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Roman Wilson vs. Riley Moss, other Week 5 matchups NFL scouts will be watching

By Rob Rang
FOX Sports NFL Draft Analyst

Watch Week 5 of the college football season like a professional scout with this handy viewing guide. 

While creative offenses have certainly aided the play of this year’s quarterbacks, NFL scouts are giddy with what they have seen so far from the top prospects at the position.

Established stars like Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud have only strengthened their positions as future top-five picks, and others like Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. are among those at the position who have boosted their stock. 

Perhaps the best thing about football, however, is that it truly is a team game and many of the most intriguing one-on-one matchups in Week 5 highlight players from less-glamorous positions. 

Pro scouts will certainly be watching these matchups this weekend and so should you. 

No. 4 Michigan at Iowa (Saturday, noon ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)

While young quarterback J.J. McCarthy has generated much of the buzz with the media, a duo of playmaking wide receivers in Ronnie Bell and Roman Wilson have made this the most explosive offense at Michigan since Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach. Boasting terrific body control, soft hands and the courage to excel over the middle, Bell has long been a standout for the Wolverines. He lacks the game-breaking ability of his teammate, Wilson, however, who has four touchdowns in as many games this season.

Previewing No. 4 Michigan vs. Iowa

Joel Klatt breaks down No. 4 Michigan vs. Iowa, revealing how the Hawkeyes can capitalize on potential mistakes.

The 6-foot, 180-pound true junior is a legitimate playmaker, averaging an eye-popping 24.5 yards per reception, scoring on nearly half (three) of his eight total catches. He also ran once — for a 21-yard score against Hawaii — demonstrating the vision, agility and instant acceleration that translates beautifully to the next level.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz and the hosting Hawkeyes have yet to give up more than 10 points in a single game this season. A big part of that success is due to Iowa’s secondary, which boasts a legitimate dynamic athlete of its own in cornerback Riley Moss, as well as a breakout true sophomore in Cooper DeJean, who leads the Big Ten with three interceptions, including an impressive over-the-shoulder grab and return for a touchdown last week against Rutgers. Like Moss (highlighted in this space last week), DeJean is a terrific athlete, boasting NFL-caliber size, agility, acceleration and the instincts pro scouts are looking for. DeJean, however, is just a true sophomore and therefore not eligible for the NFL until 2024, at the earliest.

Sure, the quarterbacks on both sides will play a significant role in determining the winner of this key Big Ten showdown, but the real matchup is on the outside with all four players being future NFL draft picks. 

[Michigan vs. the Iowa D, and more we’re watching in Week 5]

No. 7 Kentucky at No. 14 Mississippi (noon ET

With all due respect to the aforementioned quarterbacks, Kentucky’s Will Levis is perhaps the most intriguing talent in the country, boasting a compact, powerful frame, a rifle for a right arm and experience in a pro-style offense against quality competition.

After throwing for a total of three touchdowns (against two interceptions) in three seasons at Penn State, Levis transferred to Kentucky a year ago and became a star, completing 66% of his passes for 2,826 yards and 24 touchdowns (against 13 interceptions), notably scoring another nine touchdowns as a runner. Despite being among the most sacked quarterbacks in the country so far this season, Levis has improved his numbers, completing 67.5% of his passes with 10 touchdowns against four interceptions, with another two scores on the ground. While Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has built a fine program with talent at every position, Levis is the primary reason the Wildcats enter this showdown with Ole Miss undefeated and the No. 7 team in the country.

While Levis boasts exciting traits for the position, he has not consistently demonstrated the pinpoint accuracy scouts would prefer. Similarly, the “quarterback of the defense” he will be facing this week — Ole Miss free safety AJ Finley still needs to convince scouts that he has the total package to justify the high NFL draft selection that his lofty statistics (191 tackles, seven career interceptions) would seem to suggest is coming. 

Officially listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Finley possesses a relatively lanky frame for a free safety, with lean limbs and narrow hips which suggest that adding more weight would negatively impact his athleticism. That said, his length, agility and instincts for the position are exciting, and this is the Rebels’ SEC opener. A splashy performance against Levis and the Wildcats could propel Ole Miss — currently undefeated and yet ranked 14th overall — into the top 10.

No. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 16 Baylor (3:30 p.m. ET; FOX and the FOX Sports app)

Given the way that Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders (65.3% completion rate with 10 touchdowns against just one interception) and his counterpart for Baylor, Blake Shapen (69%, seven touchdowns vs. one interception) have started the season for their respective programs, it is easy to understand why most will focus on the signal-callers in this game. That said, scouts will quickly recognize that the top talents play along the line of scrimmage and will never actually line up against each other.

At 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, the visiting Cowboys’ Tyler Lacy looks more the part of a traditional NFL defensive tackle than an edge rusher, but he shows impressive initial quickness, lateral agility, power and terrific hand-eye coordination to lasso ball-carriers seemingly out of his grasp. With 5.5 tackles for loss (including two sacks), Lacy is building upon impressive career numbers (27 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks) that have already earned him spots on the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Bowl’s initial Watch Lists. There is no reason to think he won’t build upon those totals in this contest. 

An even more dynamic athlete, Baylor’s Siaki Ika has more to gain with a splashy performance with the ninth-ranked Cowboys visiting. Listed at 6-foot-4, 350 pounds, the former LSU signee demonstrates rare initial quickness, agility and raw power to dominate one-on-one assignments. Scouts can acknowledge his special talent and yet still be skeptical as to how his game translates to the ever-increasing pass-happy NFL. Ika may wow in workouts, but with seven combined tackles (including just one solo) in four games so far this season, he needs to prove that he can be a force against the pass and run, alike, to justify the top-100 consideration his rare traits seem to warrant.

Who wins the Big 12 title?

RJ Young discusses the depth of the Big 12, examining how traditional powers like Oklahoma and Texas are facing stiff competition.

No. 2 Alabama at No. 20 Arkansas (3:30 p.m. ET)

Given that this is a matchup of two top-20 teams with legitimate NFL-caliber quarterbacks (Bama’s Young and Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson), it would be easy to focus on this position and ignore everything else. For a multitude of reasons, however, I love the “one-on-one” battle brewing between Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs and Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders. Having flashed the past couple of seasons as a reserve for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, Sanders likely circled this reunion as a chance at redemption after transferring to Fayetteville, where he’s since emerged as a star, leading both the SEC and country with six sacks through four games. 

Saban has enjoyed stellar play at running back since taking over as head coach at Alabama, and Gibbs — a Georgia Tech transfer — is a future NFL draft pick, as well. He is not your classic Alabama running back, however, demonstrating greater vision, agility and receiving skills than the downhill “thumper” mentality we’ve seen from Brian Robinson, Jr., Najee Harris, Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram and the like. Gibbs, in fact, has three touchdown receptions on the year but has yet to score on the ground. Sanders, on the other hand, has shown exciting pass rush skills from his linebacker position, as well as range, patience and sound wrap-up skills as an open-field tackler. Saban and his staff know him (and his limitations in coverage) quite well, however, making this a key matchup for college fans and pro scouts, alike. 

Michigan State at Maryland (3:30 p.m. ET; FS1 and the FOX Sports app)

It is the very nature of the game to focus on the so-called “skill positions,” and this game features a bunch of them, including underrated receivers on both sides of the ball. However, easily the top matchup in this contest — and arguably the entire weekend of college football — is the showdown between the Big Ten’s leading pass rusher, Michigan’s Jacoby Windmon, and Maryland’s behemoth with a ballerina’s footwork, left tackle Jaelyn Duncan

I wrote about Windmon, a UNLV transfer with 5.5 sacks so far on the season, prior to the Spartans’ Week 3 showdown with Washington. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Windmon isn’t necessarily the most physically imposing edge rusher, but he’s quick and slippery on the edge, utilizing one of the best dip and rip combinations I’ve seen so far this year. 

That said, Duncan is not only one of the elite blockers in the always burly Big Ten, he is a candidate to be the first tackle off the board in the 2023 NFL draft, demonstrating rare initial quickness and lateral agility to mirror in pass protection, as well as the length and strength one might expect given his confirmed 6-foot-5, 320-pound frame. 

Minnesota is the Big Ten West favorite

Joel Klatt reacts to Minnesota’s dominant win over Michigan State and explains why the Gophers are the new favorite to win the Big Ten West.

