NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa
Turkey. Stuffing. Delayed Flights. Oh yeah, it’s that time of year again. Rivalry Week is upon us in the college football universe. For some teams, their rivalry game is the only game that matters all season. Others need to beat their hated rival to stay in the play off race. Regardless, winning is the most important statistic of the weekend. That being said, it can do wonders for a prospect to deliver a big time clutch performance when all of the eyes are watching (Brett Hundley last week). Lets preview the top games of the weekend as well as prospects who can help themselves the most on rivalry week.
Friday November 28
Stanford vs #9 UCLA 3:30 ABC
Round of applause please for Brett Hundley and the entire UCLA football team. The Junior QB played extremely well vs a talented Trojans’ defense throwing for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns. Top 2015 NFL LB prospect Eric Kendricks continued his stellar senior year Saturday night. Kendricks was all over the field recording 14 tackles and an impressive interception. As for the game, I see it tilting in the Bruins favor. UCLA DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa was dominant last week against USC and played a significant impact in controlling the line of scrimmage. Stanford has struggled this year against teams who can move the football with fluidity, something the 6-5 Cardinal struggles with. I don’t see it being an Oregon-esque blow out, but I do expect UCLA to keep it rollin’ as one of the hottest teams in college football and beat the Cardinal. I’ll take the home team by two touchdowns.
QB Brett Hundley: When the bright lights were on, Hundley produced. Say what you want about Hundley, but he’s starting to play consistent football and starting to reclaim some of his pre-season hype. Even without being much of a running threat vs USC, Hundley was productive and efficient. Stanford ranks 7th in points agaisnt this year, giving up just 16.5 points per game.
ILB Eric Kendricks: As the weeks go by, one thing is starting to become clear. Kendricks will not be there towards the end of the first round. He has had an outstanding senior year showing athleticism as well as great instincts.
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa: Without a doubt played one of his best games last week. Was big time on an important fourth down and two, and overall just had his way against a pretty solid USC offensive line.
Other prospects: RB/LB *Myles Jack, DT Ellis McCarthy, OL Malcolm Bunche, FS Anthony Jefferson, OC Jake Brendel
OT Andrus Peat: Still the top OL on my board. He’s been better in pass protection, however he’s been more then solid in the run game as well this year. Shouldn’t get out of the top 10.
QB Kevin Hogan: He’ll put some film together which makes you a believer, and then at other times he just looks lost out there. He has completed 64.5 % of his passes this season which is nice, but I still have him well behind the top and second teir quarterback prospects.
WR Ty Montgomery: Stanford’s star wide receiver has been ruled OUT of Friday’s tilt vs UCLA.
Other Prospects : SS Jordan Richards, OLB James Vaughters, ILB AJ Tarpley
#13 Arizona State vs #15 Arizona 3:30 FOX Raise your hand if you thought this battle in the desert was going to be one of the most important games of the weekend earlier in the season. Not only is this a huge matchup for bragging rights and AP rankings, the winner would advance to the Pac 12 championship game if Stanford can upset UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Running back D.J. Foster has been impressive this year, especially in the ending moments of the Notre Dame game a few weeks back. He’s been a crucial part of the offense accounting for a team-high 968 yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He’s been a receiving threat as well grabbing 52 receptions for 586 yards and three touchdowns. Any Arizona State game is worth watching when Jaelen Strong is healthy and playing. End of first round talent here, as Strong leads the team with 982 yards and nine scores on 71 receptions. Arizona freshmen quarterback Anu Solomon has been impressive and surprising this year, however it is unclear if the young leader will be able to go as he has been listed as questionable with an ankle injury. If Solomon was playing I’d be tempted, but without Solomon I don’t think the Wildcats can keep up. Give me the fighting Jaelen Strong’s by 10.
Arizona State Prospects
WR Jaelen Strong: At 6’4 205 lbs, Strong possess great body control and jumping ability. His first step off the line is very impressive on film as he effortlessly gets into his route and out of his break. When in the lineup, Strong has been the most potent Sun Devil threat. He’s played his way into the first round in my opinion.
RB DJ Foster: Yeah, he’s been a little inconsistent this year. That can’t be argued. But Foster has been impressive in 2014 and has shown he can be a diverse multi-down back at the next level. Good hands out of the backfield, as well as the ability to get physical north and south. I like Foster as a mid round prospect to contribute at the next level.
OG Jamil Douglas: He’s been playing well lately, controlling some good front line defenders in recent weeks. Technique needs to improve, but I still see Douglas as a solid prospect.
