Draft Blitz: Who Are We Watching? – Week 5

The leaves are falling, the year is dwindling down, and the first full month of college football is in the books.

As we head into October and conference play begins to take center stage, there is a multitude of high-profile matchups on the slate as week five of the college football season kicks off.

We preview a battle for SEC supremacy, as the SEC East looks to prove its no longer in the shadows of its Western counterparts. Also on the books are a couple of conference heavyweights looking for redemption against familiar foes following last season’s disappointing and Michigan’s date with destiny.

Feast your eyes on some of the best matchups this weekend has to offer, as well as the many prospects competing in them.

Kentucky vs. Ole Miss:

  • Time: 12:00pm EST
  • Location: Oxford, Mississippi — Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
  • Network: ESPN

Prospects to watch:

Zach Evans (RB, Ole Miss – Junior)

Troy Brown (LB, Ole Miss – Senior)

Will Levis (QB, Kentucky – Senior)

Tayvion Robinson (WR, Kentucky – Senior)


Talk about a barn-burner; two top 15 programs go head to head — Kentucky the holder of the nation’s second-longest win streak at eight consecutive games travels to Oxford to take on an Ole Miss team that is 12-0 in each of their last 12 home games.

This Kentucky team will have their hands full and it’s not just because they are 4-7 versus ranked opponents on the road dating back to 2016.

The Wildcat offense is very very one-sided, which usually isn’t a problem when you have a quarterback like Will Levis at the helm. Levis, an expected first-round draft pick and the heart and soul of this Kentucky program since his transfer from Penn State has drawn comparisons to the likes of Josh Allen from a few scouts.

There’s no question that his strong arm and massive frame which is on display when defenders attempt to bring him down as a rusher help set him apart from the rest but the thing is Levis seems to be a completely different quarterback on the road than he is in the friendly confines of Lexington.

How different you might ask? Well, he produces 100 fewer passing yards going from 280 yards per game at home to 170 yards per game on the road, he also has 27 touchdowns/10 interceptions at home compared to seven touchdowns and seven interceptions on the road.

Luckily for Levis and the Wildcats, the offense will see a much-needed boost with the return of two-time First Team All-SEC running back Chris Rodriguez. The fifth-year senior, who went over the 100-yard mark nine times in 2021 (a school record) looks to be the difference maker for a run game that is 125th in the nation averaging under 2.5 yards per carry and has only scored three rushing touchdowns all season.

As for the ‘Landsharks’ who will be sporting a new uniform combination;

The Rebels look to ride a dominant rushing attack that currently ranks fourth in the nation. Led by the two-headed monster of Zach Evans (4th in SEC in rushing yards); who the team expects to play following an injury last week against Tulsa and freshman phenom Quinshon Judkins (2nd in SEC in rushing yards). This should help given the fact that this Kentucky defense hasn’t allowed a 200-yard passer all season long.

If the Wildcat defense has it their way we will find out a whole lot about former five-star quarterback Jaxson Dart and this Ole Miss passing game. The question remains is that a good thing or not for the Rebels?

Someone’s winning streak will come to an end in Oxford. In a matchup of teams whose last two meetings have been decided by a combined four points, this is one you sure don’t want to miss.

Michigan vs Iowa:

  • Time: 12:00pm EST
  • Location: Iowa City, Iowa — Kinnick Stadium
  • Network: FOX

Prospects to watch:

– DJ Turner (CB, Michigan – Senior)

Blake Corum (RB, Michigan – Junior)

– Sam LaPorta (TE, Iowa – Senior)

– Jack Campbell (LB, Iowa – Senior)


This game has all the makings of a classic Iowa upset. What’s there to worry about? Sure, Michigan may have suffered a close call against Maryland last week but luckily for Big Blue they were blessed with a special edition of the Blake Corum show. Before that, the offense was rolling seemingly scoring at will, and now that the team has settled in on J.J. McCarthy are the starting quarterback the sky is the limit for this offense, right?

While this Michigan offense has put up 45+ points in three of its last four games, they have yet to face a defense like the one they will on Saturday; one that only allows 5.8 points per game on the season. Yes … you read that correctly. And most importantly they have yet to step foot in an environment as hostile as Kinnick Stadium. As Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh put it ‘This is where top five teams go to die’ — the quote heard all around the world, much because well, it’s true.

