Week 15 Prospect Matchup: All eyes on the Big Ten
Know the top NFL prospects to watch this weekend in the pivotal matchups on the college football landscape
OHIO STATE | MICHIGAN STATE
Saturday, 8:17 p.m.
Indianapolis – FOX
Who would have guessed that determining the National Championship match-up would come down to the Big Ten Championship Game? But that’s where we are and if Ohio State Buckeyes wins, there’s a great chance the Buckeyes will head to Pasadena, likely to face Florida State for the BCS Title. Ohio State and Michigan State didn’t meet in the regular season, making this contest even more intriguing. Over the past two seasons, the Buckeyes-Spartans battles have been dominated by defense. Last year, Ohio State won 17-16 and in 2010, Michigan State Spartans was victorious, 10-7. This match-up is expected to be a higher scoring affair, but the Spartans No. 1 ranked defense will be the biggest test of the season for the Buckeyes, who have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, led by Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, junior QB Braxton Miller .
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller vs. CB Darqueze Dennard /CB Trae Waynes
Despite a few hiccups after his early season injury, junior QB Braxton Miller (6-1, 215, 4.46, #5) has steadily progressed in 2013 and has his squad a win away from the National Title Game. He rushed for 136 yards against the Spartans defense last season and three of his four 100-yard rushing games this season have come over the last three contests. Miller is still a wildcard to enter the NFL Draft after this season and a productive performance on the big stage against Michigan State’s No. 1 ranked defense would only help. MSU has arguably the top cornerback duo in the country with senior CB Darqueze Dennard (5-11, 197, 4.52, #31) and RS sophomore CB Trae Waynes (6-1, 178, 4.53, #15).
Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde vs. Michigan State MLB Max Bullough /SLB Denicos Allen
There might not be a player in college football who has impressed me more this season compared to previous years than senior RB Carlos Hyde (6-0, 235, 4.62, #34), who leads the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (143.3), which also ranks sixth in the country. He finished with a career-best 229 rushing yards against Michigan last week, extending his consecutive streak of 100+ rushing yard performances to seven. Michigan State leads the NCAA in run defense, giving up an average of only 64.8 rushing yards per game, led by the Spartans senior linebacker duo of MLB Max Bullough (6-3, 245, 4.78, #40) and SLB Denicos Allen (5-11, 224, 4.73, #28), who have combined for 156 total tackles this season.
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford vs. Ohio State WLB Ryan Shazier
While Hyde leads the Big Ten in several rushing categories, junior RB Jeremy Langford (5-11, 206, 4.49, #33) leads the conference in rushing scores (16). Despite a slow start, he has rushed for at least 100 yards in the last seven games and is no stranger to the end zone, showing improved decision-making, vision and controlled short-area quickness. The Buckeyes defense hasn’t been a strength in 2013, but the Ohio State run defense ranks fifth nationally and a substantial reason for that is junior WLB Ryan Shazier (6-2, 230, 4.58, #2), who has video game stats this season (122 tackles, 21.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 4 FF). His range, competitiveness and instincts allow him to find the quickest way from A-to-B.
Michigan State WR Bennie Fowler /WR Tony Lippett vs. Ohio State CB Bradley Roby
Junior CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 192, 4.39, #1) appeared to make up his mind prior to the season that this would be his final year in Columbus, despite an up-and-down performance it seems each week. There is no questioning his speed, foot quickness and overall fluidity, which allow him to make plays in the secondary. But Roby’s inconsistent play in 2013 is a concern and he needs to stay alert, play smarter and develop his feel on the outside if he hopes to find sustained success in the NFL. Senior WR Bennie Fowler (6-1, 212, 4.53, #13) will make some terrific grabs with his catching radius, but he also drops too many easy ones. Junior WR Tony Lippett (6-2, 185, 4.52, #14) leads the team with 35 catches.
OTHER BUCKEYES PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
LOT Jack Mewhort , RS senior (6-6, 308, 5.28, #74)
WR Corey Brown, senior (5-11, 190, 4.38, #10)
FS C.J. Barnett , senior (6-0, 205, 4.59, #4)
LG Andrew Norwell , senior (6-6, 316, 5.33, #78)
C Corey Linsley , RS senior (6-3, 298, 5.24, #71)
RG Marcus Hall , RS senior (6-5, 315, 5.28, #79)
OTHER SPARTANS PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DE Shilique Calhoun , RS sophomore (6-4, 248, 4.64, #89)
SS Isaiah Lewis , senior (5-10, 210, 4.54, #9)
ROT Fou Fonoti , RS senior (6-5, 305, 5.27, #51)
QB Connor Cook , RS sophomore (6-3, 218, 4.89, #18)
LG Blake Treadwell , RS senior (6-3, 300, 5.23, #64)
DE Marcus Rush , RS junior (6-2, 250, 4.68, #44)
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH:
OKLAHOMA at OKLAHOMA STATE
Stillwater, Okla. – ABC
WHEN THE SOONERS HAVE THE BALL…
Although the production hasn’t been overwhelming, senior WR Jalen Saunders (5-9, 164, 4.49, #8) is still considered one of the top senior receivers for the 2014 class. He flourishes in the slot with his twitchy athleticism to create with the ball in his hands. The Sooners should rely on Saunders with senior CB Justin Gilbert (6-0, 200, 4.52, #4) patrolling the outside for the Cowboys. A match-up to watch in the trenches is Sooners senior C Gabe Ikard (6-3, 298, 5.17, #64) when he faces senior DT Calvin Barnett (6-2, 300, 5.06, #99).
