CFB Playoff Picture Already Taking Shape

FBS Playoff Picture Looks Crystal Clear
Gene Clemons

Recently on September 20th, fellow Football Gameplan colleague Chris James tweeted, “Sorry college football fans, if your team isn’t Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Oklahoma or OSU… you have a 0% chance to win the title!”

It is a statement that can be disputed but can’t be taken lightly. A quarter of the way through the season, 6 teams seem poised to make a run at the title and five of them are on James list. An with respect to all other teams, the drop off to the next tier is not slight.

Unless Something Crazy Happens!

You can pencil in Clemson and Oklahoma unless something crazy happens. Clemson’s sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence is experiencing a slump to begin the season, and it hasn’t phased the Tigers. In fact, losing a bevy of defensive talent to the NFL doesn’t seem to phase them either. They just keep rolling along. Unless NC State or Wake Forest are able to catch them slipping or looking forward to their rivalry game with South Carolina, they will not be challenged for a seat at the proverbial playoff table.

Oklahoma has the top offense in the FBS… again, with a third different QB. But this time Jalen Hurts brings championship DNA and an ability to overcome adversity to the conversation. They will most likely not be challenged in Big 12 play, and that includes a Texas squad that continues to underachieve despite every advantage known to man. The offense is just too deadly with Hurts, and their defense has improved enough to punch their ticket.

Big Ten is a Big Two!

With respect to undefeated Penn State and Iowa, this conference is a two-horse race. Both the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes control their own destiny, but that destiny includes a date with Ohio State for Penn State and a matchup with Wisconsin for Iowa. Neither team seems likely to emerge victorious.

That leaves the Buckeyes and the Badgers left to duke it out in the Big 10 Championship Game, with the winner claiming their bid to the CFB Playoffs. Both teams’ offense have been impressive, but the defenses have looked like the difference. Both are mature, fast and nasty. The difference will be which offensive superstar will carry his team into the playoffs: Ohio State’s QB Justin Fields or Wisconsin’s RB Jonathan Taylor?

In the SEC, there can be only one!

We get it, the SEC is good, again! But if the scenarios I laid out above play out, there is no room for two SEC teams this season. So, despite having so many undefeated teams in the conference, one loss spells doom unless everyone loses. LSU and Alabama seem to have what it takes to represent the conference when the smoke clears.

Both teams look better than Auburn, Florida, and Georgia, who are also undefeated, but have looked beatable so far. Besides, these teams will likely cannibalize themselves by the time the selection committee has to pick the four.

The concern for Bama is the run game, as it has not looked as dominant as it has looked in past seasons. That has a chance to improve over the season as the offensive line gels, and as the running backs get more confidence.

For LSU, the concern looks to be defensively. With multiple starters sidelined, they don’t seem to be able to shut down opposing offenses. This has led to QB Joe Burrow putting up video game numbers, because they are unable to sustain a big enough lead to tap teams out with the run game.

The deciding game could be when the Tigers and Tide meet on November 9th in Tuscaloosa. It could essentially be the playoff play-in game.

Questions? Comments?

Tweet: @geneclemons


FBGP Scouting’s 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings

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Senior Bowl: Day 3 Observations – South Team

Shorter, but Productive South Practice Closes Out Senior Bowl Week

Emory Hunt

In what was the final practice for the public here in Mobile, the South Team went for a little bit over an hour on Thursday, as you began to see the mass exodus of scouts immediately afterwards. It was a team-vs-team heavy practice that gave a lot of opportunities for guys to make plays at close to full tilt before Saturday’s game.

Tyree Jackson Stands Tall Amongst the Rest

This has been a really good week for Jackson’s draft stock, as the 6’7 signal caller has been consistent with his accuracy and ball placement throughout the week. For as fast as he throws the football, he also makes it very catchable. Jackson’s ability to fit the football into tight windows has drawn a ton of praise from those in attendance, both scouts and media alike.

