Noon EST on ESPN
LSU at Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s Offensive Line vs LSU’s Defensive Line
From a prospect matchup perspective, this might be the best battle of the entire football season. The Tigers’ duo of juniors, DE Sam Montgomery (#99/6’5/260) and DE Barkevious Mingo (#49/6’4/240) are two studs off the edge. We consider Mingo the better prospect due to his flexibility around the edge and proneness to shed in the backfield. Montgomery is a great prospect in his own right, and the added weight put on in the offseason has helped, but he stays in linemen’s grasp too often. Don’t overlook DE LaVar Edwards (#89/6’5/264), an excellent third option that can play inside on passing downs. To counter act the two, the Aggies will deploy junior LT Luke Joeckel (#76/6’6/310) on the blind side and junior RT Jake Matthews (#75/6’5/305) on the front side. Joeckel is this year’s top draft-eligible prospect at the position and has the footwork to mirror and the length to recover. Matthews is stuck on the right side, but he may have a future at left tackle and is quite the prospect in his own right. Junior DT Bennie Logan (#18/6’3/295), an upfield penetrator that is rumored to be declaring, will face C Patrick Lewis (#61/6’2/306), a somewhat overlooked talent on that Aggies offensive line.
Texas A&M’s Air Raid Offense vs LSU’s Back Seven
Aggies freshman QB Johnny Manziel is a wild man and seems to believe he is always playing backyard football. Manziel will escape the pocket frequently but he may run himself into sacks or turnovers at the same time. Junior ILB Kevin Minter (#46/6’1/245) will likely be asked to spy quite often, especially with RB Christine Michael (#33/5’11/220) taking a secondary role in the ground game. WR Ryan Swope (#25/6’0/206) was injured recently and has been less of a threat compared to previous seasons, but WR Uzoma Nwachukwu (#7/6’0/195) has become more of a consistent threat, including more reliable hands. Junior FS Eric Reid (#1/6’2/212) is a player that is effective moving forward or back and makes big plays in either direction. Broken plays will be a big factor, and Reid is the last line of defense in multiple coverages.
LSU’s Struggling Offense vs Texas A&M’s Front Seven
Despite winning last week against the Gamecocks, the LSU offense is still a work in progress. But is improvement even possible? It all starts up front, with junior LT Chris Faulk (#76/6’5/323) out for the year and RT Alex Hurst (#72/6’6/332) taking a leave from the team. Surprisingly, LT Josh Dworaczyk (#68/6’6/301) more than held his own last week against Jadeveon Clowney, and appears to possibly be a mainstay on the left side for the rest of the season. He’ll have another stiff test against the dominant junior DE Damontre Moore (#94/6’4/245), who has made the seamless transition from stand up outside linebacker to end. Moore has strong hands, long strides, and consistently flashes bend around the corner. Junior QB Zach Mettenberger (#8/6’5/230) is a statue in the pocket, so perhaps even LB Sean Porter (#10/6’2/230) will be blitzed more, a skill he slowed last year but has been underutilized this year. Junior RB Alfred Blue (#4/6’1/220) is out, but junior RBs Spencer Ware (#11/5’11/225) and RB Michael Ford (#42/5’10/215) will continue to plod the rock for three or four yards. ILB Jonathan Stewart (#11/6’4/237) makes a lot of tackles, but many are five yards down the field due to his tentative nature of waiting at the second level rather than meeting backs in the hole.
WR Russell Shepard (#10/6’0/195)
CB Dustin Harris (#22/6’0/175)
LB Kyle Mangan (#18/6’2/226)
LB Steven Jenkins (#45/6’2/220)
3:30 pm EST on NBC
BYU at Notre Dame
After a controversial overtime win over Stanford last weekend, the Irish attempt to stay undefeated against a technically sound a tough BYU team. Notre Dame sophomore QB Everett Golson is expected to play despite suffering a concussion last week, but head coach brian Kelly says it is truly a game time decision. RB/WR Theo Riddick (#6/5’11/200) continues to be a movable chess piece, lining up out of the backfield or in the slot, but we still feel like the Irish need to get junior RB Cierre Wood (#20/6’0/215) the ball more often. The Notre Dame front line will certainly have a tough battle up front led by their rugged C Braxston Cave (#52/6’3/305), who is limited in terms of mobility but consistently fights for position. Along with G Mike Golic (#57/6’3/295) and T Zack Martin (#70/6’4/304), the three will have to deal with the ever improving DE/OLB Ezekiel Ansah (#47/6’6/270). Ansah rushes from everywhere and has become a personal favorite. For someone that has played less than three years of football, he flashes quite often and absorbs the coaching. Fatigue is the only real issue right now, everything else will come. Junior OLB Kyle Van Noy (#3/6’3/235) is another capable pass rusher, somewhat similar to Chase Thomas from last week. Van Noy is always chasing and never lets up. Expect TE Tyler Eifert (#80/6’5/252) to high point a handful of passes over junior S Daniel Sorensen (#9/6’2/215), ILB Brandon Ogletree (#44/5’11/228), and ILB Uona Kaveinga (#4/5’11/233).
