NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa
Nothing quite beats opening weekend of college football. There’s no preseason, no practice runs. Week 1 as usual provided entertainment all the way through. Before I get into the Week 2 matchups you should be watching, lets recap Week 1.
What we learned: Kenny Football! Kenny Heisman! Kenny Trill! Kenny.. Sumlin? Seriously, Kenny Hill looked great. His throws’ were accurate and on time all night long. But it’s time Kevin Sumlin gets recognized as one of the best offensive minds in football. Receivers were open… all… night… long. South Carolina’s defense had no answers, as they were too busy running sideline-to-sideline trying to catch their breath all night.
Uncertainty at the top: We learned #1 Florida State can be vulnerable. In my week 1 Saturday Slate I predicted the Cowboys to fight Florida State to the end, but I didn’t think Oklahoma State could have, and quite frankly should have won that ball game. #2 Alabama didn’t look much better. Their ground game is insane, period. Derrick Henry will be a top 20 NFL draft pick if he stays healthy (2016 prospect), and T.J. Yeldon is their backup. But if they stick with QB Blake Sims I just don’t believe that team will be better than LSU towards the end of the year. Speaking of which, hard not to be impressed with Les Miles’ young bunch. I predicted LSU to win a close win with the Mad Hatter pulling some tricks up his sleeve. He did, and his fourth down fake punt was the turning point in that game (So was Melvin Gordon going M.I.A.). Easy on the hype machine though, Baton Rouge (and myself). Superstar true freshmen Leonard Fournette only had 18 yards on 8 carries. It was senior running back Kenny Hilliard who stole the show running for 110 yards and 1 touchdown. And how about those Navy Midshipmen! The scoreboard doesn’t do that game justice, they gave #5 Ohio State all they could handle.
They are who we thought they were: #3 Oregon and #4 Oklahoma looked like the offensive powers they are, both cruising to easy wins. My preseason SEC East favorite Georgia avenged last year’s defeat to Clemson in relatively easy fashion. He won’t go ahead of the top QB’s on draft day, but Todd Gurley may be the best pure player in college football right now. Vanderbilt is back on its way to being Vanderbilt. Easily the worst team in the SEC, Vandy got their butts’ kicked by TEMPLE, at HOME, by THIRTY. Yikes.
Week 2 games to watch
#15 USC @ #11 Stanford ABC 3:30 PM est.
USC hasn’t won at Stanford since 2008, however they beat the Cardinal last year for the first time after four straight defeats. Stanford graduated a lot of talent last year, and I just don’t think David Shaw’s bunch will be able to stay with USC for 4 quarters. The Caridnal defense only gave up 115 yards of offense week 1, but that was against UC Davis. Let’s see them do it against USC. Expect the electric true freshman Adoree Jackson to see more time for the Trojans. I say this one is close, scoring in the low to mid 20’s range. I think this could be the start of something good for USC. Trojans by a touchdown.
OT Andrus Peat: At 6’7 312 lbs, Peat is a physical specimen. His long arms and phenomenal balance allow him to overwhelm most defenders. His main weakness is not always staying low out of his stance, but nonetheless a projected first round pick.
QB Kevin Hogan: He isn’t Andrew Luck. But then again, who really is? He has led the Cardinal to much success in the post-Luck days. A QB who passes the eye test with good vision and good accuracy. He has a long delivery, something he needs to work on. I see him as a second round type of prospect, but with QB’s you never know. (What’s up, Christian Ponder?)
WR Ty Montgomery: He won’t be the most talked about Stanford Cardinal, but at times he is the most important to their success. Montgomery is a game breaker, tallying over 2,200 all-purpose yards last season. Maybe a late first round pick in the spring, won’t get past the third. More than a WR, as he returned a punt for a TD last week.
SS Jordan Richards: Good size for a safety and has his wits about him. I could see him as a prospect the Patriots have interest in come spring-time.
