College football is back!
As the 2023 season rolls along, so will our weekly previews of games and NFL prospects to watch. This will come in addition to our 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 7 of this year’s college football campaign.
Game of the Week
No. 7 Washington vs. No. 8 Oregon, Saturday Oct. 14, 2:30 p.m. CST
The Pac-12 has been a bloodbath in 2023 — both on the field and off — and their two highest-ranked teams square off this week.
Washington is led by quarterback Michael Penix Jr., a lefty quarterback who overcame an injury-riddled tenure at Indiana to grow into one of college’s most accurate passers with arguably the prettiest deep ball in the 2024 draft. He’s throwing to one of the best wide receiver rooms in the nation, including potential first-rounder Rome Odunze and crafty slot receiver Jalen McMillan. The Huskies’ offensive line features a future NFL starter in left tackle Troy Fautanu, though I think he kicks inside to guard at the next level. Key players at key positions have helped make Washington’s offense elite, but their defense also features some talented draft prospects. Edge rusher Bralen Trice is a powerful, high-motored defender with at least top-40 value in this draft, and he’s partnered with the crafty Zion Tupuola-Fetui off the edge. Linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio is an experienced and athletic defender at the second level, too.
Oregon is also spearheaded by a collegiate veteran quarterback, as Bo Nix has the Ducks back among the top programs in the nation. He’s done a good job of complementing the physical tools he showed at Auburn with better consistency from an accuracy perspective. His offense features receiver Troy Franklin III, a lengthy weapon with great ball skills, consistent hands and good fluidity for a receiver listed at 6-foot-3. Running back Bucky Irving is an athletic change-of-pace runner with serious home-run ability, too. Oregon’s offensive line is also strong, as center Jackson Powers-Johnson is a toolsy potential early declare. Right tackle Ajani Cornelius debatably projects better as a guard in the NFL, but what’s not debatable is how good he’s been since transferring from Rhode Island. The defense features versatile and explosive defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus, who could end up selected within the first two rounds. Edge rusher Jordan Burch is an athletic freak with scary strength and plenty of potential, and linebacker Jestin Jacobs has good fluidity and coverage instincts across the middle of the field.
Big Matchup to Watch
No. 22 LSU WR Malik Nabers vs. Auburn CBs D.J. James and Nehemiah Pritchett, Saturday Oct. 14, 6:00 p.m. CST
With LSU coming off of a big road win against Mizzou and Auburn having just taken Georgia to the limit last week, both of these teams have some momentum heading into their Saturday clash.
The most enticing matchup to me is LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers against Auburn’s secondary. Nabers is a potential first-round pick whose athleticism makes him a dangerous deep threat and a monster after the catch. His explosiveness, body control and ball skills make him arguably the best go-route runner in the 2024 draft. He’ll be tested against one of the best cornerback duos in all of college football in D.J. James and Nehemiah Pritchett. James has the athleticism and length to hypothetically match Nabers well from a speed perspective, while Pritchett has the ball skills and instincts needed to make the LSU wideout really compete at the catch point. This write-up doesn’t even include ball hawk Jaylin Simpson, who specializes as a free safety but occasionally plays cornerback. It should be a fun matchup watching Nabers battle against either one of Auburn’s stud corners.
Mount Union WR Wayne Ruby @ Capital, Saturday Oct. 14, 12:30 p.m. CST
There’s a Division III wide receiver in the 2024 draft class with an incredibly enticing profile.
Wayne Ruby Jr., who’s currently tied for the most career receiving touchdowns in Mount Union history at 63, has the production you want when scouting a Division III prospect. He combined for 210 receptions for 3,258 yards and 43 touchdowns from 2021 to 2022, including an absurd 30 touchdowns in 2022. He’s a coordinated athlete who wins well with speed releases off the line of scrimmage, reliable hands and fluid hips across the middle of the field.
Mount Union is currently undefeated and ranked No. 2 in Division III football, trailing only North Central in the rankings. Ruby serves as veteran leadership for a dynamic passing attack, and with a strong performance on Saturday, not only could he further state his case as a future NFLer, but the Purple Raiders could also state their case to be the No. 1 D3 team in the nation.