers facing the Auburn Tigers. Then, just a half-hour later, Oklahoma vs. Ohio State and Georgia vs. Notre Dame kick off at the same time.
There is the distinct possibility that at least one future member of the New York Giants will be on the field in one of these games, so let’s take a look at all three.
Clemson vs. Auburn
ESPN, 7 p.m.
If I’m going to make one prediction about today’s games, it’s that the Tigers are going to win this game.
Okay, on to the draft prospects.
We’ll start with Auburn. From the Giants’ perspective the player to watch might be offensive tackle Braden Smith. Smith could have entered the 2017 draft and would have likely figured highly in the offensive line rankings, but opted to return to school instead. A left tackle in college, Smith is a solid, efficient lineman, though he could stand to get bigger for the NFL. However, there are some questions as to whether or not he has the foot speed to remain a left tackle at the next level. He could be a candidate to transition to guard, a la Justin Pugh, Zack Martin, or Joel Bitonio.
On the Clemson side of things, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is the player to watch. A long (6’4”) defensive tackle with prototypical size (310 pounds) and great athleticism who specializes in wreaking havoc behind opposing offensive lines. Next to him is red-shirt sophomore defensive end Clelin Ferrell. The Giants hope to have solid depth at defensive end with the addition of Avery Moss and the hopeful development of Romeo Okwara. However, Jerry Reese has never let depth at a position dissuade him from selecting a talented player. Ferrell has the size and frame the Giants like and unpolished upside as a pass rusher.
On the offensive side of things, wide receiver Deon Caine will likely stand out. He has solid size, listed at 6’1,” 210 pounds, and a knack for getting behind defenses. He needs to refine his skills and grow as a route runner, but he is already an offensive weapon.
Oklahoma vs. Ohio State
ABC, 7:30 p.m.
The story of this game is going to be the teams’ respective quarterbacks. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Mayfield lit up UTEP in Week 1 by completing 19-of-20 attempts for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns — in the first half. Some are already starting to compare Mayfield to Russell Wilson.
On the opposite sideline is J.T. Barrett. Barrett has been consistently solid for the Buckeyes and, at times, exceptional. However, he has to prove that he is more than a “dual-threat” college quarterback and a future NFL starter.
Beyond the QBs, this game has some definite talent, and the bulk of it is in the Ohio State front seven.
Sam Hubbard, Dre’Mont Jones, Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis are all talented and very athletic defensive ends. All of them could hear their names called by the end of the third round should they all enter the 2018 draft.
Behind them is Jerome Baker, an undersized but highly athletic linebacker in the mold of Ryan Shazier, as well as Dante Booker and Chris Worley.
Facing Ohio State pass rushers will be Oklahoma left tackle Orlando Brown. Son of former NFL tackle Orlando “Zeus” Brown, the younger Orlando is a similarly massive man, listed at roughly 6’8,” 350 pounds. He makes due more with his rare size than technique and athleticism, and might be well served by a move inside at the next level. Scouts will be able to learn much about him against Ohio State’s talented pass rushers.
Georgia vs. Notre Dame
NBC, 7:30 p.m.
Speaking of offensive linemen, if that is indeed still an issue for the Giants come the 2018 draft, this is a game to watch.
Notre Dame boasts two of the best offensive linemen in the nation in left tackle Mike McGlinchey and offensive guard Quenton Nelson. McGlinchey made the decision to return to school after the 2016 season, but had he entered the 2017 draft he likely would have been the top offensive tackle in the class. Nelson is a powerful and agile guard prospect who could be one of the, if not the, top guards in the draft.
On the other side of the ball running back Nick Chubb continues his quest toward working back to being the explosively powerful runner he was before his devastating knee injury.
Chubb runs with great vision, agility, power, and good speed for his size. Assuming he can build on his come-back 2016 season he could hear his name called no later than the second round of the draft.
Going against McGlinchey and Nelson is EDGE player Lorenzo Carter. Carter, a 6’5,” 240 pound outside linebacker, has a great first step and the frame to play in pretty much any defensive front. The Giants were reportedly infatuated with Leonard Floyd going in to the 2015 draft, and Carter might be a player to watch.
Stanford vs. USC
This game was already on my radar, but when Chase Goodbread of College Football 24/7 noted that the Giants would have a scout officially credentialed for the game, I had to highlight it.
It’s the defense to pay attention to on the Stanford side of things. Their secondary is talented with a pair of corners who could interest the Giants at some point in the first three rounds. Quenton Meeks is probably the more polished coverage corner of the two while Alijah Holder is the bigger and more physical of the pair. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense depends on the secondary’s ability to lock receivers down with the minimum of players, and with an aging Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, its possible they could invest in the position again.
The Stanford secondary also has safety Justin Reid, brother of San Francisco 49ers’ safety Eric Reid.
In front of them is linebacker Joey Alfieri. The Giants only have one linebacker under contract after this season, and at 6’3”, 240 pounds (listed), he has the size they want in their front seven. He is a disciplined, athletic, and powerful linebacker who is relentless playing down-hill and shows comfort playing in space. He could be a solid fit for the Giants’ strong-side linebacker.
All eyes will likely be on USC quarterback Sam Darnold, but Alfieri will have his hands full with running back Ronald Jones II. Jones is an undersized back (6 feet, 195 pounds), but he is agile, explosive, and plays with great vision. Jones has LeSean McCoy-like quickness to stop, start, and change direction to make defenders miss and hit holes to pick up chunks of yards. At times he seems to be playing at a different speed than everyone else on the field.
Which players and games are you going to be watching today?