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NFL Draft Prospects To Watch: Week 4

Another week of college football is in the books and what a week it was. Alabama absolutely dominated another ranked opponent. Matt Barkley and USC lost again to Stanford. And as always, there were good and bad performances from top draft talent around the country.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of this weeks interesting matchups, with an eye towards the NFL draft.

Cal vs USC

USC QB Matt Barkley

Barkley made this list last week, as USC took on Stanford. USC lost that game 21-14 and Barkley didn’t look good at all. He’ll now leave USC having never beaten Stanford. While the loss wasn’t entirely his fault, you can’t be considered a top 5 pick and potential first overall selection with that kind of performance. Barkley was up against perhaps the best defense he will face this season, but he still went 20 of 41 for 254 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, and he also had a huge fumble on a sack that set the Trojans way back.

Can he rebound from that disappointing performance last week against a conference foe? For the season, Barkley 813 yards, 10 touchdowns, three picks, and is completing 61% of his passes.

UCLA vs Oregon State

UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin

Franklin (5’11, 195lbs.) has literally carried the Bruins’ offense on his back so far this season. While the UCLA passing attack has been inconsistent, Franklin has been great for them. He already has two 200 yard rushing performances, including one against a very good Nebraska defense, while Oregon State hasn’t played since week one.

Franklin is looking like a solid day two option in the draft, and is having an impressive season thus far, as he has 541 yards on 66 carries, good for a 8.2 yard average, and has scored three times on the ground. He also has 121 yards receiving on eight catches and a touchdown.

Michigan vs Notre Dame

Michigan QB Denard Robinson vs Notre Dame’s Front Seven

Notre Dame has one of the best front sevens in the nation, filled with NFL talent at linebacker and on the defensive line. Robinson, however, has been a thorn in the Irish’s side the last two years, as he has had great games against this defense. Robinson (6’0, 200lbs.) might not be an NFL quarterback, but he is perfect for the Wolverine’s offensive system.

After a terrible game against Alabama, Robinson has looked like his old self. He rushed for only 27 yards on 10 carries against the Crimson Tide, but he had had 324 yards rushing and three touchdowns the last two games, including 218 against Air Force.

On the season, Robinson has 699 yards passing with six touchdowns and four interceptions, while adding 351 on the ground and four touchdowns. Can he handle the Irish defense again? Or will they be able to contain “Shoelaces”?

Kansas State vs Oklahoma

Oklahoma QB Landry Jones

In this game last season, the Sooners dominated Kansas State en route to a 58-17  beat-down, where the Oklahoma passing game shredded the Wildcats’ secondary with 505 yards and five touchowns through the air, while keeping K-State QB Collin Klein in check. Jones (6’4, 220lbs.) will look to duplicate that performance this weekend and keep Oklahoma’s string of wins against Kansas State, which sits at six straight, in tact. On the season, Jones has 474 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, while completing 62.5% of his passes.

Louisiana Tech vs Illinois

Illinois LB Jonathan Brown

Brown (6’1, 235lbs.) is one of several potential draft picks on the Illinois defense, that also includes defensive end Michael Buchanon, and he has been its best player thus far this season. Through three games Brown has 20 tackles and one sack. Right now, he looks like a potential second day pick, and he will be a key piece in the game as the Illinois defense will look to shut down the talented and young ground game of Louisiana Tech.

Arizona vs Oregon

Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas

Oregon has more weapons on the offensive side of the ball than almost any team in the nation, and they know what to do with them. Thomas (5’9, 173lbs.) leads the FBS in yards-per-carry, averaging 17.5 yards this season. His four touchdown runs of 30 or more yards also leads the FBS.

While Arizona is not considered an elite defense and does not have many top tier talents on that side of the ball, the Wildcats have not allowed a run to gain of 30 yards or more this season and have only allowed one run of 20 or more yards. Can Arizona contain Thomas? On the season, Thomas has 13 carries for 228 yards an four touchdowns, while adding 11 receptions for 154 yards an three touchowns.

Rutgers vs Arkansas

Rutgers OLB Khaseem Greene vs Arkansas RB Knile Davis

Greene (6’1, 230lbs.) is a former safety who was moved to linebacker last season. The NFL loves linebackers who can fly around the field, and that’s Greene’s specialty. The former safety has been very good for the undefeated Scarlet Knights this season, and has totaled 34 tackles, two sacks, and two pass deflections.

Davis (6’0, 225lbs.) has had a rough start to the season. Despite getting 16 or more carries in all three games, Davis has only been able to muster 191 yards on 53 carries and has scored twice, while not being much of a factor as a receiver. This will be a telling game for Davis after gaining only 59 yards on 20 carries in last weeks 59-0 blowout against Alabama.

UTEP vs Wisconsin

Wisconsin RB Montee Ball

A Heisman contender last season, Ball (5’11, 212lbs.) has not been his usual dominant self so far this season. Through three games, Ball has 320 yards on 84 carries, good for a 3.8 yard average and has scored only two touchdowns. This stat line is a far cry from what Ball did last season and even what he did his sophomore year. Ball is getting the touches, but not getting the production we’ve come to expect from him in his career, and one has to wonder if it’s him or his revamped offensive line.

Game of the Week: Clemson vs Florida State

Clemson WR’s Sammy Watkins/DeAndre Hopkins vs FSU CB Xavier Rhodes

This is the first real game for both of these top 10 programs and it should be a good one. Both teams are rich with NFL talent on both sides of the ball, and while FSU might have the edge in that department overall, Clemson has the weapons on offense (QB Taj Boyd, RB Andre Ellington, WR’s Watkins and Hopkins) to make this a classic. Last season, Clemson beat FSU 35-30 and came away with the ACC title.

Rhodes (6’2, 215lbs.) has the size/speed combo NFL scouts drool over, and he is having a nice season thus far with 8 tackles, a pick, and four pass deflections in two games played this season. He is a potential first round pick and will be counted on to keep Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, whichever one he will be covering, in check.

Watkins (6’1, 200lbs.) has played in only one game this season, but has 110 total yards on five touches and a rushing touchdown on offense. In the win last season, Watkins was the key player in beating FSU, when he had seven receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Hopkins (6’1, 200lbs.) isn’t the all-around threat that Watkins is, but is just as dangerous. On the season, Hopkins has 26 receptions for 319 yards and four touchdowns.

Another thing to watch for in this game is how Clemson’s defense handles the Florida State rushing attack, which sits at 11th in the nation, led by runningbacks James Wilder Jr. and Chris Thompson.

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