West Virginia at Texas (7:30 p.m. ET; FS1 and the FOX Sports app)

For those unwilling to truly take their eyes off the ball and focus on the line of scrimmage, a key Big 12 showdown between West Virginia and Texas late Saturday night in Austin offers a tasty consolation prize, with one of the hardest-hitting linebackers in college football hoping to contain the country’s most explosive draft-eligible running back. 

It does not take a pro scout to appreciate a matchup like the one between the Mountaineers’ Lee Kpogba and the Longhorns’ star Bijan Robinson, a rare first-round caliber running back and legitimate Heisman candidate.

Despite a circuitous route to West Virginia, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Kpogba (pronounced KOH-ba) is a name to learn and remember. He began his career at Syracuse and spent last season at East Mississippi Community College. He is an old-school, downhill run-stuffer who punches above his weight class, knocking down ball carriers with his sheer collision power. Robinson, on the other hand, offers not only the balance through contact to bounce off big hits, but he also possesses “greasy knees” to slide laterally and avoid them altogether, with the top-end speed to turn a sliver of daylight into long gainers, scoring eight touchdowns in just four games so far.

No. 10 North Carolina State at No. 5 Clemson (7:30 p.m. ET)

Given all the talent on defense for these ACC powerhouses with matching 4-0 records, scouts had circled this showdown before the year had even begun. Now, with Hurricane Ian barreling through the southern portion of the continent, a defensive slugfest seems all the more likely, allowing me the easy opportunity to highlight one of my favorite players in the Wolfpack’s lead dog Drake Thomas, a 6-foot, 230-pound heat-seeking missile at linebacker. 

Thomas is used all over the field by North Carolina State, demonstrating terrific instincts, closing speed, physicality and — as he demonstrated last year with an interception against Clemson — awareness and hands in coverage. He was a stat-book hero a year ago, registering 99 tackles — including 13.5 for loss — six sacks and three interceptions (including one he returned for a touchdown). He has been similarly effective so far this season, leading North Carolina State with 24 stops, including two for loss.

That said, Thomas and the visiting Wolfpack will have their hands (or is it paws?) full against a Clemson squad boasting their latest star running back in sophomore Will Shipley, a 5-foot-11, 200-pounder who already has seven touchdowns on the year and is averaging an eye-popping 6.8 yards per carry. Shipley attacks rushing lanes like a slalom skier, accelerating smoothly downhill and using sharp, decisive cuts to dart his way through traffic. Though still a year away from draft eligibility, he already has the attention of scouts. 

Stanford at No. 13 Oregon (11 p.m. ET; FS1 and the FOX Sports app)

For those willing to stay up late, the Pac-12 offers a tasty nightcap, with Stanford traveling to Eugene. The Cardinal are fresh off a humbling loss at Washington, while the Ducks are soaring following an emotional comeback win at Washington State. Though Oregon has the distinct advantage in terms of pure talent, Stanford head coach David Shaw has made a career out of pulling off upsets like this one. 

To do so, he’ll need quarterback Tanner McKee to play with more consistency than he’s shown this season. He also needs help. McKee was under constant attack against the Huskies but threw the ball well when he did have time, hitting underrated wideout Michael Wilson six times for 176 yards and two scores. 

The strong-armed McKee has the velocity and accuracy to take full advantage of the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Wilson’s prototypical size, underrated athleticism and flashy hand-eye coordination. Wilson showed the concentration and strong hands to pluck passes outside his frame. This makes him a fun matchup for Oregon’s toolsy cornerback Christian Gonzalez, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound transfer from Colorado who was beaten up a bit in the season-opening loss to Georgia, but since has rebounded, allowing just a 50% completion rate on the season overall. 

Read more:

– Tiers for 18 CFP contenders, from Ohio State to Penn State, USC to UCLA

– Michigan-Iowa and more: Week 5 by the numbers

– Big Noon Kickoff: Everything to know about Michigan-Iowa

– Kentucky, Tennessee debut in Joel Klatt’s top 10

– They’re back? USC, Michigan, others show trickiness of a quick turnaround

Rob Rang is an NFL Draft analyst for FOX Sports. He has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others. He also works as a scout with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. Follow him on Twitter @RobRang.


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