Saturday 7:00 pm EST on Fox
West Virginia vs Texas
Defense, anyone? Many have tried to label this West Virginia offense as gimmicky, but when you break it down, many of the throws head coach Dana Holgorsen asks his team to convert are NFL caliber. It may look different than “traditional” offenses, but the point of unique formations are to get offensive players in space since tackling in an open area is the hardest thing to do in football. Rather than focus on if this Mountaineer offense is managed under center, or if they implement a traditional running game, instead focus on how their heisman front-runner manages and moves in the pocket, works through his progressions, and places the ball to his receivers in stride. If you still cannot spotlight specific traits and only focus on this team beating up on “weak defenses” (which may include this week’s game) look back to West Virginia’s performance against LSU in 2011.
West Virginia QB Geno Smith and Mountaineer OL vs Texas pass rushers
Senior QB Geno Smith (#12/6’3/214) has burst onto the scene and is in total command of Holgorsen’s air raid offense. Sure, defenses up to this point have been weak on talent, but the Longhorns offer something different. DE Alex Okafor (#80/6’4/260) is a power option that pushes with extension and strength, while junior DE Jackson Jeffcoat (#44/6’4/250) rushes the edge with a nice burst and bend. Perhaps even more important is the interior pass rush, since any decent quarterback (especially one as talented as Geno) can step up in the pocket to evade. For that, junior DT Brandon Moore (#97/6’5/335) and junior DT Chris Whaley (#96/6’3/279) will do their best to force Geno to shuffle or leave out the back door, into the awaiting arms of the ends. C Joe Madsen (#74/6’4/302) can move to mirror fairly well, but along with G Jeff Braun (#57/6’4/322) and G Josh Jenkins (#77/6’3/305), all three will need to anchor and redirect frequently.
West Virginia WR Tavon Austin and junior WR Stedman Bailey vs Texas Secondary
In order for the pass rush to have a chance, the Texas secondary will need to stick to the Mountaineer receivers long enough. Honestly, I am not sure what the best coverage tactic is, in terms of either zone or press man coverage. WR Tavon Austin (#1/5’9/176) is an absolute joystick in the open field and Holgorsen does an excellent job of getting the ball in his hands in manageable space. Junior WR Stedman Bailey (#3/5’10/190) is a more traditional receiver and should draw junior CB Carrington Byndom (#23/6’0/180). If the Longhorns choose to go with a zone, it is imperative potential top-64 S Kenny Vaccaro (#4/6’1/215) and junior S Adrian Phillips (#17/5’11/199) keep everything in front of them and make that safety valve tackle in the last line of defense. Junior OLB Jordan Hicks (#3/6’2/235) will also have to take advantage of his underneath opportunities on Austin.
Texas Offensive Line vs West Virginia Defensive Line
This has all the makings of a shoot out, but it is up to the Longhorns offense to keep the team in the game if that is the case. The offensive line will be critical in that situation, led by junior LT Donald Hawkins (#51/6’5/310). Junior RG Mason Walters (#72/6’6/315) and junior LG Trey Hopkins (#75/6’4/298) could team up to prevent undersized NT Jorge Wright (#99/6’2/291) and the interior blitzes of OLB/SS Terence Garvin (#28/6’2/222). WR Marquise Goodwin (#84/5’9/178) and junior WR Mike Davis (#1/6’2/188) won’t need much time to get downfield, but CB Pat Miller (#6/5’10/188) will do his best to keep one in check.
More West Virginia Prospects
RB Shawne Alston (#20/5’11/235) out
K Tyler Bitancurt (#40/6’1/203)
More Texas Prospects
junior LB Jordan Hicks (#3/6’2/235)
juniors LB Demarco Cobbs (#7/6’2/220)
Saturday Noon EST on ESPNU
UConn vs Rutgers
Two Big East teams, that have outperformed initial projections, square off and each possess some solid mid-round NFL talent. The main matchup features Scarlet Knights redshirt sophomore WR Brandon Coleman (#17/6’5/220) against Huskies CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (6-0, 192). Coleman looks like a future top-64 pick, if not higher, due to his ability to out muscle defensive backs at the catch point, something that younger receivers usually struggle with. Wreh-Wilson is a quality prospect with speed and enough size, but this will be a nice test for evaluators to look back on. Rutgers sports an excellent young RB in sophomore Jawan Jamison (#23/5’8/200), but the majority of UConn’s talent is on the defensive side of the ball, including the veteran OLB Sio Moore (#3/6’1/232). He may be undersized, but DE/OLB Trevardo Williams (#48/6’1/231) plays all over the defense and really gets upfield when pass rushing. OT RJ Dill (#76/6’7/300) needs to get back into his drop quickly, while underutilized TE D.C. Jefferson (#10/6’5/258) could win downfield just with his height alone. DE Jesse Joseph (#91/6’3/262) will likely miss the game, but junior DT Shamar Stephen (#59/6’4/315) has picked up the slack up front.