Tyre Brady & Deebo Samuel Standout

I thought Thursday’s practice was an excellent one for both Tyre Brady (Marshall) and Deebo Samuel (South Carolina). In what seems to be a broken record, both guys have had really good practices during their time in Mobile. Whether it’s in 1-on-1s or 7-on-7s, you always see both players making acrobatic catches that have the crowd going “Oooh and Ahhh”.

Bluegrass Corner Ballin’

Another player who has made the most of this week in Mobile has been Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. I thought he was the best corner out there on Thursday, and one of the best during the entire week. Johnson, for a 6’3 corner, is very fluid and technically sound. His length allows him to shrink passing windows and he has the ball skills to make catching the football very difficult for the wide receiver. Johnson has definitely made himself some money this week at the Senior Bowl.

Offensive Line-Defensive Line Battle to Stalemate in 1-on-1s

I thought this was one of the more competitive periods of practice. Both sides did their fair share of damage to the other. There were a few standouts that we’ll mention below, but these two units I’m excited to see go up against the North Team, as that alone will be must see TV.

More Day 3 Practice Standouts (South Team)

OL – Javon Patterson (6’3 314), Ole Miss: Patterson was outstanding during 1-on-1s. I don’t recall seeing him lose a rep. His footwork and hand placement was consistent and he maintained a good level of control throughout the rep.

DL – Kingsley Keke (6’4 305), Texas A&M: Keke has excellent core strength that allows him to escort an offensive lineman back into the lap of a QB. It’s the ball get off, in conjunction with his strength, that makes him impressive.

DL – Montez Sweat (6’6 245), Mississippi State: Remember the movie The Last Dragon? Well, Sweat definitely had the glow of Bruce LeRoy during Thursday’s practice. He just has a knack for making his skill set consistently work for him against the offensive linemen. If anything, Sweat has solidified his spot as one of the top defensive players in the NFL Draft after this week of work.

OL – Ross Pierschbacher (6’3 309), Alabama: No one frustrated more defensive linemen during 1-on-1s than Pierschbacher. It didn’t matter how fast or explosive the defender came off the ball, Pierschbacher did not budge. He showed an excellent ability to anchor, absorb and redirect. Fantastic performance on Thursday.

OL – Oli Udoh (6’6 365), Elon: Quietly, the former Elon Phoenix and Shrine Game call up has been steady all week long. It’s been good for Udoh personally and his subsequent draft stock, to stack back-to-back strong weeks.

QB – Jarrett Stidham (6’3 215), Auburn: Stidham had a really good Thursday practice, making some nice throws during 7-on-7 period and during team periods.

RB – Wes Hills (6’2 218), Slippery Rock: It’s been impressive to see how good of a receiver Hills is coming out of the backfield. This was one element of his game that you wanted to see coming into the week, and he hasn’t disappointed. Another player who’s stacking back-to-back good weeks.

DL – Jaylon Ferguson (6’5 262), Louisiana Tech: Ferguson moves extremely well for his size and has a bit of finesse to his game to go along with his excellent strength. He’s been one to consistently give OL fits this week.

DL – Dontavius Russell (6’3 320), Auburn: I think Russell’s ball get off and ability to whip out a counter move is what made him a tough block on Thursday during 1-on-1s. He does a great job of using his own natural leverage, and stealing leverage away from an offensive lineman.

DE – Carl Grandseron (6’5 261), Wyoming: Granderson had himself a day today during 1-on-1s. Good hand usage was the reason why he won so many battles. He was also able to dip and accelerate past the OL as well.

TE – Dax Raymond (6’5 250), Utah State: Raymond had a really good day during 7-on-7 drills and during 1-on-1s. He runs really good routes and does a great job of tracking the football, looking it into his hands.

Day 3 Practice Highlights (South Team)

WRs/DBs 1-on-1s

OL/DL 1-on-1s


Senior Bowl: Day 3 Observations – North Team

Golden Domer Shines as North Squad Wrap Up Practices

Emory Hunt

The North Team finished their Senior Bowl week practices going the full 2-hours at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. We saw 6 separate competitive periods between the offense and defense, which yielded itself to some standout performance as NFL Scouts got their last look at players before heading off to the airport.

