This week on the College Draft Podcast with Ross Tucker, I broke down all the best matchups from some of the top games of the week, but let's look at five more matchups that fans should keep their eyes on this weekend.
Five Matchups To Watch
1. USF QB Quinton Flowers vs. East Carolina
*Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greensboro, North Carolina - Noon - CBS Sports Network *
South Florida is ranked 18th in the country and has a big conference matchup on the road at ECU. The Bulls are led by three-year starter Quinton Flowers at quarterback, one of the best playmakers in college football. At just 6-0, 210 pounds, Flowers may not have the size to stick at quarterback in the NFL, but he does display touch to all areas of the field. Flowers may remind some of former Houston quarterback (and current Eagles receiver) Greg Ward, another former signal caller in college, because of his speed, quickness, and toughness as a runner. Flowers is certainly an NFL-caliber athlete.
There are a couple of prospects to watch on ECU's roster, but the most notable one is senior linebacker Jordan Williams. At 6-0, 234 pounds, Williams leads the team in tackles as a former walk-on from Shaw University. A strong tackler with a high motor, Williams makes plays sideline to sideline but has athletic limitations that may prevent him from being a starter in the league. A strong performance hunting Flowers all over the field on Saturday will go a long way toward his stock.
Prediction: South Florida should win this game by a wide margin, and I expect Flowers to bounce back after a lackluster performance (by his standards) against Temple last Thursday. I think he will eclipse the 100-yard mark as a rusher, reach the end zone once on the ground, and throw for 190-plus yards with two scores. Williams leads his team with nine tackles in defeat.
2. New Mexico State RB Larry Rose vs. Arkansas LBs Dwayne Eugene & Dre Greenlaw
*Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas - Noon - SEC Network *
Rose is probably the best current All-American you've never heard of, and that's just fine by him. At 5-11, 184 pounds, Rose doesn't have great size, but the former third-team All-America has dynamic athleticism and versatility that should land him a role in an NFL offense sooner rather than later. Rose is an effective runner from the shotgun and as a receiver from the slot. He is decisive with the ball in his hands and gives good effort as a blocker. He reminds me in some ways of Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson, arguably the best third-down back in the NFL. A standout performance against top competition is a must-have for his résumé, as is the case with most players from smaller schools, as he prepares for the NFL Draft this offseason.
Rose has a tough task against a tough Arkansas linebacking corps, led by senior Dwayne Eugene. At 6-1, 240 pounds, Eugene was named to the Senior Bowl Watch List this summer and has responded with a strong showing through the team's first three games as the starter at "Hog" linebacker. Dre Greenlaw, the team's leading tackler with 33 stops, is a very talented junior alongside Eugene. Greenlaw had 14 tackles in a losing effort to Texas A&M a week ago.
Prediction: I think this game is closer than the experts think because Doug Martin has the Aggies playing well through the first month of the year. The Hogs still come out on top, but I predict that Rose comes out with over 125 total yards of offense off 20 touches. Greenlaw paces Arkansas with 12 tackles on the afternoon, and Bret Bielema's team comes out with a 13-point win.
3. SMU WR Courtland Sutton vs. UConn CB Jamar Summers
*Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas - 4 p.m. - ESPN News *
Rumors are already swirling that Sutton will be the first big-name underclassman to enter the 2018 NFL Draft, even though his numbers haven't been great so far this season. Sutton doesn't appear to be on track to match his gaudy 2016 stat line of 76 catches for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns with a combined three catches in the last two weeks against TCU and Arkansas State, but he's a very intriguing talent. Sutton was a high school tight end at 6-4, 215 pounds, and has the size, hands, and ball skills to stand out on the outside at the next level. I didn't see as consistent of a route runner as I'd like to see while studying him on film last year, but he's still relatively young. Prospects with Sutton's dimensions are going to gain a lot of attention heading into the NFL.
Sutton will have a good test this week against UConn and its senior corner Jamar Summers, who was named to the Senior Bowl Watch List this summer as a potential top player at his position in this senior class. The 6-0 Summers leads the team with four pass breakups through three games and is the second-leading tackler with 21 stops. This UConn secondary has been a bit leaky this year, so a positive outing against one of the most physically imposing receivers in the country will go a long way toward boosting Sutton's stock.
Prediction: SMU holds strong at home to win this game by two touchdowns, and Sutton gets out of his funk to a tune of five catches for 83 yards and a score.
4. Wake Forest TE Cam Serigne vs. Florida State S Derwin James
*BB&T Field, Winston Salem, North Carolina - 3:30 p.m. - ABC *
One of the nation's leaders among tight ends in the touchdown department, Wake Forest senior Cam Serigne is on a roll. He's reached the end zone in three of the team's first four games. He's not built like an in-line presence at the position at 6-3, 240 pounds, but a big game against Florida State will help put Serigne on the map.