WHEN THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BALL…
Despite a two-quarterback system to start the season, senior QB Clint Chelf (6-1, 210, 4.58, #10) has separated himself as the Cowboys main signal caller, helping to push his draft value into the PFA range. His top target will face a tough challenge as senior WR Tracy Moore (6-1, 215, 4.56, #87), who leads the team in receiving yards (595) and touchdown catches (6), lines up across from senior CB Aaron Colvin (6-0, 182, 4.48, #14). Although it’s been somewhat of a quiet season for the Sooners corner, Colvin’s aggressive attitude makes him intriguing.
OTHER OKLAHOMA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WLB Shaun Lewis , senior (5-11, 225, 4.74, #11)
FS Daytawion Lowe , RS senior (5-11, 205, 4.59, #8)
SS Shamiel Gary , RS senior (6-0, 210, 4.60, #7)
ILB Caleb Lavey , senior (6-2, 235, 4.64, #45)
OTHER OKLAHOMA STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
CB Gabe Lynn , RS senior (6-0, 199, 4.65, #9)
WR Jaz Reynolds , RS senior (6-2, 200, 4.54, #16)
RB Brennan Clay , senior (5-11, 198, 4.56, #24)
RB Roy Finch , senior (5-7, 167, 4.45, #22)
TEXAS at BAYLOR
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Waco, Texas – ESPN2
WHEN THE LONGHORNS HAVE THE BALL…
Senior WR Mike Davis (6-2, 195, 4.52, #1) has been a productive vertical threat this season and has been Texas Longhorns ’ top target with 701 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Although he ranks third on the team in rushing, junior RB Joe Bergeron (6-1, 240, 4.60, #24) is the guy to watch for the Longhorns in the ground game. His combination of foot quickness, balance and brute power will draw Le’Veon Bell comparisons. On defense, senior LB Eddie Lackey (5-11, 220, 4.68, #5) lacks ideal measureables, but he sniffs out the ballcarrier.
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL…
Junior RB Lache Seastrunk (5-9, 210, 4.45, #25) returned to the field last week after missing the previous few games due to injury. He is just 18 rushing yards shy of the 1,000-yard plateau and is expected to forego his senior season for the NFL Draft. A player who will definitely be a part of the 2014 class is LG Cyril Richardson (6-5, 340, 5.27, #68), who helps open the gaping holes for Seastrunk. After a career performance last week with three sacks, can senior DE Jackson Jeffcoat (6-4, 252, 4.78, #44) keep that momentum going into this game?
OTHER TEXAS PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
CB Carrington Byndom , senior (6-0, 182, 4.53, #23)
LOT Donald Hawkins , senior (6-5, 312, 5.28, #51)
LG Trey Hopkins , senior (6-4, 302, 5.26, #75)
RG Mason Walters , RS senior (6-5, 320, 5.22, #72)
OTHER BAYLOR PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
SS Ahmad Dixon , senior (6-0, 205, 4.55, #6)
CB K.J. Morton , senior (5-10, 190, 4.57, #8)
DE Shawn Oakman , RS sophomore (6-8, 285, 4.92, #2)
QB Bryce Petty , RS junior (6-2, 230, 4.74, #14)
MISSOURI vs. AUBURN
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Atlanta – CBS
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL…
Despite his mid-season injury, senior QB James Franklin (6-2, 230, 4.72, #1) is having the best year statistically of his career with 1,952 passing yards and 19 total scores. He likely won’t warrant a draft pick, but has been a large reason the Tigers have only one loss this season. He will be running from senior DE/OLB Dee Ford (6-2, 240, 4.72, #30) much of the night, Auburn Tigers ’s top pass rusher with eight sacks. Missouri Tigers has a pair of underrated SR wideouts with WR L’Damian Washington (6-4, 205, 4.39, #2) and WR Marcus Lucas (6-4, 220, 4.58, #85).
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL…
Auburn’s explosive rush attack is led by juniors QB Nick Marsh all (6-1, 210, 4.64, #14) and RB Tre Mason (5-9, 205, 4.54, #21), who have combined for 2,379 rushing yards this season. One of the top prospect match-ups to track in this contest will be the pass rushers of Missouri against Auburn RS sophomore LOT Greg Robinson (6-5, 320, 5.38, #73). Senior DE Michael Sam (6-2, 255, 4.74, #52) is among the SEC leaders in sacks (10.0) and TFL (18.0), but don’t overlook junior DE Kony Ealy (6-5, 275, 4.77, #47) who projects very well to the NFL.
