Wisconsin vs. LSU
Sat., Aug. 30, 9 p.m. ET
Houston, Texas -- ESPN
With the introduction of the College Football Playoff this season, look for more and more non-conference matchups between marquee programs like this contest in Houston. LSU and Wisconsin haven't faced each other since 1972 and it marks only the third time that the two teams have matched up (LSU won the previous two meetings). Although the Tigers are favored in this game, it will feature more than a dozen NFL prospects on both sides of the ball and on both sidelines.
Five prospects to focus on
RB Melvin Gordon, rJR, Wisconsin (6-feet-1, 207 pounds): Over the years, Wisconsin has been known for their mauling offense lines and talented backs who take advantage of the hogs up front. But Gordon creates a lot of yardage by himself and that will be tested in this match-up vs. a SEC defense. He has a well-rounded skill-set and is elite in two areas: balance and acceleration. Gordon goes 0-to-60 in a flash and bursts to top speed quickly with the vision and patience to follow blocks and find holes to daylight. His body type isn't ideal, but he lowers his pads and keeps his legs pumping (think Jamaal Charles). Gordon, who finished with 1,609 rushing yards last season, averaged only 16 touches per game in 2013, but look for that number to go up in 2014.
RB Terrence Magee, SR, LSU (5-9, 214): There has been so much hype around true freshman RB Leonard Fournette that Magee seems to be under the radar entering the 2014 season. But NFL scouts are well aware of the talented runner with several around the league ranking him among the top three senior prospects at the position. Magee, who will don the coveted No. 18 jersey for the Tigers this season, finished second on the team in rushing in 2013 with 644 yards on 86 carries, averaging a team-best 7.3 yards per carry. He has a compact build and runs low to the ground, showing fight and determination to get every yard he can. Magee isn't the fastest or most elusive, but he wins with vision and feel as an inside runner to follow his blocks.
LT La'el Collins, SR, LSU (6-5, 315): One of the top high school recruits four years ago, Collins started 13 games at left guard as a sophomore before moving to left tackle as a junior last season. He is expected to return to left tackle as a senior, but several around the league seem split on whether his best NFL position will be guard or tackle. Collins has a well-proportioned frame to square his shoulders and play with a strong base, using his physical mentality to finish once he gets his hands on defenders. He is agile, but not explosive and is often the last lineman to move off the snap, displaying average-at-best kickslide quickness and footwork that is more choppy than smooth. Collins projects as a serviceable NFL swing OT but might be best at OG.
SS Ronald Martin, SR, LSU (6-1, 218): LSU struggled with inconsistent safety play last season and enter 2014 with question marks at the position. Martin, who started seven games last season before an injury sidelined him, is the most senior member of the Tigers' secondary and will be expected to take on a leadership role for his final season in Baton Rouge. He lost almost 20 pounds from last year in hopes of playing faster and looser to better break down on the move to be more consistent as a tackler and recover after aggressive steps. With Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon regularly getting to the second level, NFL scouts will be focusing on Martin to see if he's able to take accurate angles to the ball and finish at the ballcarrier.
DE Jermauria Rasco, SR, LSU (6-3, 262): Despite only four sacks last season, Rasco was the team leader in that category as a first-year starter in 2013. He is the only senior projected to start on the Tigers' defensive line in 2014 and will be expected to take on more of a leadership role this season. Although not a sudden or quick-twitch rusher, Rasco plays fast and active with sharp angles and good vision to the quarterback. He has a bad habit of popping upright and struggling to shed at the point of attack, but he also led all LSU defensive linemen with five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, timing his jumps well even when he doesn't get to the quarterback. Although not flashy, Rasco is a steady performer with All-SEC ability.
Other Wisconsin prospects to watch
NG Warren Herring, rSR (6-2, 294)
TE Sam Arneson, SR (6-4, 254)
LT Tyler Marz, rJR (6-5, 321)
RT Rob Havenstein, rSR (6-8, 327)
LG Dallas Lewallen, rSR (6-6, 322)
RG Kyle Costigan, rSR (6-4, 315)
Other LSU prospects to watch
FS Jalen Mills, JR (6-1, 189)
LG Vadal Alexander, JR (6-6, 342)
RB Kenny Hilliard, SR (6-0, 233)
TE Travis Dickson, rSR (6-3, 230)
RG Hoko Fanaika, SR (6-6, 348)
ILB D.J. Welter, rSR (6-0, 235)
Other matchups to watch
Texas A&M at South Carolina
Thu., Aug. 28, 6 p.m. ET
Columbia, SC -- SEC Network
When the Aggies have the ball ...
