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College prospects to watch: Week 8

The Big Ten returns to the fold

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 Big Ten Championship Game Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Big Ten Conference has joined the fray. All Power 5 conferences will finally take center stage for the first time this season in what should be an exciting weekend. Here are five NFL Draft prospects to watch in Week 8:

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

1) Justin Fields (QB) - Ohio State Buckeyes

No. 5 Ohio State makes its season debut against Nebraska. Fields and his returning teammates are looking to avenge their loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal last season.

Fields will likely be the second quarterback off the board and for good reason. He threw for 3,273 yards, 41 touchdowns and just three interceptions while adding 484 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground in his first year as a starter in 2019.

Fields also led the Buckeyes to a 13-1 record, falling one game short of a national championship berth. With serious title aspirations, Ohio State will undoubtedly keep their foot on the gas from the very start.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

2) Terrace Marshall Jr. (WR) - LSU Tigers

Marshall has been the shining light for LSU this season. Despite going through a quarterback change, he has been the Tigers’ best player. Marshall has already racked up 21 catches for 424 yards and seven touchdowns through three games.

Marshall exploded against Missouri with 11 catches for 235 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is currently second in the nation in receiving touchdowns, seventh in receiving yards and 18th in receptions.

LSU will be without quarterback Myles Brennan against South Carolina as he recovers from a lower body injury. True freshman TJ Finley will start and look to find Marshall early.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Outback Bowl - Minnesota v Auburn Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

3) Rashod Bateman (WR) - Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota lit the college football world on fire for the better part of last season. A win over No. 4 Penn State gave them a 9-0 record and earned them the No. 7 spot in the Associated Press poll, their highest ranking since 1962.

Bateman was a pivotal part of that Golden Gophers team. He caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019. A projected first-round pick, Bateman initially planned to forgo the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns but decided to opt back in.

No. 21 Minnesota gets their best player back as they look to get off to another hot start against No. 18 Michigan on Saturday night.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

4) Kwity Paye (EDGE) - Michigan Wolverines

Paye had a breakout junior season in 2019 when he racked up 50 total tackles, 12.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks and one fumble recovery. He built upon a sophomore season that featured 29 total tackles, 5.5 for loss, two sacks, one pass defended and one forced fumble.

Paye’s physical frame (6-4, 272) and ability has spearheaded him into a late first/early second round projection in the draft. While his stats don’t jump out at you, he has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential.

Paye will need to bring the pressure against Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan in a battle between two ranked teams.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 Syracuse at Florida State Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

5) Asante Samuel Jr. (DB) - Florida State Seminoles

Samuel Jr., the son of former NFL cornerback Asante Samuel Sr., has been stellar this season. The junior has recorded 25 total tackles, five passes defended and three interceptions.

Samuel Jr. has been a bright spot for a 2-3 Florida State team. The Seminoles pulled off the upset against No. 5 North Carolina for their first win over an AP top-five opponent as an unranked team at home since 1965.

Samuel Jr. currently sits as a day two projection in the NFL Draft and could boost his stock if he continues his play. Florida State will try to keep their momentum going against a struggling Louisville team on Saturday afternoon.