Every week in 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 2023 NFL Draft and specifically how they may be viewed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
#2 Ohio State at Northwestern 11:00AM CST ABC
The Buckeyes travel to Chicago to take on the 1-7 Wildcats in what should be a laugher. Still, from a scouting perspective, there should be plenty of talent to watch in this game, especially for the Buckeyes who boast one of the most dynamic offenses in the country.
While the QB and skill position plays get the headlines, Ohio State has a lot of talent on the offensive line including C #53 Luke Wypler. The 6’3, 300lb junior has been climbing up boards thanks to his impressive play in pass protection along with his ability to get out in space and finish in the running game. He could decide to return after the season, but should Wypler continue his strong play, we may see him declare like fellow OL Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones and one of the better centers in this draft class.
The Northwestern Wildcats have a stud of their own upfront in possibly the best offensive tackle prospect in a 2023 NFL Draft with OT #77 Peter Skoronski. The 6’4, 315lb junior lacks ideal length and size, but is one of the most technically sound offensive linemen in this draft class, mirroring pass rushers with ease while playing with great base and effort as a run blocker. Having conducted a scouting spotlight earlier this season on Skoronski, he looks like the real deal, but will have to answer questions regarding his length and size when going up against NFL-caliber pass rushers. He will have a chance to put those questions to the test Saturday against a talented Buckeye defensive front.
#1 Tennessee at #3 Georgia 2:30PM CBS
The matchup everyone will be watching Saturday afternoon with be an SEC clash between the top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers and the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.
Tennessee boasts one of the most explosive offenses in the country thanks to the emergence of WR #11 Jalin Hyatt. The 6’0, 180lb junior was initially more or a rotational receiver to start the season, but after future draftee Cedric Tillman got injured, Hyatt stepped up in a big way, posting 45 receptions for a whopping 907 yards (20.2 YPR) and 14 TDs. Hyatt had his coming out party against Alabama, getting loose in the secondary and running past DBs with his impressive speed and burst for five TDs and over 200 yards. Once a backup, Hyatt has the attention of the entire nation and scouts alike and will look to help the Volunteers unseat the reigning champs in Athens this weekend.
One defender for the Bulldogs that will likely be entrusted with helping keep a lid on Hyatt and the Tennessee passing attack is CB #5 Kelee Ringo. Ringo was touted as one of the top CB prospects in the nation prior to the start of the 2022 season after being a key piece on the dominant Bulldogs defense last season which helped them win a National Championship.
Ringo returned to try and boost his draft stock for the first season he would be draft-eligible but has struggled at times in 2022 in terms of getting lost with his eyes and quicker reaction to what is happening in-front of him. Still, he has all the physical tools you look for in a prototypical outside CB and will have the opportunity to regain that preseason hype with a strong performance in this one.
#20 Syracuse at Pitt 2:30PM CST ACC Network
The Orange travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers in an ACC showdown Saturday afternoon.
Syracuse has enjoyed a successful season thus far thanks to the play for RB Sean Tucker, but a lot of credit should be given to the OL and OT #60 Matthew Bergeron. Bergeron stands 6’5, 332lb and is an underclassman that has caught the attention of NFL teams thanks to his impressive size and stellar play in the running game. He generates movement quickly at the LOS, displacing defenders with good first-step quickness paired with strength and power. He has also represented himself well against some talented pass rushers and will look to keep his stock rising against a stout Pitt defensive line.
One defender the Cuse OL will try and tame is DL #8 Calijah Kancey. Kancey may be undersized, standing only 6’0, 280lb, but he can be a wrecking ball in the middle of the defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Kancey ranks third in the nation among DTs in overall grade (90.1) and QB pressures (32) while being tops in the FBS at the position in pass rush grade (92.3) and win rate (20.9%). Kancey is a disruptive player in the middle that has the first-step quickness paired with the low center of gravity to be a chore for OL to keep at bey for long. Some teams may have him off their board due to measurables, but his rare athleticism is definitely attractive.
#6 Alabama at #10 LSU 6:00PM CST ESPN
The Crimson Tide look to get back into the good graces of the voting committee this weekend as they travel to Death Valley to get a statement win against their arch-rival LSU Tigers.
The Tigers boast a dynamic rushing attack, thus the Tide will rely on LB #10 Henry To’oto’o to help neutralize the Tigers on the ground. The 6’2, 228lb senior was a tackling machine last season, racking up 111 total stops and four sacks while playing next to Christian Harris in the middle of the Bama defensive front seven. He is an instinctive linebacker, being quick to diagnose the play and run to the football while also being a superb zone coverage defender. To’oto’o will be expected to be a field general this weekend in a must-win game to keep Alabama’s CFP chances alive as he looks to assert his name near the top of the ILB prospects in the 2023 class.
The LSU Tigers will have to get pressure on QB Bryce Young if they hope to secure the home upset, meaning they will be relying on EDGE #18 BJ Ojulari to make an impact in this game. The 6’3, 250lb junior is following in his brother Azeez’s footsteps as a talented pass rusher looking to make his transition from college to the pros. He has posted only four sacks and one forced fumble so far this season, but he has shown phenomenal pursuit of the football combined with the bend and hand usage you want in an NFL pass rusher.
The Alabama OL will be focusing in on Ojulari, just like all of LSU’s opponents have done this season and Ojulari will have to overcome to show teams he can be a quality NFL pass rusher like his brother before him.
#4 Clemson at Notre Dame 6:30PM CST NBC
The Clemson held off Syracuse in a close one two weeks ago at home, but now they travel to South Bend to take on an upset-minded Fighting Irish squad.
EDGE #5 K.J. Henry had himself a good game against the Orange, posting three tackles and a sack. The oft-injured pass rusher is finally healthy this season, and while he has taken a back seat to fellow EDGE Myles Murphy as a draft prospect, Henry brings some unique traits to the table as a long, explosive edge rusher (6’4, 255lb). He has two sacks on the season, but also shown to be capable of dropping into coverage to occupy zones and play chase in pursuit. Henry figures to be a Day Three option in this upcoming draft but could continue to help his stock with a productive game against a sound Notre Dame OL.
Henry, Murphy, and the rest of the Clemson pass rushers will have to try and get the best of an offensive line led by IOL #55 Jarrett Patterson. The 6’4, 310lb redshirt senior is a four-year starter and team captain, having started 34 games at center but has moved to guard in 2022 after missing time in spring ball due to a torn pec that he has since fully recovered from. He has excelled in his transition outside from the pivot, showcasing a strong anchor in pass protection along with the size and strength to get a push up the middle in the running game.
His athletic upside may be capped, but Patterson is one of the steadiest, most consistent IOL in college football and will look to help ND upset Clemson once again at home like they did two seasons ago.
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!