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College Football Week 10: Too Cold or Too Bold

Each week, fans around the country react to big games and disappointing ones alike. Each week, our writers decide which reactions are legitimate and which aren’t.

Every Saturday is filled with big performances and disappointments alike in college football. Here, our writers react to some takes around the CFB world to help distinguish between recency bias and take lock.

Too Cold(agree with the take) or Too Bold(disagree)

1. Hendon Hooker is Not a Future NFL Starter

Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker was lighting the CFB world on fire. Well, until he ran into the juggernaut that is the Georgia defense. The Volunteers’ offense struggled to move the ball; Hooker didn’t throw a single TD for the first time all season. On top of concerns about his age and the gimmicky offense he operates, that game has fans concerned about his chances of being a starter in the NFL. Too Cold or Too Bold?

Matt (@DevyMatt) – Too Bold. I know many folks I respect in the industry that already thought this before the Georgia game for all the reasons mentioned above. But I wasn’t one of them, and I’m not going to change my position because of one bad game against the best defense in the country. I love Hooker’s mobility, arm talent, accuracy, and production in the SEC. And I think the NFL will too. I think his resume is plenty good enough to secure first-round draft capital. If that’s the case… you don’t spend a first-round pick on a guy and never start him.  

Brandon (@hayeb3) – Too Bold. Some parts of Hendon Hooker’s game need to be improved, but I would say he is ahead of Malik Willis. I think a team will take a chance, and as you see with the Titans, the starting of a rookie can be pushed ahead by circumstance. A bad game against Georgia does not necessarily mean he is not good. Age is a concern, but I still think he has a chance as a starter.

Tyler (@FF_TJHernandez) – Too Bold. Against ranked opponents before playing Georgia, Hooker had a 14-1 TD-INT ratio. This past game against Georgia was a large test for many people on how they viewed Hooker, but there is no reason to doubt the upside he’s shown so far this season. A challenging game against the #1 defense isn’t enough to drop his skyrocketing stock. With so many NFL teams needing a possible answer at QB in the draft, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hooker as a starter at the NFL level. 

The Verdict: Too Bold (3/3)

2. Quentin Johnston is the 2023 WR1

Coming into the season, the 2023 WR class looked stacked at the top. It had stars like Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Kayshon Boutte, plus other solid options like Jordan Addison and Quentin Johnston. The only one in that group that has been (mostly) healthy and productive this year, though, is Quentin. His combination of athleticism and production has some fans ready to move him atop the WR rankings for his class. Too Cold or Too Bold?

Matt – Too Bold. He’s a riser for me, but not to that level. Johnston probably has the best physical traits in the class, and he’s got elite ball skills to go along with his huge frame. Highlight reel catches are all over his tape, so it’s easy to see why people are excited about him. But I don’t think he’s the best WR in the class. I believe that release and route running are the most important traits for a WR, and I’m not saying he’s awful in this department. Johnston’s not on the level of some others like Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Addison. JSN put up over 1,600 yards as a true freshman while sharing the field with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who are both lighting it up in the NFL. And both of those guys have said he’s better than them. Forgetting that he’s WR1 just because he’s been banged up is a mistake that people will live to regret. 

Brandon – Too Cold. I was getting worried about my take on Johnston early in the season, but he has come on strong and shown why I think he translates to an alpha. He can go downfield on the jump balls and make people miss after the catch. Boutte’s struggles this year when LSU is actually winning may put some pause for NFL scouts.

Tyler – Too Bold. While Johnston has been arguably the most productive of the top four WR prospects in this draft class, it’s hard to rank him as the WR1 in the class. Recency bias might make people forget how dominant JSN was in an NFL-filled receiving corps last year. While Boutte has been falling down the rankings, putting Johnston over JSN and Addison is hard. I would lock Johnston in as WR3 in this draft, but WR1 is just a little too bold for me. 

The Verdict: Too Bold (2/3)

3. Drake Maye is a top 3 devy QB

As many devy players heatedly debate whether Bryce Young or CJ Stroud is QB1 of their class, some are starting to think that neither one is a top two QB in all devy. Fellow 2024 prospect Caleb Williams has been near the top of most QB rankings for some time now, but UNC’s Drake Maye has thrown his hat in the ring. The 2024 prospect has accounted for 35 total TDs this season while only throwing four INTs. He’s led the 8-1 Tar Heels to the fifteenth spot in the AP Poll after week 10. His accuracy and playmaking ability have some rankers moving him into a top three spot in their devy QB rankings. Too Cold, or Too Bold?