The Manziel-less Texas A&M offense begins a new chapter in 2014 with only five returning starters, but senior LT Cedric Ogbuehi (6-5 | 300 | 5.15 | #70) is a valuable returner and also one of the top NFL prospects in the country. He moves from right tackle to left tackle as a senior, replacing Jake Matthews, and will have the benefit of not having to face Jadeveon Clowney or Chaz Sutton for the Gamecocks. Moving from RG, RS sophomore RT German Ifedi (6-5 | 312 | 5.34 | #74) takes over Ogbuehi's old spot and has NFL talent himself.
When the Gamecocks have the ball ...
A prospect expected to go pro after this season, junior RB Mike Davis (5-9 | 215 | 4.52 | #28) was considered questionable for this contest so his status is something to watch. Whoever is toting the rock for South Carolina has the opportunity to run behind one of the SEC's top offensive lines. RS senior LG A.J. Cann (6-3 | 314 | 5.08 | #50) has an excellent mix of power and agility and is one of the top senior prospects at his position. RS senior LT Corey Robinson (6-6 | 341 | 5.36 | #53) has a wide base, but suspect body control and still needs a lot of work.
Other Texas A&M prospects to watch
LG Jarvis Harrison, RS Senior (6-3 | 325 | 5.27 | #51)
CB Deshazor Everett, Senior (5-11 | 188 | 4.54 | #29)
C Mike Matthews, Junior (6-2 | 285 | 5.12 | #56)
RB Trey Williams, Junior (5-8 | 195 | 4.46 | #3)
Other South Carolina prospects to watch
DT J.T. Surratt, RS Senior (6-2 | 305 | 5.08 | #97)
TE Rory Anderson, Senior (6-5 | 232 | 4.73 | #81)
SS Brison Williams, Senior (5-11 | 218 | 4.57 | #12)
SPUR Sharrod Golightly, RS Senior (5-10 | 205 | 4.57 | #9)
UCLA at Virginia
Sat., Aug. 30, noon ET
Charlottesville, Va. -- ESPN
When the Bruins have the ball ...
Over the past two seasons, RS junior QB Brett Hundley (6-3 | 227 | 4.64 | #17) has flashed outstanding NFL potential with the natural tools pro scouts look for at the position. Is this the season he takes the next step in his development? Time will tell and it starts with an underrated road test in Charlottesville. Senior SS Anthony Harris (6-1 | 190 | 4.57 | #8) is a ballhawking safety and ranks as one of the top safety prospects in all of college football. He and junior DE Eli Harold (6-4 | 235 | 4.73 | #7) are Virginia's top prospects on defense.
When the Cavaliers have the ball ...
The offense is a large reason Virginia had just two wins last season so there is a lot of room for improvement. RS senior RB Kevin Parks (5-8 | 205 | 4.53 | #25) led the team in rushing last season with 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns and is a borderline draftable player entering his final collegiate season. On defense, the Bruins lose top-10 pick LB Anthony Barr, but return several impact players and potential top-100 prospects, including RS senior ILB Eric Kendricks (6-0 | 230 | 4.68 | #6) and junior DT Ellis McCarthy (6-4 | 330 | 5.18 | #90).
Other UCLA prospects to watch
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, RS senior (6-3|270|4.79|#94)
RB Jordan James, RS senior (5-9 | 196 | 4.49 | #6)
LG Malcolm Bunche, RS senior (6-7 | 327 | 5.24 | #78
FS Anthony Jefferson, RS senior (6-1 | 190 | 4.58 | #23)
Other Virginia prospects to watch
CB Demetrious Nicholson, senior (5-10 | 185 | 4.48 | #1)
ILB Henry Coley, RS senior (6-1 | 230 | 4.92 | #44)
WR Darius Jennings, senior (5-11 | 175 | 4.49 | #6)
WLB Daquan Romero, senior (6-1 | 235 | 4.76 | #13)
West Virginia at Alabama
Sat., Aug. 30, 3:30 p.m. ET
Tuscaloosa, Ala. -- ABC
When the Mountaineers have the ball ...
