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Draft King Analysis
October 16, 2015
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com

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In a game that went well past midnight Friday morning for viewers in the Eastern Time Zone, #15 Stanford knocked off #18 UCLA last night in a 56-35 drubbing in Palo Alto that featured a Catch of the Year candidate from Francis Owusu and a breakout performance by RB/KR Christian McCaffrey.

The amazing reception by Owusu came on a trick play by Stanford, a double-reverse that ended with QB Kevin Hogan tossing up a terribly underthrown ball toward the end zone. Owusu, who was interfered with on the play, somehow caught the ball by pinning it to the back of Bruins DB Jaleel Wadood until he gained control of it. I had to watch the replays a few times to truly appreciate what a remarkable effort it was by Owusu to haul in the throw.

But the real star of the night was Cardinal RB Christian McCaffrey, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who ran for a school-record 243 yards and scored four touchdowns. When you add in his kick returns, he posted 369 all-purpose yards on the night. And he's just a true sophomore, so the best may be still to come for him.

With McCaffrey and Barry James Sanders (son of NFL Hall of Famer Barry David Sanders) on the same team, it immediately made me think of the fictitious Swoll-Up University that my brother Matt and some of his friends at Mississippi State used to joke about as a place for the sons of famous football stars to all play. Between the two RBs at the school now and Andrew Luck having played there a few years ago, it's not exactly a stretch to think in that direction.

It's unwise to make any rash judgments based on one game. But, last Saturday night in Salt Lake City, the Utah Utes exposed some weaknesses in the player at the top of the current Draft King 2016 NFL Mock Draft: Cal QB Jared Goff.

Goff, a 6'4" 210 pound true junior, was 25/47 passing for 340 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Utah picked him off more times than his previous five opponents combined did, and the Utes pressured Goff into his first sub-60% completion rate effort of the season. At this point I still see Goff as the top draft-eligible QB prospect, but Utah certainly exposed some flaws in his game.

Two other high-profile quarterbacks will be tested tomorrow in Big Ten competition. Michigan State QB Connor Cook faces a tough challenge on the road against rival Michigan, which is coming off three consecutive shutouts. And in Columbus, Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg will go up against Ohio State's stout defense in his first road conference test of 2015.

I've been much lower on Hackenberg than the vast majority of draft analysts and evaluators out there, and it's worth noting that he had his best game of the season this past Saturday against Indiana, going 21/39 passing for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns against no interceptions. But Hackenberg's abysmal 2015 completion rate (53%) is a huge red flag, though he has the physical tools needed for the position and plenty of people whose opinions I respect are very high on him.

One other player to watch for the Nittany Lions tomorrow night is DT Austin Johnson, a 6'3" 325 pound redshirt junior who is earning praise in Happy Valley. If Penn State is going to win the game, they will need a strong performance by Johnson to help make it happen.

Supporters of Ole Miss football breathed a sigh of relief when the NCAA, arbitrary as ever, finally announced earlier this week that star OT Laremy Tunsil would be able to return to the team... but only after the Rebels play on the road against unbeaten Memphis. The way that the NCAA applies rules so seemingly capriciously is frustrating, particularly when it appears that they are tacking on punitive punishments because of perceived dishonesty.

As I mentioned last week, if I were Tunsil I would have told the NCAA to stick it and started preparing for the NFL Draft. But that would be disappointing to Tunsil's teammates and Rebels fans alike, so I can understand why he would return. I just happen to care far less about what others think of me compared with how most people operate.

I'll be on color commentary for the webcast of tonight's Father Ryan High School vs. Brentwood Academy football game in Nashville. Remind me to not make mention on Twitter about the possibility of any of BA's skilled seniors (and they have several with multiple P5 scholarship offers) potentially shifting their college commitment.

I made that mistake last weekend when I noted on Twitter that Spring Hill QB Tylin Oden, who had been a verbal commit to Louisville this summer before reopening the recruiting process, would put whichever college lands him in a great spot. The Louisville fans I heard from were not amused, even though they have a star in true freshman QB Lamar Jackson and a verbal commitment from high school standout QB Jawon Pass of Columbus, GA. You would have thought I had insulted Johnny Unitas with the way some people reacted.

In reality, verbal commitments are meaningless until a given high school athlete signs his or her National Letter of Intent. And with the exception of early graduates, nothing is locked in place until pen is put to paper, and that can't happen for this year's senior class until February 3, 2016. But I wasn't trying to stir up a hornet's nest -- just wanted to give praise to a kid who played exceptionally well and showed remarkable arm strength and accuracy.

If nothing else, it was a strong reminder of why I typically avoid getting into any online discussions of high school recruiting. I could only imagine the static that the fine workers at sites like Rivals and 247Sports catch from all sides in the recruiting reporting process. Thanks but no thanks to that.

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