College football stands couldn’t have gotten a better start to the season after last week’s season-opening slate of action. While several quarterbacks in the Preseason Top 50 Big Board struggled out of the gate, guys like Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder and Nevada’s Carson Strong had strong opening performances to start the year.
However, the opening week definitely belonged to the defensive prospects. In Week 1, the game between Clemson and Georgia was highlighted, and top-notch defenders like Nakobe Dean, Jordan David, Adam Anderson and Andrew Booth did not disappoint.
Overall, it was a great week of college football with future NFL stars making plays everywhere and, if we’re lucky, Week 2 will be no different.
College Football Games to Watch for NFL Scouting
College Football Game of the Week: Washington at Michigan
Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Saturday, September 11, 7 p.m. (CT) on ABC
The Huskies are coming off a shocking upset at the hands of the Montana Grizzlies, and one can help but wonder if Washington got caught looking ahead to this matchup. However, look for this group to wipe the egg off their faces with a big showing in the Big House.
On the offensive side, Jaxson Kirkland is one of the most athletic tackles in the country and has worked hard to get his strength up during his time in Seattle. That’s going to come in handy taking on Michigan’s Aidan Hutchison, who checks in north of 6’5” and 265 pounds.
Tight end Cade Otton is another player that NFL Scouts will have their eye on. He’s an old-school tight end that lines up in-line at 6’5” and 240 pounds. However, it’s his athleticism and advanced route-running skills that shine most as he hauled in eight passes for 82 yards last week.
Watching him match up against one of my preseason sleepers in this class, safety Daxton Hill, will be a real treat. Hill is the better of Michigan’s two safeties in coverage. While he typically lines up against slot receivers instead of tight ends, I won’t be shocked if Mike Macdonald matches him up with Otton on Saturday.
On defense, cornerback Trent McDuffie will be a lot of fun to watch. Washington has had a knack for producing smart, versatile corners that aren’t afraid to tackle over the years, and McDuffie fits that mold perfectly. He plays with a ton of confidence and terrific instincts against both the run and the pass. At 5’11” 195 pounds, he is better suited for a hybrid slot role, but the guy makes plays wherever he’s lined up. McDuffie knocked down a pair of passes his way last week.
While the Wolverines’ offense looked good against Western Michigan, I’ll have my eyes on the defense. Hutchinson has terrific size and power that pair with his athleticism and motor to make him one of the top defensive prospects in this class. A proven run-stopper, Hutchinson’s big challenge in 2021 was to stay healthy and get more pressure on the quarterback. He checked that box in week one with a sack and quarterback hurry. I’m not sure how often he and Kirkland will face off because he plays in different alignments in that defense, but if he has a big day on Saturday, it will really open some eyes.
Another big lineman to watch is Chris Hinton. A former four-star recruit out of Atlanta, Hinton is looking for a breakout performance in 2021. He’s gained nearly 40 pounds since arriving in Ann Arbor and has the potential to be a big run-stuffer thanks to his power and long arms.
As mentioned earlier, I’m a big fan of Hill. He’s got terrific athleticism and speed that shows up as a deep safety in coverage or matched up against players in the slot.
I’d love to see him get some reps against Otton, but Washington’s spread attack features plenty of capable receivers. There are two areas Hill can improve to see his draft stock jump.
He’s picked off two passes and knocked down nine more in 19 career games, but I’d like to see him start getting his hands on the ball more often. Coverage is strength, and creating turnovers is what scouts want to see.
Also, while his tackles went up a year ago, a lot of that was players getting to him on the second level rather than Hill reacting quickly to his keys and aggressively attacking the play.
My Two Cents on the game:
This will be a tough matchup to predict because Michigan’s offense looked great last week but also lost one of their top playmakers in Ronnie Bell. On top of that, whether or not Washington was looking ahead to this game a week ago, they are sure to come out fired up after being embarrassed by Montana.
The big difference-maker could be the location. This isn’t a neutral site in the middle. The Huskies are heading to the Big House, over 2,300 miles from east of Seattle. In a game with two equally matched teams, something like that can play a huge role.
Look for both teams to come out with a chip on their shoulder. However, I think the Huskies will come out a little more desperate and gain an early advantage. Both defenses should keep their teams in the game, but I think Washington pulls it out in the end.
