Good Evening New York Giants fans!
Welcome to Week 14 of the 2022 college football season, otherwise known as Championship Weekend.
We only have championship match-ups this week, meaning some of the very best teams in the nation will be on the field this weekend. That also means that some of the best players in the country — and the upcoming draft — will be on the field in tough match-ups as well.
There will obviously be some titanic match-ups in the powerhouse conferences this weekend, but I also want to take the time to look at the smaller conferences as well. We saw in this year’s draft that Joe Schoen isn’t afraid to go off the beaten path to find talent, which means we need to cast a wide net as well.
So let’s get to the matchups!
PAC-12 Championship: (11) Utah at (4) USC
FOX - 8 p.m. (Friday)
I normally save my college football spotlights for Saturdays. But as you may have noticed, it’s Friday evening, not Saturday. That’s because I couldn’t not talk about this game, or the players involved. Not only will there be several first round prospects on the field, but USC QB Caleb Williams is a Heisman candidate and USC is (at the time of this writing) in the College Football Playoffs.
Williams should be fun to watch, but he won’t be draft eligible for another year. However, he’ll be throwing to one of the best receivers in the draft in Jordan Addison. Scouts and evaluators will be hoping to see plenty of reps between Addison and Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III, who is one of the top corners in the nation.
We’ll also want to pay attention to Utah TE Dalton Kincaid this game as well. Kincaid is slightly undersized at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, but he’s a fluid athlete who’s background as a basketball player shines through. Kincaid only picked up Football in 2017, and he’s still developing as a player, but his athletic traits and receiving upside will get him drafted highly. Ideally he’ll land in a situation where he can be paired with a more experienced blocking tight end in 12-personnel while he develops that area of his game.
This game has the potential to kick off our weekend with fireworks.
Update: Utah beat USC 47-24, securing the Pac-12 title. USC quarterback Caleb Williams suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter, but refused to leave the game after it “popped”, to use his words. It’ll be interesting to see how USC’s loss changes the College Football Playoffs.
Big 10 Championship: (10) Kansas State at (3) TCU
ABC - Noon
TCU has had their work cut out for them making the College Football Playoffs. They had to fight their way up to the top of the rankings and barely survived a close calls against Oklahoma State and Baylor.
We’ve talked a fair bit about TCU lately, and the usual suspects continue to stand out. In particular, WR Quentin Johnston seems to be back healthy and could have in for a big game. Johnston has a rare combination of size and speed, and his traits could make him one of the first receivers off the board in April’s draft.
Kansas State QB Adrian Martinez could play as well. Martinez is a dense (6-foot-1, 220 pound) dual-threat quarterback with the athleticism to make defenses pay for losing track of him. He also flashes enough arm talent for teams to consider him a worthwhile developmental prospect.
OL Cooper Beebe and edge defender Felix Anudike-Uzomah are the top prospects for the Wildcats. Beebe has played at tackle for K-State, but he’ll likely be a guard in the NFL. He has adequate feet, but the strength and demeanor to be a mauler inside at the NFL level. Anudike-Uzomah is explosive off the line of scrimmage and has the tools to be an important rotational player (or even a starter) with some development.
MAC Championship: Toledo at Ohio
ESPN - Noon
For the first time in a while, an Ohio team is playing on Championship Weekend and it’s the University of Ohio, not Ohio State University.
Neither of these teams has gotten much national attention, although Toledo EDGE Jamal Hines could see his draft profile rise over the course of the process. The fifth-year senior has been productive at Toledo with 16.0 sacks and 24.0 tackles for a loss in his last 25 games. He has a reputation as a relentless rusher with good initial quickness and play strength. Hines has played both linebacker and defensive end for Toledo, and could find a role as a depth player in a multiple defense.
Sun Belt Championship: Coastal Carolina at Troy
ESPN - 3:30 p.m.
This game could have some intriguing draft implications.
The big question is whether or not Coastal QB Grayson McCall will play. He’s been named the Sun Belt Player of The Year (for the third time in as many years) despite missing the last two games to a foot injury, but could be back for this game. McCall is an interesting prospect who has flown under the national radar but put up some incredible numbers. McCall has completed 70.4 percent of his passes for 7,700 yards (10.4 yards per attempt) to the tune of 75 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions — as well as 282 carries for 1,035 yards and 15 touchdowns — in 33 games. I’m not sure if McCall has an NFL caliber arm, and he’s played against a lower level of competition. But his production, efficiency, and leadership are undeniable.
