NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa
IT IS UPON US! The big time conference match ups begin this week. The crowds are a little louder, the hits are a little harder, and the games certainly mean that much more. But before that excitement, let’s do a quick recap of week 5.
Eyes on the SEC: Saturday started with Tennessee giving a legitimate scare into 17 point favorite #12 Georgia. I see Georgia having big issues down the road if QB Hutson Mason can’t improve his play. If not for the heroic effort of RB Todd Gurley (Just give him the damn’ Heisman already), this would have been a different story. Gurley ended with a career high 208 yards and scored 2 touchdowns. His power, strength, and speed is unmatched across college football. Tennessee freshmen RB Jalen Hurd will be a name to keep an eye on. He grinded out 119 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries against a good Georgia front 7. A&M came back to beat Arkansas in a wild one at Jerry World in OT. A&M QB Kenny Hill lit it up (386 yards, 4 TD, 1 Int), in a season saving effort to climb out of a 14 point 4th quarter hole. Arkansas RB Alex Collins (who I have as the 3rd best RB in the conference) shined as he ran for 131 yards and a touchdown. And in a wild night cap, Missouri went on the road and beat South Carolina in a revenge game from last season. Mizzou scored 14 unanswered to stay in the SEC east race, beating the Gamecocks 21-20.
Don’t forget about Brett Hundley and UCLA. They hung a 63 spot on Arizona State Thursday night with Brett Hundley throwing for 355 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 picks. Impressive. Not as impressive, the Bruins defense. They let a backup quarterback hang 488 passing yards on them, yikes. Hundley’s draft stock took a hit earlier in the season, but it looks like he is well on his way to fixing that. #1 Florida State struggled at NC State, but held on to win 56-41. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the ‘Noles will not finish the season undefeated. For a team loaded with NFL prospects for 2015 and beyond, they seem to play down to competition and undisciplined. Give them a little credit though, they climbed out of a 17 point deficit in conference on the road. And could things get ANY worse for Michigan. Not only did they get beat down by rival Minnesota 30-14, but Coach Brady Hoke is now under fire for allegedly playing QB Shane Morris through a concussion. Whelp. Now on to a jam packed week 6 highlighted by some SEC west showdowns.
#6 Texas A&M vs #12 Mississippi State Noon ESPN
The fact that this is a noon game should tell you how great of a weekend we have in store for us in the college football world. This clash of undefeated SEC west foes in Starkville should be one of the most exciting games of the year. It pairs two electric QB’s (MSU QB Dak Prescott & A&M QB Kenny Hill) against two better than you think defenses. In what will be a highly contested SEC west, the loser of this game may be knocked out of the SEC championship game discussion. MSU’s defense have been stout against the run this year giving up less than 3 yards per carry, however they have been prone to give up big pass plays down the field. Their front 7 has been as good as anyone so far this year, recording 14 sacks in 4 games. I expect A&M to run as many plays as possible and to try and wear down the Bulldogs’ front, while MSU should play with poise, control the clock and keep the game in their favor. The most important player of the game in my eyes is MSU LB Benardrick McKinney. He will have to control the front and the Aggies’ pressing run game up the middle. The cowbells will be ringing, MSU has had 2 weeks to prepare, and Starkville will be loud and ready for the noon start. I’m going to go with Mississippi State close, in a shootout.
OLB Benardrick McKinney: If he comes out I see him as a first round pick. Very versatile and flexible in his alignments. Answered the bell in a big way a few weeks back in Tiger Stadium, dominating what is an excellent LSU offensive line.
FS Justin Cox: Former JUCO transfer, Cox has shown decent range on film this year at safety after switching from corner. Poor tackler at times, and his speed is in question. However, he shows good explosiveness to the point of attack which helps combat other flaws.
WR Jameon Lewis: Had a big time coming out party at Tiger Stadium a few weekends ago (5 catches 116 yards, 1 TD) Lewis’ greatest attribute is his quickness (5’8, 185 lbs).
TE/FB/ATH Malcolm Johnson: Not really a tight end, not really a full back. Versatile player who has already hauled in 2 touchdowns this year but only has caught 5 catches. Beats you with his first step and I believe will be quick enough to be productive in the NFL.