Iowa is 5-1 at home against top-five opponents since 2008; this includes a victory over the then number two Michigan Wolverines in 2016. While many may date back to the latest encounter of these two teams in last season’s Big 10 championship game that saw Michigan destroy the Hawkeyes 42-3, Coach Harbaugh understands the magnitude of what’s in front of his team.

Much of this is because the defense is so stingy and in a situation where it is important for a young quarterback like McCarthy to take care of the football, especially against the top-scoring defense in the nation.

It becomes a situation where Michigan must find a fine balance of being conservative without striping their signal caller of his playmaking opportunities. That’s easier said than done, with three turnover-worthy plays last week McCarthy has to find a way to be more careful with the football this go-round, if not, this opponent will make him pay.

Alabama vs Arkansas:

  • Time: 3:30pm EST
  • Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas — Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
  • Network: CBS

Prospects to watch:

– Bryce Young (QB, Alabama – Junior)

– Henry To’o To’o (LB, Alabama – Senior)

– Jalen Catalon (S, Arkansas – RS Sophomore)

– KJ Jefferson (QB, Arkansas – Senior)


Just when you thought this game couldn’t get any more interesting those among the Razorback faithful found a way to up the ante just a little bit more.

Can you blame them for being so confident though?

It’s becoming apparently clear that the Crimson Tide struggle on the road. A two-point win in ‘The Swamp’ against Florida, the loss to Texas A&M in Kyle Field, a four-overtime victory over Auburn, and this is just last season. Then, of course, we know about when Bama traveled to Austin earlier in the season and escaped by the skin of their teeth. Basically, as Joel Klatt put it, “This is a trend now for this version of Bama that’s not pleasing.”

It doesn’t help that Arkansas was able to keep it close in their last meeting much in part to a dominant performance from KJ Jefferson and Treylon Burks. However, now Burks is a member of the Tennessee Titans, while Jefferson is still waiting for one of his receivers to establish themselves as the go-to guy.

It’s well noted how great the Razorbacks’ rushing game can be with Jefferson and sophomore standout Raheem ‘Rocket’ Sanders leading the way, so expect to see a heavy dose of the ground game.

However, in order for Arkansas to have a chance they have to find a way to keep the Crimson Tide defense honest and make them respect the passing game. The Alabama defensive backs haven’t really been tested much, but in the game against Texas it seemed the unit struggled to defend the deep ball; an area that KJ Jefferson excels — 58% completion percentage and 4 touchdowns on passes thrown 15+ yards down the field (leads the SEC).

Despite all of the things pointing in Arkansas’ direction, there’s a reason that the Tide are a -17 point favorite. The Tide are among the three most talented teams in the country and while this may be their toughest opponent to date, history says that Alabama will be just fine. Not only are the Tide 15-0 against the Razorbacks since the hiring of Nick Saban (2007) but the Razorback also have lost 14 straight games against AP top two opponents.

Translation? Roll Tide.

Oklahoma State vs. Baylor:

  • Time: 3:30pm EST
  • Location: Waco, Texas — McLane Stadium
  • Network: FOX

Prospects to watch:

– Siaka Ika (IDL, Baylor – Junior)

– Connor Galvin (OT, Baylor – Senior)

– Tyler Lacy (IDL, Oklahoma State – Senior)

– Spencer Saunders (QB, Oklahoma State – Senior)


A showdown in Waco, Texas as we get a rematch of the Big 12 Championship game from last year. These two teams actually played twice last season resulting in a split, Baylor having the last laugh.

Surely the Cowboys will be looking for revenge, especially the young man playing the quarterback position. It’s well known that Oklahoma State was arguably the better team in both meetings last season, the big difference in the result, however? Turnovers. Spencer Saunders was responsible for seven interceptions and only one touchdown in two meetings.

You kind of carry the chip on your shoulder for motivation, but you can't have any regrets. You can't hold yourself to that. You've just gotta let it go and move on. There's nothing we can do about it now. I'm glad that we can respond in the right way.”


While the stat line was far from impressive, it’s worth noting that Dave Aranda is among the smartest defensive minds in the nation. And once again the Bears’ defense ranks among the best in the nation currently allowing 225 passing yards and 80 rushing yards per game.

As for the Oklahoma State defense, which is still getting its feet wet following the departure of former defensive coordination Jim Knowles, in its first real test of the season the Cowboys defense is tasked with containing quarterbacks Blake Shapen (seven touchdowns and one interception on the season) and star running back Richard Reese, who is averaging 5.7 yards per carry with six touchdowns on the season.

