ALABAMA at TEXAS A&M
Saturday, September 14, 3:30 p.m.
College Station, Texas – CBS
It's rare that arguably the biggest game of the college football season will take place in September, but then again, I don't hear anyone complaining. The Tide has been waiting almost a year to get their revenge against Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, who ended Alabama's unbeaten season in 2012. It was his performance against the Crimson Tide that won “Johnny Football” the Heisman Trophy and many of the returning defensive starters, like linebacker C.J. Mosley, haven't forgot about that. Manziel hasn't encountered much adversity on the field (as opposed to off of it) in his young career, but Nick Saban has had a lot of time to scheme and game plan against the elusive passer so it will be interesting to watch. Bottom line, a big reason Alabama is the favorite in this game? The Crimson Tide's roster simply has a greater number of future NFL Draft picks.
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel vs. Alabama OLB C.J. Mosley
The off-field conversation regarding redshirt sophomore QB Johnny Manziel (6-0, 208, 4.45, #2) should take a back seat this week because his on-field performance in this match-up is paramount for NFL scouts. Last year, Alabama simply didn't have an answer for his backyard-style of quarterbacking and improvisational skills, what will Nick Saban have prepared for Johnny Football in this year's match-up? I expect senior WLB C.J. Mosley (6-2, 232, 4.65, #32) to have a much bigger role in Alabama's game plan this year to stop the athletic quarterback. Mosley is best known for his outstanding ability in coverage, but he has above average instincts against the run and will shadow #2 for much of the game.
Texas A&M LT Jake Matthews/RT Cedric Ogbuehi vs. Alabama DE Ed Stinson/OLB Adrian Hubbard
While it's tough to find a better offensive tackle tandem as the Aggies showcased last season, the 2013 version with senior LT Jake Matthews (6-5, 308, 5.08, #75) moving over from the right side and junior RT Cedric Ogbuehi (6-5, 300, 5.15, #70) moving kicking out from right guard comes pretty darn close. Matthews is a frontrunner for the draft's top-five picks next May and Ogbuehi is an up-and-coming prospect with early round traits. They'll both be challenged in this game with the Crimson Tide pass rush, specifically senior DE Ed Stinson (6-3, 282, 4.87, #49), who will line up directly over the tackle and junior SLB Adrian Hubbard (6-5, 252, 4.76, #42), who appears at No. 42 overall in the NDS top-50.
Texas A&M RB Ben Malena vs. Alabama FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Texas A&M produced a second round running back last April (Christine Michael), but he played behind senior RB Ben Malena (5-8, 198, 4.54, #1) last season. Malena finished second on the team in rushing a year ago (behind Manziel) and brings an initial burst and elusiveness to the Aggies' offense, winning with his vision and short-area quickness to create. One of the top safeties in the country, junior FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6-1, 208, 4.54, #6) is probably best known for his unique name, but Saturday could be his introduction to those who don't yet know about his athletic and playmaking skill-set. Clinton-Dix will be a force against both the pass and the run with his range and fearless playing style.
Alabama LT Cyrus Kouandjio vs. Texas A&M pass rushers
During film study over the summer, I came away much more impressed with junior LT Cyrus Kouandjio (6-5, 310, 5.12, #71) than I had initially thought. But in the season opener against Virginia Tech two weeks ago, he had a very inconsistent performance against the speedy edge rushers. Kouandjio is a balanced athlete with NFL length who shifts his weight naturally in his movements and uses very good eye use and footwork to mirror defenders. But his hand placement is a work in progress and his tendency to grab got him in trouble against the Hokies' pass rushers and something he'll need to clean up before he's ready for the NFL. But nonetheless, his skill-set is what scouts seek for the position.
