Friday 7:00 pm EST on ESPN2
Kent State vs Northern Illinois (MAC Championship Game)
Many of you will likely spend your Friday away from the television, but the Golden Flashes have one of the nation’s top playmakers, although quite unknown, in redshirt junior RB/WR Dri Archer (#1/5’8/175). Archer attacks defenses from multiple alignments, taking handoffs for long gains, separating from secondaries at receiver, and offers plenty of return ability. He is a great weapon for QB Spencer Keith (#3/6’3/221). Up front, Kent State relies on Senior Bowl invite T Brian Winters (#66/6’6/294) to set the tone. Winters is definitely a mauler with an attitude and he will certainly have a good test in DE Sean Proger (#95/6’2/254) and DL Alan Baxter (#90/6’0/240), both of whom have produced solid seasons.
The Huskies lost Mr. Irrelevant, QB Chandler Harnish, to the NFL, but junior QB Jordan Lynch (#6/6’0/216) has filled in admirably in both the passing and the running game. His best target is WR Martel Moore (#1/6’0/183), but Lynch will need to get rid of the ball before Kent State junior DL Roosevelt Nix (#5/5’11/245) disrupts the pocket.
Friday 8:00 pm EST on Fox
UCLA vs Stanford (PAC-12 Championship Game)
If the MACtion does not keep you glued to the television, then this west coast showdown may. Sure, the two teams played each other less than a week ago with Stanford coming out on top 35-17, but both teams likely have a few tricks up their sleeve. For the Bruins, RB Johnathan Franklin (#23/5’10/195) needs to get going, specifically with making defenders miss at the line of scrimmage and the second level. ILB Shayne Skov (#11/6’3/244) has put together a great final stretch of games after some average tape, but he should get junior NT Terrence Stephens (#99/6’2/295) back after the big roadblock missed last Saturday’s contest due to a personal matter. The Cardinal also have three more than competent edge players. DE/OLB Trent Murphy (#93/6’6/261) offers the most length but needs to use it for leverage rather than playing with high pad level. Junior DE Ben Gardner (#49/6’4/252) has made the most of one on one matchups and produces pressures along with keeping the edge against the run. Finally, OLB Chase Thomas (#44/6’4/240) may lack ideal burst off the edge, but his technique to shed and gap responsibility is excellent and overcompensates for adequate athleticism. TE Joseph Fauria (#8/6’7/252) continues to high point targets and make difficult catches in the red zone, and Stanford may be wise to use a pure coverage player, like junior CB Terrence Brown (#6/6’1/178), while bracketing with a safety or linebacker.
UCLA’s defensive talent is one of the more underpublicized and underrated units in the country. There may not be a hotter prospect in the country than junior OLB Anthony Barr (#11/6’5/238). He is definitely rough around the edges, specifically with technique, but Barr has the pedigree, length, and closing speed to wreak havoc. We also really like DL Datone Jones (#56/6’4/280), notably because of his strength on first contact and quick step off the line. Both will need to get to the Cardinal’s young quarterback before he can utilize a multitude of TE targets. Stanford’s top option, junior TE Zach Ertz (#86/6’6/250) is utilized from a variety and spots, and could see a lot of snaps across from CB Sheldon Price (#22/6’1/180). Junior TE Levine Toilolo (#11/6’7/263) needs to be a consistent run blocker on the edge but has to take advantage of his receiving opportunities as well. RB Stepfan Taylor (#33/5’11/210) has received a lot of positive feedback from the NFL but may run slower than expected during the pre-draft process, which may alter some evaluators’ perceptions. His consistency to churn out yards and hit the infrequent big play could be another key to this contest.
CB Aaron Hester (#21/6’1/206)
junior DE Cassius Marsh (#99/6’4/295)
OG Jeff Baca (#60/6’4/305)
C Sam Schwarzstein (#64/6’3/292)
junior FB Ryan Hewitt (#85/6’3/238)
G Kevin Danser (#76/6’6/298)
Saturday 4:00 pm EST on CBS
Georgia vs Alabama (SEC Championship Game)
Obviously this is the headline game of the weekend and has massive national championship implications. Both teams sport plenty of NFL caliber defensive talent, so whichever offense can generate some consistency will likely put their team over the top. For Georgia, junior QB Aaron Murray (#11/6’1/212) needs to build off of his early season success rather than the handful of skittish performances that dampened his junior campaign. The key to Murray’s game focuses on shuffling in the pocket and resetting in throwing lanes to find open targets downfield. Behind a young offensive line, working through pressure may be a difficult task. NT Jesse Williams (#54/6’3/320) is an absolute force and has displayed added movement skills this season to disrupt the backfield while still exhibiting strength at the point of attack. On the edge, the Tide have a run stopper in DE Quinton Dial (#90/6’5/304) and two ends that rotate in DE Damion Square (#92/6’3/282) and junior DE Ed Stinson (#49/6’4/282). Downfield, WR Tavarres King (#12/6’1/200) has flashed vertical ability, but he most certainly will be matched up with junior CB Dee Milliner (#28/6’1/198). Milliner can be very physical, to the point of detrimental at times, but shows excellent man coverage ability. The Bulldogs deploy a very young but talented running game, which plays to the strengths of LB Nico Johnson (#35/6’2/245). However, his counterpart junior LB C.J. Mosley (#32/6’2/232), is the better prospect of the two due to his savviness and excellent skills in coverage and against the run. His range is unbelievable and Mosley may end up being the first 4-3 linebacker selected.
Alabama’s offense all starts up front, and even though C Barrett Jones (#75/6’4/305) gets the awards and junior T D.J. Fluker (#76/6’6/335) may be a name-brand type prospect, the Tide’s best offensive player is G Chance Warmack (#65/6’2/323) and it isn’t even close. Georgia offers some real beef up front with NT Johnathan Jenkins (#6/6’3/358) and junior NT Kwame Geathers (#99/6’6/350), who will play a lot of end. Jenkins has talent and flashes it a handful of plays each game, but too often he absorbs on first contact and fades as games go on. If I were running the Bulldogs defense, I would line junior OLB Jarvis Jones (#29/6’2/242) over Fluker as much as possible, because the hefty offensive lineman struggles with heavy feet against excellent speed rushers. Speed and edge quickness is Jones’ best asset. Many consider him a Von Miller-like prospect, but I do not because Jones lacks the length and strength to win with counter moves. Instead I see Bruce Irvin, which is not an insult. Junior ILB Alec Ogletree (#9/6’3/234) offers more length with plus range, but will need to fill the hole violently against a bruising runner like junior RB Eddie Lacy (#42/5’10/220). Georgia has a ball hawk in the back half in S Bacarri Rambo (#18/6’0/210), but don’t be surprised when S Shawn Williams (#36/6’1/218)gets drafted before his running mate. We really like inline TE Michael Williams (#89/6’5/272) due to his blocking prowess and consistent receiving ability. Junior QB AJ McCarron (#10/6’3/210) has thrown 10 touchdowns compare to no interceptions on play action passes, so that is one area for Georgia to focus on.
WR Marlon Brown (#15/6’5/222)
DE Abry Jones (#93/6’3/308) out
DE Cornelius Washington (#83/6’4/268)
junior OLB Chase Vasser (#33/6’3/237)
CB Sanders Cummings (#19/6’1/216)
CB Branden Smith (#1/5’11/176)
junior G Anthony Steen (#61/6’3/303)
S Robert Lester (#37/6’2/212)
junior H-back Jalston Fowler (#45/6’0/242) out
WR Kevin Norwood (#83/6’1/195)