LSU vs. Florida and Texas vs. Oklahoma will be loaded with 2020 NFL Draft talent, including Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts who are in the spotlight this week.
We are really getting into the meat of the college football schedule. Major conference match-ups are on tap this week, which leads to games where every snap involves a 2020 NFL Draft-eligible player.
Because of this, a lot of players face their biggest tests to date on the season. Two quarterbacks who have raised their stock so far this season take on big-time opponents. Plus, there are plenty of one-on-one match-ups to watch across college football and big games that feature battles in the trenches.
Let’s get into it!
Oklahoma vs. Texas
Joe Burrow dominated against Texas back in September, and now it’s Jalen Hurts‘ turn. Hurts has improved a lot this season going through progressions and being more comfortable in the pocket. Hurts also looks a lot better with accuracy down the field. He should be able to take advantage of a Texas defense that will be missing Jalen Green and Caden Stearns in the secondary. The one thing about Texas is that they bring pressure and have an athletic linebacker core. Hurts will have to ramp up his processing this week for Oklahoma to succeed.
Sticking with the offense, CeeDee Lamb has another chance to have a big week with Green and Stearns sidelined. It will be interesting to see how Texas uses Brandon Jones on the back end. If they shade him over Lamb, watch how Jones looks in coverage against Lamb down the field.
There’s a lot going on on the other side of things. First, senior Zach Shackelford goes up against Neville Gallimore in the trenches. Gallimore is powerful who gets off the ball very quickly. Shackelford will have his work cut out for him all day long. He will need to get into his stance quickly to stop Gallimore from collapsing the pocket.
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger is a dual-threat quarterback who is getting better as a passer, but he lacks some awareness of the rush and finds players late into their routes. It will be interesting to see how he responds should Gallimore pressure him.
Kenneth Murray is someone to take note of on the Oklahoma defense as well. He has very good instincts and speed in space and should be able to take away Ehlinger’s escape from the pocket.
LSU vs. Florida
Joe Burrow has had a fantastic season so far and has risen his draft stock more than anyone. He dominated Utah State with a great deep ball and effectiveness in the red zone. Burrow is great with deep ball accuracy and driving the football into tight windows over the middle of the field.
We haven’t seen him under duress very much this season, and when he was under pressure back in 2018, he lacked some awareness in the pocket and didn’t maneuver very well. If Jabari Zuniga plays, he and Johnathan Greenard can apply lots of pressure and make things difficult for Burrow.
Also, if Zuniga plays, he might line up against LSU lineman Lloyd Cushenberry. Cushenberry is a very athletic guard with plenty of movement skills. He did struggle to handle the power of the Florida defensive line last season, so seeing improvement from him in this game would be huge.
The LSU wide receivers haven’t been talked about much in terms of the 2020 NFL Draft, but Justin Jefferson has had a very productive season. Jefferson isn’t a great separator, but he is great in traffic and wins in contested situations. He will draw C.J. Henderson‘s great coverage skills this week, and many will be interested to see who comes out on top in the match-up.
One other match-up to monitor in this one is Florida’s Lamical Perine vs. LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson. Perine has good speed as a running back and gets the most out of every run. Chaisson is excellent at turning and running with players in coverage, but can he set the edge and make plays in the running game?
Jonathan Taylor vs. Michigan State
The first game in the Big Ten to watch is Wisconsin vs. Michigan State. The Spartans are a good run defense, so all eyes will be on Jonathan Taylor to create against this team to churn out key yardage. We know he has the breakaway speed in space, so the focus is his vision and power to get the most out of every run. Kenny Willekes will try to keep Taylor between the tackles by setting the edge, and Joe Bachie will look to keep improving by getting through blockers to make plays on Taylor.
The other big match-up to watch is on the edge for Penn State-Iowa. Yetur Gross-Matos is a strong, powerful rusher who can flatten towards the quarterback on the edge and rush on the interior. He will go up against Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs. Jackson is a power tackle who will need to get in his stance quicker against Gross-Matos. Wirfs will need to beat Gross-Matos with strong technique and balance.
Where else should you watch?
This could be the first real test for Tua Tagovailoa and company this season. Texas A&M held Clemson to 24 points so their defense could put the pressure on. 6-foot-4 corner Myles Jones could be a nuisance on the outside against Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith.
Javon Kinlaw has had a good rise so far this season for South Carolina. He can push the pocket very well and turn and pursue ball carriers. He could make things difficult for Jake Fromm lining up against Solomon Kindley. I’ll also be looking to see if D’Andre Swift can have a bounce-back week on the ground.
Boise State’s Curtis Weaver has been one of the best edge rushers this season, and they face off against Hawai’i this week. Weaver could reach double-digit sacks this week. This is also a big game for quarterback Cole McDonald. Can he limit turnovers in this game?