Sports

Three-Point Stance: Things we expected, All-Americans, breakouts


Rivals National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with 10 things we knew would happen even at the start of the season, his mid-season All-American defense and five players ready for a breakout second half.

1. TEN THINGS THAT WE EXPECTED

Bailey Zappe

Bailey Zappe (USA Today Sports Images)

Tuesday I named some things that surprised everyone based on what was expected preseason but today I’ll go with the obvious — 10 things we knew would happen … and they have.

1. The Georgia defense would be elite — The dominance of the Georgia defense is not a surprise, even to this extreme level. We knew it would be amazing.

2. Bijan Robinson would emerge as the best running back in the countryTank Bigsby was in the discussion as were a few others but we knew Bijan would be the man.

3. Iowa State would disappoint— I figured the top 10 ranking was a bit too high and I predicted four losses for the Cyclones, which could very well happen.

4. Josh Downs would step up for North Carolina — He showed promise last year and is so good at separation it was clear he’d be Sam Howell’s top target.

5. Bailey Zappe would put up monster numbers — Don’t know who he is? Well the transfer to Western Kentucky was a great fit to put up crazy numbers and he has more than 2,200 passing yards with 21 touchdowns and only three picks.

6. Chris Rodriguez Jr. and the Kentucky offensive line would do work — Rodriguez Jr. is one of the nation’s leading rushers and the Kentucky offensive line is a big reason why it is undefeated.

7. Kayshon Boutte would emerge as one of the best in the county — Even though he’s now injured he wasn’t getting the credit he deserves on a very average LSU team as you could make a case he’s the best wide receiver regardless of class in the country.

8. Evan Neal would be elite — I haven’t seen an offensive tackle as athletic as Alabama’s Neal in ages and he’s lived up to the hype as one of the best pass protectors and run blockers around.

9. Kyle Hamilton would wow NFL scouts — We knew the Notre Dame safety was special and a first-rounder. Perhaps we knew he was a top 10 pick and even with that he has impressed. That’s what great players do.

10. Aidan Hutchinson would lead Michigan — Did we think Michigan would be undefeated? Nope. But we knew Hutchinson was ready for a dominant season and would lead a tough defense and he has.

*****

2. MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICANS

DeMarvin Leal

DeMarvin Leal (USA Today Sports Images)

Okay it’s time for the midseason college football All-American defensive team.

DEFENSIVE END

First team: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan; Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina

Second team: Josh Pascal, Kentucky; Will Anderson, Alabama

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

First team: Jordan Davis, Georgia; DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

Second team: Calijah Kancey, Pitt; Phidarian Mathis, Alabama

LINEBACKER

First team: Nakobe Dean, Georgia; Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma; Devin Lloyd, Utah

Second team: Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin; Micah McFadden, Indiana; Avery Roberts, Oregon State

CORNERBACK

First team: Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati; Riley Moss, Iowa

Second team: Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M; Matt Hankins, Iowa

SAFETY

First team: Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame; Jaquan Brisker, Penn State

Second team: Lewis Cine, Georgia; Jaylan Foster, South Carolina

*****

3. SECOND-HALF BREAKOUT CANDIDATES

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Kayvon Thibodeaux (USA Today Sports Images)

Here are some players who could break out in the second half of the college football season and be key toward a national title run.

QB Caleb Williams, Oklahoma – He was the spark that the Sooners needed when he replaced Spencer Rattler in the second quarter against Texas, and he looks poised to take the reins moving forward. The team played with a different energy with him behind center, and it looked much more like the OU teams we’ve become accustomed to seeing. He also brings more than Rattler with his legs, so expect Lincoln Riley to expand the playbook with him in.

QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State – It took him a few games to get going, but he has looked outstanding in the past few weeks, lighting up opposing defenses. His deep passing game is excellent, and he has a great cadre of receivers to work with. If the Buckeyes make a second-half playoff push, it’s because Stroud becomes more consistent in his excellence.

RB Brian Robinson, Alabama – Alabama has recommitted to running the ball, and Robinson has been the main beneficiary, running for a combined 312 yards in the past two games after going for 208 in the first three. With mostly unproven backs behind him, he will continue to get the lion’s share of the touches going forward.

RB Zamir White, Georgia – White gets to play in a loaded backfield, which is both a gift and a curse. He is typically fresher when he comes in, but he’s not getting as many touches as other top backs in the country. But he’s had 34 carries in the past two games and has seemingly separated himself as UGA’s No. 1 back. The former five-star is a tough-nosed runner who punishes defenders, right in line with the overall ethos of this team.

DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon – Injuries have hampered the first half of Thibodeaux’s season, but he returned for Oregon’s game with Stanford in Week 5. After the bye, he should be fully healed and ready to again wreak havoc on the Pac-12. He’s still the best pure pass rusher in the country, and with a clean bill of health, he will almost certainly re-establish himself as a top five pick in the upcoming draft.



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