Other prospects: CB Jamerson Love, QB Dak Prescott
OT Cedric Ogbuehi: Uncharacteristically struggled at some points vs Arkansas but all in all did a good job anchoring the line vs a physical Arkansas team, still see him as a mid to late first round prospect.
OG Jarvis Harrison: A versatile guard who can play any of the interior positions, he should project as a mid-round prospect.
WR Malcome Kennedy: Caught the game winning TD in OT to down rival Arkansas after a relatively quiet game. He’s a good route runner with so-so speed and average size. Potential late round selection. So far he has 30 catches for 334 yards and a touchdown.
Other prospects: DE Myles Garrett* FR, RB Trey Williams, TE Cam Clear, DB Deshazor Everett, FS Floyd Raven Jr.
#3 Alabama vs #11 Ole Miss 3:30 CBS
Is this not the biggest game in school history for the Rebels? For a team who has never made a single appearance in the SEC Championship game, this is huge. Ole Miss arguably has their most talented team in a decade and they get to play big bad Alabama at home. Rebels’ Safety Cody Prewitt (One of my favorite prospects) recently said “Alabama isn’t as good as it’s been in the past”. That may in fact be true, at least in the past few years, but they’re still awfully good and arguably the best team in the country. Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace has struggled in the past against Bama, but this is his senior year and it’s his time to shine. There are plays to be made vs the Bama secondary, who have been uncharacteristically prone to giving up the big play. It will be loud, and I expect a great atmosphere in Oxford come Saturday. That being said, nothing shuts up a crowd easier than a bruising, relentless running game. Bama QB Blake Sims will eventually have to be the man if the Tide will be undefeated all year, but I don’t think he’ll need to be Saturday. Too much Derrick Henry, too much Bama beef on the O-line, and way too much Amari Cooper. Give me Bama to cover the 6 point spread and then some.
SS Landon Collins: He’s been a baller this year. He’s in the box hitting people and he’s outside making plays. Had a huge pick in the Florida game a few weeks back. The best safety in America.
WR Amari Cooper: Cooper has in my eyes cemented himself as the number 1 wide receiving prospect in America. This year he’s caught 43 passes for 655 yards and 5 touchdowns through 4 games. In comparison, he caught 45 passes for 736 yards and 4 touchdowns for the entire season last year. It isn’t just the stats though, he physically looks like a guy who could walk into a few NFL locker rooms and be the go-to guy tomorrow.
RB Derrick Henry*: Has officially passed JR TJ Yeldon on the depth chart and rightfully so. I believe Henry is the second best running back in America already in just his first year of seeing real consistent playing time. At 6’3 241 lbs he is an absolute load with good deceptive speed. Rreminds me of a bigger Jamal Lewis.
OG Arie Kouandjio : Big, strong, and nasty. A top 5 interior offensive line prospect. A projected late first round pick if all goes well.
Other prospects: RB TJ Yeldon, DT Brandon Ivory, OT Austin Sheppard, WR Christion Jones, RB Kenyan Drake, C Ryan Kelly, DT Darren Lake, ILB Trey DePriest, ILB Denzel Devall
Ole Miss prospects
FS Cody Prewitt: When you talk the talk, you better walk the walk. The 6’2 215lbs safety has been great so far this year delivering menacing blows to opposing ball carriers and has been good in coverage. He gave Bama some bulletin board material this week, let’s see if he backs that up.
DE C.J. Johnson: He’s a flat-out athlete. Not sure if he will end up staying as a DE or if he’ll end up moving, but he is a versatile player who must be dynamic to pull off the upset.
WR Laquon Treadwell*: Treadwell bounced back last week against rival Memphis after two relatively quiet games with a 5 catch 123 yard 2 touchdown effort in the Rebels’ 24-3 win.
