Stanford (#5) vs. USC
WR Marqise Lee (6’0, 195)
Last season, USC WR Marqise Lee’s lack of hustle was a big concern for me, which led to a much lower ranking than you will find from most draft analysts. Clearly, a portion of the Lee’s struggles can be attributed to former HC Lane Kiffin. However, this year has been a completely different story for the junior wide out as he has played with a lot of heart and intelligence, despite the team’s issues.
Even though Lee has been limited this season due to a nagging ankle injury, he has displayed great top-end speed, along with great quickness and the ability to beat the press in man-to-man coverage. Lee’s has had some issues with catching the ball in the past, but no longer appears to be much of an issue for him.
Lee is reportedly 100 percent healthy heading to this week’s showdown with No. 5 Stanford Cardinal, so it makes sense for Lee to be the focal point of the Trojans offense on Saturday.
DE/OLB Trent Murphy (6’6, 261)
The USC offensive line will have a huge test against one of the toughest players you’ll see in Stanford DE Trent Murphy. He’s a very powerful defensive end with enough athleticism and instincts to wreak an opposing offense’s gameplan.
Murphy also offers a good deal of versatility, which has allowed him to line up at both outside linebacker and defensive end. His position versatility should really help his prospects heading into next year’s NFL Draft. For my money, I would expect to see Murphy playing defensive at the next level due to his lack of overall speed.
Murphy isn’t an elite prospect, but he is consistently productive, which means USC OT Aundrey Walker could be in for a long day. Walker was a very highly touted prospect coming out of high school, but he hasn’t lived to the expectations, as he tends to be very inconsistent. Walker notably failed to block UCLA LB Anthony Barr last season, which led to Matt Barkley’s injury last year, so it will be interesting to see how he holds up against Murphy.
USC is playing good football right now, and Stanford is coming off a huge over Oregon, so this one figures to be great Pac 12 matchup and my game of the week.
Texas Tech vs Baylor (#4)
QB Bryce Petty (6’3, 230)
Before the start of the year, no one outside of Baylor really knew who what quarterback Bryce Petty was capable of, but that’s no longer the case. Petty has lead Baylor to a school record 12 wins in a row and, for the first time in Baylor history, they have an 8-0 record. It’s really quite remarkable, considering that we’re talking about a quarterback who basically had no experience prior to this season.
Petty’s game tape is really impressive as he has displayed great efficiency as well solid intangibles and accuracy. Petty has shown the ability to throw a pretty good deep ball, but he mostly attacks opposing defenses with quick slants and crossing routes. While he’s not by no means the same type of athlete QB Robert Griffin III was for them, Petty has the ability to avoid the rush and get some chunk yardage with his legs. So far this season, Petty has thrown for 2,657 yards, 21 touchdowns and just a single interception.
The Bears will face a struggling Texas Tech team that allowed 49 points to Kansas State last week. Following a hot start to the season, the Red Raiders are on a three-game losing streak, which includes two losses to top-25 ranked teams. During this stretch, Texas Tech has allowed an average of 46 points per game. With Baylor averaging 61 points per game, Texas Tech HC Kliff Kingsbury will keep his team composed and disciplined enough to prevent the Bears offense from turning this game into a blowout.
Baylor has an interesting remaining schedule given the tough competition, so a strong finish to the season from Petty could be enough for him to declare for the 2014 NFL Draft, due to his stock skyrocketing.
Oklahoma State (#12) vs. Texas (#23)
CB Justin Gilbert (6’0, 200)
OSU CB Justin Gilbert had a breakout season back in 2011, which led to plenty of interest last season. Unfortunately for him, he struggled in 2012 and it appeared as though his overall production declined considerably. In the end, he decided to stay for his senior season in order to regain his previous form and hopefully increase his draft stock.
Gilbert is a very aggressive and physical corner who is tough to beat in press coverage and is capable of holding up in run support. Gilbert can also contribute to special teams as a kick returner.
QB Case McCoy (6’2, 200)
The Cowboys will face a resurging Longhorns team that is riding a six-game winning streak after they started the season with a disappointing 1-2 record. Texas is lead by Colt McCoy’s younger brother Case McCoy. The younger McCoy is in his senior season at Texas and has managed improved his game throughout his college career, but he hasn’t exactly turned into a solid NFL prospect. McCoy has thrown for just 1,471 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions this season and has the unfortunate distinction of throwing an interception in his last four games. He’ll need to get his turnover issues under control and stay away from Gilbert as he has three interceptions and 26 total tackles.
Georgia (#25) vs. Auburn (#7)
QB Nick Marshall (6’1, 210)
Auburn QB Nick Marshall gets the tough task of beating his former team on Saturday. In 2011, Marshall initially enrolled at Georgia as a cornerback, but later on that year he was dismissed from the Bulldogs for violating team rules. After transferring to Garden City Community College for a season where he scored 37 touchdowns, Marshall once again transferred, but this time to Auburn.
Marshall has noticeably improved his game throughout the season, as he has led the Tigers to an impressive six-game winning streak in which they are averaging a staggering 46 points per game against SEC opponents. Marshall is a big threat in the running game and even though opposing teams are aware of this, it has still been very difficult to stop him given that he has more than 700 total yards on the ground while averaging 7.1 yards per carry.
Marshall passing skills aren’t as great as his ability to run, but if he needs to pass the ball, you can expect to see him look CB Damian Swamm’s way, considering that a number of teams have exposed him this season.