CCU receiver Sam Pinckney could be a sleeper as well for a team in need of a big (6-foot-4, 215 pound) wideout.
SEC Championship: (14) LSU at (1) Georgia
CBS - 4 p.m.
This is the biggest match-up of the day. LSU is certainly the underdog here, but not one that Georgia can take lightly.
LSU has finally gotten traction under Brian Kelly and they’ve been rolling lately, while Georgia has (arguably) the most talented team in the country. It would still be a pretty stunning upset for LSU to come out on top here — and chaos would definitely ensue — but it’s not outside of the realm of possibility.
This is one of those games where naming all of the future NFL players would be an entire story unto itself. Instead, I’m going to offer my usual advice in these situations to just enjoy the game, take note of who flashes on the field, and circle back to those players later. That said, I want to spotlight the potential matchup between Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo and LSU WR Kayshon Boutte. Boutte has the potential to be one of the most explosive offensive weapons to come out of this draft, while Ringo is in the conversation to be the draft’s top cornerback.
This will almost certainly be must-watch scouting tape for a number of players, those two included.
AAC Championship: (22) UCF at (18) Tulane
ABC - 4 p.m.
This could be a sneaky-good game that’s definitely worth flipping to when the SEC Championship is in a commercial break. Both of these teams have produced NFL caliber players in recent years and have been pretty consistently competitive.
Tulane linebacker Dorian Williams is undersized compared to the classic archetype, but he could have starting upside as a modern off-ball linebacker. Defenses probably don’t want him routinely taking on offensive linemen at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, but he has the athleticism to pursue in space and can be an effective coverage linebacker over the middle in shallow zones.
Mountain West Championship: Fresno State at Boise State
FOX - 4 p.m.
Most people will be watching the SEC championship at this time — or even the AAC Championship. But these games have a tendency to surprise and be compelling contests, despite the lack of ranked opponents.
Boise State safety J.L. Skinner is the big draw in this game. He has near-linebacker size at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and has the athleticism to match up with tight ends in coverage. He could be an intriguing option as a box safety for teams that use Cover 1 or 3 shells. Likewise, he could also have a role as a psuedo-linebacker for teams that make heavy use of Big Nickel or Dime subpackages. Considering Wink Martindale loves those packages, Skinner could be higher on the Giants’ board than most.
Big 10 Championship: Purdue at (2) Michigan
FOX - 8 p.m.
Purdue has had several underdog wins this season, but beating second-ranked Michigan could be a tall order after the Wolverines’ upset of Ohio State a week ago.
The big question regarding this game is whether Michigan running back Blake Corum will play. He missed the rivalry game against OSU with an injury, but the Big 10 Running Back of The Year has already rushed for more than 1,400 yards and scored 18 touchdowns on the season. As we’ve mentioned a few times this year, Michigan has a very good roster and there will be NFL players at a number of positions.
Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell, TE Payne Durham, and CB Cory Trice are all headed to the East-West Shrine Game this winter, and a good performance against Michigan could work wonders for their draft stock. Durham, in particular, is a good-sized end at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds and has improved every year as a pass catcher. He comes into this game with 54 receptions (averaging 10.2 yards per catch) and 8 touchdowns. Trice could also be a sleeper for the Giants, given his length at 6-foot-3 and willingness to play downhill.
ACC Championship (9) Clemson at (23) North Carolina
ABC - 8 p.m.
This game is much more compelling than it might have been a week ago.
Last week Clemson was all but in the College Football Playoffs, but then South Carolina executed their second stunning upset in as many weeks. That surprise 31-30 win by the Gamecocks knocked their in-state rivals out of the playoffs completely — at least as of this writing.
Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei had an absolutely terrible game, completing just 8 or 29 pass attempts (27.6 percent) for 99 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Clemson has one of the best defenses in college football, with a defensive front that can take over a game. That said, Uiagalelei desperately needs a bounce-back performance and prove that the better play he’s shown this year is who he is as a passer.
UNC QB Drake Maye isn’t draft eligible, but the sophomore is set up to be a top QB prospect next year. He’s had a great season and another one could make him one of the first players off the board in 2024. North Carolina WR Josh Downs is a smart, productive, and explosively athletic receiver. However, his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame will likely limit him to the slot at the NFL level. The Giants were willing to take under-sized Wan’Dale Robinson last year, but they might also want a receiver with the size to routinely play outside.