NCAA

Top NCAA Football Prospects To Watch 12/29-1/4

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If you are looking for the best individual matchups that college football has to offer, this week will excite you. First off, the College Football Playoff begins this week when Alabama faces off against Michigan State and Oklahoma takes on Clemson. On top of that, there are fantastic games like Stanford versus Iowa and Ohio State versus Notre Dame, just to name a few.

This week will be huge for the players, as they will likely face their toughest competition of the year. It will give them a chance to leave a good impression on NFL teams and give them momentum heading into draft season.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top individual matchups that are taking place this week.

Joey Bosa vs. Ronnie Stanley

The premier individual matchup of this week, and possibly the season, will be between Ohio State’s Joey Bosa and Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley. Both players figure to be top-10 picks at this stage of the process and both are consensus top two at their position.

Stanley is a fantastic athlete for his position as he slides and mirrors pass-rushers extremely well. Stanley is at his best on the move and he is almost impossible to beat with speed. The Fighting Irish offensive tackle does a great job when he works to the second level or leads the way with a pull. Nevertheless, as Clemson’s Shaq Lawson showed the world, Stanley has a lot of trouble against power-rushers who test his strength and anchor. Stanley doesn’t play with a nasty demeanor, which can sometimes lead to him playing soft.

Unfortunately for Stanley, Bosa is the premier power-rusher in college football with his impeccable hand placement and fantastic hip snap. Bosa does a great job of converting speed to power and he has a plethora of moves that he utilizes to counter an offensive tackle when he anchors on him. Bosa doesn’t have the pure quickness or flexibility to win with a speed rush constantly, but he has enough to keep an offensive tackle on his toes.

Ultimately, this is a bad matchup for Stanley as Bosa is great where Stanley is weak. Look for Notre Dame to give him a lot of help throughout the game, which should limit Bosa’s effectiveness.

Jack Allen vs. Jarran Reed/A’Shawn Robinson

Another great matchup in the trenches takes place when Michigan State meets Alabama on New Year’s Eve.  Michigan State center Jack Allen is one of the best interior offensive lineman prospects and he will have his hands full with both of Alabama’s fantastic defensive tackles, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed.

Allen is a versatile offensive lineman who has played almost every position for the Spartans over his career. He isn’t the most athletically gifted offensive lineman, but he makes up for it with football intelligence, toughness and good technique. At times, he can be overaggressive, but his grit is a great asset in the trenches. Allen gets better as the game goes along and he does a great job of wearing down on opposing defenders.

Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson is the premier defensive tackle tandem in college football; however, both are limited pass-rushers for the Crimson Tide. Robinson is a much better athlete with a lot of upside, but Reed is a much more refined player at this point. Reed is almost impossible to move off the spot and he does a great job of keeping blockers off the linebackers, which opens up their ability to make plays. Robinson does a great job of clogging gaps as well, but he sheds blocks much better than Reed.

Overall, this will be a fantastic matchup that could sway the game in either team’s favor. Allen won’t have a lot of trouble when the Spartans drop back to pass, but he will have his toughest test to date against the pass.

Sterling Sheppard vs. Mackensie Alexander

Two of the highest rising prospects in the country will meet up when Oklahoma’s Sterling Sheppard meets Clemson’s Mackensie Alexander. Both players have been outstanding this year and this matchup will do a lot for each player’s draft stock.

Alexander is a great man-coverage cornerback as he does a great job of limiting the amount of space a receiver has to work with. He is at his best when he can press and mirror off the line of scrimmage, which allows him to use his length and physical nature of play to get receivers off their route. He can be exploited in space as he tends to get caught with his eyes in the backfield. Furthermore, Alexander doesn’t take advantage of all his opportunities because of his poor ball skills.

Despite being small, Sheppard is a monster at all three levels of the defense. He has the speed and quickness to win early in the route and he has a handle of the subtle nuances of route running to create separation. When the ball is in the air, Sheppard has great body control and he times his jumps as well as anyone.

If Alexander wants to have a chance against Sheppard, he will have to get his hands on him early and disrupt the timing of his route. If he gives him too much space or misses with his hands, Sheppard will eat him up all day.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com