We have crossed the halfway point for college football’s regular season. Time flies huh? At this point some things in the college and NFL Draft landscape are quite clear, but some things aren’t quite clear enough yet...
- Is Georgia really still the country’s team? Watching the Bulldogs dismantle Kentucky on Saturday, I was in a bit of disbelief that this team is still a juggernaut after 2.5 years of just nuking their opponents. They have lost an absurd amount of talent to the NFL draft over the last two drafts and still look like a championship team. The crazy thing is this team doesn’t feel nearly as loaded as the 2021 and 2022 squads. Sure Brock Bowers will be a top ten pick, and there are intriguing NFL talents like Kamari Lassiter, Sedrick Van Pran, and Javon Bullard... but it does not feel quite like I am watching a junior NFL team the way it felt the last two seasons. Still, they are extremely physical and athletic on both sides of the ball while easily being the best coached team in the country. At this point it doesn’t feel like there is a real challenger.
- Watching Caleb Williams reminds me of watching college Patrick Mahomes, but not for the reason you think... If you had the pleasure of watching Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech, you will remember that he had to throw the ball a lot, mostly because he could not rely on his defense to hold a team under 30 points. It was fun watching him have to respond to a score almost every drive, but you kinda knew he would not be able to respond on every drive. That was a big reason his record at TTU wasn’t great and, in my opinion, a big reason the NFL didn’t jump all over him as a truly elite NFL prospect. Watching USC inspires a similar feeling, but the Trojans don’t really have an excuse to have a bad defense. Sure at TTU you are far down the wrung in Texas and its hard getting high profile recruits out to Lubbock but... USC? Southern California? USC???? The Trojans barely escaped Arizona in a 43-41 win a week after allowing 41 to Colorado in another narrow win. Caleb Williams scored 10 touchdowns in those two weeks. He is a really fantastic player but USC has Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, and Utah on deck... If they drop even two of those games I would expect NFL teams/evaluators to start questioning Williams ability to win. It will be a bunch of BS, but this is unfortunately how things work.
- Speaking of Notre Dame, is the Sam Hartman experiment a failure? Notre Dame lost their second game in three weeks on Saturday, basically disqualifying themselves from playoff contention this season. In both losses, Sam Hartman failed to shine in the spotlight. He had one touchdown against Ohio State and threw all three of his interceptions this season against Louisville. Hartman was a really good quarterback at Wake Forest and expectations were reasonably high for him at Notre Dame. He is a sixth year quarterback on, theoretically, a far more talented offense. The Irish are still experiencing problems on offense outside of Hartman, but his failure to elevate the team does not bode well for how he is evaluated as an NFL prospect. Hartman is a good player with a decent arm and great accuracy, and by all accounts he is a great locker room presence. I just don’t know if he will be an NFL starter.
- Alabama has another one... Alabama has just put an absurd amount of wide receiver talent into the NFL since the 2020 draft. Between 2020 and 2022, they had five receivers taken in the first round. Last year it felt like maybe the well had run dry and this season started off with all sorts of dysfunction on offense that made it hard to see what talent they had. After their big win over Texas A&M, it looks like Jermaine Burton is going to be the man they send to the NFL to make a team very happy. Burton transferred from Georgia after the 2021 season and was a solid contributor for the Tide last year, but this season he looks faster and more polished. Alabama’s passing game has finally found its groove and I expect Burton to keep putting up Number One receiver stats.
- I watched the Miami-Georgia Tech game. I have nothing to add to that discourse. lol.
Offensive Player of the Week: Jermaine Burton, Wide Receiver, Alabama
The Aggies were always going to take Alabama to the wire, but the Tide pulled out a much needed win in large thanks to Jermaine Burton. The fourth year receiver caught nine passes for 197 yards and two scores. Crucial plays in a 26-20 win. Burton consistently took the top off Texas A&M’s defense with his great speed and route running.
Before this game, Burton never had more than three catches in a game for the Tide this season. More indicative of Alabama’s lack of consistency on offense than Burton’s play. On the season he now has 17 catches and is averaging over 22 yards a reception. Alabama needs to keep getting the ball to this emerging playmaker to keep their passing game explosive.
Defensive Player of the Week: Laiatu Latu, Edge Defender, UCLA
UCLA’s defense needed to show up against a dangerous Washington State team and that is exactly what the Bruins did. Laiatu Latu continued his excellent senior season by sacking Cameron Ward once and forcing a fumble. Outside of the boxscore, Latu was a terror on every down and created plenty of opportunities for his teammates. The Bruins sacked Ward three times and picked him off twice, holding the explosive Wildcats to only 17 points.
This is Latu’s second time being recognized as defensive player of the week. He has five sacks this season and has simply been one of the best defensive players in the country. UCLA’s success is tied heavily to his continued dominance.