College football never ceases to amaze. Another seemingly boring slate of games turned into one hell of a Saturday afternoon. Three-and-a-half quarters of a sleep-inducing game between Florida and Tennessee ended in what surely will be one of the top plays this season. There was another game that instead deprived us of our sleep, yet it was absolutely worth it: an instant classic, a rematch of the 2006 Rose Bowl featuring Texas and USC. And Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald dropped 4 touchdowns on LSU, spoiling the return of superstar edge rusher Arden Key.
In other news, the most heralded QB prospects are going to get absolutely shredded. Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, and Josh Allen all underwhelmed (to most) in big games this weekend. Let’s take a deeper dive:
- Tennessee RB John Kelly ran angry against Florida. While helping bring to bring the Vols back in the game, he put on a show, posting almost 350 total yards and 2 scores. Kelly refused to go down, showcasing great vision and balance, a mean stiff arm, and was incredibly difficult to tackle in the open field. His elusiveness was put to use big time in the receiving game, with 6 catches for 96 yards used, a lot after the catch. Like his predecessor, Alvin Kamara, look for John Kelly to potentially fly up draft boards as the season progresses.
- Darren Carrington II was a member of the Oregon Ducks at this time a year ago. He now finds himself as a Utah Ute. Carrington might not be the cleanest guy off the field, but his talent on the field isn’t a question; another huge stat-line (9 receptions, 153 yards, 3 touchdowns) for Utah’s leading receiver. As coach Kyle Whittingham said of Carrington, “I don’t think it was the plan to get him that heavily involved. He’s a great receiver, he runs good routes, he’s got a big catch radius, he’s got length. You put the ball in the general vicinity and he’s going to come away with it. He’s a very polished receiver. When you’re talented as he is, he’s going to get a lot of touches.” A lot of this is evident on tape. DC wins with a lot of sudden movements that allowing him to gain seperation and is very capable of extending for the football with a solid catch radius. He may be a steal come draft day.
- Going into the showdown in Laramie, Wyoming, I was convinced that Josh Allen was in fact the 2nd best signal-caller playing in that game. Scouts from half the NFL teams flocked to the Oregon vs. Wyoming game only to watch as the best QB in that stadium, Oregon native Justin Herbert, a kid who isn’t even draft-eligible until 2019, outperformed to the (previously) highly-touted Allen. Wyoming didn’t do much to help Allen, and at the same time, Allen returned the favor, consistently making bad decisions and missing throws. As for Herbert, taking a deeper dive, he looks like the best passer in college football. He has all the tools (size, arm talent, mobility) as well as the necessary skills (ball placement, pocket presence, field vision, mechanics) to be a successful QB at the next level. Look out for Herbert as QB1 next draft.
- Royce Freeman looks like a much different player than last year. After making the decision to return to Oregon for a final season, the school’s 2nd all-time leading rusher is now healthy and as dangerous as he was pre-injuries. He is more fluid and is more willing absorb and run through contact while also maintaining his vision and ability to make guys miss. Freeman is a strong Heisman candidate, and it wouldn’t at all be surprising if he ends up in Times Square in December.
- Arizona State’s front seven is terrifying. Composed of 4 2018 NFL Draft prospects, these 4 players have already combined for 64 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Before the season began, All-Pac-12 edge rusher Koron Crump made a bold statement, setting a goal of averaging 2 sacks per game, which would be enough to either tie or surpass the NCAA’s single-season record, a record previously broken in 2002 by future Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs, also an alma mater of the school. Crump was on pace to do so through the first two games of the season, notching 4 sacks, until he suffered an injury in a game against Texas Tech. He’ll have a big year with his insane athleticism and pass rushing skills as well as some added bulk.
- Chosen Rosen’s magic ran out on Saturday, as the Bruins of UCLA went down at the hands of the Memphis Tigers. Despite a fantastic performance for most of the game, a few key mistakes by UCLA killed their hopes. Rosen’s decision-making looks like it could be question as we move through the draft process. Adarius Pickett continues to be one of the most underrated and most valuable defenders in the country. Pickett has a very diverse skill set: rarely do you see a defensive player that is both a sound tackler and a heavy hitter. He can play nickel, deep safety, and even line up outside every once in awhile. He diagnoses plays quickly and blows them up accordingly, with his elite closing speed and active feet. So don’t try to throw his way, or there will be a chance that he will Pickett (it was just too easy there). He doesn’t rack up big numbers, but Pickett makes a big impact. I haven’t seen the talented DB in any mock drafts, but he looks like a day 2 guy at least, and has the potential to climb even higher.
- Wow. I don’t know what the 2006 Rose Bowl was like, and it sounds like it will never be topped. But the contest we witnessed was still very entertaining. Sam Darnold didn’t play particularly well, leaving clean pockets and displaying poor footwork. USC WR Deontay Burnett was phenomenal again, and is pushing himself closer to the first round discussion. Supreme route running and quickness blended with good speed and excellent hands make for the ideal slot receiver in today’s NFL. Coming into the season, I, like many others, doubted Malik Jefferson. A very talented linebacker, I came away unimpressed with his film from a season ago. Boy, did he make me eat my words. Jefferson was able to recognize plays and burst through gaps and bring down the ball carrier. With his combination of size, explosiveness, and play recognition, his ceiling is limitless.
- Clemson might have the best defensive line in the nation. The wrecking crew starring Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, and Austin Bryant terrorized reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville offense as Jackson had one of the most forgettable games of his career. This Clemson front features two future top 5-10 picks in Wilkins and Lawrence as well as two other first rounders in Ferrell and Bryant. They flustered the star QB and forced him into making bad reads and decisions. Clemson’s schedule, for the most part, is a cakewalk the rest of the way. Another National Championship appearance could be in sight.
- Alabama is the best team in college football.