Dexter Williams Impresses

Out of all of the running backs in attendance, you just see a different level of speed, explosiveness and acceleration coming from the former Notre Dame star. This was on display during the 9-on-7 period and in Team-vs-Team period. Williams consistently found the right lane and hit the turbo button to explode through it. He would be my pick to be the RB during the actual Senior Bowl game on Saturday to make 2-3 big plays coming out of the backfield. Williams has had himself a very impressive week here in Mobile.

Keelan Doss Plays & Looks the Part

Watching UC Davis wideout Keelan Doss all week, you get a great appreciate of how he goes about his craft. Doss was consistent in his entire process throughout the week here in Mobile, looking the part of a 10-year NFL vet. For a 6’3 206lb WR, Doss does a great job of sinking his hips and getting in-and-out of his breaks with ease. He also shows strong hands in snatching the football out of the air. Earlier in the week it was his body control that was impressive, for the rest of the time here at the Senior Bowl, it’s been the rest of his arsenal that has impressed as well.

Ichabod Corner Boast Strong Performance

Not too many corners have had as solid of a week as Washburn’s cornerback Corey Ballentine. The 6’0 204lb DB looked solid in 1-on-1 drills on Thursday, using all the traits needed to be a successful corner, hips, hands & feet, to be successful during the 1-on-1 period. He’s quietly been a really good player here at the practices and definitely has caught the attention of plenty NFL Scouts.

Hart & McLaurin Do It Again

Wide Receivers Penny Hart (Georgia State) and Terry McLaurin (Ohio State) once again shine during practice. Hart has proved to be one of the more difficult receivers to cover during 1-on-1s and in 7-on-7. His quickness, suddenness and burst has given defensive backs fits throughout the week. McLaurin has performed as if he already had the answers to the test before arriving here in Mobile. Everything has looked both smooth and easy for him when facing defensive backs throughout the week.  McLaurin has no issues catching the ball over his shoulder, sprinting across the middle of the field, or going to the ground.

Offensive Line Looks Cohesive

This is always impressive when you watch an all-star game practice: which units quickly builds cohesiveness. Well, for the North Team it has been the offensive line. Chris Linstrom (Boston College), Dalton Risner (Kansas State), Garrett Bradbury (NC State), Chuma Edoga (USC) and Beau Benzschawel (Wisconsin) have looked outstanding. This group was strong during 9-on-7 period on Thursday, while also doing well individually during OL/DL 1-on-1s.

Safety First

Boston College’s Will Harris, Michigan State’s Khari Willis and Delaware’s Nasir Adderley stood out on Thursday during Team-vs-Team period. It’s easy to see how much of an impact these guy can have as blitzers, force players and run defenders. I thought they excelled in those capacities at one point or the other during the day.

More Practice Standouts from Day 3 (North Team)

FB – Alec Ingold (6’2 242), Wisconsin: Ingold was gold during Blitz Pickup drills. The former Wisconsin Badgers fullback did a fantastic job in stymieing oncoming rushers. He showed really good technique in that regard.

LB – Germaine Pratt (6’3 242), North Carolina State: Pratt was also impressive during Blitz Pickup period, using a variety of ways to get past the blocker. His key to success was constantly getting his hands on the offensive player first, subsequently controlling him afterwards.

CB – Kris Boyd (6’0 195), Texas: Boyd has been solid all week long. He’s been consistent in 1-on-1s, showing himself to be a good man defender. I really like how he closes on the ball, making things very difficult for the receiver in the process.

CB – Jordan Brown (6’1 195), South Dakota State: During 7-on-7s, I thought the former SDSU Jackrabbit had his best day. You got the chance to see him be patient and use his length to his advantage as he made plays on the ball.

QB – Drew Lock (6’4 225), Missouri: In my opinion, Lock has been the best QB on the North Team. He’s not afraid to make any throws and during the Team-vs-Team period of practice on Thursday, he was able to get rid of the ball multiple times, avoiding what would’ve have been sacks.

DT – Greg Gaines (6’2 316), Washington: The former Huskies DT was great on Thursday, winning many of his 1-on-1 battles in addition to being very disruptive during Team-vs-Team.