Other prospects: DE Marcus Hardison, FB/H-Back De’Marieya Nelson, S Damarious Randall, DT Jaxon Hood
WR Austin Hill: Had some monster, big time moments in 2012 as a sophomore. However since he’s torn an ACL and has been inconsistent. You have to love the size at 6’3 215 lbs, however he just hasn’t been consistent this season. Hill is one of those “can help themselves the most during rivalry week” prospects.
RB Nick Wilson*: Talented freshmen running back who shows good vision and desire running through the hole. Torched a pretty decent Utah defense on the road for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns.
LB Scooby Wright: Phenomenal motor for a line backer. Where he lacks as an overall athlete he can compensate for by playing sound instinctive football. I really think he’s going to find his niche at the next level on a roster. Saturday November 29
The Egg Bowl – #4 Mississippi State vs #19 Ole Miss 3:30 CBS
At one point in the season, this looked like THE game of the year. However after some unfortunate injuries and pure bad luck during the year, the 8-3 Ole Miss Rebels limp into the Egg Bowl after being shut out by Arkansas. Ole Miss may have seen their season, and their championship aspirations evaporated into thin air, but their rivals from Starkville will be playing for a chance to play in the college football playoff. A win all but insures that the Bulldogs will be among the final four teams eligible for the National Championship. The game is in Oxford. It is the Egg Bowl after all. Crazier things have happened, even within this own rivalry. That being said, I trust Dak Prescott (my fourth ranked QB) a lot more then I trust Bo Wallace. Without Laquon Treadwell the Ole Miss offense has been limited in recent weeks. I think Mississippi State just has too much to play for Saturday night. They will beat their arch rivals in Oxford, 27-17.
OLB Benardrick McKinney: Great off the edge as a rusher, has shown the ability to play in the box and engage the run, while also possessing solid pass coverage ability. The “poor man’s Brian Urlacher comparison’s seem to be accurate to me when I pull up McKinney’s film. With other line backers dropping down draft boards for various reasons, McKinney seems to be one of the most safe picks at the position.
RB Josh Robinson: I’ve been Robinson’s biggest supporter all year. But even I must admit he struggled against Alabama. That being said, the offensive line was dominated as well, so I’ll give Robinson a one time free pass. He can redeem himself against a defensive front that some call even better then Alabama.
QB Dak Prescott: Did he play his best game against Alabama? No. But did he show me something in that game? Yes. All too often I see teams go into Tuscaloosa, have things turn south for them, and the game quickly gets out of control. But Prescott fought to bring his team back amid 3 interceptions and gave his team a chance to win that game late. Bounced back against Vanderbilt last week, but is that even worth mentioning? It’s Vanderbilt for goodness sakes. I expect Prescott to show up in a big way in possibly his last Egg Bowl Saturday. Other prospects: WR Jameon Lewis, CB Jamerson Love, Justin Cox, TE/FB/ATH Malcolm Johnson
Ole Miss Prospects
FS Cody Prewitt: You know, I read the other day from a draft expert that people think Prewitt is soft. Really? Have you turned on the tape? He is limited in pass coverage, sure. He has been caught in the wrong position in the back end at times this year, yes. But Prewitt is the kind of guy who’s always around the ball, making plays, and knocking some teeth out of opposing receivers. I see Prewitt deployed at the next level similar to how the Patriots have used Pat Chung this season. Keep him low and in the box, able to help on run support, and matched up on bigger, slower receiving targets.
OT Laremy Tunsil*: Potential 2016 #1 overall pick. Has put together great film during his sophomore campaign. I think he’s already a top 2-3 OT in college, by the time the season is over he may be a better prospect then 2015 top prospects Andrus Peat or La’el Collins. He simply just does everything well, way beyond his years. It’s as simple as that.
QB Bo Wallace: This season perfectly describes Bo Wallace’s career at Ole Miss. At times he just makes you fall in love with him, others you just want to pull your hair out. On his senior night, on the field where he delivered what was arguably the biggest win in program history over Alabama earlier in the year, can Wallace put together a stand out performance and ruin Mississippi State’s season?
