The State of College Football: The Edge Rush Era

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Aidan Hutchinson and Will Anderson Jr. need MORE recognition. Plus, player comps for each.

A huge upset loss in the Big 12 shakes up the conference, and another upset in the Big 12 that no one cares about, leads to the question - which is the best conference in college football? Also, a look at three of the top pass rushers in college football. 

This week we’ll also look at the return of one of my favorite quarterbacks, how I was right about Ohio State and handout some money for great performances.

Top 25 Rankings
1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. Cincinnati
4. Oregon
5. Ohio State
6. Michigan
7.  Michigan State
8.  Oklahoma State
9. Notre Dame
10. Wake Forest
11. Baylor
12. Oklahoma
13. Ole Miss
14. UTSA
15. Houston
16. BYU
17. Texas A&M
18. Pittsburgh
19. Iowa
20. Coastal Carolina
21. Wisconsin
22. Utah
23. San Diego State
24. NC State
25. Louisiana

Weekly Awards
Offensive Player of the Week:
CJ Stroud, Ohio State: 31/38, 361 yards, 5 TDs
Defensive Player of the Week: Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State: 7 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 TFLs
Freshman of the Week: Braelon Allen, Wisconsin: 25 carries, 173 yards, 3 TDs
Coach of the Week: Lance Leipold, Kansas (that hurts)

$100 Handshakes
Emory Jones, Florida: 28/34, 464 yards, 7 TDs (1 rushing)
Will Rogers, Miss. State: 44/55, 415 yards, 6 TDs
Phil Jurkovec, Boston College: 13/20, 310 yards, 5 TDs (3 rushing)

Running Back
Tyler Badie, Missouri: 34 carries, 209 yards, 1 TD
Lew Nichols III, CMU: 43 carries, 215 yards, 4 TDs
Rachaad White, Arizona State: 32 carries, 184 yards, 2 TDs

Cedric Tillman, Tennessee: 10 catches, 200 yards, 1 TD
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State: 10 catches, 126 yards, 3 TDs
Xavier Worthy, Texas: 14 catches, 152 yards, 3 TDs

Tight End
Kemore Gamble, Florida: 6 catches, 122 yards, 2 TDs
Michael Mayer, Notre Dame: 7 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD
Will Mallory, Miami: 5 catches,  72 yards, 1 TD

Offensive Line
Baylor: 296 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Oklahoma State: 447 rushing yards, 8(!!!) TDs
Air Force: 383 rushing yards, 3 TDs

Defensive Line/EDGE
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon: 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFLs
Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan: 7 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 TFLs
David Ojabo, Michigan: 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFLs

Nakobe Dean, Georgia: 11 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFLs
Channing Tindall, Georgia: 8 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 TFLs
Terrel Bernard, Baylor: 9 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFLs

Defensive Back
AJ Finley, Ole Miss: 8 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TD
Matt Hankins, Iowa: 10 tackles, 2 PBUs
Jacobee Bryant, Kansas: 4 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TD

Where I Was Right / Where I Was Wrong

Right: THE Ohio State
I was very high on Ohio State coming into this season and was a big believer in quarterback CJ Stroud. After an early season loss to Oregon it looks like the Buckeyes are back in business. Much of that is because of Stroud. The offense is loaded with talent but Stroud’s ability to spread the ball and run the offense has brought this team back to life. Ohio State still has a tough schedule ahead - but I think they can win out and Stroud could be our Heisman favorite by the end of November. 

Wrong: Texas
I think a lot of Texas fans were more nervous than they led on this week and it was for good reason. Where I was wrong was my initial happiness and optimism with this team. I’m even more embarrassed about my tweets, comments and actions from early this season. Texas is not back. May not be back for a long time. Oh well. 


—Can the Big 12 Champ make the College Football Playoff?
Can they? Yes. Will they? Probably not. I feel pretty confident that a Big Ten champ (Ohio State) makes the playoff and if Oregon wins out they will be in as well. Hell, an undefeated Cincinnati might be ahead of the Big 12 champs. At least that’s the way it’s looking right now. If the CFP hated Oklahoma I doubt they would like Baylor or Oklahoma State. And, Oklahoma is still in the running for the Big 12 championship with OSU still on the schedule. Getting a Big 12 champ in the playoff is a long shot, getting them in the top six might be dead too. 

