How canceled College Football games will affect the 2021 NFL Draft

Ja'Marr Chase, 2021 NFL Draft prospect (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Ja'Marr Chase, 2021 NFL Draft prospect (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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2021 NFL Draft, Sam Ehlinger
2021 NFL Draft prospect, Sam Ehlinger (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

Texas Longhorns versus LSU Tigers

The game was actually slated to be a rematch from 2019, as LSU narrowly beat out the Texas Longhorns early in the season last year, 45-38. This game would have had massive implications for the 2021 NFL Draft and the FBS as a whole, as both teams would have had a lot riding on this game.

Originally slated for September 12th, 2020, the Longhorns starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger would have had a big incentive to play well, as 2020 will be his final season as a Longhorn before trying out his talents in the NFL. Ehlinger has played in 36-games since joining the Longhorns in 2017 and has shown improvement over that time period. This includes last season, where Ehlinger had his best statistical season, despite the team finishing the season 8-5.

Against LSU in 2019, Ehlinger kept the game close but was edged out by an LSU team lead by the 2020 NFL Draft first-overall pick, Joe Burrow. That game was just one of three Longhorn games decided by a touchdown or less last season and launched both teams starting quarterbacks in very different directions. For LSU, it was the second game in its historic 2019 season that culminated in a National Championship. For Texas, it was the first defeat of the season and a harbinger of things to come in a season that started off with so much anticipation.

This upcoming season represents one of the last chances Ehlinger has to improve his college resume before the 2021 NFL Draft. There will be a lot of hand-wringing in Texas this season over where Ehlinger fits in the quarterback hierarchy of next year’s draft class. While Ehlinger is certainly one of a handful of talented quarterback possibly entering the NFL next season, it is questionable whether he is a first-round caliber signal-caller. Ehlinger can make some incredible plays happen. But whether he is a starting quarterback in the NFL is another matter.

Defeating LSU this season in a re-match would have been a top story in the college football world and would have been a solid place from which to build upon going forward.

At the same time, LSU is looking to cement itself as a permanent presence in the SEC power rankings and prove that the 2019 championship season was no fluke. While many valuable and talented LSU players were drafted this past spring, there are several starting players from the championship team looking to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft and will need a strong showing this season to prove they can succeed at the next level.

LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase will be a junior this season and will be looking to improve upon his 2019 season in time for next year’s draft. Last season might be a tough act to outperform, as Chase had 20 touchdowns and 1,780 yards receiving in 2019. He was the highest-scoring receiver on an already high-scoring offense in 2019 and is considered, by most draft analysts, to be the best receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. Assuming he declares, of course.

Now consider the fact that the Longhorns will be returning eight starters from 2019 defense, including a stacked secondary that combined for 41 pass deflections and 12 interceptions last season. This game had the potential to be a high-scoring affair, with both sides desperately trying to eke out a win. It can be assumed that Chase would have had plenty of opportunities during the game to prove he doesn’t need Burrow to succeed.

While Chase will still get a chance to show off his talents prior to the 2021 NFL Draft, there is no denying that the Longhorn secondary would have been one of his toughest opponents all season. Solid production against a veteran crew like that would have cemented his place as the best wide receiver available in next year’s draft class. Instead, he’ll have only SEC secondaries to scorch this season.