It's hard to believe this is the last week of the regular season in College Football in which every team plays, but it's sure to go out with a bang as several of the key matchups on "Rivalry Weekend" will have a huge impact on this year's Bowl season. 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 Saturday.
1. Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner vs. Wisconsin's Defense
*Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin - 3:30 PM - Big Ten Network *
He doesn't have the eye-popping stats of his peers with just six touchdowns on the season, but quarterback Mitch Leidner has been talked about for much of the season as one of the best at his position in the senior class. At 6-3, 231 pounds, he's got pretty good size, competes in a pro-style offense and displays good touch to all areas of the field. Leidner's arm strength is a question mark by NFL standards, and he can get stuck on reads a bit longer than you'd like, but he's a fairly accurate passer who will likely get a chance to compete down at the Senior Bowl this January.
The Wisconsin defense is led by several upperclassmen, but perhaps none more impactful than its two outside linebackers - Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt. Houston Texans' All-Pro J.J. Watt's younger brother, T.J. ranks third in the Big Ten with seven sacks this year. His relentless style of play off the edge has some people thinking he could be an equally disruptive player once he reaches the pro game. Biegel isn't the same type of pass rusher, but is a well-rounded run defender who can also drop in coverage if needed. Biegel missed some time due to injury this season, but is back and healthy for the Badgers. Biegel was recently announced as one of the initial acceptances to the Senior Bowl, so we will get to see him up close and personal at the postseason all-star game.
2. Michigan RB De'Veon Smith vs. Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio - Noon - ABC
I think it's safe to say that if I had to create a list of my five favorite college football players this season, De'Veon Smith would likely be on the list.
The senior running back has NFL size at 6-0, 229 pounds, and he's one of the most violent runners in the draft class. Smith consistently runs through first contact. With starting quarterback Wilton Speight out of the lineup due to injury, the Wolverines have leaned more on the well-rounded Smith, who is one of the best pass protectors at the running back position I've seen coming out of college. Last week against Indiana, Smith ran for a career-high 158 yards and two touchdowns. If the Wolverines want to go on the road and beat Ohio State, Smith will have to be a factor.
Standing in Smith's way as one of the leaders of the Ohio State defense is linebacker Raekwon McMillan. The junior leads the team with 71 total tackles, and at 6-2, 240 pounds he has the size to get Smith to the ground. One of the best tacklers at the linebacker spot in this junior class, the former five-star recruit isn't the most athletic player at his position, but his toughness inside will serve him well against the freight train that is De'Veon Smith.
3. Florida State WRs Travis Rudolph/Kermit Whitfield vs. Florida CBs Teez Tabor/Quincy Wilson
*Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida - 8 PM - ABC *
The Seminoles aren't in the mix for the ACC title this year with losses to three of the best teams in their conference (Louisville, UNC and Clemson), but they still have a number of weapons on the offensive side of the ball who need to be accounted for. Everyone knows about junior running back Dalvin Cook, but how about the FSU receiving corps? Travis Rudolph made headlines earlier this year with his work off the field, and he's followed it up with another strong year between the lines. At 6-1, 192 pounds, Rudolph has scored in three straight games and has been their most consistent pass catcher outside the numbers. Alongside Rudolph is junior Kermit Whitfield, a slot receiver who has an impact both in the passing game and on the ground.
It's safe to say that the Noles' receivers are facing their toughest test of the season this weekend against the Gators, who feature a pair of standout corners on the outside. Jalen "Teez" Tabor stands at 6-0, 201 pounds and has all of the physical attributes of a starting NFL corner. He's long. He's fast. He's got good ball skills and he's quick in and out of breaks. If he checks out off the field and can improve as a run defender, he'll be a sure-fire starter and potential impact player at the next level. Opposite Tabor is Quincy Wilson, who has better size at 6-1, 213 pounds. He is a better run defender, but may not be the same athlete as his teammate. This is a tough test for Florida State out on the perimeter.
4. Michigan TE Jake Butt vs. Ohio State S Malik Hooker
*Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio - Noon - ABC *
Getting back to the best rivalry game in college football, I have yet to detail the skill set of Michigan tight end Jake Butt in this piece. The senior stands at just under 6-5, 246 pounds. His athleticism allows him to be an impact player in Jim Harbaugh's passing attack. Whether it's in the screen game, on crossing routes or vertically down the field, Butt is a bit of a mismatch for defenses and is a tough cover. He needs to continue improving as a blocker, but Butt has really strong hands and looks good in and out of breaks. He is a threat to score whenever he takes the field for the Wolverines.
He won't be matched up on him every play, but keep an eye out for safety Malik Hooker down the seam in coverage against Butt. At 6-2, 202 pounds, the sophomore safety is draft eligible after redshirting his true freshman season two years ago. He jumped onto the scene in a big way this fall, his first year as a starter, recording three interceptions in the first two weeks. Hooker has very good ball skills and is a smooth athlete for the safety spot, so it will be interesting to see how he fares when manned up one on one against the senior tight end.
5. Alabama LT Cam Robinson vs. Auburn DE Carl Lawson
*Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama - 3:30 PM - CBS *
A former five-star recruit and one of the best high school prospects in the country just three years ago, Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson took over the starting job for the Crimson Tide and never looked back as a true freshman in 2014. Now, the junior left tackle is playing in potentially his final Iron Bowl. He is matched up against an Auburn pass rush that has forced 25 sacks and nine interceptions this season. Robinson has NFL size at 6-6, 327 pounds, with all of the physical tools to be a successful NFL tackle. But lapses of inconsistency have scarred him throughout his career. Still, Robinson has appeared to have performed well against some of the best pass rushers he's faced this season, but this will be a big test on Saturday afternoon.
Auburn's Carl Lawson won't always line up across from Robinson as the starting left defensive end for the Tigers, but on third down they love to move him around, whether he's rushing from the right side, inside as a defensive tackle or even as a joker up and down the line. Lawson is a bit of a bulldog off the edge, playing with a relentless style reminiscent of Brandon Graham and winning in a lot of similar ways throughout his career. Lawson's issue has always been health, as he missed the 2014 season with a torn ACL and missed most of the 2015 campaign with a hip injury. Now fully healthy, Lawson currently is tied for third in the SEC with nine sacks on the year, and will look to bring the pain to Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts today.
One player who won't see action this weekend during the slate of games is Oklahoma receiver Dede Westbrook. The Sooners' regular season-ending game against in-state rival Oklahoma State won't take place until next weekend. That doesn't mean the senior wasn't in the news though, as he accepted an invite for Senior Bowl in January. At 5-10, 171 pounds, Westbrook is undersized but with his quickness, vertical speed and competitiveness after the catch, he's one of the most explosive playmakers in the nation. Earlier this season against Ohio State, I was very impressed by his ability to get in and out of breaks efficiently and create good separation at the top of his stem. In a receiver class starving for more playmakers at the top, Westbrook is a player who can build on a strong senior season with a great showing down in Mobile, Alabama in January.
Another player who accepted a Senior Bowl invite this week was Tennessee State offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker. At 6-4, 301 pounds, Dunker has been a four-year starter for TSU since his arrival, getting reps at every position on the line except for center. A former four-star recruit who began his career at Florida, Dunker left the Gators after his redshirt season due to off-the-field issues, but hit the ground running at his new destination. Dunker has an NFL frame at the guard spot, good quickness and overall athleticism. He needs to get stronger and more refined with his hands, but he is an intriguing prospect. Dunker didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school, so many are excited about the potential upside of the former big-time recruit.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.