Offensively, the Huskies are sporadic with talent, but despite his lack of targets TE Ryan Griffin (#94/6’5/248) needs to be mentioned first. Rutgers OLB Khaseem Greene (#20/6’1/230) is undersized but we love his game, especially in sideline to sideline coverage and willingness to close physically. Junior CB Logan Ryan (#11/6’0/190) is another future NFLer and should see time opposite speedy WR Nick Williams (#31/5’10/185). The Scarlet Knights defense started the year as one of the top units in the country and with talents like ILB Steve Beauharnais (#42/6’2/235), SS Duron Harmon (#32/6’1/201), and DT Scott Vallone (#94/6’3/278), they may overpower the Connecticut offense.
More UConn Prospects
CB Dwayne Gratz (#7/5’11/187)
RB Lyle McCombs (#43/5’8/175) junior
T Kevin Friend (#77/6’6/295) junior
More Rutgers Prospects
WR Mark Harrison (#81/6’3/230)
CB Brandon Jones (#25/6’0/186)
Saturday 12:30 pm EST on ACC Network
Virginia Tech vs UNC
Two teams whose talent exceeds their 3-2 records will meet and an intriguing matchup. if only for how many future NFLers will be on the field. Hokies junior QB Logan Thomas (#3/6’6/260) perceived “stock” has sunk due to his inability to improve from last season despite a multitude of skills. I have noticed that he repeatedly refuses to test defenses downfield, instead settling for outlet targets and swing passes. WR Marcus Davis (#7/6’4/232) is that downfield threat, but he also lacks the refinement to be coined “reliable.” SS Tre Boston (#10/6’1/190) will be that safety valve over the top, while junior DE Kareem Martin (#95/6’5/260) will push the pocket from the edge with his power. Many consider Tar Heel DT Sylvester Williams (#92/6’2/315) one of the best in this class. I don’t, in fact I just do not see what others do, but combined with Martin it will give intriguing T Nick Becton (#54/6’6/318) a nice test while the two defenders attempt to keep Thomas in the pocket. ILB Kevin Reddick (#48/6’3/240) is another potential prospect, and evaluators will have far more film on him this season as a full-time starter compared to last season where he was rotated in and out of the starting lineup.
On the other side, the Tar Heels offer one of the best offensive lines on paper, but the unit has struggled as a unit and the no-huddle offense may be the culprit. G Jonathan Cooper (#64/6’3/305) is the best of the group, especially when pulling or working at the second level, while T Brennan Williams (#73/6’7/315) holds down the right side. Williams could be tested by junior DE James Gayle (#99/6’4/268), who might get the best of the senior due to his quick first step and added strength. Don’t overlook Gayle’s running mate in DE J.R Collins (#42/6’1/261), but he has his own battle against junior T James Hurst (#68/6’7/310) and G Travis Bond (#76/6’7/345). On the inside, the Hokies are represented by DT Antoine Hopkins (#56/6’1/313) and junior DT Derrick Hopkins (#97/6’0/306). Outside of his injuries, redshirt sophomore RB Giovani Bernard (#26/5’10/205) has been the consistent bright spot, but LBs Bruce Taylor (#51/6’2/244) and Jack Tyler (#58/6’1/236) will be waiting for him at the second level. Downfield, WR Erik Highsmith (#88/6’3/190) and WR Jheranie Boyd (#87/6’2/190) will attempt to haul in junior QB Bryn Renner’s (#2/6’3/215) passes, but junior CB Kyle Fuller (#17/6’0/193) is quite the player, and junior S Antone Exum (#1/6’0/224) has turned in an excellent season.
