With only a few weeks left before Conference Championships, it appears the college football playoff landscape is close to being decided. One could make a case that Georgia can clinch a spot in the four-team playoff with wins over Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech, regardless of what happens in the SEC Championship. Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State all control their destiny by winning out, while Cincinnati would benefit from one of those three losing.
Let’s take a look at this week’s top college football matchups for NFL scouting purposes.
Game of the Week: Iowa State vs Oklahoma
Memorial Stadium, Norman, Texas, Saturday, November 20, 11 a.m. (CT) on FOX
Iowa State Football:
This season hasn’t exactly gone as many hoped in Ames, and they are coming off a heartbreaking loss thanks to a 62-yard game-winning field goal by Texas Tech kicker Jonathan Garibay. For quarterback Brock Purdy, he’s had a rollercoaster year. His decision-making and accuracy have been issues, highlighted by a brilliant three-game stretch in October in which he completed 66-80 pass attempts for four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Still, there have been down moments as well, including being benched against in-state rival Iowa. Purdy has an up-and-down history against the Sooners but needs to come up with a consistent performance to help get his fringe draft stock back in the day-three range.
Breece Hall hasn’t exactly had the most consistent season either, but he’s been steady enough to hold tight as my top-ranked running back in the class. Hall’s upside doesn’t warrant day-one consideration, but he’s got an argument to hear his name called early on day two. A strong showing in Normand from the powerful runner would help that cause.
The Sooners have plenty of talent, but like Iowa State, their top prospects have seen mixed results in 2021. Spencer Rattler is off my board for 2022 simply because I expect him to transfer and revamp his draft stock elsewhere next season.
Tight end Austin Stogner is still trying to regain his form after a freak medical situation that involved him losing 35 pounds this summer. At his best, he’s one of the more balanced tight ends in the country.
On defense, I’ve already highlighted linebackers Brian Asamoah and David Ugwoegbu this season. However, I have yet to discuss the Sooners’ top-ranked prospect in Nik Bonitto. There are a lot of similarities between him and McDonald from Iowa State. He’s undersized at less than 240 pounds, which is a concern for me, considering he’s an edge player. Still, he’s explosive and can change direction with ease to get by tackles.
Isaiah Thomas is a defensive end with a day-three grade at this time. He’s got tremendous length for the position. However, he’s a stiff athlete that could limit his potential as a pass rusher.
Perrion Winfrey is my third-ranked defensive tackle and 43rd-overall prospect, just four spots behind Bonitto. I wish he showed more consistency with his ability to create havoc in the backfield. Still, the upside is there to be a starter in the NFL.
Gabe Brikic is also one of my favorite college football kickers in the country and could declare early with a strong finish. He’s 5-7 on kicks from beyond 50 yards.
My Two Cents on the game:
I expect to see an inspired Oklahoma team this Saturday. They may be out of the playoff hunt, but at this point, everyone has to have heard the recent rumors of LSU putting together a massive contract offer for Lincoln Riley. I doubt Riley leaves Oklahoma for another college job, but stranger things have happened. Still, the Sooners are one of four teams still in the hunt, and a win over the Cyclones would end Iowa State’s chances.
However, a loss puts them on the outside looking in when they travel to Stillwater next week. A win there would create a three-way tie atop the conference, and that’s not a spot I’d want to be in.
The Sooners still control their own destiny in the conference, and I expect them to play like it on Saturday. Iowa State has pushed Oklahoma several times in recent years, and I think this game will be competitive, but look for the Sooners to stay atop the Big 12.
Matchup of the Week: Memphis’ Dylan Parham against Houston’s Logan Hall
TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas, Friday, November 19, 8 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2
Dylan Parham, OL, Memphis, Fifth-Year Senior, 6’3”, 285:
Dylan Parham is a player that has started at three positions on the offensive line in his career at Memphis. After starting at left guard in 2018 and 2019, he jumped to right tackle last fall. This year, he kicked back in to right guard, and overall, guard may be his best fit in the NFL.
At this point, I think Parham is more prepared to compete in the NFL mentally than physically. He’s a smart college football player that takes terrific angles getting up to the second level and on screens to the perimeter. In addition, he is patient in pass protection and plays with good overall balance in both the run and pass game. However, Parham needs to prove he can handle the power that NFL defenders possess.
While listed at 285 pounds, I think he’s gotten heavier as a senior, but Parham still needs to add more muscles to his frame. He’s got terrific arm length for the interior, and his feet are more than quick enough at guard. Still, his power puts him in bad spots to be able to neutralize his man. Parham may not line up against Hall every play, but when he does, he’s going to see a powerful player. Parham needs to consistently fire off low and show a strong punch to prove the gap is narrower than scouts think. This will be a good test for him.
Logan Hall, DL, Houston, Third-Year Junior, 6’6”, 275:
Logan Hall is my 100th-ranked player at this time, and his best college football may still be ahead of him. He’s a tall, long-armed player that understands leverage and leg drive better than most of his stature.
The junior has a jarring punch and shows quality handwork to disengage or keep the opposition’s hands off him. Hall has also played several positions up and down the line, and that scheme versatility will elevate his draft stock even further.
This year he’s seen a lot of time as a three-tech, which means he should match up against Parham this Friday. Hall’s strength should give him the upper hand there, but Parham’s arm length gives him the ability to counter Hall’s like few have thus far. It should be an exciting battle. While he’s played both on the edge and as a three tech for Houston, his best NFL position will be as an end in an odd-man front. His length and power can shine in that alignment against the run while moving further inside to rush the passer in the nickel.
Player of the Week: Arkansas’ Ricky Stromberg vs. Alabama
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Saturday, November 20, 2:30 p.m. (CT) on CBS
Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas, Third-Year Junior, 6’4”, 310:
Ricky Stromberg is a college football center that is moving up my board despite being just a third-year player. He’s one of the more powerful centers in the country and my fourth-ranked pivot. Still, his potential upside as he becomes more polished could see him be the second player drafted at the position.
He’s got a strong punch and very powerful hips and leg drive to get players moving backward. Stromberg is also a good athlete in open space, although he occasionally gets too high, compromising his balance and power.
Against Alabama, he’s going to see several NFL-caliber defensive tackles, highlighted by Phidarian Mathis, D.J. Dale, LaBryan Young, and several others. On the second level, Christan Harris and Henry To’o To’o offer quite the challenge as well. Still, this will likely be the first tape scouts pick up on Stromberg, and it could be his make-or-break moment for his 2022 draft stock. As a junior, he could choose to return next fall, but this game could catapult him into a day-two grade.
I can’t wait to see how his power looks against this big group of interior linemen. I want to see how his mobility and angles shape up against those linebackers. It should be a great matchup inside a game that may not be that competitive.