A pair of blue blood programs will open the brand new state-of-art Mercedes-Benz stadium in Atlanta this Saturday at 8pm ET when Florida State squares off against Alabama. The Crimson Tide enter the season with the AP’s #1 ranking while the Seminoles are ranked #3. These two schools are both in the top-5 in terms of producing NFL talent since 2010 and within the top-5 in terms of recruiting bluechip prospects.
‘Bama’s depth chart is littered with future early round prospects. Punishing junior back Bo Scarbrough and polished junior receiver Calvin Ridley lead the offense and true sophomore left tackle Jonah Williams should be a top-10 overall pick when he becomes eligible for the NFL draft.
Junior nose tackle Da’Ron Payne anchors the line and has the potential to develop into the best lineman to come out of Tuscaloosa in recent memory. Senior defensive end Da’Shawn Hand is hoping to play up to his lofty billing. Senior inside linebackers Shaun Dion Hamilton and Rashaan Evans have the speed to find a job in the NFL. Junior defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is an outstanding defender and first round lock, while senior cornerback Anthony Averett, junior safety Ronnie Harrison and sophomore corner Trevon Diggs could all be first round selections eventually.
Nick Saban’s protege Jimbo Fisher will counter with his own supremely talented roster. The ‘Noles trio of receivers - speedy junior Nyquan Murray and big bodied junior Auden Tate and sophomore Keith Gavin - are all NFL caliber talents. A pair of underclassmen offensive guards in Landon Dickerson and Cole Minshew should be able to open some running lanes for freshman phenom tailback Cam Akers.
FSU’s defensive front is absolutely loaded, senior tackle Derrick Nnadi and junior tackle Demarcus Christmas should be early round picks while mammoth freshman Marvin Wilson is a name to monitor going forward. At defensive end, junior Josh Sweat, senior Jacob Pugh and true sophomore Brian Burns are likely to make an impact in the NFL. Junior Tarvares McFadden is a bonafide ballhawk with prototypical measurables, he could be the first cornerback off the board in the 2018 draft. And finally, safety Derwin James is a certified freak of nature who will probably be a top-5 overall pick next April.
College football’s other marquee matchup this week will pit Michigan against Florida at AT&T stadium in Texas on Saturday afternoon. Both programs lost a ton of talent in the offseason, but still feature some intriguing prospects. The Wolverines are strong in the trenches with senior defensive lineman Maurice Hurst Jr. and sophomore Rashaan Gary, as well as versatile senior offensive lineman Mason Cole. Big play Florida receiver Antonio Callaway will be suspended to start the year, other notable Gators include junior defensive end CeCe Jefferson and sophomore corner Chauncey Gardner.
Rounding out the preseason top-5: Clemson star junior defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, sophomore defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, junior receiver Deon Cain, junior offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt and senior offensive guard Tyrone Crowder Jr. should have their way with Kent State. Elite Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold, tailback Ronald Jones II and cornerback Iman Marshall will host the Western Michigan Broncos. Ohio State’s highly regarded edge rushers Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard, left tackle Jemarco Jones, center Billy Price and corner Denzel Ward will travel to Indiana on Thursday night.