Good evening New York Giants fans!
We’ve finally arrived at the games that will make up the first round of the 2022-2023 College Football Playoffs. First up we have the Fiesta Bowl between TCU and Michigan, followed by the Peach Bowl between Ohio State and Georgia.
The run-up to this year’s Playoffs was absolutely wild, with upsets shifting the landscape every week — or at least that’s what it felt like. But ultimately there isn’t much argument that Ohio State, TCU, Michigan, and Georgia were the best teams in college football by the end of the season. These should be good games and are absolutely stacked with future NFL players.
(3) TCU at (2) Michigan
ESPN - 4 p.m.
TCU was one of the surprise teams this year. While they weren’t expected to be bad, few expected them to rise all the way up to the third-ranked team in the nation.
TCU receiver Quentin Johnston is the top prospect in this game and very well could be the first receiver off the board in April. He has good size at 6-foot-3, 201 pounds (though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him measure a bit bigger than that), and has impressive athleticism. Johnston is surprisingly quick and agile for a taller receiver, but also has the ability to lengthen his stride and eat up yardage in the open field.
Giants fans will also want to concentrate on iOL Steve Avila. Avila is a big, powerful interior lineman with the ability to play guard and center at a high level. It’s fair to question how much range the 6-foot-4, 335 pound lineman possesses, but he is capable of winning in a phone booth.
The Horned Frogs also have a trio of draftable cornerbacks in Josh Newton, Noah Daniels, and slot cornerback Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson. Hodges-Tomlinson is probably the best of the bunch, but his 5-foot-9, 177-pound frame might not fit Wink Martindale’s aggressive coverage scheme.
We’ve talked bout Michigan a few times over the course of the season, and they’re thoroughly talented — and have several freak athletes as well.
Red-shirt Junior CB D.J. Turner is a fringe first round and Michigan’s highest rated prospect (as of right now). He’s a bit on the smaller side at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, but he appears to have long arms and is comfortable in press-man coverage.
Defensive tackle Mazi Smith could be a riser over the course of the draft process. He is one of the most explosively powerful young men in all of college football — to the point where Michigan had to order specially made equipment for the strength and conditioning facilities to be able to challenge him. He has plenty of strength to be a two-gapping nose tackle, but also the explosiveness to threaten as a one-gap penetrator.
Michigan also has a talented offensive line, including offensive tackle Ryan Hayes and center Olusegun Oluwatimi. The Giants could probably use more depth at tackle, but adding to their interior offensive line has to take precedence, and Oluwatimi could be an option if they want to replace Jon Feliciano. He is a very experienced center who spent three years at Virginia before transferring to Michigan.
Unfortunately, running back Blake Corum won’t be playing in the game due to an injury.
(4) Ohio State at (1) Georgia
ESPN - 8 p.m.
This game is set up to be a heavy-weight throw-down between two of the perennial powerhouses of the college football world.
Any discussion of Ohio State has to start with QB C.J.Stroud. Stroud will likely be the first player drafted in April, thanks to his combination of size, athleticism, arm talent, and feel for the game.
Teams looking to upgrade their offensive line will want to pay attention to Stroud’s protection. Offensive tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and the colossal (6-foot-8, 360-pound) Dawand Jones could both hear their names called in the Top-50, if not both in the first round. Center Luke Wypler is also pretty highly regarded and should be one of the first centers drafted this year as well.
Giants fans will probably want to watch number 35 on the defensive side of the ball. Tommy Eichenberg has emerged as one of the top linebackers in the country, racking up 112 tackles, 12.0 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes defensed, and an interception returned for a touchdown — all while playing with broken hands.
Eichenberg is joined by Zach Harrison — who should be one of the top defensive ends in the upcoming draft — and safety Ronnie Hickman.
But as talented as Ohio State is on both sides of the ball, they’ll have their work cut out for them against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia is probably the most talented team in all of college football, with NFL players at just about every position group. Defensive lineman Jalen Carter might be the best player in the country and was undoubtedly the best defender on a line that produced three first rounders a year ago.
Cornerback Kelee Ringo and safeties Christopher Smith II and Tykee Smith are among the best defensive backs in the class and form a potent pass defense.
Perhaps the most intriguing question is regarding red-shirt senior quarterback Stetson Bennett. Bennett famously walked on to the Georgia football team back in 2017 and has been a mainstay throughout the Bulldogs’ run. He’s undersized at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds and lacks Bryce Young’s arm talent. However, he’s also a surprisingly good athlete and a remarkably consistent player. He has enough arm strength to get the job done, consistently makes good decisions, and does have the ability to make plays off-platform and out of structure.
Bennett is unlikely to be drafted highly and might even go undrafted. But while he might be easy to overlook in favor of more exciting and toolsy prospects, he’s also tough to be counted out.