This week’s 2020 NFL Draft spotlight leads with another big-time SEC matchup and a big test for a top running back.
When college football gets to the later part of the year, the games matter more and we get the top-flight matchups we’ve been waiting for. That means that the top 2020 NFL Draft prospects will find themselves in very good one-on-one matchups that will intrigue the draft community.
This week features plenty of those, especially a few in the big games of the week. An SEC bout leads the way (as it often does on this column), and a Big Ten duel featuring two of the top running backs in the draft is well on the radar.
Let’s take a look at these two big games and others that feature important prospect matchups this week in the draft spotlight.
LSU vs. Auburn
The game of the week this week is at 2:30 central time between the two Tigers, LSU and Auburn. There’s a lot of draft talent in this one, so we need to get to all of it.
Joe Burrow passed the test at The Swamp with flying colors, but he struggled with pressure a bit against Mississippi State last weekend. Auburn will come with a lot of pressure this week, and Burrow will need to show he has the poise and toughness to take some hits in the pocket and get back up and make some big plays in this one. Burrow is one of the best deep-ball throwers in the country, so LSU will give him the opportunity to make big plays early.
The battle in the trenches will be very important in this game, and as far as the 2020 NFL Draft goes. Auburn’s Derrick Brown has been virtually unstoppable this season, and LSU lineman Lloyd Cushenberry will have to deal with him all afternoon. Cushenberry likes looking for work and is a physical player, but going up against Brown will be a different animal. He will need to get a good punch in early and keep on balance or reroute him if possible. Pay attention to Marlon Davidson on the edge for Auburn as well.
On the flip side, Prince Tega Wanogho is up there with the second tier of tackles. His kryptonite is the speed rush, and LSU has someone whose speed rush is his specialty. K’Lavon Chaisson is getting healthier, and his jump off the line and finish around the arc could create problems.
I think it’s important to watch how LSU’s Grant Delpit and Kristian Fulton play against a freshman quarterback. Can they create turnovers in the secondary and give LSU opportunities to put Auburn away early? We also know Auburn likes to run the ball early and often, so it will be interesting to watch Fulton and Delpit come up and make plays.
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
This game, in terms of draft prospects, starts with the running backs. Jonathan Taylor struggled a bit last week against Illinois, and Ohio State’s defensive line is a different animal. J.K. Dobbins has had a great year so far, but Wisconsin’s defense will be up there with the best they’ve played this season.
Up front for Wisconsin on offense, it starts with Tyler Biadasz. Can he keep the Ohio State defensive linemen, led by Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton, from getting quick penetration and stopping runs in the backfield? Biadasz will need to continue with his physical play and reach the second level to create space for Taylor this week. Landers and Hamilton have had great seasons so far. It will be fun to see if they can wreak havoc for Wisconsin early.
Let’s not forget a quick blurb for Chase Young, the top player in the draft class, who is approaching double-digit sacks on the season. Can he be a big factor stopping the run early and allow himself to unleash on obvious passing downs?
Jake Ferguson is another key player to watch for Wisconsin this week. He can stretch the field and help Wisconsin’s offense become more two dimensional. He made some plays against Illinois last week and will need to do more this week.
Elsewhere on Campus
Oklahoma State travels to Ames this week to take on Iowa State. The Cyclones have a good defense that could present a test for FBS leading rusher Chuba Hubbard. He has 1,265 yards and 15 touchdowns so far this season. Could he struggle to find openings against a solid front four? Maybe his teammate, Tylan Wallace, can find some openings. Wallace goes up against a couple of senior corners in the Cyclones secondary this week.
The forgotten man at running back this year is Boston College’s A.J. Dillon who is second in the country in rushing. Can the physical back find a way to move the chains against Clemson this week?
The Big 12 features a good matchup between TCU and Texas. TCU’s Jalen Reagor has shown flashes this season with his speed and his ability to win in contested situations. Could he dominate the Texas secondary (featuring the speed and range of Brandon Jones)?
Finishing up the week, Notre Dame and Michigan get together in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines wide receivers haven’t gotten a lot of production this season, but could quarterback Shea Patterson find a way to get them the ball and open up the offense? Irish edge rushers Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem may have something to say about that.