Last week was another great week of college football, featuring some exciting matchups among the top teams in the country. It was an exciting weekend and, while ranked opponents fell, they didn’t tumble far in the AP Poll. That should lead to a lot of pressure on everyone at the top of the rankings, undefeated or not. However, this week, we will focus on some prospects on teams further down the rankings or currently sitting on the outside looking in.
Let’s take a look at some of the best college football games for Week 7 to watch in order to see some of the top NFL Draft prospects in the country.
Game of the Week: NC State vs Boston College
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Saturday, October 16, 6:30 p.m. (CT) on ACCN
North Carolina State Football
The Wolfpack is off to a sensational start, including having already beaten Clemson to help drop them from the AP Poll in seven years. While North Carolina State is playing outstanding football on both sides, it’s a group of offensive prospects I will be watching.
Offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu continues to pile up the awards, being named to the ACC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week twice in five games. A year ago, he was given All-Conference honors as both a guard and a tackle, and this season, he’s been doing his work exclusively at left tackle. He’s a bottom-heavy player with exceptional power in his hips and leg drive. He will get caught lunging at times and occasionally plays high, forcing him to bend at the waist. I’d like to see him clean those areas up, and even then, his best position may still be at guard.
Center Grant Gibson is another player to watch for on Saturday. He’s a barrel-chested, nimble-footed center that is having a terrific year. He can sometimes have trouble anchoring against power, but this is a prospect that has quietly inched closer to my top 100 this year.
The pair of hard-working offensive linemen help pave the way for my sixth-ranked running back, Donovan Knight. Knight is an upright runner that succeeds in their zone-heavy scheme. He’s a one-cut runner that isn’t afraid to play behind his pads and grind out extra yards. I’m not sure if he will ever impress us with his breakaway speed, but his ability to gain yards after contact will turn a lot of heads.
I’m also keeping my eye on wide receiver Emeka Emzie. He’s a sure-handed player with a polished skill set that makes up for his lack of elite physical traits.
Boston College Football
Much like North Carolina State, I’ll be monitoring several prospects on the offensive side of the ball for the Eagles. Boston College also has a pair of offensive linemen to watch. Zion Johnson has seen time at tackle and guard, and he will be in the mix with Ekwonu and several others to be the top-ranked guard for the 2022 class. He’s a mobile player that can mirror well in pass protection and succeed at the second level in the run. Thus far, as a senior, he is displaying with better explosion in his lower half. I still think he needs to get stronger for the NFL, but there is a lot to like about his athleticism and versatility.
Center Alec Lindstrom also has a chance to be drafted next April. He’s not exactly the athlete Johnson or Gibson are, nor is he a mauler like Ekwonu. Still, he’s an experienced player with a chance to make a roster if his pad level improves.
Wide receiver Zay Flowers is a fun player to watch, especially with the ball in his hands. He’s not the tallest receiver, but he does have a sturdy build, and his ability to change direction is top-notch. He’s a polished route-runner, and Boston College likes to get him involved with gadget plays as well. I also love the way he tracks and competes for the football. Flowers is currently my 12th-ranked receiver.
My Two Cents on the game:
North Carolina State is currently rolling, but the Eagles’ 4-1 record still has them in the mix in the ACC’s Atlantic division. A win for either team puts them in a good spot to compete in the ACC Championship, but Boston College’s loss to Clemson a week ago puts them in a little more desperate place than the Wolfpack.
I expect them to come out fired up and ready to win at home. Still, North Carolina State’s Devin Leary has been playing outstanding at quarterback, and that gives them the edge. It should be a physical matchup, with both teams fighting to establish the run, but look for Leary to put the Wolfpack over the top.
Matchup of the Week: BYU’s Tyler Allgeier against Baylor’s Terrel Bernard
McLane Stadium, Waco, Texas, Saturday, October 16, 2:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN
Tyler Allgeier, RB, BYU, Fourth-Year Junior, 5’11”, 220
Tyler Allgeier currently ranks 10th in the country in rushing but is coming off a quiet performance against Boise State. Still, his presence in the Cougars’ offense is vital as a strong runner that can help them control the tempo.
The fourth-year runner is a methodical runner, that seldom gets to full speed until he gets to daylight. He’s also a bit stiff, and running at a more controlled pace gives him a better chance to move laterally. Still, when he’s got green grass in front of him, he shows an extra gear that can make him a big-play threat. When bottled up, I love his leg drive to churn out tough yards, and getting him back on track will be huge against Baylor.
On Saturday, I want to see him run with a little more authority prior to hitting the line of scrimmage. I get he’s not great at changing direction at top speed, but with his power, there’s not need to try and side-step tacklers. Instead, he needs to bring that physical mindset to the contest and wear this defense down through the night. That’s what can help BYU get back in the win column, and it’s his best shot at carving out a role in the NFL.
Terrel Bernard, LB, Baylor, Fifth-Year Senior, 6’1”, 222
Like Allgeier, Bernard is a player looking to solidify a draftable grade this year. He’s dealt with some injuries in his career, but when healthy, the guy has a nose for the football with 244 tackles in 34 career games.
What I like about Bernard is his burst. Once he spots a running lane, he shows good explosion to accelerate quickly and fill it. This makes it difficult for offensive linemen to get ahold of him and his low pad level makes that task even more challenging. In coverage, he’s got potential as an above-average athlete with more fluid hips than most. Bernard will occasionally spot route combinations in zone coverage, but there is still room for refinement in this area.
He does show descent acceleration on blitzes, though he doesn’t have the repertoire to win when the offense accounts for him. I’m really looking forward to seeing him take on this physical BYU rushing attack. Bernard led the way with nine tackles against Leddie Brown and an impressive West Virginia rushing attack a week ago. It’s going to take a similar effort this week to beat BYU.
Player of the Week: Mississippi State’s Charles Cross vs Alabama
Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Mississippi, Saturday, October 16, 6:00 p.m. (CT) on ESPN
Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State, Third-Year Sophomore, 6’5”, 310
Alabama typically offers the top scouting film for many of their opponents because of the high talent level at every position. This week, Charles Cross will get his chance to shine at left tackle for the Bulldogs.
During his time at Washington State, Mike Leech was able to churn out some NFL-caliber offensive tackles, and it’s been impressive to see Cross develop in the year, and half Leech has been in Starkville.
Cross is a patient payer that understands that shooting his hands inside and locking on is the desired goal against any pass rusher. He’s not one to shove players or just try to mirror them. He genuinely shoots his hands inside and fights to lock on snap after snap. He’s more athletic than he is powerful, but Cross has a pretty stout lower half that can get players moving or slow them when he anchors down. Still, he could use some more shock in his hands, which will be tested against a strong group from Alabama.
There will be times he will deal with five-tech ends like Phidarian Mathis or Byron Young that are over 300 pounds, and getting a solid punch will go a long way to slow them. His awareness will also be tested often as the Crimson Tide will send plenty of blitzes to generate pressure.
Cross had a strong overall performance against DeMarvin Leal and Texas A&M earlier this year, and this will be another chance to impress if he intends to enter the 2022 NFL Draft.