—Which is the best, and worst, conference in college football. 
It’s easy to put the SEC as the best conference in college football but the Big Ten is giving them a real nice run this year. Georgia and Alabama seem to be in a tier of their own and deservingly so. The Big Ten does have top ranked Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State but that lands them as the second best conference for me. Where the discussion really starts is at No. 3. The ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 make up tier two of the college football world and I don’t think they’re getting stronger. This season I would give the edge to the Big 12 with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor all in the top 12 of the college football playoff. Coming in at four I would put the ACC. I know Clemson is VERY down this year but Wake Forest, NC State and Pittsburgh are all on the rise. I don’t know if the trio can sustain this success in the future - Clemson will be back and Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech can’t stay down forever, right? So, that brings the Pac 12 in at No. 5. Oregon has been the best program in the conference for over a decade but teams like USC, Washington and Stanford are too inconsistent to list them as good programs. 

  1. SEC

  2. Big Ten

  3. Big 12

  4. ACC

  5. Pac 12

Final Thoughts
—Will Anderson Jr. Vs. Kayvon Thibodeaux (And Aidan Hutchinson)
We are witnessing greatness at the EDGE rusher position right now and it needs to be talked about. By now most people are familiar with the name Kayvon Thibodeaux and rightfully so. Thibodeaux came to Oregon as the nation's second highest ranked recruit and he has lived up to all the hype. The 6’5”, 258 lbs, rusher will be a betting favorite to be the first overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft and is reminding draft scout’s of guys like Myles Garrett. But, there are a few other names to watch for as well, and the best of them isn’t even draft eligible yet. 

Alabama’s sophomore outside linebacker Will Anderson is, like, really good. Through nine games Anderson is already up to 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss and has four-straight games with 1.5 sacks or more - including a four sack game against Mississippi State. As I’ve written before, Anderson should be a Heisman candidate and should be near the top of those rankings, but he’ll find his name at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft rankings. In what could be a very good year for skill position players, Anderson will stand out above them all and looks like he could be a better pass rush prospect than Thibodeaux. 

Another edge rusher that is getting lost in the mix is senior Aidan Hutchinson at Michigan. In our most recent mock draft here at The Draft Scout we had Hutchinson going No. 2 overall and some seemed to not understand why. Well, Hutchinson is an NFL ready defensive end with the size (6’6”, 265 lbs) speed and length to play in any defense. Thibodeaux is a tad lean (258 lbs) to play in a 4-3 defense - although I’m sure he will add weight after the season and Anderson is even lighter at 243 lbs. Hutchinson also has proven production as a pass rusher with nine sacks through 10 games in 2021. Had it not been for an injury in 2020, Hutchinson may have been a first round pick then. Maybe it’s the size, maybe it’s the skin tone, but Hutchinson reminds me of TJ Watt - another Big Ten pass rusher that fell too far in the draft. 

—Poppa Phil, Jr. 
Phil Jurkovec
injured his right wrist early in the season and I thought the redshirt junior quarterback was done for the year. However, he is BACK!!! And he looked very good against Georgia Tech this weekend. Jurkovec showcased his athletic ability with three rushing touchdowns and two more through the air. His game is very similar to that of Josh Allen - maybe not quite the runner Allen is - but similar size and skill set. I would love to see Jurkovec down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl and will definitely be keeping a close eye on what he does for the rest of this season. Jurkovec was my QB2 coming into this season. 

—The Jimmy Lake era is over in Washington - What’s next?
Jimmy Lake was fired as head coach of the Washington Huskies on Sunday. A move many predicted after a video of him pushing and slapping a player on the helmet circulated. We have long passed the days when you could put your hands on a player and get away with it. The fact that it was ever acceptable is kind of ridiculous, honestly. And sadly, had Washington been winning games Lake would probably still be the HC there. Now, both Washington and Washington State will be looking for new head coaches. 

Week 12 Games to Watch
Michigan State @ Ohio State, 11:00 CT, ABC
Iowa State @ Oklahoma, 11:00 CT, FOX
Wake Forest @ Clemson, 11:00 CT, ESPN
Arkansas @ Alabama, 2:30 CT, CBS
UCLA @ USC, 3:00 CT, FOX
Oregon @ Utah, 6:30 CT, ABC