Other Prospects : OLB James Vaughters, ILB AJ Tarpley
DE Leonard Williams: He’s a freak, potential top 5 pick. If you don’t know about him you will by the end of the 1st quarter Saturday.
WR Nelson Agholor: USC’s best offensive weapon opened up his season his 5 catches for 57 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
OLB J.R. Tavai: Reliable senior has played his way into a possible 4th-5th round discussion
*WR/DB/ATH Adoree Jackson: The all-world true freshman (not draft eligible) played offense, defense, and special teams in his first game as a Trojan. Oh, he caught a touchdown too. Learn the name.
Other prospects: OG Aundrey Walker, ILB Hayes Pullard, TE Randall Telfer
#8 Michigan State @ #3 Oregon FOX 6:30 PM est.
By far the game of the weekend. As big of a game for Michigan State’s playoff hopes as it is for the Big 10 in general. Oregon tends to struggle a little with teams who can slow the game down and be extremely physical (Thanks for the blueprint, Stanford), but I don’t see this going that way. I don’t believe Sparty QB Connor Cook will be able to keep up with the Ducks, and I see this getting out of hand. I believe this can be the early season statement game for Ducks QB Marcus Mariota, who is poised for a Heisman season. Ducks cover the 11 point spread and then some.
QB Marcus Mariota: Will he be the number 1 pick? Could take a few steps in that direction if he plays will in this one.
CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: Personally not as high on him as some are. Lacks good size 5’9 195lbs but can make up for that with his great competitiveness. With Oregon’s offense always scoring, it puts the Oregon DBs in positions to make big plays all game long.
OT Tyler Johnstone :Great frame, good athleticism. One of the best perimeter rush blockers in college football.
OC Hroniss Grasu: One of the best centers in college football. Ideal for a zone blocking scheme.
Other Prospects: DE/OLB Tony Washington, DE Arik Armstead, OT Jake Fisher, RB Byron Marshall, OLB Derrick Malone
Michigan State Prospects
DE Shilique Calhoun: Stepped up to be Sparty’s best pass rusher, was the 2013 Big 10 defensive lineman of the year.
QB Connor Cook: You know Oregon is going to put points on the board, can Cook carry Sparty? I’m not his biggest fan. On film he tends to have bad footwork in the pocket, tends to struggle with accuracy (58% Comp rate in 2013) and is not very poised under pressure. A lot of room for improvement in my opinion, we will see how he does under the bright lights.
CB Trae Waynes: Waynes is the man now at corner without Darqueze Dennard, interested to see how he handles it.
FS Kurtis Drummond: Some say he is the best FS prospect in the draft class. In my opinion he is one of the more safe prospects to project due to his consistent play throughout his career. Oregon will certainly put him to the test.
WR DeAnthony Arnett: At one time one of the most coveted WR’s in high school. Arnett started his career at Tennessee, but transferred home to be near his ailing father. His production has yet to match the hype, but the talent is certainly there. I expect him to breakthrough for Sparty this season.
Other Prospects: RB Jeremy Langford, RB Nick Hill, DE Marcus Rush, WR Tony Lippett
Michigan @ #17 Notre Dame NBC 7:30 PM est.
Unfortunately, this is the last time we will see these two rivals on the field battling each other. Both sides would love nothing more than to own bragging rights for years to come. Notre Dame is the favorite, but I like Michigan in this one for the upset. Devin Gardner torched the Irish last year and I believe he will do it again. Gardner threw for 294 yards and 4 scores, while also rushing for 82 yards and getting one touchdown on the ground as well. I’m not sure Michigan will get 5 total touchdowns from Gardner this time, but I expect running backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith (who combined for 285 yards on 23 carries last week) to get the offense rolling. The key to the game is the Michigan front seven. Can they control the Notre Dame run game, especially up the middle? If so, I think Michigan will get the upset. I’ll say by 7 points or less.
WR/TE Devin Funchess: Playing exclusively WR for the first time, Funchess opened his 2014 campaign with 3 touchdowns. Big enough to be a “move tight end” (6’5 230lbs) in New England verbiage, Funchess has the physical tools to do it all this year for Michigan and certainly at the next level. He’s the guy to really watch.
