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Week 9 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 9 of the 2023 season.

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NCAA Football: UCLA at Utah Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

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 9 of this year’s college football campaign.

Game of the Week

Texas A&M vs. South Carolina, Saturday Oct. 28, 11:00 a.m. CST

Is this game the highest-profile in terms of overall team success? No, but it still offers a look into some damn good draft prospects for the 2024 class.

Texas A&M is a bit more loaded on the 2025 draft prospect front, but they should still see numerous players selected in 2024. My highest-graded player on the team is defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson, a strong nose tackle who defends the run with heavy hands, a sturdy anchor and impressive short-area burst for a 325-pounder. He’s flanked on the defensive line by fellow tackle Shemar Turner, who’s a polished hand technician and another solid run-stuffer. In the secondary, safety Demani Richardson and cornerback Tyreek Chappell offer Day 3 or high-priority free agent consideration. The offense features twitchy wide receiver/returner/running back Ainias Smith, as well as Moose Muhammad III (yes, you read that right). Right guard Layden Robinson is a physical blocker with the strength to move defenders in the run game.

South Carolina is headlined by two stud wide receivers in the form of Xavier Legette and Antwane Wells Jr. Both are big, physical weapons with impressive measureables, with Legette being the jump-ball specialist and Wells thriving more after the catch. Both could end up selected on Day 2 of the 2024 draft. Throwing them the ball is Spencer Rattler, who isn’t the No. 1-caliber player many thought him to be years ago but is still a solid passer with an elastic arm. On defense, don’t forget about edge rusher Jordan Strachan, who tied for the FBS lead in sacks with 10.5 for Georgia State in a shortened 2020 season.

Big Matchup to Watch

No. 13 Utah S Cole Bishop vs. No. 8 Oregon offense, Saturday Oct. 28, 2:30 p.m. CST

One of the top safeties in college football will be tasked with stopping one of the most explosive offenses in the game.

Bishop is a well-built safety listed at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. His versatility stands out when you watch him on tape, as he has experience playing two-high, single-high, underneath, in the box and in the slot. He plays with a high motor on a consistent basis, showing off nice downhill speed and impressive physicality in run support. A three-year starter for Utah, he’s precise in the reads he makes in coverage and takes good angles in pursuit to ball-carriers.

If there’s one issue with Bishop’s game, it’s a lack of top-notch fluidity. Oregon will look to exploit that with a dynamic passing attack led by quarterback Bo Nix, who’s developed into a confident passer who could flirt with first-round consideration. Wide receiver Troy Franklin is the star of the show, as he’s a fluid and lengthy weapon with the ability to take the top off the defense. When in run support, Bishop will be tasked with stopping running back Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving, who lacks in the power game but can really make defenders pay in space with his speed and impressive agility.

Sleeper Highlight

Southern Utah DL Robert Horsey vs. Abilene Christian, Saturday Oct. 28, 2:00 p.m. CST

The alma mater of Braxton Jones has another trench standout slated to hit the NFL, only this time on the opposite side of the ball.

Horsey appeared on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List this year as a superstar in athletic testing. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound 3-technique runs a 4.96 40-yard dash with a 405-pound bench press and a 650-pound squat. He’s a transfer from Frostburg State with impressive quickness off the ball, good grip strength at the point of attack and nice gap awareness as a run defender. He might not have the finesse as a pass-rusher one would like out of a three-down defensive tackle, but his athletic tools give him enough upside to be firmly on NFL radars at this stage.

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