Every week in the lead-up to the slate of college football games on Saturday, we will be highlighting several high-profile games as well as several college football prospects in each matchup that project to be sought after in the 2022 NFL Draft, and specifically how they may be viewed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
#2 Ohio State at #5 Michigan – 11AM CST
The historic rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan on the last game of the regular season sees the next chapter this Saturday as the two top 5 programs clash on the gridiron. The winner will set themselves up for the Big Ten Championship game with a good chance of earning a spot in the College Football Playoff, while the loser will be sent home with all hope of a National Championship virtually lost. Seeing how Ohio State has dominated this rivalry the last decade with HC Jim Harbaugh having never beaten the Buckeyes, the Wolverines will need a big day from EDGEs #97 Aidan Hutchinson and #55 David Ojabo if they want to have any hope of slowing down the dynamic passing attack of Ohio State, led by QB C.J. Stroud.
Both Hutchinson and Ojabo have played themselves into first round consideration, and should they rattle Stroud enough in the pocket to help Michigan pull off the upset, both could see their draft stock rise within the top 15 picks come April, and place themselves directly behind Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux as the top EDGE rushers selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
For the Buckeyes, LT #75 Nicholas Petit-Frere will face his toughest test of the season keeping these talented Michigan pass rushers at bay, making sure his QB stays clean in the pocket to pick apart the opposing defense. Petit-Frere isn’t as heralded of a name as Evan Neal or Charles Cross, but he is a good-looking prospect with the size (6’5″, 315 lb.), strength, and movement skills to project as a starting-caliber tackle at the NFL level. His play has impressed scouts so far this season, and a strong performance against some of the best competition in the country could help him leapfrog others at his position for Day 1 consideration.
#3 Alabama at Auburn – 2:30PM CST
The Iron Bowl takes place on the Plains of Auburn this Saturday afternoon in what should be must-watch TV in the newest edition of this historic rivalry. For the Crimson Tide to get the victory and place themselves in contention for the SEC crown, WR #1 Jameson Williams will have to continue his hot streak and impose his will on the Auburn secondary. The Ohio State transfer is having a breakout season, averaging 20.6 YPR for 1,218 yards and 13 TDs. He has four 75+ yard TDs on his resume this season, bringing the speed and explosiveness to take the top off the defense and make explosive plays in the passing game.
He’s squarely put himself amongst the top WR prospects this season, and with another big game against their hated rival to send the Tide to the SEC Championship Game with a chance at the College Football Playoff, Williams could cement his status as a player that should hear his name called no later than the top 50 picks come April.
If the Tigers are to slow down the dynamic passing attack of the Crimson Tide, CB #23 Roger McCreary is going to have to play his best ball in front of the home crowd. The 6’0″, 190 lb. senior has been battle-tested as a three-year starter in the SEC, having faced the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Jerry Jeudy, and DeVonta Smith to name a few, and holding his own in those matchups. He is a stellar athlete combined with the competitive demeanor you love to see in defensive backs, having 27 PBUs and six INTs the last three seasons. If he can hold Williams and John Metchie III to respectable production, McCreary will again make his case as a top CB prospect.
Penn State at #12 Michigan State – 2:30PM CST
The Nittany Lions head to East Lansing to try and hit a down Spartan squad coming off a demoralizing defeat at the hands of Ohio State. Should Penn State look to control the trenches in this one, keep an eye on LT #53 Rasheed Walker. The 6’6″, 325 lb. junior has had moments of dominance this season, absolutely abusing smaller-school competition with his strength at the point of attack in the run game, as well as showing good technique in pass protection. He had a great showing in the win against Auburn earlier in the season, but has since struggled with speed coming off the edge and keeping the rush from getting the corner. A strong performance in this game will help Walker regain his stock.
On the opposite side of the football, EDGE #96 Jacub Panasiuk will look to give Walker fits as a pass rusher as well as win his assignments in the run game. The 6’4″, 255 lb. senior has enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign thus far with other defensive linemen getting banged up, playing with a non-stop motor as an emotional leader of the Spartan defense. His athleticism caps his upside at the next level, making him more of a mid-to-late round prospect. However, should he continue to do well against good competition, Panasiuk will make his case to be a strong depth option at the next level, as well as a likely core special teamer.
#15 Texas A&M at LSU – 6:00PM CST
The Aggies travel to Death Valley Saturday evening in an attempt to avoid the upset against a Tigers squad that hasn’t lived up to expectations this season, but remains dangerous. The Aggies will look to establish the running game early in this matchup, meaning that RB #28 Isaiah Spiller will be looking to tote the rock and gash the LSU defense for a long night in Baton Rouge. The 6’1″, 215 lb. junior came into the 2021 season as one of the top RB prospects in the nation, and currently sits 16 yards away from cracking the 1,000-yard mark on the ground.
While Spiller is used in a committee for the Aggies, he has the strength, power, and burst to carry the load for an offense as a feature back. Averaging 5.9 YPC this season with a long of 67, Spiller has the ability to take it to the house and has minimal tread on the tires, making him an enticing option for a team looking for an early-down back on Day 2 of the draft.
For the Tigers, the player that will be tasked with containing Spiller all night is LB #18 Damone Clark. The 6’3″, 245 lb. senior has an NFL-ready frame combined with the athleticism to run sideline-to-sideline as well as drop into coverage. Clark also brings smarts to the table for the Tigers as the leader of the defensive side of the football, playing with instinctiveness to be in the right spot and quickly making his reads to flow to the football. Clark is as good of a young man as he is a football player, having amazing character and bringing his A-game regardless on how the season has gone. He is extremely underrated compared to the other LBs in this draft class and deserves more recognition.
#13 BYU at USC – 9:30PM CST
The Cougars look to go into The Coliseum Saturday night and take it to a reeling Trojans team that is searching for an identity going forward. RB #25 Tyler Allgeier will be the focal point of the Cougars offensive attack as they try an impose their will on the ground. The 5’11″, 220 lb. redshirt sophomore is in the midst of a great 2021 campaign, having 228 carries for 1,303 yards (5.7 YPC) and 18 TDs on the ground. Allgeier runs with power in between the tackles with his stout, strong frame, but also possesses that sneaky burst when he gets in the open field to rip off long runs.
His frame and running style are eerily like a poor man’s version of Nick Chubb in a way, and another strong performance to end the regular season could be the push to declare for the draft as a likely value selection in the middle rounds.
For the Trojans, EDGE #99 Drake Jackson was touted as one of the best EDGE prospect heading into the season after flashing at times in 2020, The 6’4″, 250 lb. junior has the size, length, and athleticism you love to see in prototypical pass rush prospects on the edge, but he just hasn’t produced the way you’d hope in what has been a down year for USC. He has natural pass rush ability and is extremely raw, just scratching the surface of what he is capable of. However, Jackson will have to prove himself against the run in this matchup to prove to scouts he can be physical at the point of attack, and warrant declaring early as a prospect with a high ceiling.
What are your thoughts of the games and prospects listed above? How do you think they will fare on Saturday? Will you be tuning into any of these games specifically? Who else will you be watching for this weekend as a potential draft prospect for Pittsburgh? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below, and thanks again for reading!