Prospect Stock Watch | Top 5 Rivalry Games to Watch

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5. Florida @ #16 Florida State

7:30pm EST ABC (Friday)

This rivalry may not be the best game on paper, but it is full of future NFL talent (as always) and something worth watching to get your college football weekend started. Florida QB Anthony Richardson has shown steady improvements as a passer this season, which has his stock still potentially cracking the 1st round discussions. The upside and athleticism certainly have scouts excited as the young QB seems to be taking a step forward and getting more comfortable. Also on the Gator offense, IOL O’Cyrus Torrence has been my top rated interior lineman since the start of the draft cycle and now is inside my top 10 overall prospects. On the other side of the ball, FSU Edge Jared Verse has played like a 1st round pick in his first season playing in a power 5 conference.

4. South Carolina @ #8 Clemson

12:00pm EST ABC

This game did not look great a few weeks back, but a huge upset over the #5 Tennessee Vols has given the South Carolina Gamecocks and QB Spencer Rattler life. I am far from ready to say that Rattler has revived his dead-in-the-water draft stock or that he has returned anywhere close to where he once was, but it’s great to see a guy with high caliber traits bounce back. The main attractions for this game are the three top 15 prospects that all line up on the defensive side of the ball. South Carolina CB Cam Smith has had a phenomenal season and is playing like a top 3 defensive back in this class. Clemson’s Edge Myles Murphy and DT Bryan Bresee have been two of the highest ceiling defensive lineman in the country and look to create enough havoc to potentially make it back into the CFP race. Others to watch include WR Antwane Wells (USC), QB DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson), LB Trenton Simpson (Clemson) and DL Tonka Hemingway (USC).

3. The Iron Bowl | Auburn @ #7 Alabama

3:30pm EST CBS

This year’s Iron Bowl may be favoring Alabama by 22 points, but if history repeats then it will be much closer game than that. This bitter rivalry will feature an insanely high amount of NFL talent all over the field, starring Alabama’s QB Bryce Young and Edge Will Anderson. Despite 5-6 Auburn being a win away from Bowl eligibility, their team is also full of high caliber prospects to watch, most notably Edge Derick Hall. Hall is a quiet contender to be selected in the top 2 rounds of the draft after a career filled with 128 pressures and 22 sacks. RB Tank Bigsby has been the centerpiece of the Auburn offense for three seasons now and likely will join the stacked RB class of 2023. Others from Auburn to keep an eye on include OLB Owen Pappoe, DL Colby Wooden, LB Eku Leota, and CB Nehemiah Pritchett.

Along with Bama’s pair of top 5 headliners, their team is full of NFL depth as always. One prospect that has been one of the highest risers this season is DB Brian Branch, who likely projects in a hybrid-rover type role in the NFL, similar to Jalen Pitre last season. RB Jahmyr Gibbs is another fun prospect to watch, but he has been battling injuries lately and could be in a limited role if he plays. The Georgia Tech transfer has been a huge spark to the offense, but also is on the smaller side for an NFL RB and also has struggled to pass protect, which makes his potential as a three down back a bit risky. DL Bryon Young and LB Henry To’oTo’o both have been valuable contributors on the defense who likely both will be drafted as well.

2. #15 Notre Dame @ #6 USC

7:30pm EST ABC

Despite this game only being played during rivalry week when it’s at USC, this is one of college football’s best matchups. Not only is this two of the NCAA’s richest programs, but this year we are treated to a matchup of two top 15 teams with plenty of CFP implications on the line. USC has turned their program around thanks to newly hired HC Lincoln Riley and transfer QB Caleb Williams. Williams currently stands as not only the Heisman favorite, but a contender to be the top overall pick in the 2024 draft class. Although we will have to wait another year for that, USC WR Jordan Addison looks to be back to full health as he makes his push to be the top receiver drafted this year. On the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye on DL Tuli Tuipulotu, who now has 44 pressures and 11 sacks on the season and has emerged as a 1st round prospect. Notre Dame may have had a down year by their standards, but two prospects with a bright NFL future include Edge Isaiah Foskey and S Brandon Joseph.

1. The Game | #3 Michigan @ #2 Ohio State

12:00pm EST FOX

Ok…any rivalry that is simply referred to as “The Game” has to be a good one…but how often are both teams undefeated and ranked inside the top 3?!? The obvious prospect to watch here is highly touted QB CJ Stroud, who will make his push for both his first CFP appearance and a Heisman nod. Although WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba entered the season as a top receiving prospect, he has only played a handful of snaps due to a nagging hamstring injury which has opened the door for 2024 prospects Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.

It is unclear whether Smith-Njigba will be playing on Saturday, but now there is dark cloud surrounding his draft stock. Was he ever really a top rated prospect, or did the slot receiver simply gain the attention of the media due to his incredible production in primetime appearances? Both are unclear, but don’t be surprised if the receiver returns to the program next year or even transfers to a program like USC to try to strengthen his draft stock. Lastly, OT Paris Johnson Jr. has been one of the best offensive tackles in the country and is likely a first round pick after bolstering the Buckeyes OL.

On the other side, Michigan has had one of the most electric run offenses in the country, led by RBs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Both missed time last week with injuries and their status is up in the air and I fear for this offense without Corum. Last week, the Wolverines struggled to get much going once Corum left the game and the Heisman candidate showed his true value once again. Corum has marched all the way into my top 3 for this talented RB class. On the defensive side, OLB Mike Morris and DL Mazi Smith have been names that have continuously gained hype this season and guys to watch against this strong Ohio State OL.

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