College Football Matchup of the Week: #10 Iowa at #9 Iowa State
Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa, Saturday, September 11, 3:30 p.m. (CT) on ABC
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa, Fourth-year Junior, 6’3″, 290:
How about seeing a par of All-American’s race off in what should be a smash-mouth contest in Ames? Linderbaum is one of the top offensive line prospects in the country as a third-year starter at center.
He’s not going to blow anyone away with his brute strength. Still, he is an athletic player at 290 pounds that displays excellent technical ability despite coming to college as a defensive tackle. Still, he busts his butt to stay on blocks and is one of the better second-level blockers in this class.
That’s going to come in handy with Rose patrolling the field across from him. This game won’t be decided by throwing the ball all over the field. Last week, neither of these college football quarterbacks attempted more than 27 passes.
Whoever has more success running the football is going to take the Cy-Hawk Title. For Iowa, a big part of Tyler Goodson’s success will come from Linderbaum being able to neutralize Rose when they cross paths.
Mike Rose, LB, Iowa State, Fourth-Year Senior, 6’4”, 250:
Rose has been winning awards since he showed up in Ames. A physical player who will attack blockers, Rose has the size and motor to test Linderbaum.
While typically shaded to the strong side, there are plenty of reps where Rose lines up over the B gap and even some where he is head-up on the guard. The bottom line is Rose and Linderbaum could face off plenty of times in this one.
More importantly, they are key factors in their unit’s ability to run the ball or stop the run. Rose reacts very quickly to his keys and attacks downhill when he’s in the box. It will be very interesting to see which player has the more significant impact on this game.
If Rose matches the 11 tackles with 1.5 for loss that he had in the opener, there’s a good chance the Cyclones are following suit with his success.
My Two Cents on the game:
I love highlighting these two players because they truly are two of the most critical players in this matchup. Breece Hall and Iowa State’s offense should have the advantage talent-wise as far as the two offenses are concerned.
That means Goodson, Linderbaum, and this offense need to step up to match Iowa State’s offensive output. While I think the Hawkeyes are capable of doing that, the Cyclones are just a little more versatile on offense. That should give them the edge in this one.
However, if tight end Charlie Kolar is sidelined for the second straight week, Iowa should have a golden opportunity to pull off the upset.
College Football Player of the Week: #12 Oregon’s Mykael Wright vs. #3 Ohio State
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, September 11, 11 a.m. (CT) on FOX
Mykael Wright, CB, Oregon, Third-Year Sophomore, 5’11”, 178:
Wright has been impressive from day one in Eugene. Not only did he play immediately in Oregon’s sub-packages on defense, but he also returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns as a true freshman. Still, it’s his ability to cover man-to-man that has scouts excited, as Wright displays an extremely fluid lower half that helps him blanket his man in coverage. I also love his willingness to get involved in the run game.
He may not be the biggest player, and Wright still needs to learn to be more disruptive early on with his hands. However, he has the talent to develop into a lockdown corner when he’s not at a significant size disadvantage.
Speaking of a size disadvantage, that won’t be the case against Ohio State’s top two pass-catchers. Chris Olave is listed at 6’1” and 188 pounds, while Garrett Wilson measures 6’0” and 192 pounds.
However, these two are incredibly athletic, and terrific route runners, making this the toughest test Wright should face this year. A season ago, he led the Pac-12 in pass breakups, and with an inexperienced quarterback throwing to Olave and Wilson, he will have chances to get his hands on a few throws in this one.
However, I’m most interested in seeing how his skills in man coverage hold up against two of the toughest players to guard in the country.
My Two Cents on the game:
Oregon looked less than impressive against Fresno State, and if Kayvon Thibodeaux’s injury holds him out, it hurts the defense’s chances of slowing Ohio State down. The Buckeye’s defense didn’t exactly look great in week one either, but that was against the smash-mouth offense of Minnesota.
The Ducks aren’t going to be nearly as physical, instead, hoping to win with speed and tempo. That plays to the Buckeyes’ strengths on defense. Oregon will put up some points in this one, but I don’t see them hanging with Ohio State all night.