Their high power offenses are sure to be the focus of tonight's California-Nevada game (10 pm EST, ESPN2), but NFL scouts will be just as curious to watch two underrated pass rushers also playing in this contest.
I listed California defensive end Cameron Jordan among the top ten senior prospects in the Pac-10 heading into the year and, thus far, he's proving to be every bit worth the early attention.
Jordan was a consideration for Player of the Week honors for his performance last Saturday against highly touted Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder. Jordan, 6-4 and 285 pounds, earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 accolades last year with 43 tackles, eigh tackles for loss and five sacks. His solid game was often overshadowed by Tyson Alualu, who, of course, was the surprise No. 10 overall pick of the draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jordan, like Alualu, plays defensive end in Cal's 3-4 scheme. While he doesn't possess elite speed off the edge, he uses his hands well and plays with very good power. He projects nicely as a base end in the 4-3, or could simply remain as a five-technique in the 3-4 at the next level.
Nevada's Dontay Moch is the more explosive pass rusher of the two. At 6-2, 236 pounds, he lacks the bulk to remain at defensive end in the NFL, but he proved to scouts the overall athleticism to handle the transition to outside linebacker by clocking in at a verified 4.25 seconds in spring drills.
Moch operated last year opposite Kevin Basped. You might remember Basped as the outside linebacker whose troublesome knees forced the Jets to cut him on an early episode of the HBO series, Hard Knocks.
Basped and Moch working in tandem gave the Wolfpack one of the more ferocious pass rushes in the entire country last year. Moch, in fact, entered his senior year with 42 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks.
Without Basped, Moch has struggled to make the same impact thus far in 2010. Through the first two games of the season, the reigning WAC Defensive Player of the Year has only five total tackles -- though, not surprisingly, he also has a sack and a forced fumble.
Whether you watch the game for the underrated NFL prospects, or just to see an intriguing inter-conference battle between two western schools, this should be a fun game. If nothing else, it will make for interesting Friday night drama, as California enters the game as the nation's top-rated defense. Nevada is the top-rated offense.