Heading into Week 5 of the college football season, the big matchups are set to begin. This week, there are a pair of games that feature AP Top 10 teams battling it out.
In Happy Valley, the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions renew their rivalry with the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes. The past two year’s games have been classics, with each team taking the victory on their home field.
In South Bend, the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal meet the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Like the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions, both of these teams are undefeated and dreaming of the College Football Playoff.
To get some insight into these matchups and also break down some draft prospects, we caught up with CBS Sports Network analyst Corey Chavous. Corey will be on the call when undefeated Buffalo meets a tough Army squad on CBS SN this Saturday, so we started with his breakdown of the matchups and NFL prospect Anthony Johnson. (Editor’s Note: This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
CBS Local Sports: First up, you’re on the call for Buffalo-Army this weekend. The Black Knights put a serious scare into Oklahoma last week, while Buffalo has cruised to a 4-0 start. What’s the matchup you’re watching for most in this game?
Corey Chavous: There’s a couple of different matchups I’m watching for. I’m interested to see how the Army defense, run by Jay Bateman, plans on attacking the Buffalo offense, led by Andy Kotelnicki and Jim Zebrowski. Those two guys have done a nice job of mixing up run and pass, and they like to spread you out a little bit. The good news for Army is they have already faced a number of different styles of offense so far this year.
Individually, some matchups I’m watching for are Army CB Elijah Riley vs. Buffalo WR Anthony Johnson and Buffalo offensive linemen Kayode Awosika and Evin Kslezarcyzk against Army pass rusher Kenneth Brinson. Can he create some pressure off the edge?
Finally, I’m going to be watching the safety play for Army. How much will they bring James Gibson off the edge? Will he be a guy that they use more in coverage, or will they bring him a little bit this week. Those are all the key battles I’m watching Saturday.
CBS Local Sports: As a draft analyst, when you look at Anthony Johnson from Buffalo, how do you evaluate him in terms of NFL potential?
Corey Chavous: He has an NFL quarterback throwing him the ball in Tyree Jackson. There have been some issues from time to time with all of their receivers being able to handle the heat that you get from Tyree because he’s a very strong-armed passer.
For Johnson, though, he can play inside, he can rise up and go get the jump ball as you saw last week against Rutgers. He’s strong. He’s pretty good at getting yards after the catch. He gives the quarterback enough room to drop the ball in when in tight spaces.
One thing about him, he is probably going to have to get better as a route runner. But, with his size, and his ability to climb defenders late in the down, I think he’s going to be a pretty good prospect for the next level.
CBS Local Sports: There’s a pair of top 10 matchups on the schedule this weekend. First, in Happy Valley, Penn State meets Ohio State. We know both offenses are explosive, but can Penn State’s defense get enough stops to pull out a win?
Corey Chavous: That’s the big question. A lot of people are wondering if Penn State’s defense is as good as it was a year ago, because they have given up some yards in the first couple of games. However, I think the early-season statistics are a little bit skewed. I think they have enough playmakers to put pressure on the quarterback.
That’s going to be the big key for them too. I think this game is going to come down to, can you get Dwayne Haskins off his spot? Ultimately, that is going to come down to Shareef Miller. Keep an eye on him in this game. He’s going to have to get some help from Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney, and they may bring some pressure as well.
The one thing that people aren’t talking about with Penn State this year that I think is remarkable is they have just as many sacks as Ohio State does, with 15 on the season. That is why I think there is more to the Penn State defense than just a couple of sub-par performances.
CBS Local Sports: The other big game features the Notre Dame-Stanford rivalry. Both teams are 4-0, but it hasn’t exactly looked easy so far. What’s the biggest matchup to watch in that one?
Corey Chavous: Can anybody stop J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the redzone? He didn’t have a big game against UC Davis, but he still caught two touchdown passes. Last week against Oregon, the two touchdown catches he had were huge. Seven touchdowns already this year, averaging 24 yards per catch, Whiteside is a major NFL prospect and quite possibly the best big receiver in the country this year.
The other thing that I think will be interesting to see is what impact the quarterback change has for Notre Dame. Even when you look back at last year, I think you see that Ian Book has more instincts as a passer than Brandon Wimbush. He showed that in the bowl win over a very good LSU defense. When you talk about a 10 percent uptick in accuracy, that is something that sustains drives. That is going to be important for Notre Dame in this game: staying on the field on third down. If they can do that, it’s going to go a long way in them trying to get a victory.
CBS Local Sports: Finally, a draft-related question for you. The SEC seems to have a good crop of quarterbacks currently. Of those guys, which do you think has the best NFL potential?
Corey Chavous: I like a lot of the quarterbacks in the conference, but the guy who I think has the most NFL potential right now in terms of projection is Drew Lock at Missouri. He has the physical ability that you look for. But it depends on how far down you want to go with projecting these guys. Ultimately, the guy with the most potential could be Justin Fields at Georgia; you just never really know until you’ve seen these guys for a while.
Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) and Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) need to show improvement over the rest of the year though I think Stidham is further along than Fitzgerald. In terms of Tua Tagovailoa, I think he has more potential than all of the guys I just mentioned. But right now, Drew Lock is the guy that I would say is going to be the highest draft pick if we were going to have the draft today.