Other prospects: SS Serderius Bryant, QB Bo Wallace, CB Senquez Golson & DE Robert Nkemdiche*
*2016 draft prospect
#14 Stanford vs #9 Notre Dame 3:30 NBC
A pivotal matchup for the college football playoffs. Notre Dame hasn’t had much competition yet, but their schedule is about to get challenging. Stanford boasts America’s best defense at the moment, leading the country in both scoring and yards allowed. As good as Stanford is on the defensive side of the ball, their equally as bad offensively in the red zone. Amazingly, they are 121st in the country in red zone scoring. For a playoff contender, that’s a joke. Notre Dame didn’t look great last week but still managed to beat Syracuse 31-15. This game is on Everette Golson. He must take care of the ball, be careful not to force things and when the situation presents itself, take his shot down field. Stanford is great on defense and I trust Kevin Hogan more then I trust Golson. I think this will be a hard fought, low scoring game. Give me the Cardinal by a field goal.
Notre Dame prospects
CB Cody Riggs: Undersized, but very smart and versatile. Has played well this year, but also hasn’t been tested. Looking forward to the Riggs/Montgomery matchup more than anything.
TE Ben Koyack: Hasn’t been much of a factor so far this year, could Stanford be the coming out party? (I say no).
QB Everett Golson: Still not sold on him as a pro prospect, but has played well this year. Most recently had some struggles vs Syracuse (2 picks). All eyes will be on him vs Stanford… can he control the ball and convert the big plays when necessary.
Other prospects: OG Christian Lombard, WR DaVaris Daniels, DE Ishaq Williams, CB KeiVarae Russell, DT Sheldon Day,
OT Andrus Peat: Has been a force this year, and has looked good on film. 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: Stuck on the game manager / playmaker border. I think to beat ND Hogan will have to stretch the field and make some plays and I believe he will. Was a legitimate running threat last week vs Washington, and I will be interested if Stanford works more of that into the gameplan.
WR Ty Montgomery: Stanford’s go to guy and my 3rd ranked WR prospect currently. The 6’2 senior has had a modest year so far with 26 catches for 275 yards and 3 touchdowns. I see him having to make a big play or two late in an upset-effort.
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
#15 LSU vs #5 Auburn 7:00 ESPN
The third big time SEC West clash of the day pits #15 LSU vs #5 Auburn. Auburn was tested two weeks ago at Kansas State and survived, but this is a different animal. Not only is LSU arguably one of the most talented teams in the country, they are in a desperate, much win situation on the Plains. Two SEC losses before mid-October would almost certainly eliminate the Bayou Bengals from SEC Championship game contention. The LSU QB situation should be settled, at least for now. Freshmen QB Brandon Harris came off the bench last weekend and threw for 3 touchdowns, and with Harris on the field the LSU offense seems more dynamic. The most talked about freshmen in the history of ever, RB Leonard Fournette turned in his best effort of his young LSU career Saturday with 122 yards on the ground with 2 touchdowns. I’m worried about the LSU run defense. They have been prone to give up plays up the middle, particularly, and haven’t done well against talented runners so far. I expect Auburn RB and 2015 surging draft prospect Cameron Artis-Payne to receive at least 25+ carries and to give LSU all they can handle. The key to the game will be the start. If LSU lets Auburn run out in front of them as they did with Mississippi State, this one will be over quick. But if LSU can weather the early storm, I believe they can hang around and make this a 60 minute contest. I’ll take Auburn, but I see it closer than the “experts” are predicting. Aubie by 3.
WR D’haquille Williams: Every year, there’s at least 1 or 2 JUCO kids who splash onto the scene and make a huge impact (Cam Newton, Cordarrelle Patterson, ect). Williams, the former LSU commit, has been as good as advertised. He is by far Auburn’s go-to guy with 23 catches (next closest on team has 6) 357 yards and 2 touchdowns. He runs better routes then he gets credit for and has good hands. Great athlete for his size (6’2 215 lbs), I anticipate he will be a ‘one and done’ and go pro after this year.
RB Cameron Artis-Payne: Tough physical runner. Good balance and deceptive speed. He’s run for 468 yards with 5 touchdowns so far without getting the Tre Mason sized work load. I expect to see plenty of CAP Saturday night, at least for 25 carries.
WR Sammie Coates: Has been completely overshadowed by D’haquille Williams this year with only recording 5 catches. Nonetheless, Coates has showed a unique size speed (6’2, 4.40 40) combo that could make him a very intriguing prospect at the next level. Needs to start performing, though. Had him as high as my preseason 4th WR prospect for 2015, now he’s out of my top 10.
