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 8 of this year’s college football campaign.
Game of the Week
Jacob: No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 14 Syracuse, Saturday Oct. 22, 11:00 a.m. CST
Syracuse has been one of the feel-good teams of the 2022 season, and they hope to continue their Cinderella story on the road against perennial ACC powerhouse Clemson.
The Orange currently have four players on my board as draftable, which would be the most picks for them in a single draft since they had that many taken in 2006. Running back and Day 2 talent Sean Tucker is the flashiest of the bunch, being a productive, explosive and intelligent weapon out of Syracuse’s backfield. Cornerback Garrett Williams is a guy I’ve been high on for a year and a half, and his fluidity, scrappiness and route-recognition skills could see him drafted as high as late Round 1. Offensive tackle Matthew Bergeron is an athletic and nasty blocker who has been steadily rising up my board this year, while linebacker Mikel Jones is an explosive and steady tackler who should get Day 3 looks.
Clemson has a deeper group of 2024 draft prospects, but the high-end talent the 2023 class has is obvious. Edge rusher Myles Murphy and defensive tackle Bryan Bresee are both physically-gifted specimens with the size, athleticism and pass-rushing ability to see them go Round 1 at their respective positions. Linebacker Trenton Simpson is a lengthy defender with top-notch fluidity and limitless range as a tackler. The front-seven is also stacked with potential Day 3 picks like defensive tackles Tyler Davis and Ruke Orhorhoro, and edge rushers K.J. Henry and Xavier Thomas. D.J. Uiagalelei has improved at quarterback this year, though it seems unlikely he declares for the 2023 draft. Keep an eye on offensive sleepers like offensive lineman Jordan McFadden and wide receiver Joseph Ngata.
Big Matchup to Watch
Jacob: Iowa CB Riley Moss vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Saturday Oct. 22, 11:00 a.m. CST
If there’s any matchup a college cornerback could use to sink or swim his draft stock, it’s a game against the wide receiver factory that is Ohio State.
Riley Moss has been on my radar as a draft prospect for quite some time, and now that he’s roughly halfway through his fifth collegiate season, it’s clear he belongs on the radar of NFL teams. He’s a lengthy cornerback at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds with a solid wingspan at his disposal along the boundary. His ball skills and production are especially intriguing; as of this writing, he has 10 interceptions and 17 pass deflections in his time at Iowa, and he attacks the ball like a wide receiver in the air. A fluid athlete with loose hips and good deep speed, he projects well to the professional level.
Moss isn’t the best tackler or the most physical cornerback out there. He’ll need to be on his A game against the Buckeyes, especially with 2024 draft prospects Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka lining up across from him. Whether or not Jaxon Smith-Njigba comes back from his injury hiatus, Moss will be tested, and NFL teams will surely be watching.
Jacob: Ferris State EDGE Caleb Murphy vs. Michigan Tech, Saturday Oct. 22, 12:00 p.m. CST
One of the top small-school prospects in the 2023 draft, there’s a chance that Caleb Murphy from Division II school Ferris State hears his name called this year.
Murphy’s production this season has been bonkers good. Through his first 6 games, he has 48 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks. You want your small-school prospects to dominate their competition, and Murphy has certainly done that. He plays with a red-hot motor on every down, showcasing high play speed in space and super active hands at the line of scrimmage. He offers good finesse in his swipes, swims and rips, and despite being smaller for an edge rusher, he never shies away from contact. Plus, his get-off speed and overall explosiveness is nothing short of impressive.
Being a D2 prospect who’s 6-foot-3 and listed at 230 pounds off the edge, there will be play strength and competition concerns with Murphy at the next level. He may need to make the switch to a strong-side, off-ball linebacker, but no matter where he plays, guys as athletic, productive and hard-working him are worth taking a chance on.