OTHER MISSOURI PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
CB E.J. Gaines , senior (5-10, 195, 4.44, #31)
ILB Andrew Wilson , RS senior (6-3, 240, 4.72, #48)
RB Henry Josey , RS junior (5-10, 190, 4.49, #20)
OT Justin Britt , RS senior (6-6, 315, 5.28, #68)
OTHER AUBURN PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
FB Jay Prosch , RS senior (6-0, 258, 4.67, #35)
DT Jeffrey Whitaker , senior (6-3, 310, 5.32, #54)
CB Chris Davis , senior (5-10, 200, 4.54, #11)
DT Gabe Wright , junior (6-2, 296, 4.98, #90)
STANFORD at ARIZONA STATE
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Tempe, Ariz. – ESPN
WHEN THE CARDINAL HAVE THE BALL…
In their match-up earlier this season, senior RB Tyler Gaffney (6-0, 226, 4.57, #25) ran for a pair of touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry against the Sun Devils. Junior WR Ty Montgomery (6-2, 215, 4.52, #7) also had two scores against Arizona State earlier this season, the only two touchdowns RS sophomore QB Kevin Hogan (6-4, 228, 4.84, #8) threw that game. On defense, Arizona State Sun Devils has a pair of studs on the defensive line with senior DT Will Sutton (6-0, 305, 4.94, #90) and junior DE/OLB Carl Bradford (6-1, 243, 4.73, #52).
WHEN THE SUN DEVILS HAVE THE BALL…
While the Arizona State offense certainly has the firepower to score against Stanford Cardinal , they’ll likely be without their top scorer, senior RB Marion Grice (6-0, 207, 4.54, #1), who is battling a leg injury. The first time these two teams met this season, senior ILB Shayne Skov (6-2, 245, 4.95, #11) led the team with nine tackles, including 1.5 TFL and a sack. Senior DE Trent Murphy (6-6, 261, 4.86, #93) will look to boost his already gaudy pass rush statistics, leading the Pac 12 with 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks on the season.
OTHER STANFORD PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DE Josh Mauro , RS senior (6-6, 282, 4.98, #90)
FB Ryan Hewitt , RS senior (6-4, 246, 4.86, #85)
LG David Yankey , RS junior (6-5, 314, 5.08, #54)
RG Kevin Danser , RS senior (6-5, 296, 5.73, #76)
OTHER ARIZONA STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
CB Osahon Irabor , RS senior (5-11, 186, 4.50, #24)
SS Alden Darby , senior (5-11, 195, 4.50, #4)
TE Chris Coyle , RS senior (6-2, 240, 4.67, #87)
LOT Evan Finkenberg , RS senior (6-4, 298, 5.17, #62)
DUKE vs. FLORIDA STATE
Saturday, 8 p.m.
Charlotte, N.C. – ABC
WHEN THE BLUE DEVILS HAVE THE BALL…
The Blue Devils are led by several underclassmen on offense, specifically juniors QB Anthony Boone (6-0, 230, 4.77, #7) and WR Jamison Crowder (5-9, 175, 4.60, #3), who are names to remember for next year. The Seminoles defense is a fun group to watch because of the NFL talent at all levels. Seniors DB Lamarcus Joyner (5-8, 190, 4.52, #20) and WLB Telvin Smith (6-2, 218, 4.60, #22) don’t look like much physically, but they have the play speed and football awareness that allows them to be productive against both the pass and the run.
WHEN THE SEMINOLES HAVE THE BALL…
Florida State Seminoles has future pros sprinkled all over the offense. At receiver, junior WR Rashad Greene (6-0, 180, 4.49, #80) and RS sophomore WR Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 235, 4.62, #1) have combined for 21 receiving touchdowns this season. The Seminoles receiving group will test Duke Blue Devils , especially its top cover man, senior CB Ross Cockrell (6-0, 182, 4.52, #6). In the trenches, junior LOT Cameron Erving (6-5, 320, 5.26, #75) has grown considerably since the beginning of the year and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he ends up drafted top-32.
OTHER DUKE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DE Kenny Anunike , RS senior (6-4, 260, 4.84, #84)
ROT Perry Simmons , RS senior (6-5, 300, 4.95, #72)
RG Laken Tomlinson , RS junior (6-3, 320, 5.29, #77)
LOT Takoby Cofield , RS junior (6-4, 305, 5.37, #73)
OTHER FLORIDA STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DT Timmy Jernigan , junior (6-2, 298, 4.98, #8)
RB James Wilder Jr., junior (6-1, 229, 4.57, #32)
FS Terrence Brooks , senior (5-11, 200, 4.53, #31)
C Bryan Stork , RS senior (6-4, 300, 5.20, #52)
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