Other prospects: C Reese Dismukes, DT Gabe Wright, S Robenson Therezie, OLB Cassanova McKinzy (Best name in CFB), RB Corey Grant, TE C.J. Uzomah, QB Nick Marshall
OT/OG La’el Collins: He’s been solid, but he hasn’t played up to his “Top 3 OT in America” billing so far, in my opinion.
OG/OT Vadal Alexander : Like Collins, Alexander is a very versatile player. He’s one of the top interior O-line prospects that I see right now. Would probably start on the Patriots O-line today, but does that even mean anything anymore?
WR Travin Dural*: The sophomore receiver has carried the Tigers’ WR corps so far. At 6’2 with good leaping ability, I can’t wait to see where Dural is at this point next year. Potential big time 2016 draft prospect to keep your eye on.
RB Kenny Hilliard: I have him as a top 10 RB right now. He’s had a lighter work load the last two weeks with Fournette receiving more carries, but nonetheless I see Hilliard getting his touches and playing a key role Saturday.
Other prospects: DE Danielle Hunter, RB Terrance MaGee, FS Ronald Martin, DE Jermauria Rasco
#19 Nebraska vs #10 Michigan State 8:00 ABC
Could end up being the most important BigTen game played this season. I am looking at this game through my draft prospect tinted sunglasses and that alone. I want to see Ameer Abdullah run the ball over and over and over again and see what Sparty can do to stop him. I’ve been higher on Abdullah then most from the start. He may not have the physical tools of a Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon, but he has that knack to make the big play when his team needs it. I’m going on a major limb and say that Abdullah will be a better pro then Gordon, who some believe is the second best RB in this class. MSU will rely on QB Connor Cook to continue being the Good Connor Cook. He’s played well this year and he needs to play well Saturday. Nebraska has some playmakers in the secondary such as CB Daniel Davie, so he will need to be careful with his throws. I expect Abdullah to have a great game, climb the Heisman boards, and for Nebraska to go on the road and beat Sparty to start 6-0 for the first time since 2001.
RB Ameer Abdullah: One of my favorite prospects in all of CFB. I am expecting him to take over this game with his bruising yet elusive running style.
DE / OLB Randy Gregory: Dominant speed edge rusher. Beats OT with his first step quickness yet isn’t afraid to bull rush smaller linemen as well. Needs work on run defense, nonetheless I see him as a top 20 pick right now.
S Corey Cooper: Has exceeded expectations so far this year. He is a good solid run defender as well as an improving pass coverage safety, and I see him as a middle (3-5) round prospect.
Other prospects : WR Kenny Bell
DE Shilique Calhoun: Sparty’s most impactful defensive player, but he needs to start playing like it in the big moments. Disappeared for long stretches vs Oregon. I see him as a 3-4 OLB NFL prospect. Great speed for his size but can be vulnerable vs a physical rush attack (HELLO AMEER ABDULLAH!)
QB Connor Cook: I have been critical of Cook before but I must say, he’s looked good this year. His overall decision making has been better and he has the arm to make all of the throws. He can keep plays alive with his feet as well, and gives the defense that much more to worry about. In a primetime home night game vs a ranked opponent, let’s see how Cook handles it.
CB Trae Waynes: Has played great this year. Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is more talked about, but I like Waynes better as the pro prospect. He is currently my #1 CB on my big board. Thrives as a press-man corner.
FS Kurtis Drummond: Point blank, he looked bad vs Oregon. Re-watched that game multiple times, and not only was Drummond playing with poor eye discipline (out of position, sucked in on play action multiple times) but he didn’t tackle well either. I don’t see him as a first round prospect right now.
Other Prospects: RB Jeremy Langford, RB Nick Hill, DE Marcus Rush, WR Tony Lippett
There’s some other huge games this weekend, including a huge SEC east matchup Florida vs Tennessee NOON, SEC Network, #20 Ohio State vs Maryland NOON, ABC, #4 Oklahoma vs #25 TCU 3:30, FOX, #7 Baylor vs Texas 3:30 ABC, South Carolina vs Kentucky 7:30, SEC Network.
Tags: Saturday Slate