OTHER ALABAMA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
RG Anthony Steen, RS senior (6-2, 312, 5.22, #61)
WR Christion Jones, junior (5-11, 185, 4.56, #22)
SS Vinnie Sunseri, junior (6-0, 210, 4.64, #3)
QB A.J. McCarron, RS senior (6-3, 214, 4.84, #10)
WR Kevin Norwood, RS senior (6-1, 195, 4.58, #83)
CB Deion Belue, senior (5-11, 185, 4.48, #13)
OTHER TEXAS A&M PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WR Mike Evans, RS sophomore (6-4, 225, 4.58, #13)
LG Jarvis Harrison, RS junior (6-3, 320, 5.03, #51)
CB Deshazor Everett, junior (6-0, 182, 4.63, #29)
WR Derel Walker, senior (6-2, 185, 4.59, #11)
TE Nehemiah Hicks, senior (6-4, 250, 4.68, #81)
OLB Steven Jenkins, RS senior (6-2, 224, 4.65, #45)
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH:
TCU at TEXAS TECH
Thursday, Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Lubbock, Texas – ESPN
WHEN THE HORNED FROGS HAVE THE BALL…
This season was supposed to be the comeback for senior QB Casey Pachall (6-4, 230, 4.89, #4) and the first step to his attempt at a pro career. But he will miss at least the next two months due to a break in his non-throwing arm, making the pre-draft process paramount to his NFL chances. The Red Raiders lack any elite prospects on defense, but they do have several impact defenders who are likely third day prospects next May, including seniors DT Kerry Hyder (6-2, 280, 4.98, #91) and OLB Terrance Bullitt (6-2, 221, 4.76, #1).
WHEN THE RED RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL…
Texas Tech has a walk-on freshman at quarterback trying to replace Seth Doege, but luckily for Baker Mayfield, he has several talented targets to utilize on offense. Junior TE Jace Amaro (6-5, 257, 4.67, #22) is just scratching the surface of his ability and has the chance to blossom this year into a blue-chip NFL prospect. Senior WR Eric Ward (5-11, 206, 4.54, #18) will leave Lubbock as one of the most accomplished wideouts in TT history, but he'll have a tough test in this contest lined up against senior CB Jason Verrett (5-10, 178, 4.49, #2).
OTHER TCU PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
FS Elisha Olabode, senior (5-9, 195, 4.52, #6)
WR Brandon Carter, junior (5-11, 186, 4.46, #3)
RB Waymon James, RS senior (5-8, 203, 4.63, #32)
SS Sam Carter, RS junior (6-0, 215, 4.62, #17)
OTHER TEXAS TECH PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
OT Le'Raven Clark, RS sophomore (6-5, 303, 5.06, #62)
FS Tre Porter, senior (5-11, 202, 4.57, #5)
RB Kenny Williams, junior (5-9, 220, 4.58, #34)
ILB Will Smith, senior (6-2, 225, 4.86, #7)
UCLA at NEBRASKA
Saturday, Sept. 14, Noon
Lincoln, Neb. – ABC
WHEN THE BRUINS HAVE THE BALL…
Last year against Nebraska was the coming out party for RS sophomore QB Brett Hundley (6-3, 227, 4.68, #17) as he passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns in just his second career start. He finished with 38 total scores last year and has a bright NFL future if he continues his development. Blocking for him up front, junior LG Xavier Su'a-Filo (6-3, 305, 5.18, #56) has the natural ability to be the best draft-eligible interior lineman in the country. On defense, senior CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-2, 214, 4.56, #16) is an intriguing work-in-progress DB.
WHEN THE CORNHUSKERS HAVE THE BALL…
While UCLA has a potential top-10 prospect on offense with Hundley, the Bruins also have another elite-worthy player on defense with senior OLB Anthony Barr (6-4, 248, 4.48, #11). He tallied 13.5 sacks in his first season on defense last year so all eyes are on him to see what he does for an encore in 2013. Also on the UCLA defensive line, senior DE Cassius Marsh (6-4, 262, 4.92, #99) is worth watching as he goes up against a tough and experienced Nebraska offensive line led by RT Andrew Rodriguez (6-5, 330, 5.37, #63).
