<
>

Perfect game: Building the dream college football team

What's your idea of the perfect college football team?

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay tackled that dream scenario, with Kiper handling the defense and McShay picking the offense.

OFFENSE: Todd McShay

QB: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

This is a tough call, but I'm going with Mayfield. No quarterback in college football is as mobile as Lamar Jackson, but Mayfield uses his legs well. He has the ability to extend plays and his passing skills are far superior to Jackson's right now. With 13 TDs to zero INTs this season, he's a guy I want leading my offense. He has already shown the ability to win in a hostile environment, as he did in Week 2 against Ohio State.

RB: Saquon Barkley, Penn State

My thoughts on Barkley are pretty clear, as I referenced last week here. He has elite lateral agility and the ability to make people miss in space or in a phone booth. He's averaging 6.7 yards per carry and 14.3 yards per reception. He can also return kicks. He just seems to get better every week.

WR/TE: Oklahoma State

It isn't a banner year for wide receiver-tight end units, but I like the one at Oklahoma State in front of Mason Rudolph. James Washington is a redshirt senior, who is on the shorter side, but should be an NFL player. He's terrific at tracking the ball and very dangerous after the catch, as evidenced by his 23.1 yards per reception and five TDs. He might be a slot guy in the NFL, but he's an effective route runner and flashes the ability to make tough catches in traffic. Marcell Ateman has more prototypical size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) for an NFL wideout is good at winning the 50-50 balls. Jalen McCleskey is very reliable in the slot, producing yards after the catch. They've been fun to watch this season.

OL: Alabama

This was a tough call as well, as I've been really impressed with how Oklahoma's veteran O-line has performed this season, especially in that Week 2 showdown against a tough Ohio State defensive front. I like the left side of Notre Dame's line with Mike McGlinchey at tackle and Quenton Nelson at guard (both potential first-round picks), but the full unit is still a work in progress. Alabama's O-line has only allowed four sacks (fourth in the nation) and is helping rack up 315.6 yards rushing per game (also fourth). They get the nod here.

DEFENSE: Mel Kiper

Defensive line: Clemson

The Tigers have studs all along their defensive line. Ends Austin Bryant, who has 5.0 sacks this season, and Clelin Ferrell, who broke out in the College Football Playoff last season with 4.0 tackles for loss, can get after quarterbacks and also hold up against the run. Both are ranked in my top five underclassmen ends for the 2018 draft. Inside, Christian Wilkins is the top-ranked prospect -- he's No. 7 on my most recent Big Board -- but sophomore Dexter Lawrence might have more potential. The 6-4, 340-pound tackle could be a top-five pick in the 2019 draft. No defensive line in college football comes close to Clemson's.

Runner-up: Ohio State, but it's not that close.

Linebackers: Georgia

The Bulldogs have one of the best defenses in the country -- second in points allowed per game (9.2) and third in yards allowed per game (244) -- and their group of linebackers is my pick for the top unit. Roquan Smith is the headliner, and the junior has led the team in tackles the past two seasons. He's one of my favorite players to watch. Natrez Patrick, the other inside linebacker, is also super talented. Outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy have combined for 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks this season. At 6-6, 242 pounds, Carter has potential to be a stellar NFL pass-rusher. This is a balanced, deep group with loads of talent.

Runners-up: USC, Michigan

Secondary: Alabama

Like defensive line, this is another easy call. The Crimson Tide lost Marlon Humphrey and Eddie Jackson to the NFL after last season, and they have had no problems replacing either of them. Minkah Fitzpatrick, my No. 6-ranked prospect overall, and Anthony Averett are likely first- or second-round picks next year, but it's former walk-on Levi Wallace who leads the team with three interceptions. Safety Ronnie Harrison is another prospect in my top 25, and I really like his aggressiveness. Hootie Jones and Tony Brown line up all over the field and make plays, too. Alabama is allowing only 8.6 points per game -- best in the country -- and a big reason why is their deep defensive backfield who can all play multiple positions.

Runner-up: Florida State, but Alabama is far and away No. 1.


Prospects on the rise

Kiper: Jaylen Samuels, RB/FB/TE/WR, NC State

I've struggled to label Samuels for a while now. Is he a running back? A tight end? A receiver, maybe? I settled on fullback in my position rankings, but he's much more than that. At 5-11, 236 pounds, Samuels is a weapon. He can catch: he has 169 career receptions with 18 touchdowns. He can run: he has 21 career rushing touchdowns and has averaged 6.5 yards per carry. And he can block. Samuels impressed me with his ability as a runner in the Wolfpack's win over Syracuse, showing patience and burst and lowering his shoulder when he needed to. He has tremendous value in today's NFL, where he'll likely end up at running back. Offensive coordinators will love him because he can move to the slot and catch passes like a wide receiver.

McShay: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

I've always liked this dude, and he's shown his explosiveness this season. He obviously had to wait his turn behind Christian McCaffrey, but he's showing why David Shaw's patience was a virtue. Love would be a featured starter at nearly every school. He ran for a school-record 301 yards and three scores on Saturday in Stanford's win and per ESPN Stats & Info is the 12th player in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards in his first five games.

Almost famous

Kiper: Nick DeLuca, ILB, North Dakota State

DeLuca is a big (6-3, 245) middle linebacker who had nine tackles in his return from a knee injury in the Bison's win over Missouri State. He has some durability concerns -- he also missed most of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury -- but he's a physical tackler and playmaker (six career interceptions) when he's on the field. DeLuca is likely a Day 3 NFL prospect, so he'll have to impress on special teams, where he was one of the Bison's best players earlier in his career.

McShay: Roc Thomas, RB, Jacksonville State

Thomas rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-7 win over Tennessee Tech, and also caught a pass for 12 yards. He's an Auburn transfer, who has stood out so far. He's a Day 3 prospect.