No. 20 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops has produced more conference championships and played in more national championship games, but Texas’ Mack Brown always seems to have the Longhorns positioned well for the postseason and this season they're right in the mix for a national championship run.
With two early failures in non-conference games, the Sooners have almost fallen out of the top 25, but with their on-field leader back to being healthy this could promise to be one of the best games of the college football season.
Besides being a match-up of very talented teams, this will also be a face-off between two of the top quarterbacks in the country and likely Heisman finalists.
Here’s a look at some of the top pro prospects that will be on the field when these two traditional powers face off at the Texas State Fair…
Texas QB Colt McCoy (6-3, 210) – McCoy is a very successful signal-caller, but it still remains to be a seen how his game translates to the NFL where he’d have to get used to playing under center. McCoy has good mechanics and he’s a very good athlete so he throws on the run well. He’s struggled at times when defenses have disguised things and confused him with their coverage-packages, but he’s smart and always seems to adapt as the game progresses. Were he a tad taller, he likely would be a sure-fire top 10 selection when he leaves college, but at this point he’s just on the outside of that elite group in my opinion. He still has a chance to move his way up with an outstanding second half of the season and at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up as the Heisman winner when it’s all said and done.
Texas DE/OLB Sergio Kindle (6-4, 239) – Because the Longhorns run such a complex defensive scheme, Kindle is asked to do a lot, but his "bread-and-butter" is rushing the quarterback. He’s got a knack for getting after the quarterback and because of his long arms, he is able to get the edge and apply pressure on the quarterback if he can’t bring him down. Kindle can be run at because he doesn’t take on blockers, preferring to use his athleticism to run around them to make plays, but this week is his chance to show what he can do against a top talent like Oklahoma’s Trent Will iams. In the pros I see Kindle as a stand-up rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and he could end up playing a lot like Pittsburgh’s James Harrison.
Texas MLB Roddrick Muckelroy (6-2, 230) – With his speed, quickness and instincts, Muckelroy is the ideal middle linebacker prospect to run a defense. He’s smart so he always seems to know what is coming his way and he’s a sure-tackler. Where he seems to struggle is when he has to take on linemen and is unable to shed them because of his lack of size, but his athleticism seems to make up for that more often than not. He could end up as a SAM (strongside) in the pros, but I think there’s a place for him inside with the right team. Everyone said that Lofa Tatupu was too small to play in the middle and Muckelroy’s game sharply mirrors the four-time Pro Bowler when you break things down. He’s projected as a mid-round guy, but I could see him moving up into the second round if the right team targets him.
Other Longhorn players to keep an eye on: DT Lamarr Houston; T Adam Ulatoski; C Chris Hall; G Charlie Tanner; K Hunter Lawrence; S Earl Thomas (So.); CB Curtis Brown (Jr.).
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford (6-5, 200) – The talented junior is one of the most prolific passers to ever grace the college football scene and thankfully he’s recovered from his sprained AC joint to take part in one of the biggest games of the season. Bradford has an uncanny ability to be accurate while still throwing the ball vertically. Most spread teams dink-and-dunk their way down the field, but that isn’t so with Bradford who throws most of his passes in the 10 to 20 yard range. His frame isn't very big and with the injury he suffered in the first week of the season there might be some concerns about his ability to take the pounding an NFL quarterback must withstand. However, if you’re talking about pure-passing ability as well as smarts, there isn’t a better QB than Bradford and if he declares himself eligible after the season he could be the top overall selection next April’s NFL Draft.
Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy (6-4, 290) – Easily one of the top defensive line prospects in the country already, McCoy has really elevated his level of play over the past few weeks. He’s an immovable object inside and he’s got enough quickness and strength to collapse the pocket as well. McCoy isn’t an ideal nose tackle prospect, but as a three or one-tech defensive tackle he can be a devastating force. I really like the way he holds strong at the point of attack and he makes the players around him better by the attention he draws. Look for him to be taken in the top five next April as it’s almost assured he will declare himself eligible for the draft following the season.
Oklahoma OT Trent Williams (6-5, 312) – Williams has the ideal frame and athleticism to be a left tackle in the pros. He’s a very good pass-blocker, but it’s his improvement as a run-blocker that has people talking. Last season, Bradford was rarely pressured from his blindside and that is a direct result of Williams’ quick feet and long arms. Where he struggles is when he gets his drop steps too wide and he's a little off balance, allowing more physical pass-rushers to get into his body and push him into the pocket. The battle between Williams and Kindle should be a fun one to watch this week.