Offensively, the Cougars do not offer as much talent, but junior WR Cody Hoffman (#4/6’4/215) is as consistent as they come, smoothly creating separation while working the sideline with ease. Sophomore DE Stephon Tuitt (#7/6’6/303), perhaps the top young player at his position, and brick wall redshirt sophomore DT Louis Nix (#9/6’3/326) will force BYU to solely utilize an air attack, while DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (#89/6’4/306) offers his experience on the edge. Cougars T Braden Brown (#75/6’6/300) and G Braden Hansen (#76/6’6/307) will have a long day versus those three. The run stopping talent continues with ILB Manti Te’o (#5/6’2/255), a hammer versus the ground game, but S Zeke Motta (#17/6’2/215) patrols the back half very well.
CB Preston Hadley (#7/6’0/200)
junior TE Kaneakua Friel (#82/6’5/250)
junior LB Prince Shembo (#55/6’2/250)
3:30 pm EST on CBS
South Carolina at Florida
The SEC is loaded with talented matchups Saturday, and this is definitely another one. The Gators boast plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, but most of the offensive talent surprised many this season. That is all led by RB Mike Gillislee (#23/5’11/210), who was hidden away for years under other coaches and now is getting his time to shine, making the most of front side runs and power plays. Gamecocks LB Shaq Wilson (#54/5’11/225) has had a tremendous season, a performance that has been underpublicized. LT Xavier Nixon (#73/6’5/314) has been a well known name for some time, but inconsistencies with weight and effort always leave him questionable to start and finish an entire game. His day won’t get any easier fighting with sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney (#7/6’6/256), stiff hipped DE Devin Taylor (#98/6’7/267), and third rusher junior DE Chaz Sutton (#90/6’5/248). Clowney had an uncharacteristically off wekk against LSU, and should rebound. Junior TE Jordan Reed (#11/6’3/243) will have a great faceoff against versatile S/LB DeVonte Holloman (#21/6’2/241) and front to back S D.J. Swearinger (#36/5’11/210). Don’t overlook the possible impact of junior FB Trey Burton (#8/6’2/228), especially if Reed is taken out of the game.
The Gamecocks have far less talent on the offensive side of the ball, while the Gators continue with their list of future NFLers. C T.J. Johnson (#55/6’5/318) will see time against top three-round pick junior DT Sharrif Floyd (#73/6’3/303). DE Lerentee McCray (#34/6’2/249) and junior DE Dominique Easley (#2/6’2/280) will continue to get after junior QB Connor Shaw (#14/6’1/205) and force him out of the pocket, where he is most comfortable. Keeping contain will be vital. Junior RB Marcus Lattimore (#21/6’0/220) will not start but will play. LB Jon Bostic (#1/6’1/246) and healing junior LB Jelani Jenkins (#3/6’0/237) will continue to make sound tackles. Above all, junior S Matt Elam (#22/5’10/202) is entertaining to watch due to his electric mobility and thunderous hitting power.
