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Week 2 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 2 of the 2023 season.

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NCAA Football: Alabama at Miami Dale Zanine-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 2 of this year’s college football campaign.

Game of the Week

No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Texas, Saturday Sept. 9, 6:00 p.m. CST

Texas gave Alabama quite a scare in Week 2 of the college football season last year. Will they be able to finish the job this year?

The Longhorns are loaded with future NFLers on offense. In terms of draft-eligible prospects alone, they’re led by toolsy quarterback Quinn Ewers, who has franchise potential at the next level with his arm talent, mechanics and pocket presence if he can make better decisions with the ball. He’s throwing to an athletic freak in tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, a dynamic receiver in Xavier Worthy and a route-running wizard in Adonai Mitchell. His receiver group also features potential NFLers Isaiah Neyor and Jordan Whittington. On defense, Texas features gap-eating extraordinaire T’Vondre Sweat and intriguing physical talent Alfred Collins at defensive tackle. Linebacker Jaylan Ford has the athleticism to clean up at the second level, while Barryn Sorrell brings quickness, good leverage and a high motor off the edge. The defense also features heat-seeking missile Jalen Catalon at safety, whose tape is as good as anyone at his position in college football when he’s able to actually stay healthy.

Alabama’s obviously no slouch, either! Their defense features two likely first-round picks in edge rusher Dallas Turner and cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, both of whom being seen as potentially the top player at their respective positions in the 2024 draft. The defensive front includes the likes of powerful defensive tackle Justin Eboigbe, inexperienced but physically gifted defensive tackle Damon Payne, and explosive edge rusher Chris Braswell. Alongside McKinstry in the secondary, the Crimson Tide feature smart and twitchy cornerback Terrion Arnold and intelligent safety-nickel hybrid Malachi Moore. The offense isn’t as loaded as years past, but right tackle and potential first-rounder J.C. Latham is a monster of a man who moves well and plays with situational awareness and a mean streak. Running back Jase McClellan is a quick and patient runner with nice size, wide receivers Jermaine Burton and Ja’Corey Brooks each possess ideal deep speed and 50-50 ball ability, respectively, and tight end C.J. Dippre is a sleeper with good hands and very good in-line blocking ability.

Big Matchup to Watch

Troy EDGEs Javon Solomon and Richard Jibunor @ No. 15 Kansas State OL, Saturday Sept. 9, 11:00 a.m. CST

The Troy Trojans have two tantalizing talents to terrorize teams’ quarterbacks, and their tremendous tandem will be tested with a titanic tango in the trenches.

Solomon was an All-Sun Belt third-team member in 2022 and a first-teamer in 2021. Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list has him at just 7% body fat at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds with a 420-pound bench, 615-pound deadlift and 600pound squat, on top of a maximum tracked speed of 21.63 miles per hour. He’s an explosive pass-rusher with a quick first step and ideal flexibility turning the corner in pursuit, and his pad level is consistently where it needs to be. He’s raw as a technician and doesn’t have ideal length and edge-setting ability, but the athletic upside is obvious with him. Jibunor has been a third-team member in each of the last three seasons, tallying 15 sacks combined in his last two. The Nigeria native is undersized at just 230 pounds but also offers freakish athleticism and a high motor off the edge.

Kansas State enters this matchup heavily favored, but the trench battle between Troy’s edge rushers and the Wildcats’ offensive line should be a fun one. The star of the show is left guard Cooper Beebe, who arguably would’ve been a Day 2 pick had he stayed in the 2024 draft. He’s an intelligent blocker with a high motor, good spatial awareness and a strong anchor. Left tackle KT Leveston is a thick lineman with heavy hands and a nasty mean streak, and right guard Hadley Panzer is a former high school state wrestling champion who wins with power and leverage.

Sleeper Highlight

Ball State TE Tanner Koziol @ No. 1 Georgia, Saturday Sept. 9, 11:00 a.m. CST

Though Ball State faces an incredibly tough task facing the defending champions on their home turf, their matchup against Georgia serves as an elevated platform for those of their players with NFL chances.

Arguably their most draftable player is Koziol, The 6-foot-7, 230-pounder is a lanky tight end with a massive catch radius. The Bloomingdale native is a redshirt sophomore with tremendous hands and good body control attacking the ball in the air — you can tell he played high school basketball by how he boxes out at the catch point. He’s also shown some promise as a blocker, where his length and effort allow him to displace smaller defenders. He’s raw as a route runner and has just okay speed, but should he be a surprise early entrant in the 2024 draft, he could turn some heads.