Other Sooners players to keep an eye on: G Brian Simmons (injured); CB Dominique Franks (Jr.); LB Ryan Reynolds; RB Chris Brown; RB DeMarco Murray (Jr.); DE Auston English; DT Adrian Taylor (Jr.).
Another top rivalry game that takes place this week is in South Bend, Indiana where USC travels to take on Notre Dame in the shadow of "Touchdown Jesus". Unlike past seasons, this appears to be a much closer game as far as talent is concerned, but the Irish defense could have their hands full with the talented Trojan offensive skill players.
S Taylor Mays is the big name on the USC prospect list this year. He could have been a top 10 selection in this past April’s NFL Draft, but decided to return to help the Trojans win a national championship. He’s been dinged up a little this year, but he’s played through it and has still managed to post 28 tackles, good for second on the team, and one interception from his center-field position.
In the front-seven, USC is led by LB Chris Galippo who sat behind Rey Maualaga for two years and now he’s showing why he was considered the top linebacker prospect in the nation, leading the Trojans with 32 tackles in five games.
Underclassmen DE Everson Griffin and DE Nick Perry are the big pass-rushers for USC and both will need to be dealt with by the Irish if they want to do anything on offense.
True freshman USC QB Matt Barkley came back from an injured shoulder and has been solid so far this season, completing 58.9% of his passes for 958 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. What he brings to the table is a calmness that is rare in a player his age. He’s a great leader and will likely be an elite pro prospect by the time he finishes up at USC.
Protecting Barkley’s blindside will be Charles Brown, a player getting some attention from pro scouts, while sophomore C Kris O’Dowd and senior G Jeff Byers will both have the chance to earn spots on NFL rosters.
Luckily for Barkley he also has a stable of outstanding running backs to hand the ball off to and the leader of that group is Joe McKnight who can catch it or run it with equal aplomb. McKnight is also an elite return man so keep an eye on him every time he gets his hands on the ball.
Damian Williams is Barkley’s favorite target at receiver and with his size and speed, he’s a threat to take it the distance every time he catches the ball. David Ausberry, when healthy, is another receiver to keep an eye on.
For Notre Dame, junior QB Jimmy Clausen is having his best year as a collegian. He’s already thrown for 1,544 yards in the first five games, completing 67.4% of his passes, but most importantly he’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions. At times Clausen holds to ball too long, resulting in unnecessary sacks, but he’s smart with the ball and he’s shown the ability to be elusive enough in the pocket to cause defenses issues when trying to track him down.
Out wide, receiver Golden Tate is having a huge season, posting 33 receptions for 602 yards and four touchdowns. He’s so versatile, that head coach Charlie Weiss likes to use him as the trigger-man when the Irish run the ‘Wildcat’. He’s only 5-11, 200 pounds, but he plays bigger than that and he’d be a great slot receiver at the next level.
LT Sam Young has the prototypical size for the position and he’s improved a ton this season, showing improved mechanics and technique. Young will have to fend off the Trojans’ pass-rushers in order to give Clausen time to make plays down the field.
Notre Dame has some talented players in the secondary, but they just haven’t come up big this year. However, some of that can be attributed to the lack of consistent pressure from the front seven.
I really like the game of cornerbacks Raeshon McNeil and Darrin Walls. Walls is big and physical while McNeil is the super-quick cover-corner.
Yet another top 25 matchup this weekend will see Virginia Tech head to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech.
We’ve taken a look at the Hokies several times already this fall, but the continued development of QB Tyrod Taylor can’t go unmentioned. He’s 58 of 104 for 995 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception. The junior stands tall in the pocket, even though he’s only 6-1, 215, and he’s made much better decisions with the ball than in seasons past.
Up front Ed Wang and Sergio Render will both need to have big games, seeing as Georgia Tech junior DE Derrick Morgan will do what he can to disrupt things up front. Morgan is one of the top pass-rushers in the country and while he’s not great at stopping the run, he’s improved in that area as well.
Junior OG Cordaro Howard from Georgia Tech has had an outstanding season so far and he’ll need to be just as stout with underrated Virginia Tech DT Cordarrow Thompson likely playing face-up on him.
Also keep an eye on the Yellow Jacket’s pair of standout junior runners – Jonathan Dwyer and Anthony Allen – because if they can get loose early, that should open things up for sophomore QB Josh Nesbitt.
Other games to catch if you can: No. 11 Iowa at Wisconsin; California at UCLA; Marshall at West Virginia; Virginia at Maryland; No. 17 Kansas at Colorado; No. 22 South Carolina at No. 2 Alabama; No. 24 Utah at UNLV; Minnesota at No. 14 Penn State.