Another exciting week of college football in the books, and another group of story-lines and upsets. Oregon was the only top-five team to play an unranked opponent and it dropped 70 points on Colorado. Meanwhile, Alabama, Kansas State, and Notre Dame all handled their games, each winning by at least 17 points over their top 14 ranked opponents, including Notre Dame handling #8 Oklahoma.
Florida was the only top-five team to lose, getting shutdown offensively by #10 Georgia. Oregon State lost to unranked Washington and USC lost a shootout to Arizona. While this week doesn’t have as many top-15 teams playing one another, there are still some marquee games on tap. Who will rise and who will fall this week?
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at some interesting players to watch in this week’s games, with an eye toward the NFL Draft.
UAB @ Southern Mississippi
UAB LB Marvin Burdette
In what might be the “Toilet Bowl” of the year so far, this game pits two teams with a combined one win on the season against one another in the battle for ineptitude. While neither team has been successful on the field, there is some talent here. LB Marvin Burdette is one of the leading tacklers in the nation this season and one of the keys to the Blazers getting win number two.
Burdette (5’11, 230 lbs.) is small in stature, but has been making plays for UAB time and again. He has the look of a third day pick or an undrafted free agent due to his lack of prototypical size, but he has been a playmaker for the Blazers this season. So far on the year, he has 104 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, one forced fumble, and returned one interception for a touchdown.
Tulsa @ Arkansas
Tulsa LB DeAundre Brown
Tulsa has been playing very well all season with only one loss and enter a game against a solid SEC opponent with the real chance to win and possibly position themselves for a respectable bowl appearance Since losing in Week 1 to Iowa State, they’ve gone on a seven-game tear and with a win this week against Arkansas, could have them on their way to one-loss season. LB DeAundre Brown has been the Golden Hurricane’s best play-maker on defense all year.
Brown (5’11, 220 lbs.) is another player who lacks NFL size for the linebacker position, but plays big. He averages over ten tackles per game, leads the team in sacks, and is one of the best in the nation in tackles for loss. He looks like a third-day pick as of now, due to his small stature and will have to put on a little weight to handle NFL linemen and tight ends, but the talent is there. On the year, he has 82 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, five pass deflections, and one interception.
Texas A&M @ Mississippi State
Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope
Texas A&M has had a better than anticipated season with their only losses at the hands of heavyweights Florida and LSU (both in close games) and have had a bunch of players step up and put themselves on the radar’s of NFL scouts. One of those players is WR Ryan Swope, who will have the chance to showcase his talent against one of the top cornerbacks in the country in Johnthan Banks.
Swope (6’0, 206 lbs.) has had an inconsistent season, but has really stepped up the last couple of weeks. He has good NFL size, and has shown to be a good route runner with reliable hands. How he fairs against Banks will be telling and he can help improve his draft stock with a good performance against one of the top CB prospects. This season, Swope has 36 receptions for 520 yards and five touchdowns.
Texas @ Texas Tech
Texas CB Carrington Byndum
Texas Tech loves to throw the ball early and often, but just Texas happens to have one of the best pass rushing duo’s in the nation with DE’s Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat. While they apply the pressure on QB Seth Doege, it will be up to the secondary to make plays of its own. That’s where CB Carrington Byndum comes in.
Byndum (6’0, 180 lbs.) is the Longhorns’ best corner and hasn’t been tested that often this year. He has played well thus far and has proven he can not only cover well, but is also a solid tackler. Last year he had eight tackles for loss and this season he is on pace for a similar numbers. He has 34 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, two pass deflections, one blocked kick, and two interceptions, one of which went for a touchdown.
Oregon @ USC
USC S T.J. McDonald
This is one of the premier matchups of the year and one that has become a must see in recent seasons. This is yet another big time game that has serious BCS Championship implications late in the season, as Oregon currently sits at fourth in the latest BCS Rankings and is currently undefeated. USC already has two losses, and while they are out of the BCS picture, they can play spoiler and keep Oregon out of BCS title conversation with a win.
Oregon leads the nation in scoring at 53.4 points per game and has 34 rushing touchdowns so far this year. They are third in the nation in rushing with 330+ yards per game. Meanwhile, USC’s defense has allowed only 19.5 points per game and has held opposing rushing attacks to under four yards per carry and just above 125 yards rushing per game. What does this mean? This means you can look forward to a lot of collisions and some physical football. Enter USC safety and future first-round pick T.J. McDonald.
McDonald (6’3, 205 lbs.) is a three year starter at safety for the Trojans, and has been very good and very consistent for them over that time. He has averaged 78 tackles, almost 3 tackles for loss, one blocked kick, and three interceptions as a starter entering this year, and he is on pace to surpass or has already surpassed those averages this season. While not speed demon like former USC safety Taylor Mays was, McDonald is just as athletic and just as big a hitter. McDonald has 64 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, and one blocked kick.
Game of the Week: Alabama @ LSU
Alabama OT D.J. Fluker
This is the game everyone has been waiting for all season. Going into the year, this was circled as a game that would almost certainly have BCS Championship implications. Last year’s regular season game was a classic game with an overtime defensive struggle that ended in a 9-6 LSU victory. The BCS Championship game was a totally different story as ‘Bama’s offense showed up and the defense stifled LSU’s offense again. But this time, it was the Crimson Tide that came away with the 21-0 win for its second BCS title in three years.
If LSU is going to have a chance in this one and avoid the embarrassment of another blowout loss, they’re going to have to stop an Alabama offense that has found its rhythm this year and is playing very well, having not scored less than 33 points in any game. The interior part of the o-line for Alabama is very good with Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack, both seniors and both likely first-round picks. The offensive tackles, however, are going to have their hands full, and the one to focus on will be OT D.J. Fluker, who will have to likely go against a top-ten talent in DE Barkevious Mingo.
Fluker (6’6, 335 lbs.) has great size and strength, but has been challenged all season as a pass blocker. He struggled in several contests this year in pass protection, often getting beat around the edge by speed rushers he couldn’t get his hands on. It just so happens that this is exactly the type of player that Mingo is. How the tackles handle the pass rushing of Mingo and Sam Montgomery will be key to how successful Alabama is on offense.
Mingo, Montgomery, Fluker, Jones, Warmack, and many more future NFL Draft picks will be on display in this marquee matchup. Adding to the excitement of the game, not only because of the BCS implications, but also because we will get to see all this talent go head-to-head with two of the best coaches in the country in LSU’s Les Miles and Alabama’s Nick Saban. Enjoy!