Real football is here, you guys. This is my first installment of what will be a weekly post, taking you through the major match-ups involving college football's biggest prospects. I'll highlight top prospects and what you need to look for in their respective match-up for that particular week. You can never be too prepared for draft season, right?
College football usually gets off to a bit of a slow start, and this season is no different. This is the week you pay a cupcake team to come to your home stadium for a thrashing. 1-0. One step closer to a possible playoff birth. That's all most teams care about, but there are a few programs that have gone against the grain. Week one may be light, but there certainly are a few games that you need to pay attention to.
Penn State vs. Temple (ESPN, 2:30)
Player to watch: Christian Hackenberg (QB, PSU), Anothony Zettel (DL, PSU)
Christian Hackenberg is the only reason that I'll be monitoring this game. He showed potential number one overall pick traits during his freshman season, but regressed in year two. Maybe it was going from Bill O'Brien to James Franklin. Who knows? Hack's sophomore tape was a rough watch. He has an absolute cannon, but he couldn't locate last season. Hackenberg must rebound in a big way this year to get that ugly sophomore tape out of scouts brains.
UCLA vs. Virginia (Fox, 2:30)
Player to watch: Myles Jack (LB, UCLA), Kenny Clark (DL, UCLA)
If you haven't watched Myles Jack play yet, do yourself a favor. Jack is an athletic specimen that could probably play any position on the football field. Jack's athletic ability is something special, particularly in coverage and pursuit. He has the speed, burst and agility to man up on wide receivers. He lost his running mate in Eric Kendricks to the NFL after last season, so he will shoulder even more responsibility this year. Jack has a change to be a top ten pick.
Auburn vs. Louisville (CBS, 2:30)
Player to watch: Jeremy Johnson (QB, AU), Duke Williams (WR, AU), Carl Lawson (EDGE, AU), Montravius Adams (DL, AU), Devonte Fields (EGDE, UL)
The talented Auburn duo will start their season with a decent test in Louisville. Duke Williams will look to build off of what he started last season, becoming one of the best receivers in all of college football. Williams has first round traits, but could have some lingering character issues.
Jeremy Johnson is a guy that I've been high on since his fill in start for Nick Marshall against Arkansas last year. He's a fantastic athlete and appears to have all of the physical tools to ascend up draft boards as teams get more tape on him. He also just happens to be my pick for the Heisman.
Notre Dame vs. Texas (NBC, 6:30)
Players to watch: Jaylon Smith (LB, ND), Ronnie Stanley (OT, ND), Sheldon Day (DL, ND), Keivarae Russell (CB, ND)
Notre Dame might just have two top five overall talents on their roster this season. If you followed the draft process last year, you probably heard Ronnie Stanley's name a time or two. He could have been a first round pick this season, but came back for one more year and a shot at being a top pick. He'll man the left side for the Irish this season.
On the other side of the ball lies Jaylon Smith. Smith mans the middle of the defense for Notre Dame and has a real shot to be a top pick in 2016. You don't see off-ball linebackers go in the top ten anymore, but Smith is a rare exception. His athletic ability is off the charts. If you want to be entertained, keep your eye on Smith for 60 minutes.
Alabama vs. Wisconsin (ABC, 6:00)
Players to watch: Derrick Henry (RB, Bama), Jonathan Allen (EDGE, Bama), A'Shawn Robinson (DL, Bama), Reggie Ragland (LB, Bama), OJ Howard (TE, Bama), Corey Clement (RB, Wis)
Another year, another loaded roster for Nick Saban. Sure, there are some questions at quarterback, but the rest of the roster is top flight. Derrick Henry will lead the offensive attack this season, getting his first look as the main man in the run game. He's a load, but I want to see if he can develop more quickness out of his 6'3 frame.
Defensively, Alabama has play-makers everywhere. A'Shawn Robinson will anchor the defensive front. He has the size and ability to play nose tackle at the next level. Johnathan Allen has flashed some pass rushing ability, but we'll see if he can turn that into sacks this season. Alabama certainly needs him to be a dominant edge presence.
Corey Clement appears to be next in line at the Wisconsin running back factory. He showed off some major ability spelling Melvin Gordon last season in a limited role. You know Wisconsin will be great up front once again, as they seem to be each and every year. Clement should be in for a massive season.
Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech (Monday, 7:00, ESPN)
Players to watch: Dadi Nicolas (EDGE, VT), Kendall Fuller (CB, OSU), Ezekiel Elliott (RB, OSU), Taylor Decker (OT, OSU), Darron Lee (LB, OSU), Adolphus Washington (DL, OSU), Michael Thomas (WR, OSU), J.T. Barrett (QB, OSU), Cardale Jones (QB, OSU), Braxton Miller (RB/WR, OSU)
Just take a look at all of that talent I just listed on Ohio State's roster. I could actually keep going, but those are your main guys that you need to know. Urban Meyer has turned Ohio State into a powerhouse in the blink of an eye. Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington will once again terrorize the big ten up front. Bosa, however, won't be on the field Monday due to "violations of athletic department policy."
Offensively, it's an embarrassment of riches for the Buckeyes. Cardale, J.T., Braxton, Zeke, Decker, Thomas... It's an incredible group. I can't wait to see how Meyer juggles the quarterback situation. Jones led them to a title last season, but J.T. was the better overall player in my opinion. Both have NFL futures.
Don't forget about Virginia Tech, either. Dadi Nicolas and Kendall Fuller are both in consideration for the first round this spring. Nicolas will get a big test right off of the bat facing Taylor Decker and the rest of that talented Buckeye front. Fuller should be shadowing Michael Thomas, who has been garnering some top 50 talk throughout the summer. Thomas should absorb most of the departed Devin Smith's targets.
Enjoy your first taste of meaningful football this weekend. I know I will. We have a full slate from Thursday to Monday every week from now until December. It should be a fun ride.