Matt – This is Way Too Bold. Listen, what he’s done is impressive. And as an NC State grad, I’m going to do my best to put away my bias on this. But UNC hasn’t played ANYONE. Their non-conference was a joke, and they play in the G5 division of the ACC (the Coastal). On top of that, they have a horrendous defense, which has turned every game into a shootout. They’ve won those shootouts to Maye’s credit because he’s played so well. But the game script and strength of schedule have led to his gaudy stats, and he hasn’t been tested yet. How can you rank Maye that high and take him over some of the names you’d be taking him over when he hasn’t even played one good defense yet in his college career?

Brandon – Too Bold. I like Maye a lot and what he is doing in his first-year starting is amazing. The running game has been inconsistent, and the defense has not done him any favors. I worry about how that North Carolina offense is thought of with how far Sam Howell fell. I think Maye is just outside that range right now, so it is not far off.

Tyler – Too Bold. I love Maye as a devy asset, but putting him as a top-three QB is hard. The redshirt freshman has looked excellent in his first season but has played a relatively easy schedule up to this point. Maye has shown a lot of great traits on film, but I would like to see the QB face some difficult competition before I could rank him so high. UNC will face two ranked (at the time of writing this) opponents over the next three weeks, with a high possibility of facing a ranked Clemson in the ACC Championship. If Maye can continue his fantastic production against these opponents, I would be more inclined to move Maye up near the top three. Currently, he isn’t there. 

The Verdict: Too Bold (3/3)

4. Sean Tucker is Not a Top 5 RB in 2023

Syracuse RB Sean Tucker entered the season as a consensus top-five RB in the class. Many rankers even had him as high as RB2 or RB3. However, his poor performances against the tougher competition this season have caused a lot of people to sour on him. He hasn’t reached 100 scrimmage yards in his last three games, as the Orange offense has sputtered in a three-game losing streak. With other backs in the class performing, fans are moving Tucker outside their top-five RB rankings for the class. Too Cold or Too Bold?

Matt – Too Bold. I’ve seen elite traits on tape for Tucker. I’ve seen high-end production against good defenses. He’s been performing since he was a true freshman. He’s even gotten more involved in the receiving game this year. When Tucker has struggled this season, I think it’s been because Syracuse has nobody else on whom the defense needs to key in. The coaching staff has often abandoned the run way too early in games. The last two weeks, he’s mostly been playing with a backup QB, and the offense as a whole has looked anemic. Even if you assume that Bijan, Gibbs, and Evans are all clearly above him, I don’t know what other two you’d take above him to bump him out of the top 5. I’ll gladly buy the dip on Tucker if there is one.

Brandon – Too Bold. Tucker has come down to earth a little in the last few games, but I think that is more the play-calling and bad quarterback play. I do not necessarily put him as RB3 in this class, but he is a top-five back. He has shown the ability to run between tackles and break long runs.

Tyler – Too Bold. You can’t blame Tucker for Syracuse’s recent woes; anyone who has watched a Syracuse game this season could attest to that. Tucker has been an elite prospect on a far-from-elite team and a known draft target heading into the 2023 draft. With all of the makings of a starting back in the NFL, there are few running backs in this draft that I would take over him. I see Tucker as the RB4 in this class, with a lot of security to stay in the top five.

The Verdict: Too Bold (3/3)

5. Devin Neal is a Top 15 Devy RB

Kansas RB Devin Neal has had inconsistent usage with the Jayhawks in his first two years. He has done enough to flash some potential, surprising many fans with his performance in his freshman year. However, he hasn’t proven he can do it as a workhorse. That may change soon enough. On Saturday, Neal touched the ball 38 times for 334 scrimmage yards and a TD. It was his first time getting more than 30 touches and only his fourth of more than 20. He showed what he could do when he gets fed, leading the Jayhawks to a big win against Oklahoma State. His electric performance has some ready to move him inside their top 15 devy RB ranks. Too Cold or Too Bold?

Matt – Too bold. This isn’t even a knock on him; there are just too many good running backs who have shown me much more than Neal. I think he’s a good player and should continue to rise if this type of usage becomes the norm for him. The top 15 is simply too high for me. 

Brandon – Too Bold. This may change if he takes over a bigger role for the rest of the season. I am hoping this game is a sign of things to come. If so, Neal could move into that conversation. As of right now, he teases us enough with his talent but doesn’t show it consistently. 

Tyler – Too Bold. Neal has shown great traits when he has the ball, but the Kansas coaching staff just has yet to use him as the workhorse. If the Jayhawks begin to use Neal more effectively and honestly, just more frequently, I could see him easily climbing up near the top 15, but his lack of competitive usage makes it hard to place him in the conversation. I believe Neal more than made his case against Oklahoma State on why he should be handling the ball more often, and I think he has rightfully earned more touches because of it. Neal is a good player with a lousy workload, so he stays outside my top 15. 

The Verdict: Too Bold (3/3)

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