DT – Khalen Saunders (6’2 310), Western Illinois: Saunders’ ball get off is special. He explodes into the offensive linemen and is able to easily drive him back into the QB/backfield. He had another good showing in 1-on-1s.

RB – Tony Pollard (6’0 205), Memphis: Pollard has a similar level of acceleration and burst as Dexter Williams. During both Team-vs-Team and 9-on-7, Pollard found a couple of lanes and made the defense pay miserably.

Practice Highlights – Day 3 (North Team)

WR-DBs 1-on-1s

OL-DL 1-on-1s

9-on-7 Period

Blitz Pickup

7-on-7 Period


Senior Bowl: Day 1 Observations – North Team

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Emory Hunt

The 2nd practice of the day here in Mobile, was sort of a damper (pun intended). As the North Team took the field for the first time, the weather started to become a factor as it went from a slight drizzle to a consistent one. This made things a little bit challenging for the passing game, both for QBs and WRs alike. Didn’t matter much to the OL and DL, they’re built for this and it’s no surprise why they fared better than their perimeter counterparts throughout the day.

Quarterbacks Showed Something Individually

It wasn’t all lost for the QBs during the bad weather practice, as each one showed something unique or flashed a trait that caught your attention. For Duke’s QB Daniel Jones it was his ability to hit the deep ball. His high arching rainbows are easy to track and catch if you’re a receiver. Drew Lock’s well documented arm strength was on display as well. He was able to drive a deep shot on a rope to UC Davis WR Keelan Doss. I was impressed with how NC State’s Ryan Finley was able to make the right decisions during 7 on 7 and in team periods with the ball. And Trace McSorely’s ability to throw on the move helped him complete some passes in 7-on-7 as well. It’s unfortunate with the Wednesday practice being moved indoors that we (media) can’t see how these guys would perform and start to separate themselves in ideal conditions.

Offensive Lineman Hold Strong in 1-on-1s

During the OL/DL 1-on-1 drills, I saw an impressive display of both discipline and patience by the offensive line. Guys like Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom, Kaleb McGary (Washington) and Dalton Risner (Kansas State) did a really good job of not allowing the defensive line to either bull rush their way through, or beat them with speed. You can see some of the frustration grow throughout the period, which only made things interesting during team-vs-team period.

Defensive Line Wakes Up in Team

Here’s where you saw payback from the defensive front of the North Team. The offensive line found it difficult to get movement up front and get the ground game going. Boston College’s Zach Allen, Arizona State’s Renell Wren and Oregon’s Jalen Jelks I thought did a fantastic job against the offensive line in this portion of practice.

Practice Standouts

DL – LJ Collier (6’4 276), TCU: It was fun to watch Collier essentially be the only defensive lineman to have sustained success against the offensive line. He’s super quick off the ball and brings his hands with him immediately as well. A big reason why he was able to find success on the interior during 1-on -1 drills.

LB – Dre Greenlaw (6’0 227), Arkansas: During the team periods, it seemed as if Greenlaw made every tackle on the inside. He consistently got great run fits and was able to trust what he saw, attack downhill with confidence and make the play.

WR – Penny Hart (5’8 180), Georgia State: In my opinion, Hart was the only receiver that seemed to be running on a dry field during Tuesday’s practice. The former GSU Panther explodes out of his breaks and is able to quickly accelerate once he makes the catch to pull away from the defender. I thought he had a quietly strong debut to the week.

RB – Karan Higdon (5’10 202), Michigan: Higdon was the best back during the day, especially in team period. He’s got an extra burst to his game and runs with decisiveness. He’s a compactly built runner that was able to explode through a couple of arm tackles during the period.

WR – Keelan Doss (6’3 206), UC Davis: What was impressive about Doss’s Day 1 practice was the level of body control he displayed on a wet field. He was able to stop on a dime and come back to the football many times throughout the day. Whether it was in 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s, or team drills, once the ball is in the air, Doss does whatever it takes to get himself in position to make the catch.

WR – Terry McLaurin (6’1 205), Ohio State: McLaurin, like Hart, was operating on a dry field. He has a really good feel for spacing in relation to where his is on the field. McLaurin was able to win most of his reps in 1-on-1s, showcasing the ability to stack & accelerate past the defender. He had the best day of all the wideouts in my opinion.

