College football is back!
As the 2022 season rolls along, so will our weekly previews of games and NFL prospects to watch. This will come in addition to our sporadic NFL Draft coverage over the course of the fall and winter. Whether you’re a fan of the draft or just a college football fan, this series looks to give you an idea of what to watch each week.
Windy City Gridiron’s Lead Draft Analyst Jacob Infante will be taking a look at what to expect in Week 5 of this year’s college football campaign.
Game of the Week
Jacob: No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 10 North Carolina State, Saturday Oct. 1, 6:30 p.m. CST
After a down year in 2021, Clemson seems to be right back in the CFB playoff conversation this season. The headliners of their roster are along the defensive line: defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and edge rusher Myles Murphy are both likely first-round picks in the 2023 draft. Edge rusher K.J. Henry has shown some serious flashes this year, while defensive tackle Tyler Davis is a thick gap-eater against the run. Linebacker Trenton Simpson is another physical specimen in the mold of Isaiah Simmons who could go Round 1, while cornerback Sheridan Jones is a potential draft pick in the secondary. The Tigers don’t have a ton of 2023-eligible firepower, but wide receiver Joseph Ngata and left tackle Jordan McFadden could get Day 3 looks. If quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei can continue to build momentum like he has to start the year, the Tigers could be tough to stop.
That’s certainly not to say North Carolina State has no chance of winning; they’re a top-10 team for a reason. Quarterback Devin Leary is an effective game-manager who can make full-field reads and deliver throws with polished mechanics and good anticipation. He could end up drafted down the line, though it seems unlikely he declares for the 2023 draft. NC State’s defense has played a big role in their 4-0 start, as they have allowed an average of just 11.75 points per game through four games. Keep an eye on linebacker Payton Wilson, who has plenty of athleticism for someone who’s 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. Defensive tackle Cory Durden is a technician with a strong anchor who plays well as either a nose or in a 1-technique alignment.
Big Matchup to Watch
Jacob: Auburn RB Tank Bigsby vs. LSU, Saturday Oct. 1, 6:00 p.m. CST
Tank Bigsby is coming off of a rough game against Missouri in which he only rushed for 2.3 yards per carry. That said, the highs of his tape still make him one of the most talented running backs in the nation. He has good size for a running back — as someone who goes by “Tank” should — at 6-foot and 213 pounds. His size aids him at the point of contact, as he has good contact balance when he gets the ball in his hands. Bigsby also has very good short-area agility and the burst needed to exploit running lanes once he identifies them.
Auburn will have its hands full with LSU’s defensive line. Edge rushers Ali Gaye and B.J. Ojulari, along with defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy, are all potential draft picks who could go as high as early Day 2 in the 2023 draft. True sophomore defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo is another talented defender who could end up in the NFL in a few years. Linebacker Mike Jones Jr. is also an athletic force at the second level with a high motor. Bigsby will have to explode through a talented LSU defense to have a bounce-back game, but he’s proven capable of going off on any given night.
Jacob: Air Force TE Kyle Patterson vs. Navy, Saturday Oct. 1, 11:00 a.m. CST
Editing for Jim Nagy over at The 33rd Team introduced me to Kyle Patterson, and once I watched his tape, I was intrigued with what I saw. Air Force’s penchant towards the run game is well known, so Patterson has plenty of experience as a blocker. His 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame is packed with very good length that allows him to lock defenders out easily at the point of attack. He generates nice drive out of his lower half as a blocker, and he lands his strikes well more often than not.
Patterson has a limited resume as a pass-catcher, but he seems to be a solid athlete with fluid hips for his size and reliable hands. He seems to be Air Force’s best offensive weapon in the passing game, so if you watch this game, look to see if he builds upon the flashes he has shown during his collegiate career.