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College football week 1 - Games and players to watch

We get a great slate of games to start our college season

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Georgia Spring Game Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Happy Saturday New York Giants fans and welcome to week 1 of the 2021 college football season!

Okay, this isn’t actually the first week of college football action, last week was “Week 0”, but this week we have the biggest and best schools — boasting a bevy of future NFL players — in action. And we have one impressive slate of games to start off the season, with not one, not two, but five games between ranked opponents today.

Back before the advent of the College Football Playoffs, major schools would often schedule “tune-up” games against smaller schools to start their season. But lately there’s been a definite competitive advantage at the end of the year for teams to start out their seasons against tough competition. No longer do we see Alabama take on “North South Central State” in a glorified scrimmage. Now we have legitimate championship contenders taking each other on to get the attention of the selection committee right at the start of the season.

That means we could (or even will) see future Giants playing fellow future NFL players this weekend.

Joe DeLeone and I not only go over the biggest games on today’s slate, but also break down Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith in our first college football episode of the season.

Games to watch

(19) Penn State at (12) Wisconsin

Noon - FOX

Nothing like some Big 10 football to get the party started.

The player to watch this game might be Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith. Smith could well become the next player to carry the banner of “Linebacker U”, and could see a rocket get attached to his draft stock with a strong season. He is a big ‘backer at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds but has the athletic ability to be a true “new age” linebacker. Smith wasn’t just an off-ball linebacker for Penn State in 2020, but he was asked to cover the slot and was able to do so effectively. If the likes of Isaiah Simmons, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Jeremy Chinn, and Kyle Duggar establish themselves as defensive weapons in 2021, the NFL could become ravenous for S/LB hybrids.

Smith will likely find himself matched up on TE Jake Ferguson. Ferguson (and just about every other tight end) was overshadowed by Kyle Pitts last year, but he’s got the potential to be a top tight end in 2021. Ferguson notched an impressive 30 catches for 305 yards and four touchdowns despite the Big 10’s shortened 2020 season. Giants fans will probably also want to keep an eye on OL Logan Bruss, who bears that classic “Wisconsin” offensive line pedigree and has experience at both guard and tackle.

Players to watch

Penn State

  • Jahan Dotson (WR)
  • Rasheed Walker (OT)
  • Brandon Smith (LB)
  • Jaquan Brisker (S)

Wisconsin

  • Jake Ferguson (TE)
  • Logan Bruss (OL)
  • Keeanu Benton (DL)
  • Jack Sanborn (LB)
  • Leo Chanel (LB)

(1) Alabama at (14) Miami

3:30 pm - ABC

If it weren’t for the next match-up I highlight, I’d say that this is the game of the week in college football. It’s a scouting bonanza any time the Crimson Tide takes the field, and my usual rule of thumb is to just watch the game and take note of which ever players jump off the field.

This could be a strong game for scouting in the trenches. Not only does Alabama sport its typically strong offensive and defensive lines, but Miami has some linemen worth watching as well.

Zion Nelson is one of the most athletic blockers in the country with quick feet and easy lateral mobility. Nelson immediately became the Hurricane’s starting left tackle as a true freshman in 2019, but saw significant struggles. He weighed just 240 pounds in the spring as a freshman, but has added about 75 pounds to his frame over the last three years and is listed at (roughly) 315 now. It’s impressive that he’s been able to retain his athleticism despite the weight gain.

On the other side of things is 1-technique Nesta Jade Silvera. While run stuffing nose tackles seldom get much buzz, Silvera was credited with 8 tackles for a loss last year. It would surprise precisely nobody if the Giants are looking for a defensive tackle next offseason after parting ways with Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill before the 2021 season.

Players to watch

Albama

  • Evan Neal (OT)
  • John Metchie III (WR)
  • Jalen Tolbert (WR)
  • Jahleel Billinglsy (TE)
  • Christian Harris (LB)
  • Henry To’o To’o (LB)
  • Jordan Battle (S)

Miami

  • Zion Nelson (OT)
  • Tyrique Stevenson (CB)
  • Nesta Jade Silvera (iDL)

(5) Georgia vs. (3) Clemson

7:30 pm - ABC

With all due respect to every other game on the schedule for this week, this is the match-up everyone will be watching. It’s fairly safe to say that the winner of this came will almost certainly land a spot in the College Football Playoffs, and it’s conceivable that we could see a post-season rematch.

Clemson is going to be intriguing after the departure of star QB Trevor Lawrence and offensive weapon Travis Etienne. However, sophomore QB D.J. Uiagalelei got some quality experience in two starts last year. Uiagalelei is a big and big-armed passer who went 78 for 114, with 914 yards and 5 touchdowns (no interceptions), as well as 60 yards and 4 touchdowns on 28 rushing attempts last year as a true freshman. He’ll be getting 6-foot-4, 205 pound receiver Justyn Ross back from injury this year, which could make for a dynamic combination down the field.

Clemson’s best prospect is almost certainly CB Andrew Booth Jr. Booth has solid size at 6-foot, 200 pounds with the awareness and communication skills to play in zone, but the athleticism and aggressiveness to play true man coverage. Booth is opening the season on an almost consensus top-10 pick and could be the first corner off the board with a strong season.

The strength of both defenses could make for an interesting quarterback duel between Uiagalelei and J.T. Daniels. Daniels got his start at USC before transferring to Georgia in the summer of 2020, and this will be our first glimpse of him with an actual offseason under his belt. Adding to the intrigue, Daniels and Uiagalelei were high school rivals, playing each other twice in high school.

Georgia boasts a deep and talented roster, but unfortunately they’ll be without wide receiver George Pickens, who suffered a torn ACL this spring. However, they are still stacked in the trenches and at the skill positions on both sides of the ball. At least for now, I’ll give the same advice for watching Georgia as I do Alabama: Just watch the game and see who jumps off the screen.

Players to watch

Georgia

  • J.T. Daniels (QB)
  • Jaramee Salyer (OG)
  • Derion Kendrick (CB)
  • Adam Anderson (EDGE)
  • Jordan Davis (iDL)
  • Nakobe Dean (LB)

Clemson

  • Justyn Ross (WR)
  • Andrew Booth JR. (CB)
  • Tyler Davis (iDL)

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