Saturday Slate: Week 3 Matchups to Watch in College Football

NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa

The cupcakes will start going away soon, I promise. For a college football weekend that didn’t provide numerous big time match-ups, Week 2 certainly surpassed expectations.

“Thank God for Ameer today” said Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini. After all, 2015 NFL RB draft prospect Ameer Abdullah not only sprung his name into the Heisman race after his heroic catch and run out of the backfield Saturday (breaking atleast 5 tackles), but he saved Nebraska from one of the most embarrassing defeats in school history to FCS McNeese State.

Bad day for the Big Ten on Saturday. Nebraska was lucky to escape an FCS school, Purdue got blasted on its home field to Central Michigan, Northern Illinois won at Northwestern, and all three primetime BigTen games went against the conference. In what could have been statement games, Michigan got blanked by rival Notre Dame for the first time ever, Ohio State got flat out beat at home vs Virginia Tech, and Michigan State after leading at the half in Eugene still managed to lose by 19 while playing the Oregon Ducks. Texas may be heading for a historic bad season under first year coach Charlie Strong, losing to BYU 41-7 in Austin. UCLA so far looks far from the dark horse title contender’ they were talked up to be in the preseason, struggling to beat Memphis at home.

Impression of the weekend: Todd Gurley didn’t play football last weekend so I’ll be forced to go elsewhere. USC as a team impressed me. It looks like they have returned to being a legitimate conference contender. Liked what I saw out of Missouri. In a classic trap game traveling to play at noon in Toledo, Missouri looked the part of a SEC team playing against some ‘MACtion”. Also loved watching Oregon. Typically, big physical teams tend to give Oregon fits. Not this time. Early on they struggled, but potential #1 pick Marcus Mariota led the Ducks to four touchdowns in the final 20 minutes of that game. I already talked about him, but Ameer Abdullah really jumped off the page. I know it was against McNeese State, but that stadium was on pins and needles. Everyone was looking for someone to make a play. Great players step up and do what Abdullah did in that moment. The first true ‘Heisman Moment’ of the season.

My way too early top 4: Currently, I have it at #1 Oregon, #2 Georgia, #3 Oklahoma, #4 Alabama. Plenty will change here, but after watching two weeks of college football I still think these are the four best teams in college football with Florida State, Texas A&M & Auburn banging at the doorstep. Now to the games you should be watching this weekend.

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#6 Georgia @ #24 South Carolina 3:30 CBS

South Carolina followed up a disastrous opening game vs Texas A&M with a clash vs East Carolina. The Gamecocks didn’t look much better Saturday night, but there was one difference: Mike Davis. The star RB rushed for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns. ECU cut it to a one possession game in the fourth, and was led all night by QB Shane Carden (321 yards. 1 TD 2 INT). This week Todd Gurley and the Georgia Bulldogs come to town. South Carolina has been very vulnerable on defense. I expect Todd Gurley & Nick Chubb to have their way on offense and Leonard Floyd to lead the way on defense. I expect it to be close for a while as South Carolina will be fighting for their SEC lives, however I believe the better team will win this one, I’ll say UGA by 11.

Georgia prospects:

RB Todd Gurley: If I mention his name anymore, the letters will get worn out on my keyboard. My #1 overall football player in college football right now.

OLB Leonard Floyd: The most interesting prospect on the team. We all know how good Gurley is, but what about Floyd? There’s some difference of opinion on him, but I like him a lot. In his first game Floyd was a terror, registering 2 sacks and 6 QB pressures.

OLB Jordan Jenkins: Dropped some weight in the offseason to become quicker and more explosive. Certainly looked the part vs Clemson 2 weeks ago.

ILB Ramik Wilson: Probably more of a 4-3 OLB at the next level, Ramik is an excellent athlete for the position in college. Will be tested vs Mike Davis.

CB Damian Swann: On the fringe of getting drafted, Swann has the physical tools needed to excel. Willing tackler, but must make more impactful plays in 2014.

Other Prospects: QB Hutson Mason, DE Ray Drew

South Carolina prospects:

RB Mike Davis: Limited in the A&M game, Davis looks like he’s back and ready carrying the ball 18 times last week for 101 yards and a touchdown.

OT Corey Robinson: Robinson (6’7, 348 lbs) played better last week against ECU and must keep it rolling vs the explosive Georgia defense.