West Virginia is forced to replace RB Charles Sims in the backfield, but have a handful of capable backs, led by senior RB Dreamius Smith (5-11 | 216 | 4.59 | #2). One of his blockers up front, RS senior LG Quinton Spain (6-5 | 332 | 5.36 | #67), has received a lot of pre-season buzz, but his passive, top-heavy skill-set leaves a lot to be desired. Despite losing seven starters, Alabama's defense will be one of the best in the SEC again in 2014, led by junior FS Landon Collins (6-0 | 215 | 4.53 | #26), who looks like the top safety prospect in the nation.
When the Crimson Tide have the ball ...
Although Alabama is breaking in a new quarterback, the Tide return plenty of impact prospects at the skill positions, including juniors WR Amari Cooper (6-1 | 202 | 4.56 | #9) and RB T.J. Yeldon (6-2 | 218 | 4.46 | #4). Neither are elite prospects, but both project as potential top-50 picks next spring with well-rounded skill-sets that translate well to the NFL game. For the WVU defense, the most intriguing prospect to watch is senior DE Shaquille Riddick (6-5 | 242 | 4.82 | #98), who transferred to Morgantown from Gardner-Webb this summer.
Other West Virginia prospects to watch
RB Rushel Shell, RS sophomore (6-0 | 210 | 4.57 | #7)
FS Karl Joseph, junior (5-10 | 196 | 4.63 | #8)
WR Kevin White, senior (6-3 | 209 | 4.49 | #11)
WR Mario Alford, senior (5-8 | 178 | 4.39 | #5)
Other Alabama prospects to watch
LG Arie Kouandjio, RS senior (6-5 | 318 | 5.43 | #77)
ILB Trey DePriest, senior (6-1 | 245 | 4.82 | #33)
WR Christion Jones, senior (5-11 | 187 | 4.56 | #22)
DT Brandon Ivory, RS senior (6-3 | 312 | 5.38 | #99)
Clemson at Georgia
Sat., Aug. 30, 5:30 p.m. ET
Athens, Ga. -- ESPN
When the Tigers have the ball ...
No offense in the nation is forced to replace more firepower than Clemson with QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins and others now in the NFL. Senior QB Cole Stoudt (6-4 | 210 | 4.86 | #18) has waited his turn to be the starter, but faces a tough test in his first career start in a hostile environment. The Bulldogs return 11 of their top 13 tacklers from a year ago, led by senior MLB Ramik Wilson (6-2 | 232 | 4.76 | #51), junior OLB Jordan Jenkins (6-2 | 246 | 4.76 | #59) and RS sophomore SLB Leonard Floyd (6-3 | 220 | 4.73 | #84).
When the Bulldogs have the ball ...
Georgia's backfield was banged up last year, but when healthy, juniors RB Todd Gurley (6-1 | 232 | 4.54 | #3) and RB Keith Marshall (5-11 | 219 | 4.49 | #4) might be the best tandem in the country. Gurley has the type of NFL potential to hear his name called in the first round and the coaching staff is hopeful that Marshall will be 100% by the season opener. For the Clemson defense, RS senior OLB Vic Beasley (6-2 | 235 | 4.58 | #3) and senior DT Grady Jarrett (6-1 | 295 | 5.03 | #50) are the tone-setters and both are highly graded by NFL scouts.
Other Clemson prospects to watch
ILB Stephone Anthony, senior (6-2 | 245 | 4.78 | #42)
WR Charone Peake, RS junior (6-2 | 205 | 4.42 | #19)
CB Garry Peters, RS senior (6-0 | 185 | 4.50 | #26)
WR Adam Humphries, senior (5-11 | 190 | 4.58 | #13)
Other Georgia prospects to watch
QB Hutson Mason, RS senior (6-2 | 202 | 4.96 | #14)
CB Damian Swann, senior (5-11 | 178 | 4.52 | #5)
ILB Amarlo Herrera, senior (6-0 | 244 | 4.77 | #52)
C David Andrews, senior (6-2 | 295 | 5.15 | #61)
Florida State vs. Oklahoma State
Sat., Aug. 30, 8 p.m. ET
Arlington, Tex. -- ABC
When the Seminoles have the ball ...
