Saturday will be the final week of major college football, with the traditional Army vs. Navy game to follow next weekend. This weekend has huge implications to finalize the College Football Playoff bracket—not to mention bowl game rankings and potential matchups as well. There will be eyes glued to the television screens and scouts are sure to be in attendance.
There are a plethora of prospects with a ton to gain this weekend regarding their draft stock. Here is my watchlist for Championship Saturday!
Desmond Ridder vs Houston
One of the more polarizing names in the 2022 NFL Draft is Cincinnati’s signal-caller Desmond Ridder. He is leading the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats to the AAC Championship and a berth in the CFB playoffs under the immense pressure of unfair (to some) expectations to put up “Style Points” to remain in CFP striking distance and prove their worth.
Ridder has thrown for 3,000 yards, 27 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. With a resounding win against the 21st-ranked Houston Cougars, Ridder can showcase his ability to show up in big games. The seesaw performances cannot linger into this weekend or the end of the season as a whole. Ridder must limit turnovers, be precise, efficient, and accurate. He has taken criticism for inconsistent ball placement and accuracy, so Ridder needs to show the doubters there is another level development-wise that he can reach. Ridder has a lot riding on these final performances. It is time to cash in.
Lewis Cine vs Alabama
The 2022 safety class is one of the deeper and most talented groups in this draft. To the point, talented and versatile prospects are not discussed to the magnitude they deserve. Cine is an athletic and hard-hitting safety. Similar to Roger McCreary last week, he will face the biggest challenge of his season with Alabama’s offense.
Kirby Smart uses Cine to attack offensive gameplan in a variety of ways. Cine will be seen as the centerfield safety, in the nickel, and in the box for run support. Finding ways to disrupt Bryce Young’s ability to process quickly post-snap will be key. Cine has the abilities and opportunity to put on a broadway-esque performance in the bright lights of the SEC Championship Game.
Terrell Bernard vs Oklahoma State
Baylor has one of the best defenses in the country. They are fast, physical, and fly to the football. They’ll be facing off against the fifth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys, who possess a versatile rushing attack. Their starting backfield (QB & RB) has accounted for more than 1,600 rushing yards this season.
Terrell Bernard is a leader and veteran for the Bears’ defense. He is aware of the potency, versatility, and physicality the Cowboys rushing attack offers. In their 24-14 loss earlier this season, the Bears’ defense allowed 219 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Bernard will need to play downhill and meet their backs in the lane, taking away their strength and putting the ball in Spencer Sanders’ hands to win through the air. When tasked with pressuring Sanders, Bernard must flash and make him uncomfortable. As a result, he could hear his name called sooner in April.
Cameron Thomas vs Utah State
This is a defensively rich draft class, especially at the edge position. Thomas is a wrecking ball on the defensive line. His versatility is evident as he aligns everywhere along the Aztecs’ defensive front. Thomas tied for 12th in the nation in sacks with 10.5. He uses his powerful punches, long levers, and relentless motor to create plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Another strong showing with multiple pressures (adding another sack or two) only fuels the fire behind a talented defensive prospect.
Tyler Goodson vs Michigan
Iowa’s Tyler Goodson will be facing one of the top defenses in college football in Michigan. Their edge tandem of Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo can wreck any offense’s game plan. Iowa would like to establish a strong run game to avoid putting their OL and quarterback at the mercy of Hutchinson and Ojabo.
Goodson is a fleet-foot running back with long speed and pass-catching chops. He can attack defensive leverage on angle and wheel routes. On the ground, tough, hard yards must be taken when given. He can be a slippery runner with good cutting ability to work against the grain of the defense.
His name often becomes forgotten in the 2022 running back class. He is a talented and impactful player. Iowa should find diverse ways to feature him on Saturday. That way, he can rise in the ranks with his running back counterparts.