Other prospects: DE C.J. Johnson, SS Serderius Bryant, CB Senquez Golson & DE Robert Nkemdiche* WR Laquon Treadwell* (Hurt – done for season)
The Iron Bowl – #15 Auburn vs #1 Alabama 7:45 ESPN To the people of Alabama, this game is in conversation 365 days a year. It’s not just a football game, it’s psychological life or death. Regardless of the records, this game never runs short on passion, desire, and what makes every rivalry great: hatred. I’ve watched thousands of football games in my lifetime, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as speechless as I was last year when Auburn’s Chris Davis returned an Alabama game winning field goal try for a 109 game clinching touchdown. This year other then bragging rights or SEC West title implications, Alabama is playing for the right to stay alive in the National Championship race. Auburn has fallen off recently. A complete debacle at the end of the Texas A&M game cost the Tigers what should have been an easy win. Coupled with a no-show effort at rival Georgia, Auburn is on the outside looking in on the playoff race. Alabama superstars Amari Cooper and Landon Collins will be playing their final game at Bryant-Denny, and I expect the two of them to be deciding factors in the game. Auburn must contain the running game. They have been gashed at certain points this year, and with two NFL caliber running backs in Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon the task won’t get any easier. I think in what might bed the biggest revenge game of all time, Alabama will come out and take care of Auburn at home. Alabama 30 – Auburn 17.
SS Landon Collins: The top defensive back in the class, still, without question. That being said his tape isn’t perfect and still has room to grow. I do not anticipate him getting past the top 10.
WR Amari Cooper: With Todd Gurley injured, Amari Cooper is my top offensive playmaker in the class. He can do everything. Great hands, good route runner, an efficient blocker as well as a dangerous runner with the ball in his hands. How high is too high for Cooper to be selected? I see him as a top 5 pick at the moment.
TJ Yeldon: Not the physical presence Derrick Henry gives you, but nonetheless the junior is averaging over 5 yards per carry in a solid 2014 campaign. It looked like he was going to be lost in the shuffle this year with emerging sophomore Derrick Henry and senior Kenyan Drake receiving more touches. However it’s been Yeldon who has been the leader of the backfield, and I see him as a mid-second round pick.
OG Arie Kouandjio: Big, strong, and nasty. A top 5 interior offensive line prospect. A projected late first round pick at the moment.
Other prospects: RB Derrick Henry*, DT Brandon Ivory, OT Austin Sheppard, WR Christion Jones, RB Kenyan Drake (Hurt, possible solid UDFA), C Ryan Kelly, DT Darren Lake, ILB Trey DePriest, ILB Denzel Devall
RB Cameron Artis-Payne: Was quoted saying “We need to get back to our brand of football” this week. Reading in between the lines, I think he just means “Coach, give me the rock 30 times and we’ll be good”. Artis-Payne has had a monster year, tallying just over 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns.
WR D’haquille “Duke” Williams: Auburn’s leading receiver will be back in action Saturday after missing two games for a knee injury. I think Williams is Auburn’s best receiving threat and will be called upon early and often to try and loosen up the Alabama defense as stopping the run is always Coach Saban’s first priority.
WR Sammie Coates: With Williams back, opportunities should come easier for Sammie Coates. Some called Coates a top 3 wide receiver in the preseason, but I haven’t scene it this year. He’s had some “WOW” moments, but overall it’s been an inconsistent 2014 campaign for Coates who has been dealing with his own injuries all season long. Other prospects: C Reese Dismukes, DT Gabe Wright, S Robenson Therezie, OLB Cassanova McKinzy, RB Corey Grant, TE C.J. Uzomah, QB Nick Marshall
This week I’m highlighting UCLA ILB/OLB Eric Kendricks for the Patriot wish list. Looking at the Patriots current situation, I believe an athletic multi-down linebacker who can play various positions is of the necessity. Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are without a doubt in the long term plans. However, past that the water gets murky. Captain of the defense Jerod Mayo tore a patellar tendon in week 6 and has been placed on injured reserve. His cap hit will rise to $10.6 million in the offseason. We’re just doing simple math here. I personally believe Mayo will be back in 2015, but past that I would be surprised. The team traded for Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers at the trade deadline for depth. Thus far, Ayers has been in a near exclusive pass rushing role (interesting to see how that changes once #95 gets healthy) and Casillas has been a special teams / second line type of defender. I think the time is now to add a quality linebacker for the future. If all goes well and New England is drafting at #32, I don’t believe Kendricks will be on the board. However I think Kendricks has the ability to step in right away and be a contributor. The Patriots have shown in the past that if the player fits, trading up 5-9 spots isn’t unreasonable (Jones, Hightower). Patriots fans should keep an eye on him the rest of the season.