If you’re a fan of the 0-8 New York Jets or another franchise struggling this season, you may have already fixed your attention on the players in this upcoming draft class who can finally provide hope for your team. This week is significant in college football due to every FBS conference officially being in play, including the MAC, Pac-12 and Mountain West. There will be plenty of entertaining football to watch this weekend, and these three matchups will be ones to watch – not just as they pertain to the games being played but for their draft implications.
Arizona State CB Chase Lucas vs.
Southern Cal WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
The Pac-12 is back! Arizona State will have a tough ask this week against a talented Southern Cal team with what should be an impressive passing offense. One matchup that will be worth watching is Arizona State CB Chase Lucas’ matchup with Trojans WR Amon-Ra St. Brown. Lucas has the ability to play both inside and outside corner, and appears to have adequate length at 6-0 and 180 pounds. He is best when he can play in a zone-press technique, and could struggle with the route running of St. Brown. He has been a starter for three years and allowed just one touchdown last season in coverage. Arizona State will rely on its experienced corner to limit one of the better receivers in the country, especially if they have him take more snaps in the slot. Amon-Ra St. Brown primarily played inside last season, and is a tough cover due to his change of direction and short area explosiveness. He emerged as a favorite target of Kedon Slovis last season, catching 77 passes for 1,042 yards and 6 TDs, and will likely be one of the primary targets in the pass game. The winner of this matchup could set the tone for the game, and it should be a fun pairing to watch.
Georgia LB Monty Rice and S Richard LeCounte III
vs. Florida TE Kyle Pitts
In a matchup that will likely decide the winner of the SEC East, Georgia will rely on LB Monty Rice and S Richard LeCounte III to slow down the most physically impressive prospect in the SEC. Rice is a 6-1, 235-pound linebacker with natural cover ability and the athleticism to run with Pitts down the field. He has been a productive player for Georgia this season, leading them in tackles and forcing two fumbles. Another player that will likely be tasked with assisting Rice with Pitts is senior safety Richard LeCounte III. Although he won’t match Pitts in size (5-11, 190), he is an incredibly intelligent player that has natural zone instincts from his high safety position. With LeCounte on the back end, the Bulldogs should be able to eliminate coverage busts when Pitts threatens the seams. In terms of tight end prospects, Florida’s Kyle Pitts has been in a league of his own this season. The 6-6, 246-pound junior has been the favorite target of Gators QB Kyle Trask, pulling in 22 catches for 355 yards and 7 TDs in just four games. The former basketball player uses his length and ball skills well, and demonstrates the ability to win 50/50 balls and create yards after the catch. He is nearly impossible to cover one on one, but if Georgia’s experienced and talented duo can at least limit his production, it should be a good day for the ‘Dawgs.
Clemson RB Travis Etienne vs.
Notre Dame LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
The biggest game of the week will be Clemson versus Notre Dame in South Bend on Saturday night. Both teams are ranked in the top five, and Clemson will be trotting out true freshman D.J. Uiagaleilei at QB. Look for them to turn to Travis Etienne, the best running back in the country, to carry their offense in this pivotal matchup. Etienne just set the ACC career rushing record with 4,644 yards, and will continue to pile onto that number this Saturday. At 5-10 and 210 pounds, he has the frame of an NFL back with elite breakaway speed and contact balance. The biggest knock on Etienne is his hands, which are inconsistent despite his production in the passing game (434 yards and 2 TDs this season). The defender most likely tasked with covering Etienne out of the backfield will be the Fighting Irish’s star LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He is an athletic player that thrives in space and demonstrates safety-like coverage ability. He struggles some when playing in the box since he lacks the required bulk at 6-2 and 216 pounds, but plays fast and roams sideline to sideline. Some teams may worry about his fit at the NFL level, but it will be intriguing to see how much he gets matched up with Etienne in coverage.