OG A.J. Cann: The versatile left guard has a team high 40 starts under his belt, and is arguably the best guard in college football. A possible first round pick.

DT J.T. Surratt: Has struggled at times on film this season. Lord knows Gurley & Co. will test this Gamecocks front 7 early and often.

Other prospects to watch: FS Kadetrix Marcus, SS Brison Williams, TE Rory Anderson (hurt), QB Dylan Thompson


 

Kentucky @ Florida 7:30 SEC Network

Florida finally kicked off their 2014 season Saturday with a 65-0 win over Eastern Michigan. They without a doubt look more organized and explosive on offense and their defense is typical of Florida: big, fast, & strong athletes all over the field. Florida carries a 27 game winning streak over Kentucky. So what’s different this year? Mark Stoops. Stoops will have his Wildcats ready to play in the swamp. He is still a few recruiting classes away from having Kentucky legitimately in the conversation of the SEC race, but the attitude has changed in Blue Grass Country. Florida will win this game, it will probably be by two scores, but I expect Kentucky to show up in the swamp for once and give Florida at worst a 3 quarter game.

Florida prospects

DE/OLB Dante Fowler Jr. : Has been inconsistent at times in Gainesville, but has all the tools and traits to be a front end first round draft selection.

C Max Garcia: Made the transition to C successfully in spring practice. Could be a mid-round draft prospect.

OT Chaz Green: Was Florida’s best Oline prospect before getting hurt last season. He’s back, and he’s healthy. Can he return to his top level form?

WR Quinton Dunbar: The senior receiver is Florida’s best offensive weapon. Opened the season with 5 catches and 81 yards last week.

Other prospects: DT Leon Orr, LB Neiron Ball, LB Michael Taylor, OL Trenton Brown

Kentucky Prospects

DE Alvin Dupree: Kentucky’s best player better play like superman and then some to stay with the Gators in Gainesville. Had 7 sacks and 9 TFL’s last season.

DE Za’Darius Smith: The senior defensive end has been active in both games so far but has yet to record a sack. I expect that to change Saturday.


 

Tennessee @ #4 Oklahoma 8:00 ABC

Butch Jones leads his young Volunteers into Norman on Saturday night for their first true test of the season. Utah State was believed to give Tennessee struggles’ in their opener, however the Vols cruised 38-7. This is a different animal though. Oklahoma may be the best team in the country right now. Trevor Knight has played lights out so far this year. Their two running backs Keith Ford and Alex Ross have both rushed for over 7 yards per carry thus far and at least 3 touchdowns a piece.   That being said, Tennessee looks like a SEC team (speed & strength wise) this year for the first time since before Derek Dooley ran the program into the ground. The Vols have athletes on the perimeter (Marquez North, Pig Howard, Jason Croom) who I believe can give the Oklahoma defense issues. The clear mismatch in the game resides in the trenches. Oklahoma should dominate the box on both sides of the ball, which should ease them to victory. But not so fast. Butch Jones said “At least a third of our roster will be flying for the first time this weekend”, which scares me for the Vols, but I believe they will keep it closer than the experts think (OU -21). The Vols won’t be intimidated by the venue, I just think they will lose to the better team. I don’t expect OU to look past Tennessee either, as it may very well be their third toughest game of the season (what a joke you are, Big 12). Oklahoma by two scores.

Oklahoma prospects

OLB Eric Striker: Versatile. Strong against the run and good against the pass. Phenomenal on tape exploding off the edge and loves to play in the backfield. May not be a first round prospect but I believe he will be a difference maker at the next level. Exciting, exciting prospect.

OG Adam Shead: Good arm length and quickness, needs to work on his feet though. Can tend to have bad technique at the point of attack up field.

OT Daryl Williams: Back to back All Big 12 honors for Williams. Looks the part of a stellar prospect but doesn’t always use his body the way he should. Room to improve.

DE Charles Tapper: 5 technique defensive end in the 3-4 scheme, Tapper gives the Sooners good flexibility along their front 7. Arguably their best and most impactful defensive player.

Other prospects: OT Tyrus Thompson, ILB Frank Shannon, K Michael Hunnicutt, TE Blake Bell, CB Julian Wilson, DT Chuka Ndulue, DE Geneo Grissom

Tennessee prospects *= not draft eligible

ILB A.J. Johnson: Currently the SEC’s leading tackler, Johnson does it all for the Vols. He’s all over the field on defense and can cause havoc on special teams. Needed to get faster, quicker, and more decisive this season and he has. I believe he will be a first round pick.

