The BCS Championship landscape is taking shape and with just over a month worth of games left, here’s what we know. It’s Alabama and everyone else. After coming back and beating #5 LSU in Baton Rouge, Bama’s remaining roadblocks to a second straight BCS title game appearance (and a likely second straight title win) are Texas A&M and whoever they play in the SEC championship game. Kansas State and Oregon handled their games well, winning by double digits, and Notre Dame survived with a three point overtime win over Pitt.
Last week, big time prospects came through with huge games, including guys like Oregon RB Kenjon Barner and Tennessee QB Tyler Bray. Who will step up this week and help their team get a win? Who will suffer an upset? Let’s take a look at some NFL Draft prospects who will be on display this weekend.
Oregon State @ Stanford
Stanford TE Zach Ertz
Stanford has lost two regular season games for the first time since Andrew Luck was a freshman, and they have games at Oregon and UCLA still on tap. Stanford has been playing its typical shutdown defense and still have a smash-mouth rushing attack, but the passing game has yet to catch up. Despite the inconsistent quarterback play and no one stepping up on the outside, tight end Zach Ertz has had a very good season to date and looks to be an early second day pick.
Ertz (6’6, 252 lbs.) is a better receiver than blocker, as his size, good hands, and leaping ability allow him to shield defenders and make plays on the ball. He can be a very effective red zone weapon when given the opportunities. He could add 10 to 15 pounds to help him with his blocking and still should be able to maintain his above average speed. He has 38 receptions for 566 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.
Wake Forest @ North Carolina State
N.C. State QB Mike Glennon
N.C.State is another team this year that has been up and down. While they beat Florida State at home in early October, they got blown out last week against a two win Virginia team at home on homecoming. With the running game being wildly mediocre, senior QB Mike Glennon has had to carry the offense, and he has been playing better than his stats indicate.
Glennon (6’6, 232 lbs.) has excellent size for the position, great arm strength, and all the tools a pro quarterback needs. Because the running game has been non-existent, Glennon has had to shoulder the offensive load, and while that has led to some ugly numbers – he has 12 picks through nine games, despite the fact that he had 12 all of last year – that also has allowed Glennon to show that he has the talent to play on the next level. So far on the year, Glennon has completed 56.9% of his passes for 2,652 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Arizona State @ USC
USC DE Morgan Breslin
USC has underachieved this season with three losses already, but that doesn’t mean the talent level is down this year. The Trojans have a bevy of talent all over the field and are stocked with future NFL Draft picks, including junior defensive end Morgan Breslin.
Breslin (6’2, 250 lbs.) has really come on this year and has been playing better than the highly touted and fellow DE Wes Horton. He has been a disruptive force off the edge, and has been a very solid pass rusher and a difference maker. Last week he had a sack and two tackles for loss in the loss against Oregon, and against Cal he showed how disruptive he could be when he tallied 3.5 sacks. For the season, he has 39 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, and four pass deflections.
Louisville @ Syracuse
Louisville C Mario Benavides
Louisville is undefeated at 9-0 and ranked in the top ten. They are one of the surprise teams of the season, and also one of the youngest, as they have a lot of sophomores and juniors playing very key roles. Center Mario Benavides is one of the exceptions, as he is a senior and the most experienced starter on the team with 43 starts under his belt.
Benavides (6’4, 280 lbs.) is one of the top centers in this year’s NFL Draft class, and his draft stock projects him as a second or early third day pick at this time. Louisville has a very solid and balanced offense, and Benavides has shown he can push the pile in the run game and holds up well in pass protection. He will likely have to add some weight in the NFL, but has shown well so far this season, especially against UNC DT Sylvester Williams.
Central Michigan @ Eastern Michigan
Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher
This isn’t a real exciting contest, but there is a real good NFL prospect worth watching in this game: OT Eric Fisher. A bit unheralded when the season began, he was a third team All-MAC performer last season and has started games at RT and RG, but is their every-down LT this season. He has been performing very well as has their entire unit. Central Michigan is tied for tenth in the nation in sacks allowed.
Fisher (6’8, 305 lbs.) has excellent size for a left tackle, long arms, and can handle the speed rush and power rushers with ease on the edge. An equally good pass protector and run blocker, he is quietly rising up draft boards and stands as a second round pick as of now. NFL teams are always looking for quality left tackles, and Fisher’s stock could stand to rise in the coming months as draft season rolls around.
Miami (FL) @ Virginia
Virginia OT Oday Aboushi
Virginia is not a good football team this year, and before winning their last game against N.C.State, they had lost six straight games. The offense just can’t get going consistently as they’ve averaged just under 23 points per game. Oday Aboushi is the offense’s best player, and though he too has had bouts of inconsistency, he is one of the better offensive tackle prospects in the nation.
Aboushi (6’6, 310 lbs.) came into the year as a potential first round pick at left tackle. Good size, solid pass blocking, and quick feet were some of the positives attributes that have been tossed out regarding Aboushi in the preseason and still hold firm today. Where he needs improvement is in run blocking, as Virginia is only averaging 3.95 yards per carry. While that’s not entirely his fault, he has never been viewed as a solid run blocker. He should still be viewed as an early second round pick and has a nice test against a solid stable of young pass rushers this week against Miami.
Missouri @ Tennessee
Missouri DT Sheldon Richardson
Missouri’s defense hasn’t set the nation on fire with its play as a unit, and the team itself has disappointed based on what was expected in the preseason, but one player that has been doing all he can to help his team win is DT Sheldon Richardson. He has been on a tear this year, and with his stellar play, he has pushed himself into early day-two consideration and should only improve his Draft stock from here.
Richardson(6’4, 295 lbs.) has excellent size and has been a standout on this defense all season. He leads his team in tackles, which is amazing for a defensive tackle. He is very good at shedding blocks and has the knack for splitting the double team to make a play in the backfield. He gets excellent penetration and can collapse the pocket, which is something that is very desirable. Thus far on the year, he has 63 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, three forced fumbles, and a blocked kick.
Game of the Week: Texas A&M @ Alabama
Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
This is Alabama’s last big time game before the SEC Championship, as their next two games are at home against Western Carolina and Auburn. Alabama has been just as dominant on defense this year as last year’s championship squad, allowing just nine touchdowns in nine games, while holding opposing offenses to 228.9 total yards per game. The front-seven is on of the best, if not the best in the nation, and inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is the leader and play-maker of the group.
Mosley (6’2, 232 lbs.) had some big cleats to fill as he had to help replace the defensive leader in first round NFL Draft pick Dont’a Hightower and he has done a great job. He leads the team in tackles and is tied for second in sacks and picks. He makes the calls for the defense and is a future first round draft pick, as he is not only intelligent, but is also a sure tackler and rarely out of position. So far on the year, Mosley has 69 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, one forced fumble and recovery, two deflections, and two interceptions, one of which he took back for a touchdown.