TE Justice Cunningham (#87/6’4/264)
CB Jaylen Watkins (#14/6’0/187)
K Caleb Sturgis (#19/5’10/185)
7:00 pm EST on ESPN
Alabama at Tennessee
Perhaps this is being overly optimistic, but I continue to like Tennessee’s offensive talent, it just fails to come together. Let upfront with future LT, now LG Dallas Thomas (#71/6’5/310), along with junior RG Zach Fulton (#72/6’5/325), junior RT Ja’Wuan James (#70/6’6/324) and sophomore LT Antonio Richardson’s (#74/6’6/332), the three will battle one of the most talented front sevens in college football. DT Jesse Williams (#54/6’3/320) rarely gets mentioned, but seamlessly made the transition to the nose and disrupts plays more than previous middle walls. DE Damion Square (#92/6’3/282) and DE Quinton Dial (#90/6’5/304) are both very veteran players that rarely lose their assignment. The Vols running game is quite weak, led by RB Rajion Neal (#20/5’10/212), and LB Nico Johnson (#35/6’2/245) will continue that tradition. TE Mychal Rivera (#81/6’3/245) has a chance to exploit soft areas in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 scheme, but the combination of coverage junior LB C.J. Mosley (#32/6’2/232) and S Robert Lester (#37/6’2/212) is a tough one to beat. It all comes down to junior QB Tyler Bray (#8/6’5/215), who week in and week out does not seem to care about footwork or ball security. The guy gives a bad connotation to the term “gunslinger”. Either fluid junior WR Justin Hunter (#11/6’4/200) or junior WR Cordarrelle Patterson (#84/6’2/205) will draw junior CB Dee Milliner (#28/6’1/198) as an opponent. Hunter’s numbers are down, but that is due to defenses taking away downfield routes and forcing the Vols offense to take underneath throws and stick to the running game. Patterson has made at least one big plays in multiple weeks, but has since struggled against physical coverage. Don’t overlook WR Zach Rogers (#83/6’0/180), who can take a top off of coverages.
Offensively, Alabama will continue to pound the ball down defenses throats. However, mammoth junior NT Daniel McCullers (#98/6’6/377) will attempt to halt the double team of C Barrett Jones (#75/6’4/305) and G Chance Warmack (#65/6’2/323). I say it often, but even though Jones gets all the credit, Warmack is the Crimson Tide’s top offensive lineman and one of the most complete prospects in this class. Junior QB AJ McCarron (#10/6’3/210) is dealing with a knee issue and was even rumored to have torn his meniscus. Junior RB Eddie Lacy (#42/5’10/220) should look to take the burden off of his QB, but TE Michael Williams (#89/6’5/272) has possibly turned into McCarron’s most reliable target. Williams is asked to block quite often, and along with powerful junior T D.J. Fluker (#76/6’6/335), they will face LB Herman Lathers (#34/6’0/230) and junior LB Jacques Smith (#55/6’2/244).
junior H-back Jalston Fowler (#45/6’0/242) out
G Anthony Steen (#61/6’3/303)
WR Kevin Norwood (#83/6’1/195)
DE Ed Stinson (#49/6’4/282)
CB Prentiss Wagner (#23/6’2/184)
7:00 pm EST on Fox
Kansas State at West Virginia
Coming off of their first loss of the season (by a wide margin), QB Geno Smith (#12/6’3/214) will look to make an example of the Wildcats defense. However, Kansas State offers plenty of defensive talent on their own. CB Nigel Malone (#24/5’10/185) and junior S Ty Zimmerman (#12/6’1/202) are their two most talented back half prospects, but unless the scheme can cover up other deficiencies, WR Tavon Austin (#1/5’9/176) and junior WR Stedman Bailey (#3/5’10/190) will continue their magical season. Smith deals with pressure very well, but the Wildcats may not be able to even force him to show off his skills. Even though ILB Arthur Brown (#4/6’1/228) flies around the field and is one of the top players at his position, it may not be enough to slow down the Mountaineers passing attack. At least there is a blueprint now.
Just as much as West Virginia appears to outnumber the Wildcats defensively, the same may go for the opposite side of the ball so expect another potential shootout. Optimus-Klein, Wildcats QB Collin Klein (#7/6’4/226) wills his way to yards, and even though his motion is ugly, he has improved his downfield throwing ability to targets like WR Chris Harper (#3/6’1/228), TE Travis Tannahill (#80/6’3/253), and junior WR Tramaine Thompson (#86/5’7/165). OLB/SS Terence Garvin (#28/6’2/222) continues to roam the second level, but the undersized Mountaineers front, including NT Jorge Wright (#99/6’2/291), may have issues stopping Klein’s momentum.
FB Braden Wilson (#37/6’3/254)
G Jeff Braun (#57/6’4/322)
C Joe Madsen (#74/6’4/302)
G Josh Jenkins (#77/6’3/305)
CB Pat Miller (#6/5’10/188)
RB Shawne Alston (#20/5’11/235)
K Tyler Bitancurt (#40/6’1/203)