More Virginia Tech Prospects
WR D.J. Coles (#18/6’4/226)
S Detrick Bonner (#8/6’0/198) rSoph
WR Dyrell Roberts (#11/6’1/195)
More UNC Prospects
FB Devon Ramsey (#45/6’2/250)
K Casey Barth (#11/5’11/185)
Saturday 3:00 pm EST on Fox
Arizona vs Stanford
The Wildcats’ spread-option offense will be fun to watch against the Cardinal’s technical but perhaps athletically limited defense. Stanford gave USC’s offense fits by blitzing the A-gaps, so C Kyle Quinn (#76/6’3/294) and G Tace Biskin (#72/6’5/282) will need to be on their toes and locate ILB Shayne Skov (#11/6’3/244) or slanting junior NT Terrence Stephens (#99/6’2/295). However, the Cardinal are also quite adept on the edge, specifically OLB Chase Thomas (#44/6’4/240), who lacks that first step burst but uses technique to shed better than just about anyone. I have started to really like the game of DE/OLB redshirt junior Trent Murphy (#93/6’6/261) and up front junior DE Ben Gardner (#49/6’4/252) consistently accomplishes his assignment. WR Dan Buckner (#4/6’3/215) will work downfield or on breaking routes for QB Matt Scott (#10/6’3/197), but junior CB Terrence Brown (#6/6’1/178) is a fine cover corner.
The Cardinal offense is built off pounding the running game to open up downfield targets for tight ends. RB Stepfan Taylor (#33/5’11/210) has shown improved skill this season, specifically on making the firts man miss. We still consider junior TE Levine Toilolo (#11/6’7/263) the top draft-eligible tight end in college football, but junior TE Zach Ertz (#86/6’6/250) has been an excellent target for big completions. Stanford head coach David Shaw has been known to exploit defensive mismatches, so junior CB Shaquille Richardson (#5/6’1/188) will need to be aware of those tight end one on one situations, along with junior rover LB Marquis Flowers (#2/6’2/221).
More Arizona Prospects
FB/HB Taimi Tutogi (#31/6’1/260)
K John Bonano (#15/6’0/219)
P Kyle Dugandzic (#13/5/11/204)
More Stanford Prospects
junior QB Josh Nunes (#6/6’4/216)
C Sam Schwarzstein (#64/6’3/292)
FB Ryan Hewitt (#85/6’3/238) junior
G Kevin Danser (#76/6’6/298)
Saturday 3:30 pm EST on ABC
Illinois vs Wisconsin
Despite plenty of individual talent, Illinois’ defense has been dreadful. However, the Wisconsin offensive line and running game is nearly as bad. The Badgers are led by the top draft-eligible player at this position, junior C Travis Frederick (#72/6’4/320). The bruising blocker will be a nice test for the talented but sporadic junior DT Akeem Spence (#94/6’1/305). Spence has plenty of ability, but too easily he is pushed out of the hole. LT Ricky Wagner (#58/6’6/320) is a big name, but he will move to the right side in the NFL and DE Michael Buchanan (#99/6’6/240) will likely show us why on Saturday. Buchanan is the complete package and is listed as our sixth best senior prospect. This is all to lead the way for RB Montee Ball (#28/5’11/215), who is only averaging 3.7 yards per carry. We wrote before the season that Ball is just an adequate talent due to his lack of vision, and the less room his line continues to generate the more it shows. Maybe we are alone, but we think junior RB James White (#20/5’10/200) is a better talent. DT Glenn Foster (#91/6’4/260) struggles to keep blockers off of junior MLB Jonathan Brown (#45/6’1/235) in the Illini’s 4-2-5 scheme. On the outside, CB Terry Hawthorne (#1/6’0/190) and junior WR Jared Abbrederis (#4/6’2/180) square off, and Hawthorne should attempt to stay physical rather than play off. TE Jacob Pedersen (#48/6’4/245) has admitted to struggling while run blocking and junior DE Tim Kynard (#59/6’3/260) likely took note.
The Badgers possess a lot of average talent on defense, but junior MLB Chris Borland (#44/5’11/245) is the best of the group and should see C Graham Pocic (#76/6’7/305) at the second level. T Hugh Thornton (#72/6’5/310) could have his hands full with junior DE David Gilbert (#11/6’4/250) and DE Brendan Kelly (#97/6’6/255).
