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 9 of this year’s college football campaign.
Game of the Week
Jacob: No. 13 Penn State vs. No. 2 Ohio State, Saturday Oct. 29, 11:00 a.m. CST
Ohio State is playing like a team guaranteed to make a playoff appearance, but they’ll have to pick up a key road win against Penn State first.
The Buckeyes’ early-round talent is well documented. Quarterback C.J. Stroud is a contender to be the No. 1 overall pick, while wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. project as first-round locks. They also have a bevy of draftable talent in 2024 and beyond. However, there’s also plenty to like a little bit further down on Ohio State’s roster. Offensive tackle Dawand Jones is a monster among men with a mean streak and Day 2 value. Edge rusher Zach Harrison is a physical specimen with absurd athleticism for a bigger defender. Guard Matthew Jones is another draftable talent up front, while running back Miyan Williams helps form a two-headed monster in their backfield. Other notable draft prospects include safety Lathan Ransom, tight end Cade Stover, cornerback Cameron Brown and defensive lineman Taron Vincent.
Rookie cornerbacks like Sauce Gardner, Derek Stingley Jr., Tariq Woolen and Jack Jones are making a splash for their respective teams in the 2022 NFL season. The odds are strong Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. could end up having a similar immediate impact. He’s a super well-rounded cornerback with length, physicality, instincts and ball skills who should go Round 1. Offensive tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu is one of the biggest risers up my boards this year and has all the athletic tools to be an impact player in the NFL. Wide receivers Parker Washington and Mitchell Tinsley are both thickly-built receivers with good ball skills, though Washington gets the slight edge for superior athleticism. Defenders like safety Ji’Ayir Brown, edge rusher Adisa Isaac and defensive lineman P.J. Mustipher could all get Day 3 looks, too.
Big Matchup to Watch
Jacob: Miami (FL) CB Tyrique Stevenson vs. Virginia, Saturday Oct. 29, 11:30 a.m. CST
NFL Mock Draft Database has a fourth-round consensus grade on Stevenson, which lines up pretty close to the Round 4-5 range I have him at right now. With a strong outing this week, he could propel himself up boards.
At 6 feet tall and 214 pounds, Stevenson has the prototypical size for a boundary cornerback at the NFL level. He appears to have good length and uses it well, maintaining hand activity through a receiver’s stems in man coverage. He offers good downhill quickness as a tackler and when jumping routes, and he plays with physicality and effort in run support. His draft stock will be affected a bit by run-of-the-mill agility on tape, but there’s a chance he grows into a valuable backup or a spot starter in the pros.
Stevenson plays fairly interchangeably on the outside, so the odds are strong he’ll go up against both Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson on Saturday. Wicks is an athletic deep threat with great ball skills and a very well-rounded game, while Thompson is a super versatile weapon at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds who offers good YAC ability. Stevenson will have his hands full with the Cavaliers’ passing attack led by quarterback Brennan Armstrong, and NFL teams will look to see if he rises to the occasion.
Jacob: Shepherd QB Tyson Bagent vs. Bloomsburg, Saturday Oct. 29, 11:00 a.m. CST
Being a Division II prospect on NFL radars can be a tough thing to do, but Bagent has managed to separate himself as one of — if not the best — DII players in the upcoming 2023 draft.
Bagent won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best football player in Division II in 2021, and he’s picking up right where he left off this year. He’s currently averaging just over 320 passing yards per game through 8 games, and he has thrown 23 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. He is an accurate passer who does the little things right, as he hits his receivers in stride and has a natural sense of timing behind his throws. Bagent offers above-average pocket awareness with enough mobility needed to evade defenders.
There hasn’t been a DII quarterback drafted into the NFL since J.T. O’Sullivan in 2002, so the odds are a bit tough for Bagent, who doesn’t stand out as elite from a physical traits perspective. That said, he’s on the right track with another stellar 2022 season. Shepherd enters this matchup 8-0 and ranked No. 13 in DII, and a win over 3-5 Bloomsburg would get one step closer to an undefeated season, further strengthening his draft case.