Saturday Lookout: Sizzling Sophomores to Open Pac-12 with a bang

Just as it feels like a normal college football weekend is on the horizon, the crazy times we are living in bite back. The Pac-12 returns, meaning all the major conferences are back in play. However, the top prospect in the country in Trevor Lawrence will sit out having tested positive for coronavirus. Wisconsin’s woes continue as their full scale outbreak causes more cancellations. That being said there is plenty to keep you glued to the tv on Saturday afternoon.

Daniels & Slovis Set To Clash In Early Kickoff

It will be strange settling down to a Pac-12 matchup so early on a Saturday. Even better is the fact that USC and Arizona State come into this clash cold, meaning nobody really knows how it will go.

One thing is for sure, two of the top QBs of the 2022 draft class will face off against one another. Jayden Daniels was excellent in his freshman season for Arizona State helping Herm Edwards’ side to an 8-5 record. The highlight of the year; sinking Oregon’s national title ambitions. With 17 touchdowns and 2 interceptions on the season, it was an impressive showing from Daniels.

The Sun Devils have had stellar receiving options in previous years. N’Keal Harry was a first round pick for the Patriots in 2018 and Brandon Aiyuk was selected by the 49ers this year. Now Daniels will be looking to redshirt senior Frank Darby as his receiving threat. If those two can form a solid partnership the Pac-12 should be wary.

USC continues to underwhelm on their route back to the top of the conference. It feels like Clay Helton is hanging on to the job by his fingertips. One huge positive he lucked into was the discovery of Kedon Slovis. The three star recruit from Arizona has become the unlikely star in California.

Slovis grabbed his opportunity to start following an injury to JT Daniels and never looked back. He showed poise in the pocket and fantastic arm talent. Now in his second year he has to show he can use his ability to elevate the team. Slovis will have familiarity with his receivers, who are also elite prospects worth watching – Tyler Vaughns and Amon St.Brown.

Wade Must Prove Himself After Shaky Showing

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Shaun Wade opted back in to play for Ohio State to prove without doubt he could be an elite outside cornerback. Having played the majority of his snaps last year at slot corner thanks to the likes of Damon Arnette and Jeffrey Okudah being ahead of him on the depth chart.

Sometimes the allusion that you have the ability to play outside can be better than the reality. Wade has all the hallmarks of being able to be a true shutdown corner. His length and long speed should be better suited to an outside role. However, last week against Penn State it was a difficult evening for him.

Wade took plenty of snaps against Nittany Lions’ receiver Jahan Dotson. Unfortunately he was found wanting on a couple of big snaps. Junior Dotson ended with a stat line of 8 receptions, 144 yards and three touchdowns. Wade gets his chance to put that right this week against Rutgers.

While Rutgers have been somewhat of a surprise they shouldn’t be a match for the Buckeyes. Wade will hope to put on a show and prove he can be an elite no.1 cornerback in the NFL.

Elite Bulldogs Corners Set To Be Tested By Toney's Speed

The NFL is looking for game breakers at wide receiver. The game is trending to dynamic talents, who can open the field up with their yards after catch ability. That’s a good thing for Florida’s Kadarius Toney. 

Speed and elusivity are his calling card. The 6’0, 193lb receiver mainly operates out of the slot and has been a nightmare to cover in recent weeks. He logged two touchdowns on each of his last two outings against Texas A&M and Missouri respectively. While also manning the kickoff and punt return duties.

It will be interesting to see how Georgia seeks to keep Toney quiet. The Bulldogs have one of college football’s better defenses. Particularly in the secondary where Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes hold down the primary cornerback positions. Faced with the dynamic Toney and difficult to cover tight end Kyle Pitts, watch out for where the two premier corners line up. 

They could leave it to senior Mark Webb who has played slot corner due to an injury to DJ Daniel. Or we could see the top tier defenders follow the two most potent threats. Slowing down Kyle Trask and his receiving weapons will be an interesting conundrum for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart.

Fighting Irish Defense Seeks To Take Advantage Of Clemson's Stand-In Star

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The news that Trevor Lawrence had contracted coronavirus and would miss two games of the season was a huge blow for the Clemson Tigers. Lawrence had more than confirmed his right to sit atop the draft rankings after an assured start to the season. However, those who pay attention to recruiting knew that DJ Uiagalelei had the talent to keep the offense ticking.

Although the Boston College game was tougher than expected, injuries on the defense contributing to that as well, the Tigers marched on. The more worrying situation is that they face Notre Dame in prime time this week.

Having joined the conference for this year only, the Fighting Irish will get their shot to knock off the reigning champs while their star is sidelined. With Ian Book continuing to be unspectacular, a lot will come down to if Notre Dame can knock Uiagalelei out of rhythm and keep a lid on prospective first round running back Travis Etienne.

The bright spot of this Irish group is undoubtedly sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton is reminiscent of the do-it-all safeties that have taken the NFL by storm. He has good coverage ability, excellent speed and anticipation. Last week he led the team in tackles with six, including two for loss. Hamilton will be important against the run and pass. Forcing Uiagalelei to locate him in order to minimise his impact.

Mock Draft

Rory-Joe Daniels

Cfb contributor

formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at