Even Alabama starts ramping up their games’ difficulty as the season is now in full swing. Who will show that they’re not like the others, and who will show that they’re not just another one of your weekly plays? The first couple of weeks helps settle the depth chart. Michigan goes into their second game with a different starting QB. Will we see Cade Klubnik play significant minutes this week? Luckily, most draftable prospects play most of their team’s snaps (looking at you, Jordan Davis).
Saturday, September 10
#1 Alabama @ Texas (12:00 PM)
LB Henry To’o To’o vs. RB Bijan Robinson
Alabama, a team known for making the beginning of the season look like candy land, faces an ever-so-slight uptick in talent from a week ago. The starters come in fresh from only having played two to three quarters against Utah State. Texas, meanwhile, is still breaking in Quinn Ewers and will need to control the clock to have a prayer of being competitive with Nick Saban’s crew.
To’o To’o may be one of the smartest players in college football. His instincts take him to where the ball goes every play, like a sleeping dog to a pie cooling on a window sill. While he’s smaller than ideal for a linebacker, To’o To’o works hard to stay ahead of the play to avoid blockers. It helps that the massive Alabama defensive line mostly keeps him clean. He was a perfect pairing with Christian Harris, who was drafted by the Texans, as Harris’ athleticism would get him to the ball at the same time as the cerebral To’o To’o. In terms of draft prospects, his lack of size will put him behind some of the bigger LBs in the class, like the Oregon duo and the Iowa trio. However, a defensive coordinator will fall in love with his ability to understand offenses better than the ball carrier does.
Robinson is possibly the most-hyped RB prospect since Adrian Peterson. With decisive cuts that utilize his power and speed together, he is an elite prospect that could return RBs to the top half of the first round. Perhaps what is most impressive about Robinson is his ability to make tacklers miss, despite being 220 pounds. The back is built to take a beating but rarely takes a hard hit, rather leaving defenders grasping at air. Even when a defender does succeed in making contact with him, Robinson has the easy contact balance that makes every play highlight reel-worthy.
Robinson will give any defense fits. But this matchup highlights what should be Texas’ game plan going into this game. The Longhorn defense is ill-equipped to stop Bryce Young and co. for an entire game. They will need to rely on the running game not just because Robinson is their best weapon but because they will need to give the defense a chance to catch their breath. To’o To’o will have to take advantage of Robinson’s ability as a receiver out of the backfield is yet a bit underdeveloped. This matchup won’t produce audible collisions, as both skill sets lend to a more agile battle, but expect the two to become very familiar with each other throughout the game. To’o To’o holds the advantage on outside runs, but Robinson will slip and slide his way up the middle despite To’o To’o’s best efforts.
Missouri @ Kansas State (12:00 PM)
iDL Darius Robinson vs. iOL Cooper Beebe
We’re in store for another battle in the trenches this week, this time when the SEC clashes with the Big 12. Kansas State hopes to contend for a conference title while Missouri is simply treading water, trying to float out of the basement. It remains to be seen if all those transfers can build them a life raft.
Darius Robinson looks like he might trip LBs with his long legs when lining up. While he might be in the normal range for height, his hands hang down by his knees. This length pairs well with his speed to move in all four directions. The returning vet amongst a sea of transfers, Robinson is ready to take on the challenge of being a full-time starter after putting on progressively more weight each offseason. While he still sits at just under 300 pounds, his mobility will wreak havoc on the run game. It remains to be seen if he can also translate those skills to rush the passer.
Cooper Beebe is a headliner amongst the iOL in this draft class. Originally recruited as a defensive lineman, his heavyweight punches are the most apparent tool in his repertoire. His nastiness sometimes takes him out of the play as he gets tunnel vision on a single defender. Beebe is a squatter heavier offensive lineman, meaning his ability to pull or reach the second level is often hindered by his stout build. While he’s a tackle for K-State, he likely kicks inside at the next level.
There were some rumblings that Robinson could rotate in at EDGE as well as the interior, which would line him up directly over Beebe. However, even in alignments that don’t have the two nose-to-nose, Robinson will work over to Beebe if the play goes left. It’s interesting the contrasting styles as Beebe is a one-track-minded phone booth blocker while Robinson will range all over the line. With Beebe outweighing Robinson by over 20 pounds, be wary of a good punch knocking the defender over on occasion. But as long as Beebe is playing tackle, he won’t be able to contain the Tasmanian devil in Robinson.
Iowa State @ Iowa (4:00 PM)
WR Xavier Hutchinson vs. CB Riley Moss
I am so relieved to be able to write about a bonafide receiver matchup, finally. Iowa State received a jolt of energy from Hunter Dekkers’ performance against SE Missouri. On the other hand, Iowa showed up all those college offenses by showing how they can win by scoring a mere seven points but no touchdowns. Spencer Petras will need to kick the Hawkeye offense into gear if they want to experience any semblance of success this year.
Xavier Hutchinson is a big long WR that enjoys the wild open play of the Big12. He has long speed and reach, making him a deep threat and good for a house call every other game. He is, however, a little high-hipped, which shows in his somewhat average ability to turn. If he could clean up his cuts and footwork, he would be a size-speed matchup that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. He is strong to beat press coverage and utilizes his frame to win 1-on-1 battles. His weakness might be in the zone, as he struggles to see the whole field and needs to learn where the gaps in coverage should be.
It’s not often Hutchinson comes against a corner that can match up with his size. Riley Moss is a notable corner for several reasons that would make him unique in the NFL. But perhaps most pertinent here is his strong ability at the line. Moss has the feet of a slot but the strength to cover the outside. As is typical of Iowa prospects, Moss has solid fundamentals and is challenging to beat simply with parlor tricks. His textbook pedal could be in a training video.
The young Hunter Dekkers will face one of the toughest defenses he will encounter all season in Iowa. While we mock the Iowa scoreline from last week, the fact remains that scoring on the Hawkeyes is a formidable task. Dekkers will look to Hutchinson early and often, as he did last week. Moss’s ability to mirror will be tested down the field once as Hutchinson’s comfort zone is 10-20 yards. I think Hutchinson will probably be schemed touches to take advantage of Moss’ weakness in seeing the whole field. This plays to the Cyclone’s advantage, one of the few they will have all game.