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Week 8 CFB preview, prospect spotlight, and open thread

Let’s take a look at which college games and prospects to keep an eye on in Week 8 of the 2023 season.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Penn State at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 8 of this year’s college football campaign.

Game of the Week

No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Penn State, Saturday Oct. 21, 11:00 a.m. CST

A clash of the titans with strong playoff repercussions, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions face off Saturday in one of the more loaded matchups you’ll see all year.

From a draft perspective, Penn State’s group for the 2024 draft might be the best group the program has had since James Franklin took over as head coach. Left tackle Olu Fashanu is an elite athlete with great physical tools and constantly improving technique, giving him top-10 value on my board and All-Pro upside. Cornerback Kalen King is a fluid cover corner with great ball skills, sound instincts and above-average athleticism that should see him come high in demand come April. Edge rusher Demeioun “Chop” Robinson is a rare athlete at his position with insane speed and flexibility — he could run sub-4.5 in his 40-yard dash at the Combine. Flanking Robinson off the edge is Adisa Isaac, another explosive rusher whose technique has improved over the years. SAM linebacker Curtis Jacobs is an athletic linebacker who might be better as a WILL in the pros but still offers three-down value. Back on the offensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lions have two intriguing pass-catchers in the form of 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end Theo Johnson and twitchy inside-outside wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

Here’s what I said about Ohio State’s roster heading into their Week 4 matchup against Notre Dame. Since then, I should indicate I’ve since knocked J.T. Tuimoloau down to a second-round grade, as well as clarify that I also have a second-round grade on Denzel Burke.

Ohio State is headlined by the wide receiver tandem of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, both of whom projecting as first-round picks and the former even being considered a top-3 prospect in the 2024 draft. The Buckeyes’ offense also features explosive running back TreVeyon Henderson and high-upside left guard Donovan Jackson, who both figures to be at least Day 2 selections. Other prospects like right guard Matthew Jones, backup running back Miyan Williams, tight end Cade Stover and wide receiver Julian Fleming all could potentially have their names called, too. The defense is led by a loaded defensive line; edge rusher J.T Tuimoloau and defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. are both dominant prospects with first-round upside, and the likes of edge rusher Jack Sawyer and defensive tackles Ty Hamilton and Tyleik Williams could end up picked on Day 2. Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg brings athletic and a high motor to the table and seems like a future NFL starter. In the secondary, cornerback Denzel Burke offers a nice combination of fluidity, ball skills and physicality. Safeties Lathan Ransom and Josh Proctor could both end up as Day 3 picks, as well.

Big Matchup to Watch

Texas Tech EDGE Steve Linton @ BYU OT Kingsley Suamataia, Saturday Oct. 21, 6:00 p.m. CST

I feel like it’s only a matter of time before the national media starts catching onto Linton, and he’ll have a big chance to prove himself this Saturday against one of the top offensive tackles in college football.

Linton is a lengthy edge rusher who’s a bit smaller at 6-foot-4 and 231 pounds, but he offers 34 1/2-inch arms and a frame that can afford to add more weight. His athleticism is elite off the edge, as his first step is great and his closing speed out in space simply phenomenal. He changes direction with ease, giving him plenty of value on stunts and inside counter rushes. His hand activity and quickness make him a dangerous pass-rusher, too. He struggles setting the edge against the run, which could make Suamataia a big test for him. The BYU left tackle is a great athlete with nice burst off the line of scrimmage and good footwork in various different pass sets. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder has very good size and generates some nice push at the point of attack. Suamataia’s awareness and strike placement will be tested by such an explosive edge rusher, but both prospects figure to be future NFLers and potential Day 2 selections.

Sleeper Highlight

Harvard DL Thor Griffith @ Princeton, Saturday Oct. 21, 12:00 p.m. CST

Listed at No. 8 on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List, Griffith gives me major Harrison Phillips vibes, which is a good thing when you consider Phillips has been a solid contributor at defensive tackle over the last 6 seasons.

Griffith was an All-American wrestler in high school, and that background shows in how he plays as a 2-technique. He does a good job of keeping his pads low and his weight underneath him to win with leverage at the point of attack. He combines an explosive first step with a red-hot motor, which helped him tally a combined 22.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks from 2021 to 2022. The 6-foot-2, 320-pounder is rumored to run a sub-5.0 50-yard dash with a 1.65 10-yard split. A lack of elite length and small-school status could knock him to Day 3, but he seems like a draftable talent and a sleeper to keep an eye on in the 2024 draft.

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