CB Cameron Sutton*: Just a sophomore, but Sutton has already made a name for himself. Freshmen All America last season, Sutton is a ball hawk and has the ability to cover elite receivers.

WR Alton Pig Howard: The heart and soul of the Tennessee offense. Will be moved around with the loss of Von Pearson this week. Good little slot receiver who can make people miss in the open field.  Perfect for Butch Jones’ offensive system.

WR Marquez North*: You know a team is young when most of the prospects aren’t draft eligible. North is a freakish receiver (6’4 221lbs 4.4/ 40) who is a mismatch vs most corners. Has made some huge plays in his young career, will need to make maybe 7 of them Saturday night to keep the Vols close. Potential high first round pick.

Other prospects: RB Marlin Lane, RB Jalen Hurd*, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin*, DE Derrick Barnett*, QB Justin Worley, CB Justin Coleman


 

#12 UCLA @ Texas 8:00 FOX

Who has looked worse thus far? Will either of these two teams show up Saturday? I gave UCLA a pass for opening weekend. Noon start on the east coast vs a pesky Virginia team. Fine. But then you barely beat Memphis at home? This coming from a team who was picked by more then a few to play for a National Championship this year? I need to see more. I need to see consistency on both sides of the ball. Brett Hundley needs to play the way he did last week (396 yards, 3 tds) every week. If your going to compete for the Heisman with my man Todd Gurley, that’s the level of play he needs to stay at. This defense looked pathetic vs Memphis last week, and that needs to change. They aren’t exactly playing Oregon this week, however. The Longhorns got beat down in their own house by BYU last weekend 41-7. Their defense is just horrendous at the simple things. Tackling.. Lining up right.. getting the calls in. Elementary things that shouldn’t be an issue. Charlie Strong is a few more embarrassing home losses to already losing the boosters and the fan base. Both, these teams are a lot more talented than their recent performances says they are. At least one of them will show up Saturday. I’ll take UCLA by 2 touchdowns.

UCLA Prospects

QB Brett Hundley: The Heisman / first round pick contender looked better last week vs Memphis after an unimpressive season opener vs Virginia. I expect Hundley to play well vs Texas.

DT Ellis McCarthy: Versatile defender upfront, however projects best on the interior. Gap plugger with some push. He may stay for his senior year next year, as I believe he is set to eventually fly up draft boards.

ILB Eric Kendricks: Younger brother of Mychal (46th pick 2012 draft), Eric plays just like his older brother. On film he’s very light on his feet, quick to the hole, and possess good agility which helps him in run/pass situations. Has had some injury issues off and on, however if healthy I believe he will be a contributor at the next level.

Other prospects: OL Malcolm Bunche, FS Anthony Jefferson, OC Jake Brendel

Texas Prospects

DE Cedric Reed: Texas’ top pass rusher and best defensive prospect. Isn’t as powerful on film as he should be with that frame (6’5 258lbs). He does however show a great motor consistently. If he can play stronger at the point of attack then he may live up to his first round hype.

RB Johnathan Gray: Could be the best offensive weapon on the roster. Has been better then Malcolm Brown so far, but hasn’t been the back Texas needs either. If the Longhorns are going to win this game, expect a big day out of Gray.

RB Malcolm Brown: Has had a solid career thus far for the horns, however anything he does may not live up to the hype coming out of high school. He was once called “The next Ricky Williams”. High praise for a Longhorn. He needs to turn it up, a lot. He averaged just 2 yards per carry last week against BYU.

DT Malcom Brown: Started all 13 games last year and off to a decent start this year. Brown can take on multiple blocks and bully his way into the hole. Will need to show up vs the explosive UCLA offense.

Other prospects : CB Quandre Diggs, WR Jaxon Shipley, WR Daje Johnson, TE Geoff Swaim, OT Josh Cochran, C Dominic Espinosa

 

Other noteworthy games of the weekend: UMASS @ Vanderbilt, noon ESPN3, Louisville @ Virginia, 12:30 ESPN3, #9 USC @ BC 8:00 ESPN, #16 Arizona State @ Colorado, 10:00 ESPNU

 

Follow me on twitter for CFB news and updates all saturday long, @CJSOUSA14

 

 

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