Good morning New York Giants fans!
It’s Rivalry Week! So happy Saturday and welcome to one of the craziest days in sports. This weekend is the final week of previously scheduled games, the week that schedule makers reserve for the biggest rivalries in college football to be played out on the field.
This is a week full of games between teams that are not only very familiar with each other, but often have true animosity. That means anyone can win and upsets are almost bound to happen — and we could still see more seismic shifts in the college football landscape before Championship Weekend.
Rivalry Weekend is always unpredictable, and it has the potential to produce some incredibly memorable plays and games. Many of these games will likely become frequent fodder for scouts over the course of the draft process.
So which games should we highlight?
Dave Matter, who writes about Missouri for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Giants GM Joe Schoen and Director of Player Personnel Dennis Hickey were both in attendance for Friday’s game between Missouri and Arkansas (Mizzou came out on top, 29-27).
We’ve tried to hang a lantern any time Schoen has surfaced on a college scouting trip.
I highlighted Arkansas a couple weeks ago (in their Week 11 game against LSU), and the Razorbacks have a few players who should probably interest the Giants. Center Ricky Strombeg will probably be one of the first (if not the first) centers drafted in April, and guard Beaux Limmer is athletic and versatile. Both are technically sound and very experienced against some of the top competition college has to offer.
Schoen also got a look at junior QB K.J. Jefferson, who is a big, strong passer in his second year as a starter. Jefferson has intriguing physical tools at 6-foot-3, and appears to be every ounce of 240 pounds — he seriously looks more like an old school MIKE linebacker under center — with a strong arm and great athleticism for his size. Jefferson will likely need time and development to realize his potential.
Unfortunately, All-American safety Jalen Catalon missed the game after suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery, as did linebacker Bumper Pool.
Mizzou has a couple interesting prospects with the potential to be important role players — or even starters — on the defensive side of the ball as well.
EDGE Isaiah McGuire had a break-out season a year ago and offers the kind of versatility at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds that could fit well in the Giants’ multiple defensive front rotation. CB Kris Abrams-Draine is a very intriguing defensive back who has only played corner for a short time. A converted receiver, Abrams-Draine has the athleticism to play man coverage as well as zone, but is still early in his development. He’s slightly built, which could keep him in the slot at the next level. However, he could be a dangerous player if he develops enough as a corner to put his receiver skills to work at the catch point. Abrams-Draine also offers upside as a return man.
(3) Michigan at (2) Ohio State
Fox - noon
A showdown between the second and third-ranked teams in the country just before championship weekend? And with the potential to knock a powerhouse out of the College Football Playoffs?
Yeah, we pretty much have to start with this game for our Saturday highlights. It’s basically a regular season playoff game.
We’ve talked about both of these teams throughout the season, and they’re ranked where they are for a reason. Both teams have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball and there will be a bunch of future NFL players on the field.
Everyone will obviously be focusing on OSU QB C.J. Stroud. He’s the odds-on favorite to be the first quarterback drafted, and will have a big impact on how the draft board shapes up. But there are other players worth watching as well.
Michigan receiver Cornelius Johnson is a big receiver with the potential to be a good value on the second day. Likewise, cornerback D.J. Turner has upside in man schemes and could find himself drafted on the second day.
The defensive line is, and has been, the strength of the Giants’ defense. Michigan nose tackle Mazi Smith is an absolute athletic freak who could be terrifying next to Dexter Lawrence. OSU EDGE Zach Harrison has great size and length, and could be a potential hybrid 5-7 technique for the Giants’ multiple defense.
This is one of those games where the best strategy is probably to just watch and enjoy the game. There will be plenty of time to go back to the tape and watch individual players over the next five months.
(9) Oregon at (21) Oregon State
ABC - 3:30pm
The 2023 quarterback has been a volatile one and evaluators have searched high and low for passers to fill out the depth chart behind C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young.
Will Levis has widely been considered “QB 3”, though he hasn’t taken the step many hoped he would. Otherwise, Anthony Richardson remains more potential than production and Tyler Van Dyke has missed much of the season to a shoulder injury and would be well-served by staying in school. Spencer Rattler disappeared from the national stage — right up until an absurd 30-37, 438-yard, 6-touchdown night against Tennessee last week. And speaking of Tennessee, Hendon Hooker (who’s fantastic season we’ve talked about a lot over the last 6 weeks or so) tore his ACL.
So could all of that open the door for Oregon QB Bo Nix to enter the conversation? Nix is athletic, he has solid arm talent, and has been playing great since becoming the Ducks’ starting QB. On the other hand, Nix is also fighting the uphill battle to dispel the cloud that fell over him at Auburn. Nix started out as the SEC Freshman of The Year back in 2019, but was unable to build off of that over the next two years and was seemingly dragged down by Auburn’s general dysfunction over that period.
But at Oregon, Nix has made good on the potential he flashed at Auburn. He’s shattered his career highs in completion percentage (72.4), yards (3,062), yards per attempt (9.1), and touchdown to interception ratio (25:6)
There will be plenty of other players to watch in this game. Red-shirt sophomore cornerback Christian Gonzalez will certainly appeal to Wink Martindale, as could LB Noah Sewell. But no player may benefit as much from a good game as Nix.
(15) Notre Dame at (6) USC
ABC - 7:30pm
Our primetime game looks to be another great one and one of the biggest rivalries in college (or professional) sports.
We just talked about USC last week, and the player to watch is WR Jordan Addison. Addison has emerged as a top receiver in the draft class this year. He’s once again healthy and absolutely dominated UCLA to the tune of 11 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown last week. The Biletnikof Award semi-finalist has a slight build, but he’s quick, twitchy, fast, and a route technician.
Notre Dame tight end Michael Meyer is the big name on the Irish side of things, but safety Brandon Joseph (probable to play) might be more intriguing to the Giants. Obviously they could stand to add another tight end, but Joseph has been a ballhawk throughout his college career, and we know how much Wink Martindale loves DBs.
Giants fans might also want to pay attention to iOL Jarrett Patterson. Patterson was recruited as a tackle but has found his home inside at center. He can probably play guard as well as center at the next level, and has adequate strength and athleticism — as well as a high football IQ — to play in a variety of schemes.
Other games to watch
- South Carolina at (8) Clemson - ABC, Noon
- (25) Louisville at Kentucky - SEC Network, 3pm
- Auburn at (7) Alabama - CBS, 3:30pm
- Iowa State at (4) TCU - Fox, 4pm
- Pittsburgh at Miami - ACC Network - 8pm