Soon enough the first NFL Sunday of the football season will be upon us. The Miami Dolphins will head north to take on the New England Patriots, kicking off the Mac Jones era in Foxborough. We are on the doorstep; but as the great Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend!”
Before the litany of NFL games kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, we have a 78-game college slate on Saturday. Now of course we won’t be able to watch all of those games, after all my beloved UMass Minutemen can’t even get televised against a good team like Boston College. What we can do is follow this list of players and games that I've compiled for you fine folks to keep your eyes and ears. Serving as a primer of sorts for what’s to come on Sunday.
Enough wasting time, here are five players you should watch for on College Football Saturday.
Chris Olave (#2), WR, #3 Ohio State
- Matchup: vs. #12 Oregon
- Gametime: 12 p.m. ET
- Network: FOX
What better way to start this week off than with the man that occupied about half of these lists from last season, Chris Olave. It’s been a long running belief of mine that Olave — a special teams ace and route running guru — would be the perfect fit to turn New England’s early round wide receiver misfortunes around.
After compiling 98 receptions for 1,569 yards and 19 touchdowns over the course of his sophomore and junior seasons, Olave decided to return to Columbus for one more go ‘round with the Buckeyes in 2021. He got off to a blazing fast start last weekend, hauling in two touchdown passes on four receptions for 117 yards, dismantling the Minnesota defense in the process. He has firmly planted himself in the conversation to be one of the top three wide receivers taken in next April’s draft. A spot in which an ultra-aggressive Bill Belichick could possibly be lurking.
Saturday, Olave takes on the Oregon Ducks. His “dream school” growing up on the West Coast. It also happens to be one of the teams that never offered him a scholarship. Ohio State did, and has been reaping the benefits since the first day he stepped foot on campus. Olave now has a chance to show Oregon what they’ve been missing out on.
Kyle Hamilton (#14), S, #8 Notre Dame
- Matchup: vs. Toledo
- Gametime: 2:30 p.m. ET
- Streaming Service: Peacock
Last week we touched on the possibility of New England’s secondary looking very different in the coming years. I mentioned how Devin McCourty’s eventual departure could force Kyle Dugger into McCourty’s role down the line, but what if they like Dugger where he is now? Why not go out and invest in a one-for-one replacement at that spot this April?
Kyle Hamilton is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound ball hawk who has shown the range and physicality to be considered one of the top prospects in the 2021 NFL draft, regardless of position. This unbelievable play in Notre Dame’s 41-38 victory over Florida State last weekend should spell things out for you.
Future Top-10 pick Kyle Hamilton is a problem.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) September 10, 2021
Teams are going to clawing at the chance to draft this guy come April. pic.twitter.com/UJkC9C8Swr
The fact of the matter is, Hamilton will go top 10 in the upcoming draft. If New England is even remotely competent they won’t be drafting there. Hamilton is just the kind of guy that you go and get, you don’t hope he falls to you. Odds are slim, but there is a lot to like about this player.
An added element to watching this game is that it’s against Toledo, so the broadcast will likely focus on highlighting Hamilton and his cohorts throughout what is sure to be a blowout.
George Karlaftis (#5), DL, Purdue
- Matchup: @ UConn
- Gametime: 3:00 p.m. ET
- Network: CBSSN
Ever in the market for a stud defensive lineman, the Patriots would absolutely love to steal a guy like George Karlaftis in the NFL draft. A 3-4 defensive end with cannons for hands and an unrelenting motor to get after the quarterback? Sign Belichick up.
Karlaftis is a native of Athens, Greece who arrived to the United States as an accomplished 13-year-old water polo player. He picked up football in high school, becoming an All-American and Defensive Player of the Year before committing to his mothers hometown team, the Purdue Boilermakers. Ever since arriving to Purdue, Karlaftis has been their stud defensive piece, moving all around the defensive line. He’s done so while still learning the position, and winning with brute strength and will instead of solid technique. He’s raw, but supremely talented. Kind of like another Greek Freak.
I chose this week to introduce you Karlaftis because ... well, it’s going to be very funny to watch him single handedly destroy UConn.
Matt Hankins (#8), CB, #10 Iowa
- Matchup: @ #9 Iowa State
- Gametime: 4:30 p.m. ET
- Network: ABC
Another defensive back on our list, this time we focus our attention on cornerbacks, where the Patriots will have plenty of decisions to make this offseason. Both J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore will become free agents following the 2021 season. The Patriots could choose to make an offer towards one of the two, but it is unlikely both stick around into 2020, so why not start taking a look at potential replacements?
Matt Hankins will end his Iowa career having made a start for Kirk Ferentz’s football team for five straight years, the first man in the history of the program to do so. He was instrumental in the Iowa players stand against former strength coach Chris Doyle. Hankins could have entered the 2020 NFL draft, but chose to return to school to improve on his deficiencies. A developmental prospect who comes from a familiar program in Iowa.
It will be interesting to see if Hankins can build on his improved physicality and weight gain. He had an interception wiped out by a roughing the passer call last week at Indiana, now it’s time to see him face the best offense Iowa will see this season in Iowa State.
Aidan Hutchinson (#97), EDGE, Michigan
- Matchup: vs. Washington
- Gametime: 8 p.m. ET
- Network: ABC
The Patriots love themselves some Michigan men. New England has drafted four Michigan Wolverines in the last three drafts, turning Ann Arbor into a Patriots breeding ground of sorts. Aidan Hutchinson is the next man up in terms of a fit to what the Patriots could possibly be looking for come April.
Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 270-pounds, Hutchinson is the best prospect Michigan will have to offer in the year 2021. His opening weekend was one to remember after he recorded a sack, forced fumble, and blocked kick on his way to PFF’s Defensive Player of the Week honors.
On Saturday, Hutchinson will face off against a top-three offensive tackle prospect in the country. Washington’s Jaxson Kirkland has manhandled opposing defensive lineman for three years now in the Pac-12. This battle of the heavyweights should be a fun watch on both sides.