More Illinois Prospects
QB Nathan Scheelhaase (#2/6’3/200) junior
More Wisconsin Prospects
TE Brian Wozniak (#85/6’4/260) junior
DT Ethan Hemer (#87/6’6/305) junior
OLB Mike Taylor (#53/6’2/225)
CB Devin Smith (#10/5’11/190)
CB Marcus Cromartie (#14/6’1/190)
Saturday 3:30 pm EST on CBS
LSU vs Florida
With two big time LSU prospects out for the season (or close to it), junior LT Chris Faulk (#76/6’5/323) and junior RB Alfred Blue (#4/6’1/220), while the Florida squad gets healthier and healthier, this game should generate plenty of individual matchups. Big RT Alex Hurst (#72/6’6/332) is heavy legged and fill-in LT Josh Dworaczyk (#68/6’6/301) has done his bets on the edge, but junior DE Dominique Easley (#2/6’2/280) and DE Lerentee McCray (#34/6’2/249) offer very stiff competition on the outside since they can work on the edge or slant on inside angles. unior DT Sharrif Floyd (#73/6’3/303) can really push the pocket from the interior, which statue-esque junior QB Zach Mettenberger (#8/6’5/230) hates, but the junior signal caller needs to improve his shuffle, reset, and release timing. The Tigers go with a committee approach at running back, featuring juniors RB Spencer Ware (#11/5’11/225) and RB Michael Ford (#42/5’10/215). LB Jonathan Bostic (#1/6’1/246) is a reliable force against the run, while junior LB Jelani Jenkins (#3/6’0/237) returns from a hand injury and should be flying across the field. CB Jaylen Watkins (#14/6’0/187) can matchup with WR Russell Shepard (#10/6’0/195), especially if he has junior S Matt Elam’s (#22/5’10/202) help over the top.
The Gators offense will have to be quick in their decisions against a quick LSU defense. LT Xavier Nixon (#73/6’5/314) has been hot and cold this season, but that has been the story of his career. In fact, he may give way to a true freshman at some point this game. Junior DEs Sam Montgomery (#99/6’5/260) and Barkevious Mingo (#49/6’4/240) are licking their chops, but at least the Gators offensive line is mobile and athletic enough to stay in front of speed rushers. Junior DT Bennie Logan (#18/6’3/295), who is expected to declare early, will try to clog holes that the rejuvenated RB Mike Gillislee (#23/5’11/210) will attempt to hit. Junior TE Jordan Reed (#11/6’3/243) may be the best “move” receiver in this class, but faces a stiff match in junior FS Eric Reid (#1/6’2/212). while junior ILB Kevin Minter (#46/6’1/245) will make sure to locate junior FB Trey Burton (#8/6’2/228) whenever he enters the game.
More Florida Prospects
K Caleb Sturgis (#19/5’10/185)
Saturday 7:00 pm EST on ESPN
Georgia vs South Carolina
How will junior QB Aaron Murray (#11/6’1/212), a perceived “shorter quarterback” handle the edge rushing of the Gamecocks. Sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney (#7/6’6/256) leads the way, along with tight hipped DE Devin Taylor (#98/6’7/267) and the improving junior DE Chaz Sutton (#90/6’5/248). Murray is used to shuffling, resetting, and finding throwing lanes to test coverages downfield; traits that are welcomed at whatever height you check in at. The Bulldogs deploy a young running game, but with their top receiver (statistically speaking) injured for the season, WR Tavarres King (#12/6’1/200) and WR Marlon Brown (#15/6’5/222) will need to step up. S D.J. Swearinger (#36/5’11/210) is a headhunter in the secondary, while S/LB DeVonte Holloman (#21/6’2/241) roams the intermediate targets.
No one faces a tougher test than Gamecocks C T.J. Johnson (#55/6’5/318). The veteran center can deliver on first contact but struggles on counter moves and ends up waist bending rather than mirroring. NT Johnathan Jenkins (#6/6’3/358) and junior NT Kwame Geathers (#99/6’6/350) rotate to form a massive wall, but both can play like teddy bears on occasion, absorbing rather than delivering. junior RB Marcus Lattimore (#21/6’0/220) and the zone/slanting blocking scheme will have a difficult day finding lanes between DE Abry Jones(#93/6’3/308) and DE Cornelius Washington (#83/6’4/268), with junior OLB Jarvis Jones (#29/6’2/242) and junior OLB Chase Vasser (#33/6’3/237) setting the edge. Junior ILB Alec Ogletree (#9/6’3/234) quickly fills lanes and S Shawn Williams (#36/6’1/218) closes very quickly and aggressively. TE Justice Cunningham (#87/6’4/264) should face S Bacarri Rambo (#18/6’0/210) on frequent occasion, and Rambo’s best trait is that he takes advantage of his opportunities.
More Georgia Prospects
CB Sanders Cummings (#19/6’1/216)
CB Branden Smith (#1/5’11/176)
More South Carolina Prospects
junior QB Connor Shaw (#14/6’1/205)
LB Shaq Wilson (#54/5’11/225)