LB Jake Ryan: Versatile, smart, and tough. Ryan may not be the most physically gifted LB prospect in the upcoming draft, but he has played his way into 2-3 round consideration.
DE Frank Clark: Best pass rusher Michigan has to offer, most likely a mid to late round prospect. Led Michigan with 12.0 tackles for loss last season
Other prospects: QB Devin Gardner, OT Erik Magnuson, OG Kyle Kalis, CB Blake Countess, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Desmond Morgan
Notre Dame prospects
CB Cody Riggs: The former Florida transfer is now a full time corner, but played mostly safety in his Gators’ days. Being a smaller prospect (5’9 190 lbs), he could slide down to nickel if need be at the next level.
TE Ben Koyack: Hasn’t had a bunch of opportunities based on recent depth at TE (Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert and Troy Niklas), but 2014 is his time to shine. Scouts will get a great look at him this season to see if he projects as well as recent Irish TEs.
OG Christian Lombard: Has missed some time recently with injuries, so 2014 is crucial for Lombard. If healthy I could see him project as a late round draft pick.
Other prospects: WR DaVaris Daniels, DE Ishaq Williams, CB KeiVarae Russell, DT Sheldon Day, QB Everett Golson
Virginia Tech @ #5 Ohio State ESPN 8 PM est
The first ever meeting between these two historic programs. Ohio State is currently listed as a 12 point favorite, but judging off of their performance last week against Navy I believe this will be a much closer game than that. Yes, it’s at the Horseshoe. No, Braxton Miller will not be playing (done for the year, in case you didn’t hear) so I believe Ohio State will continue to struggle on offense (at least early). Virginia Tech must run the ball and control the clock (222 rush yards last week) to keep the game under their control. Virginia Tech DC Bud Foster is notorious for bringing the heat on defense, especially when he doesn’t fear the opposing QB. Everything will be thrown at Buckeyes’ QB J.T. Barrett, and I’m very curious to see how he handles it. I’ll take Urban Meyer’s bunch, but this is a sneaky good game this weekend. Give me the Bucks, close.
Ohio State prospects
DT Michael Bennett: Uses great leverage and better quickness to get past opposing OL. Isn’t great at moving people just yet, but nonetheless still a top prospect.
CB Doran Grant: Could sneak his way into a back end first round prospect. On film, I thought he was the Buckeyes’ most consistent CB throughout last season (CB Bradley Roby, 1st Rd. Pick, Denver). Now, Grant is the clear leader of the defense.
TE Jeff Heuerman: Great build (6’5 255 lbs) and very athletic, Heuerman could be the Bucks best offensive threat when healthy. He has been limited thus far, being held without a catch in the opener. How much we will see of Heuerman vs the Hokies is a mystery.
WR Devin Smith: Could be considered an under the radar prospect, but I personally really like Smith. He possess ‘Get behind the safety speed’ and is a game breaker. Smith caught only 2 passes in the opener, one of them going for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Other prospects: OT Taylor Decker, LB Curtis Grant, DL Adolphus Washington
Virginia Tech prospects
DT Luther Maddy: I get it, he’s undersized. But the boy can flat out play football, and I expect him to have a huge game vs Ohio State to help his draft projections.
SS Kyshoen Jarrett: Not overly consistent, but has the physical tools. He can play center field with his great range or come in the box and smack some people around.
FS Detrick Bonner: One of the most versatile players in all of college football. In 30 career starts he’s played both corner spots, both safety spots, and even weak side backer. I feel confident in saying he will be at least on the Patriots draft radar.
Other prospects: C David Wang
Other solid games to keep an eye on this weekend include #4 Oklahoma @ Tulsa Noon, ABC/ESPN2 , #18 Ole Miss @ Vanderbilt 4:30 ESPN, ECU @ #21 South Carolina 7:00 ESPNU, BYU @ Texas 7:30, Fox Sports 1.