OTHER UCLA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WR Shaquelle Evans, RS senior (6-1, 210, 4.52, #1)
RB Jordan James, RS junior (5-8, 193, 4.48, #6)
ILB Jordan Zumwalt, senior (6-3, 236, 4.72, #35)
ILB Eric Kendricks, RS junior (6-0, 228, 4.67, #6)
OTHER NEBRASKA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WR Kenny Bell, RS junior (6-1, 185, 4.55, #80)
RG Spencer Long, RS senior (6-4, 315, 5.16, #61)
WR Quincy Enunwa, senior (6-2, 225, 4.52, #18)
CB Ciante Evans, senior (5-10, 190, 4.50, #17)
TENNESSEE at OREGON
Saturday, Sept. 14, 3:30 p.m.
Eugene, Ore. – ABC
WHEN THE VOLUNTEERS HAVE THE BALL…
Tennessee lost a lot of playmakers on offense, including their quarterback and top-four leading receivers. But the Vols do return a veteran and battle-tested offensive line, led by junior LT Antonio Richardson (6-6, 332, 5.16, #74) and senior RT JaWuan James (6-6, 324, 5.28, #70). Along with their three starters on the interior, Tennessee could see all five of their starting offensive linemen drafted next May. Oregon has NFL talent on defense led by senior DE Taylor Hart (6-6, 292, 4.92, #66) and junior CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (5-10, 190, 4.52, #14).
WHEN THE DUCKS HAVE THE BALL…
No Chip Kelly? No problem. The Ducks haven't shown signs of slowing down on offense. Redshirt sophomore QB Marcus Mariota (6-3, 214, 4.53, #8) is already drawing Colin Kaepernick comparisons by some around the league with his size/athleticism combo and overall arm talent. Oregon has several weapons around him to make things easier, most notably juniors RB De'Anthony Thomas (5-9, 178, 4.34, #6) and TE Colt Lyerla (6-5, 246, 4.59, #15), who both have first round potential based on their gifted athleticism at their respective position.
OTHER TENNESSEE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DT Daniel McCullers, senior (6-6, 351, 5.18, #98)
ILB A.J. Johnson, junior (6-2, 240, 4.73, #45)
C James Stone, senior (6-3, 302, 5.27, #64)
RG Zach Fulton, senior (6-5, 324, 5.34, #72)
OTHER OREGON PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
C Hroniss Grasu, RS junior (6-3, 295, 4.96, #55)
WR Josh Huff, senior (5-11, 205, 4.46, #1)
OLB Boseko Lokombo, RS senior (6-3, 232, 4.62, #25)
FS Brian Jackson, RS senior (5-10, 205, 4.58, #12)
OHIO STATE at CALIFORNIA
Saturday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m.
Berkeley, Calif. – FOX
WHEN THE BUCKEYES HAVE THE BALL…
After suffering a sprained ligament in his left knee last week, junior QB Braxton Miller (6-1, 215, 4.46, #5) is expected to be a game-time decision whether or not he'll play in this match-up. If he isn't able to go, the Buckeyes' offense is in good hands with senior QB Kenny Guiton (6-2, 208, 4.69, #13), who has played like he would be starting on several other teams around the country. Cal's top prospect is senior DT Deandre Coleman (6-5, 315, 5.12, #91), who is off to a solid start, but was recently called a “non-factor” by his head coach.
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL…
The Golden Bears are very young on the offensive side of the ball with 10 underclassmen starters. Cal's top rusher is junior RB Brendan Bigelow (5-10, 187, 4.46, #5), who set a career-high against the Buckeyes defense last season with 160 yards on the ground with a pair of scores. Junior CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 193, 4.39, #1) returned from his one-game suspension last week and showed a little bit of rust, but he wasn't tested. An underrated senior prospect is SS Christian Bryant (5-9, 192, 4.54, #2) who flies around the field like a missile.
OTHER OHIO STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WLB Ryan Shazier, junior (6-2, 226, 4.58, #10)
LT Jack Mewhort, RS senior (6-6, 308, 5.28, #74)
FS C.J. Barnett, senior (6-0, 203, 4.59, #4)
LG Andrew Norwell, senior (6-6, 320, 5.33, #78)
OTHER CALIFORNIA PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
RT Bill Tyndall, RS senior (6-4, 285, 5.09, #79)
FS Michael Lowe, junior (5-11, 210, 4.58, #5)
OLB Jalen Jefferson, RS sophomore (6-2, 235, 4.67, #7)
OLB Khairi Fortt, RS junior (6-2, 236, 4.67, #11)
KENT STATE at LSU
Saturday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m.
