Saturday College Football Preview

  This Saturday of Labor Day weekend is one of the best days of the year. It marks the first Saturday with a full college football slate that carries us through the end of the year. Alabama vs Wisconsin While I don’t put much -  if any -  stock in pre-season college football rankings, there is one matchup between ranked teams: Alabama versus Wisconsin in Arlington, Texas. Alabama is currently ranked #3 in the nation and as usual has a roster full of NFL prospects and come December I’m sure they will again be part of the college football playoffs. While it seems like Alabama has more underclassmen enter the draft that any other college team, they still have a loaded senior class starting with linebacker Reggie Ragland. Other top senior prospects are corner Cyrus Jones, center Ryan Kelly, linebacker Dillon Lee and defensive lineman Darren Lake. Wisconsin lost one of the better running backs in the country last year when Melvin Gordon left school early for the NFL. While Wisconsin won’t matchup with Alabama in pure overall talent, they are always one of the better coached teams in the country. One of their better senior prospects is safety Michael Caputo. As usual, they have an offensive lineman to look at in Tyler Marz as well as fullback Derek Watt. With all the speed and overall talent that Alabama has, this game could be over early in the second half. I look for the Crimson Tide to win by at least 14 points. Texas at Notre Dame This is an interesting game because it is an intersectional game between two teams that are deep in tradition. Texas is in rebuilding mode in Head Coach Charlie Strong’s second year, but they still have talent. Texas always gets the cream of the crop when it comes to recruiting in the talent rich state of Texas. Texas doesn’t have many senior prospects, the best are corner Duke Thomas and running back Johnathan Gray, but they have some very talented younger kids who just need experience. Notre Dame on the other hand is loaded. This is the best Notre Dame squad since the 2012 team that went to the National Championship game. The Irish return 23 players who have started games during their career. While the bulk of their most talented players are underclassmen, they still have plenty of senior prospects who are ready to show their talent to NFL scouts. The best is defensive tackle Sheldon Day who may be the best 3-technique in the country and could be a high first-round pick. Other top seniors are center Nick Martin the younger brother of Dallas Cowboy Zach Martin, safety Elijah Shumate, linebacker Joe Schmidt and receiver Chris Brown who has great speed. Notre Dame will make a run for the playoffs but they have to win at least 11 games because they are not conference affiliated. The big question with them will be the play of quarterback Malik Zaire. Zaire was the backup to Everett Golson last year but got the start in their Bowl game win over LSU. He played extremely well in that game and Notre Dame hopes that he can build off of that win. While Zaire doesn’t have the passing talent that Golson had, he is an excellent athlete who can make plays with his feet and that will be a challenge to defenses. Eastern Washington at Oregon This game is interesting because the new Oregon quarterback, Vernon Adams, led Eastern Washington the last three seasons. Adams was not highly recruited coming out of high school and chose to go to FCS Eastern Washington. He developed his skills while there and won 28 games as a starter. He also threw more than 100 touchdown passes in his three years. At just under six feet tall, Adams is not your prototypical NFL quarterback prospect but he is very athletic and has good arm strength. As usual, Oregon is loaded with senior prospects led by defensive end DeForest Buckner. Other highly rated prospects are offensive tackle Tyler Johnstone, running back Byron Marshall and linebacker Rodney Hardrick. A player to watch closely is defensive end Christian French. The tall rangy athlete has always been in a backup roll and this will be his first year as a fulltime starter. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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