The Bears have won 11 games in a row at home, in fact, their last loss was to this Oklahoma State team in 2020. This won’t be your old fashion Big 12 shootout, these defenses seem legit so far. So if this matchup is anything like the last two then you are in for a show!

Wake Forest vs. Florida State:

  • Time: 3:30pm EST
  • Location: Tallahassee, Florida — Doak Campbell Stadium
  • Network: ABC

Prospects to watch:

– Jared Verse (EDGE, Florida State – RS Sophomore)

– Johnny Wilson (WR, Florida State – RS Sophmore)

– Sam Hartman (QB, Wake Forest – Junior)

– A.T. Perry (WR, Wake Forest – Junior)


This should be FUN! If you are a fan of great quarterback play then Sam Hartman versus Jordan Travis is the matchup for you.

The Florida State defense looks to ruin the party, as this unit has only given up 165.8 passing yards per game but Hartman is coming off his third consecutive 300+ yard passing performance. The latest coming against one of the better defenses in the Clemson Tigers.

On the season the Wake Forest offense has produced 437.5 yards and 42.8 points per game. On the other side of the ball, Jordan Travis has everyone in Tallahassee singing his praises with the significant leap he has taken this season. Watching his game evolve from more of a runner (134 rushing attempts to 194 passing attempts in ‘21) to a certified passer has helped lead the Seminoles’ offense to an explosive 37.5 points and 503.8 yards per game.

The difference in this game will clearly be defense as Florida State boast a unit that allows 18.8 points and 310.5 yards per game — the most important state however will be how these teams perform in the red zone as Wake Forest has scored touchdowns on 13 of there 21 red zone trips compared to a Florida State defense that has given up 8 touchdowns in 12 red zone trips.

Expect Wake Forest to put an extreme amount of stress on the defense with their ‘Slow Mesh’ offense — a strange variation of an RPO-based system that instead of making quick decisions on the exchange, the quarterback extends the mesh point allowing routes to develop down the field. It’s different and there isn’t anything like it, but it’s easily one of the most effective offenses in the country.

If Florida State is able to either cause a turnover or turn up the pressure a little (hello Jared Verse) and ride the efforts of what is the top rushing unit in the ACC, it’s possible they slow down this offense. Easier said than done, but it helps that Wake Forest hasn’t won a road game against a ranked opponent.

NC State vs. Clemson:

  • Time: 7:30pm EST
  • Location: Clemson, South Carolina — Memorial Stadium
  • Network: ABC

Prospects to watch:

– Trent Simpson (LB, Clemson – Junior)

– Myles Murphy (EDGE, Clemson – Junior)

– Devin Leary (QB, NC State – Junior)

– Drake Thomas (LB, NC State – Junior)


What’s that smell? Oh, it’s just NC State coach Dave Doeren celebrating his victory over the Clemson Tigers.

After eight consecutive losses, Doreen was finally able to grab a victory over the Tigers in a double overtime victory just a year ago.

Rumor has it that cigar still burns this very day. Yet with one man’s accomplishments comes another’s disappointment; something that Dave Doeren knows all too well, so it makes sense why Doeren understands that while this may or may not be the biggest game in NC State history, it sure is the biggest game of his ten-year tenure. Let it be known that NC State hasn’t snagged a victory in ‘Death Valley’ since 2002.

We are going to embrace the opportunity of being there, and we know a lot that goes with it. I think it’s something to celebrate for sure. It’s not something to say ‘We have arrived yet.’ The rankings at the end matter a lot more than they do after the fourth week.” 


This Clemson team however is a completely different unit than the one the Wolfpack last saw. Most notably at the quarterback position where D.J. Uiagalelei seems to be turning the tide following a disappointing 2021 season. Especially with his first 300-yard passing performance last week against Wake Forest since his freshman season.

Yet despite a great turnaround for Uiagalelei, none of that will matter in what is generally expected to be a defensive struggle. Not only do both of these units have multiple players that can/and will be playing on Sundays in the foreseeable future. But the weather may play a factor in the outcome, so if you are one to gamble, this is one I’d shy away from the over at 39.5.

Ultimately I believe this game comes down to which quarterback can make THE play to put his team over the top. Both players have much to improve on but this matchup can go a long way in helping in what should be the best game of the weekend.

Cover Image Credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP

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