You can't help but feast your eyes on Derwin James, the do-everything safety for the Seminoles, when watching Florida State. James is one of the team leaders with 14 tackles to go with a half sack and a pass breakup after missing most of last year with an injury. He was at the forefront of a touchdown allowed against N.C. State last week, when he took a bad angle and failed to break down in time to make a tackle in the open field. That's one of the big questions with James. He's great at the line of scrimmage, is a freak athlete for the position, and is as physically tough as they come. But he'll have his share of growing pains as he continues to get reps as a single-high player with his lack of experience playing in the deep half of the field.
Prediction: This has a feeling of a big win for the Seminoles. They're favored by more than a touchdown, but I bet it's more than double that on the road in Winston Salem. James gets a sack and an interception in the win, and Serigne is held out of the end zone.
5. Alabama OL Lester Cotton, Bradley Bozeman, & Ross Pierschbacher vs. Ole Miss DL Breeland Speeks & Marquis Haynes
*Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama - 9 p.m. - ESPN *
One of the prime-time matchups of the weekend pits Alabama against Ole Miss, which has been a fun battle for the last few seasons. There are a lot of great individual battles to watch, but this Ole Miss team is young for the most part. The area where the Rebels have some draft prospects is up front on the defensive line, which puts the Alabama offensive line in focus.
Left tackle Jonah Williams, a true sophomore, is probably one of the top prospects on the team, but he's not draft eligible yet. Instead, focus on the interior three of guards Lester Cotton and Ross Pierschbacher, and center Bradley Bozeman. The lone senior of the trio, Bozeman has good feet and is a smart player up front though I'd like to see him get stronger at the point of attack. Cotton doesn't have that issue as a pure mauler at the left guard spot. At 319 pounds, he's a road grading-type of player who moves people in the run game but lacks top-end athleticism. Pierschbacher has the smarts and toughness to serve as a back-end reserve in the NFL.
I'm really intrigued by Rebels defensive tackle Breeland Speaks. He's a bit undersized at 6-3, 285 pounds, but he's really explosive upfield and can line up anywhere up front. He's not a polished pass rusher and he's not powerful at the point of attack, but he fits in really well in an attacking front like what the Eagles employ. I'm also intrigued by the development of defensive end Marquis Haynes. I've studied him each of the past two seasons. He's only 230 pounds, but his burst and athleticism are pretty darn good. I loved seeing him work a speed-to-power rush as a junior in 2016, and he's continued that this year as a senior. In fact, one of the best plays I watched of Haynes a year ago came against Alabama last September, when he went speed to power and got a sack-fumble to help Ole Miss nearly come back in the game.
Prediction: I think Haynes strikes again with a sack in this game, and Speaks has a bunch of flash plays that "wow" us on the outside, but the Tide keep on rolling. The Rebels make it closer than what the experts think, but I expect a 17- to 20-point win for Alabama.
In this area of the country, Penn State running backSaquon Barkley was never really off the radar, but after his eye-popping performance against Iowa in prime time last Saturday night (a matchup we previewed in this space a week ago where I called him the best prospect in the country) the buzz has officially skyrocketed on a national scale. At 5-11 and almost 230 pounds, Barkley is explosive, physical, and so smooth in and out of cuts. NFL executives appear to be pretty high on him, and I wouldn't be shocked at all to see him in the top-five picks of next year's draft (if he declares, of course). Barkley's best trait is his ability to create yards for himself while still maintaining his top speed.
A former big-time recruit who was named Mr. Football in the state of Alabama coming out of high school, Roc Thomas is showing up in a big way for Jacksonville State this year at the FCS level. Thomas was a former five-star recruit who began his career at Auburn as a hybrid running back-wide receiver. He certainly has an NFL skill set. At 5-10, 193 pounds, Thomas catches the football very well out of the backfield and has speed to burn, which makes his abilities as a kick returner even more intriguing. I studied him against Georgia Tech earlier this year, and I was impressed by his short-area burst. He doesn't possess great power or natural wiggle to make the first man miss, but I think he can find a role on an NFL roster.
Like Thomas at Jacksonville State, I'm not quite sure that Josh Adams from Notre Dame factors into the conversation as a starting running back in the NFL, but he can definitely find a defined place in the league. He's got very good size at over 6-2, 225 pounds. His speed in the open field is also very strong and he catches the ball well out of the backfield. Adams is also a team captain as a junior. I'd like to see Adams see things a bit quicker between the tackles and prove that he can consistently make the first man miss. What's the Philly connection? Adams grew up just outside of Philadelphia in Warrington, Pennsylvania.
There were a few ways I could've gone with this week's game ball, but I'm going to roll with Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk, one of the most dynamic pass catchers in the country. At 5-11, 200 pounds, Kirk reminds me a lot of former first-round pick Brandin Cooks. I think he could be a potential nightmare for defensive coordinators in the right coach's hands thanks to his versatility and playmaking ability. I love his ability to create plays after the catch and he's an explosive athlete who gets in and out of breaks very quickly. Kirk helped lead the Aggies to victory last week against Arkansas with five catches for 110 yards and two scores to go along with a 100-yard kick return for pay dirt.