Can RS sophomore QB Jameis Winston (6-4 | 235 | 4.83 | #5) repeat his unprecedented success from 2014? And if he does, will he make the jump to the NFL? The Winston storylines will be fascinating to watch, both on and off the field. Florida State must replace 2013's leading rusher RB Devonta Freeman, but senior RB Karlos Williams (6-1 | 219 | 4.42 | #9) might be the top senior back in the country. Also gone is WR Kelvin Benjamin, but senior WR Rashad Greene (6-0 | 178 | 4.47 | #80) is one of the top WR prospects for the 2015 class.
When the Cowboys have the ball ...
The Seminoles' defense produced four draft picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, but are once again loaded to make another run at the National Title. Florida State must replace Lamarcus Joyner and Terrance Brooks at safety, but have one of the best cornerback groups in the country led by juniors CB P.J. Williams (6-0 | 196 | 4.48 | #26) and CB Ronald Darby (5-11 | 188 | 4.46 | #3). Junior DE Mario Edwards (6-3 | 294 | 4.88 | #15) is a former top high school recruit and the light bulb seemed to come on for him last season, setting the stage for a big 2014.
Other Florida State prospects to watch
LG Josue Matias, senior (6-6 | 331 | 5.32 | #70)
LT Cameron Erving, RS senior (6-5 | 304 | 5.16 | #75)
RG Tre Jackson, senior (6-4 | 339 | 5.38 | #54)
TE Nick O'Leary, senior (6-3 | 244 | 4.76 | #35)
Other Oklahoma State prospects to watch
DT James Castleman, senior (6-2 | 300 | 5.12 | #91)
RB Desmond Roland, senior (6-2 | 210 | 4.62 | #26)
CB Kevin Peterson, junior (5-11 | 185 | 4.58 | #1)
OT Daniel Koenig, RS senior (6-6 | 300 | 5.30 | #58)
Utah State at Tennessee
Sunday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m. ET
Knoxville, Tenn. -- SEC Network
When the Aggies have the ball ...
Although not a household name, senior QB Chuckie Keeton (6-1 | 200 | 4.67 | #16) is one of the top senior prospects at his position in the country. He tore the ACL in his left knee last October and will face a tough test in his return to the field as he leads the Aggies into SEC Country to face the Vols. Keeton has an energetic play style with laser arm strength and the gamer mentality that could make him a Heisman candidate. Tennessee's talented senior MLB A.J. Johnson (6-2 | 243 | 4.73 | #45) will likely be spying Keeton most of the game.
When the Volunteers have the ball ...
The SEC lost a number of notable starting quarterbacks from a year ago, but senior QB Justin Worley (6-4 | 224 | 4.92 | #14) returns for the Volunteers and leads an offense that must replace all five offensive line starters. For the Utah State defense, RS junior OLB Kyler Fackrell (6-5 | 245 | 4.74 | #9) is a jack-of-all-trades type with the ability to rush the passer, drop in space and play the run. He has some limitations, but is putting himself on the draftable map. RS senior FS Brian Suite (6-3 | 205 | 4.71 | #21) is also worth watching.
Other Utah State prospects to watch
DE B.J. Larsen, RS senior (6-5 | 275 | 4.96 | #99)
ILB Zach Vigil, RS senior (6-2 | 232 | 4.86 | #53)
RB Joe Hill, senior (5-11 | 190 | 4.57 | #32)
RG Bill Vavau, senior (6-4 | 314 | 5.18 | #68)
Other Tennessee prospects to watch
CB Justin Coleman, senior (5-10 | 190 | 4.53 | #27)
RB Marlin Lane, senior (5-11 | 210 | 4.59 | #15)
TE Brendan Downs, senior (6-5 | 228 | 4.76 | #85)
WR Jacob Carter, RS senior (6-0 | 190 | 4.65 | #87)