2022 NFL Draft: Kayvon Thibodeaux vs. Ohio State among best weekend clashes

College football is about to hit its stride as the unbalanced early-season business gives way to more intra-conference games. Here are five of the weekend’s best matchups and potential 2022 NFL Draft prospects.

No. 12 Oregon to No. 3 Ohio State

Saturday, September 11 at 12 p.m. ET on FOX

Everyone is anxious to know whether or not edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux will play and what impact he will have on the game. Ohio State could possibly provide him with the biggest obstacle this season. The Buckeyes have some very good offensive line prospects, left tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and guard Thayer Munford, who started as left tackle last season. Thibodeaux is considered the best draft-eligible rusher.

An underlying storyline is Oregon’s high school versus Ohio State talent. Cornerbacks Mykael Wright and DJ James and safety Verone McKinley II are young, but talented. Wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson and tight end Jeremy Ruckert are experienced and talented. The young Ducks high school kid will have to measure up or he’ll give up explosive plays to the Buckeyes, much the same way Minnesota did last week.

The Big Ten program is also full of other defensive talents: defensive tackle Taron Vincent, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, cornerback Sevyn Banks, rusher Zach Harrison, safety Marcus Hooker, and more.

No. 10 Iowa to No. 9 Iowa State

Saturday, September 11 at 4:30 p.m. ET on ABC

The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy takes on more national significance this season as two top 10 programs meet at Ames. Iowa has a history of playing its best young players, and it has led to an overwhelming experience for tight end Sam LaPorta and center Tyler Linderbaum. To Iowa State fans, it may seem like they’ve been around forever. Another young prospect to watch is linebacker Jack Campbell.

Iowa state running back Breece Hall is one of the nation’s top running back prospects, so Campbell will have a hard time bringing him together. Tight end Charlie Kolar is another future draft pick, but the majority of talent is in defense. Edge rusher Will McDonald IV needs to add mass to its frame but exudes athleticism. He’s one of the most dynamic edge rushers around the edge. His pressure could lead to opportunities for a talented secondary that includes safety Isheem Young, cornerback Anthony Johnson Jr. and safety Greg Eisworth II. Young had a huge blast.

With bragging rights at stake, both programs have a respectable amount of talent from a draft perspective.

# 15 from Texas to Arkansas

Saturday, September 11 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN

Arkansas security Jalen Catalon has become one of the nation’s most exhilarating defensive prospects. It is a little too small but explosive. His two interceptions in Game 1 informed fans of the kind of playing ability he brings to the table. The Razorbacks also have center Ricky Stromberg and wide receiver Treylon Burks. Stromberg is arguably the best senior center prospect in the country, while Burks is also considered one of the best in his role.

The Longhorns have several top-performing high school rookies, but that has yet to translate into draft potential. Linebacker DeMarvion Overshown was all over the field against Louisiana. He’s tall but traditionally light for the linebacker position. Fortunately, the NFL sought out more prospects, like Overshown, with a touch-to-touch ability.

Missouri in Kentucky

Saturday, September 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET on the SEC network

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis vs. Missouri cornerback Akayleb Evans is the game to watch. Lévis was able to exploit a talent gap last week against Louisiana-Monroe, which led to a productive day in the air. The Tigers, led by Evans, are a great test. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is going to show a lot of body on the line of scrimmage before going for cover or bringing a defensive back down on a blitz. How will Lévis react? Can he take his game from a quarterback with tools to a well-balanced quarterback with early-turn potential?

Evans is a star, and the great physical cornerback made a remarkable debut last week against Central Michigan.

The Wildcats have two offensive tackles – Dare Rosenthal and Darian Kinnard – that will grab the attention of NFL teams. Wide receiver WanDale Robinson had a huge game last week and has the mold of a yard-type receiver after catching faster than coveted NFL teams in the 2021 NFL Draft. On the defensive end of the ball, linemen Joshua Paschal and Marquan McCall are one to watch.

Missouri running back Tyler Badie said his case was a potential element against mid-Michigan. Traditionally undersized, Badie was explosive, decisive and efficient in the passing game. He has good vision, allowing reduction opportunities.

Washington, Michigan

Saturday, September 11 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC

The showdown between Michigan defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson and Washington offensive tackle Jaxson Kirkland should be fun. Hutchinson missed last season with an injury. He is categorized as a simple player with high motor skills, but his game is more nuanced. Kirkland is one of the most popular players in his role.

The cornerback tandem of Kyler Gordon and Trent McDuffie gives Washington one of the best secondaries in the Pac-12. Passing the ball has been a bit difficult for Michigan in recent years, so Saturday will present a challenge in the new era of Wolverines football. They totaled just 216 passing yards in Game 1 against Western Michigan.

Washington’s tight end Cade Otton is one of the nation’s most complete prospects in his post. It’s not only possible but likely that Michigan defensive back Daxton Hill will follow him everywhere. Hill is one of the most versatile defensive backs in the country. Defensive tackle Chris Hinton and linebacker Josh Ross are two other potential draft prospects to watch.

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