LB – Ben Banogu (6’4 245), TCU: I really like how Banogu moves for a linebacker. Very good sideline-to-sideline speed and takes really good angles to eliminate or neutralize the outside run. He closes really well on the ball carrier also.

Practice Highlights: Day 1

North Team Takeaways

7-on-7 Period



WRs-vs-DBs 1-on-1s

OL-vs-DL 1-on-1s

Shrine Game: Day 3 Observations – West Team

West Team Gets a Lot of Team Reps

Emory Hunt

It was a heavy situational football approach for the West Team on Day 3, as we saw 4 sets of team drills throughout the day: Team Run, Team 3rd Downs, Team Regular, Team 2-minutes. This gave you a good look at the quarterbacks and how they can lead a drive to either move the sticks or come away with points. In that regard, I thought Fresno State QB Marcus McMaryion had the best day out of the QBs as he was the only one to lead his unit down the field for a touchdown during Team 2-minutes.

Northwestern Corner Stacks Back-to-Back Days

I like what I saw from former Northwestern Wildcat corner Montre Hartage (6’0 195) during 1-on-1s. He has really good closing speed on the receiver, his hands stay active and he able to smoothly flip his hips and run with the wideout. He’s been really good so far here.

Quack Attack

Oregon Ducks LB Justin Hollins (6’5 242) has been stellar throughout the week for the West Team. He’s having a Uchenna Nwosu-type all-star week, where you constantly see him popping up against the run, winning rep after rep in OL/DL 1-on-1s, he’s been everywhere. Hollins has definitely made himself some money this week.

Big 12 DL Disruptive Again

It’s becoming a broken record in talking about Kansas Jayhawks defensive lineman Daniel Wise and Texas Longhorns DT Chris Nelson. They’ve been two of the practice stars this week at the Shrine Game. Wise’s quickness and explosiveness off the ball has him in the backfield a ton. Walker has excellent hand strength/usage that allows him to get off blocks on a consistent basis. Both have been tough to block throughout the week.

More Practice Standouts

LB – Cody Barton (6’2 230), Utah: Barton does a great job against the run. He takes proper angles to the ball, gets good run fits and doesn’t allow the back to get outside. He’s been assignment sound all week.

RB – Nick Brossette (6’0 221), LSU: Brossette had an excellent day in the Team Red Zone period. He caught the football well, and has done so all week. I also thought he ran with good patience during Team Run periods, always finding open space within the defense.

RB – Devine Ozigbo (6’0 235), Nebraska: I like the way he attacks a lane when he has one. Ozigbo can really pick’em up and put’em down when plants his foot in the ground and heads up field. He had a couple of nice plays, both run and pass, during the practice.

OG – Lanard Bonner (6’5 315), Arkansas State: Bonner fires off the ball with the type of attitude and aggression that you want to see from your interior offensive lineman. Today he was stellar during the Team Run periods. He fights hard and competes to get the most out of every rep.

CB – Donnie Lewis Jr. (6’0 195), Tulane: Impressive day for the Green Wave corner. Lewis made a few plays during 7-on-7 and in Team 2-minute, ending a drive with a pass breakup. He plays bigger than his already bigger listed size.

P – Jack Fox (6’2 224), Rice: There is a certain sound that you hear when a punt is a good one. Fox is able to strike that chord each and every time. He’s been punting the ball extremely well.

Practice Highlights: Day 3 – West Team

WRs/DBs 1-on-1s

Team-vs-Team Run

Team-vs-Team 3rd Down

7-on-7 Period

Team-vs-Team Regular & 2-Minute

Shrine Game: Day 3 Observations – East Team

Ta’amu & Dogbe Among Standouts on Day 3

Emory Hunt

In the final practice of full pads, the East Team hit the field for 2-hours on Wednesday, allowing some guys to turn it up a notch and impress. We saw a couple of prospects have their best days on Day 3 at Tropicana Field.