Baton Rouge, La. – ESPNU
WHEN THE GOLDEN FLASHES HAVE THE BALL…
Kent State's best chance to keep this game close depends on the ankle of senior WR Dri Archer (5-8, 178, 4.37, #1). He has played only a handful of snaps so far this season due to the injury and is considered questionable for this game. Archer needs to show NFL scouts he has the durability and toughness to stay on the field and have an impact against the LSU defense. The Tigers return only four defensive starters from 2012, but they're loaded with talent, including senior SS Craig Loston (6-1, 209, 4.56, #6), who will remind many of Eric Reid.
WHEN THE TIGERS HAVE THE BALL…
The LSU offense is averaging 46.5 points through two games this season and that number could go up after this match-up. Senior QB Zach Mettenberger (6-5, 238, 5.18, #8) is slowly making believers out of many who wrote him off after an inconsistent 2012 season. He has NFL size and arm strength and if he continues to play with confidence and speed up his process, Mett will shoot up draft boards. His top two wideouts are both worth watching: juniors WR Odell Beckham (5-11, 187, 4.50, #3) and WR Jarvis Landry (6-0, 195, 4.49, #80).
OTHER KENT STATE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
WR Tyson Goode, RS senior (6-0, 183, 4.53, #5)
ILB Roosevelt Nix, senior (5-11, 264, 4.92, #5)
WR Chris Humphrey, junior (6-0, 194, 4.59, #6)
SS Luke Wollet, senior (5-11, 198, 4.64, #39)
OTHER LSU PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
DT Anthony Johnson, junior (6-3, 305, 5.29, #90)
ILB Lamin Barrow, RS senior (6-1, 232, 4.76, #57)
RB Alfred Blue, senior (6-1, 220, 4.59, #4)
RB Kenny Hilliard, junior (5-11, 232, 4.63, #27)
NOTRE DAME at PURDUE
Saturday, Sept. 14, 8 p.m.
West Lafayette, Ind. – ABC
WHEN THE FIGHTING IRISH HAVE THE BALL…
One of the top NFL prospect match-ups to watch in this game will be on the outside when senior WR T.J. Jones (6-0, 195, 4.54, #7) is lined up across from senior CB Ricardo Allen (5-9, 186, 4.48, #21). Both lack ideal size and speed, but they are gritty, competitive and tough. The top interior defensive line prospect in this game will wear an Irish jersey, but don't overlook senior DT Bruce Gaston (6-2, 310, 5.08, #90) who needs to show scouts that he can still be productive without Kawann Short next to him drawing the attention of the offense.
WHEN THE BOILERMAKERS HAVE THE BALL…
Purdue's offense has struggled over the first two games in 2013, but senior TE Gabe Holmes (6-5, 248, 4.78, #86) is NFL-worthy and a senior prospect flying under the national radar. On defense, everyone knows about Notre Dame's talent up front led by juniors NT Louis Nix (6-2, 326, 5.17, #1) and DE Stephon Tuitt (6-5, 303, 4.89, #7), but the back half of the Irish defense was exposed last week against Michigan. Senior CB Bennett Jackson (6-0, 185, 4.52, #2) hasn't had a strong start and needs a bounce back game to repair his draft stock.
OTHER NOTRE DAME PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
LT Zack Martin, RS senior (6-4, 305, 5.22, #70)
OLB Prince Shembo, senior (6-1, 252, 4.76, #55)
LG Chris Watt, RS senior (6-3, 312, 5.24, #66)
ILB Dan Fox, RS senior (6-3, 245, 4.82, #48)
OTHER PURDUE PROSPECTS TO WATCH:
OLB Sean Robinson, senior (6-3, 240, 4.78, #10)
WR Gary Bush, RS senior (6-0, 185, 4.56, #6)
RB Akeem Hunt, junior (5-9, 185, 4.52, #1)
QB Rob Henry, RS senior (6-2, 200, 4.73, #15)