The first Saturday in October on the college football schedule is turning into one of the biggest weekends thus far as a number of games will impact the national rankings. Scouts will be paying close attention to a pair of battles on the edge as well as two more through the air.
Indiana vs Ohio State
3:30PM EST ABC
Everyone knows of Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, who sits atop most draft boards as the number one overall prospect heading towards 2016. Bosa’s statistics are down this season as he’s recorded just 2.5 tackles for loss and .5 sacks in the three games he’s played but the numbers don’t tell the entire story. Bosa, who is expected to enter next April’s draft, has applied a lot of pressure up the field and created opportunities for teammates.
And while most are familiar with Bosa the same cannot be said about Jason Spriggs.
The fourth year senior has started at left tackle for the Hoosiers since his freshman season and has done a terrific job keeping his quarterback upright. He has excellent length and is a great technician protecting the edge. What he lacks is athleticism and run blocking strength. I’ve graded Spriggs as a potential third round pick since his sophomore season while scouts have him as an early second day choice.
The opportunity is available for Bosa or Spriggs to make a statement tomorrow. Bosa needs to get rolling on his production while Spriggs wants to prove he can compete with the nation’s best.
Kansas State vs Oklahoma State
4PM EST Fox Sports 1
This is another terrific battle on the edge featuring a highly rated senior left tackle against a well regarded pass rusher from the junior class.
Area scouts grade Cody Whitehair as one of the top three tackle prospects from the senior class and many believe he’s a top 45 prospect. He’s a three year starter for Kansas State that’s played both left and right tackle as well as guard with the first team. Presently I rank Whitehair as the top guard prospect moving towards the 2016 draft but feel he’s more a bottom of round two prospect.
Whitehair will have a battle on his hands Saturday when he faces off against one of the most underrated pass rushers in the nation.
Prior to the season I ranked Emmanuel Ogbah as a potential third rounder but raved about his upside. Thus far he’s not disappointed during the season’s initial four games posting 5.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss besides intercepting 1 pass. Ogbah is an explosive athlete who quickly gets up the field and also easily moves in reverse to make plays in space.
The contest is an important battle for both players; Whitehair has the opportunity to prove he can handle an athletic speed rusher off the edge. Ogbah must show he can compete against a true mauler.
Ole Miss vs Florida
7PM EST ESPN
This may not be much of a battle on the scoreboard as ‘Ole Miss is justifiably more than a touchdown favorite over the Gators, but I expect a big battle in the air.
A week ago I wrote about the Florida secondary, which has been hit by injury, as they prepared to battle Tennessee. Cornerback Brian Poole has played better than expected this season while safety Keanu Neal and corner Vernon Hargreaves have been slowed with assorted injuries.
Injuries or not the Gators secondary will face their stiffest challenge of the year against ‘Ole Miss on Saturday.
Start with receiver LaQuon Treadwell, a big, dominant pass catcher who I ranked as top three prospect from the SEC before the season began. Treadwell is a game controlling pass catcher that will out finesse or out muscle defenders for the reception. He natural, fluid but also physical and will be a top ten selection if not medically red-flagged.
Teammate Cody Core is the vertical receiver for the Rebels and the one who stretches the field. He’s able to beat defenders in a foot race and makes big plays from the line of scrimmage. A week three riser, scouts have told me since the Alabama game Core could land in the second day of the draft.
That’s not all as the Gators can’t sleep on tight end Evan Engram, who plays like a big possession receiver. Engram has just five receptions this season, albeit for an average of 13.6-yards per catch, and will challenge Keanu Neal in the short and long field.
West Virginia vs Oklahoma
12PM EST Fox Sports 1
Here’sanother battle brewing in the secondary which should provide offensive fireworks.
The Sooners are well know for their air attack and have been true to form this season with passing yards which more than doubles their ground totals. The star of the show is senior Sterling Shepard, a slightly undersized but dependable wide out that plays with a fearless attitude and a lot of athleticism. Shepard, stamped as a last day pick, is averaging 6 receptions per game and is the Sooners top punt returner. He’s slippery, effective running after the catch and always finds ways to separate from opponents.
On the other hand West Virginia has a history of placing talented cornerbacks in the league but it’s a pair of safeties who are the focus this year.
Seniors Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon were both deemed draftable by scouts entering the season and the former is in the midst of a career campaign.
After three games Joseph has posted a team leading 4 interceptions and lists second on the Mountaineers defense with 15 tackles. Known more for his run defense, Joseph has really improved his play against the pass this season. On the other hand Dillon is more natural against the pass and shows better range than his teammate.
The Mountaineer tandem will be challenged to stop both the run and pass against an Oklahoma offense which posted 45-points and a combined 510-yards when the teams met last season.