Jordan Ta’amu Leads the Way

The Ole Miss QB had a strong day throwing the football. Ta’amu was able to excel in both 7-on-7 and team periods, being both decisive and accurate throughout.  At all levels of the field and even situationally, Ta’amu was able to come through.

Temple Tuff

DL Michael Dogbe had himself a very disruptive day.  In OL/DL 1-on-1s and in the team period, you kept seeing #90 making a play at, or behind the line of scrimmage. During the team period, Dogbe was blowing up screens, regular run plays and getting to the QB in what would’ve been sacks in the game.

Backs & Backers Go Head-to-Head in Blitz Pickup

This was a really good drill as I thought there were a couple of standouts on both sides. Again, this is a drill that’s tilted in favor of the linebackers as they’re rushing with a full head of steam toward a stationary target. The trick for the backs is to get your feet underneath you, keep them moving, make first contact with your hands and wash the defender to wherever his momentum is taking him. Maryland’s Ty Johnson and UMass RB Marquis Young I thought handled themselves well in this drill. From a rush perspective, North Carolina LB Cole Holcomb proved to be a tough block, winning virtually every rep with a variety of moves.

Tar Heel Backers

Speaking of Cole Holcomb, he and his teammate Malik Carney have quietly put together a stellar week of work. Watching those two run sideline-to-sideline has been an impressive sight. Carney also sees time as a rush end during 1-on-1s, showing the explosiveness off the corner to frustrate offensive tackles.

Colonial Athletic Association Strength

Both CAA prospects Oli Udoh (Elon) and Ethan Greenidge (Villanova) were able to impose their will on opposing defensive lineman during team period. Both guys are so strong at the point of attack and really get tremendous movement up front. Both players have definitely caught the attention of multiple scouts because of their play.

Custis, Moreland & Horsted Shine Again

It has become a common theme here in St. Pete to see WR Jamal Custis (Syracuse), CB Jimmy Moreland (James Madison) and WR Jesper Horsted (Princeton) have great practices. Custis has been virtually impossible to cover in 1-on-1s, Moreland seems to always have the ball in his hands, as he did once again on Day 3, and Horsted comes up big -time during the team periods and in 7-on-7s.  All three guys should shine in the game as well.

More Practice Standouts

S – Chris Johnson (6’3 200), North Alabama: The former UNA Lions star moves really well on the back end. Johnson is a fluid athlete that consistently takes the right angles to the football. It’s been a steady week for him.

CB – Tim Harris (6’1 205), Virginia: Harris had himself a day today in coverage. The 6’1 205lb corner was excellent in both 1-on-1s and team drills. I thought he did a good job in 1-on-1s using his length to make things difficult for the receiver.

OL – Joshua Miles (6’6 310), Morgan State: Another good day from the Morgan State Bear. Miles was strong in pass pro during the team periods today, stonewalling a few overly aggressive defenders.

DT – Ricky Walker (6’2 300), Virginia Tech: Walker was very disruptive on Day 3 during the Team Period. Using his quickness off the ball to split double teams and win vs 1-on-1 blocks as well.

DL – Jordan Brailford (6’3 250, Oklahoma State: I thought Brailford had a solid day overall. He was able to have success in both 1-on-1s and team periods. He’s got a pretty good shoulder dip that allows him to get past OL. He was in on a few plays against the run during team periods.

DT – Cortez Broughton (6’2 290), Cincinnati: Really good day from the former Bearcat during team-vs-team run period. Broughton routinely found himself in the backfield making a stop.

LB – Ulysees Gilbert III (6’1 230), Akron: Gilbert has impressed a lot this week. He’s got a high level football I.Q. You can see that he has taken to this defense pretty quickly because he always is in the right spot making a play. He really thrives during team drills. He’s primed for a big game on Saturday.

CB – Derrick Baity Jr. (6’3 188), Kentucky: Stacking back-to-back strong days in coverage for the Kentucky Wildcats corner. Baity really proves his worth during 1-on-1 drills. So impressive for a 6’3 corner.

Practice Highlights – Day 3 (East Team)

WRs/DBs 1-on-1s

9-on-7 Drills

7-on-7 Period