Every Saturday during the college football season, we'll have an open thread for readers of Buffalo Rumblings to discuss college football games. The thread is open to any and all collegiate discussions, but the posts themselves will emphasize draft prospects. This is, after all, a Buffalo Bills blog.
This is the exact template we'll be using for the rest of the season. Our plan at the moment is to discuss a few players per week - strengths, weaknesses, previous week's performance notes - while previewing the upcoming week. We hope it has been a valuable resource for you.
(7) Michigan State at Northwestern: Noon, ESPN. The Bills had at least one scout at last week's MSU game, and linebacker Greg Jones - who is in the midst of a fabulous senior season - was the best player on the field. He'll retain that title today, so if you haven't seen him play, here's a good opportunity.
Penn State at Minnesota: Noon, ESPNU. This won't be a very exciting football game, but if you're into scouting interior offensive linemen, there aren't many better than PSU center Stefen Wisniewski.
Syracuse at (20) West Virginia: Noon, ESPN2. With all proper apologies to any SU fan in the house, the best player on the field today will probably be hobbled speed running back Noel Devine.
Notre Dame at Navy: Noon, CBS. Unless top receiver prospect Michael Floyd plays - he's missed practice all week with a hamstring injury - this one probably isn't worth tuning in for.
(6) LSU at (4) Auburn: 3:30, CBS. In the best game of the day, I'll be ignoring a few higher-rated prospects to take a long look at Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes. Der Jaeger did that last week, when Bynes was excellent in a win over Arkansas.
He's short, not big (particularly in the legs) and reportedly doesn't run a great 40 time. He's not a stack and shed linebacker, and gets blown up at the LOS if asked to take on blocks. I liked his instincts a lot. He's always around the action, and seemed to be in the right spots, especially in the passing game and when Arkansas ran wide. He plays much faster than he times, and gets good depth in his drops. He has ability to take the deep third in a true Tampa 2 scheme, and shows good awareness in his zone. Catches the ball with his hands. Fairly secure tackler that needs to wrap more and stop trying to body block. Overall, he almost has to play MLB in a Tampa 2, because I don't think he's got the strength to take on a lot of blocks. I think he could be a sleeper pick later in the draft by a team that plays a Tampa 2, and he could be a good starter eventually.
(14) Nebraska at (16) Oklahoma State: 3:30, ABC. He's not yet draft-eligible, but if receiver Justin Blackmon can continue his terrific production against arguably the best corner in the nation, Prince Amukamara, he'll be on the fast track to NFL stardom.
Georgia Tech at Clemson: 3:30, ABC/ESPN. If you can get this one in your area, you should tune in just to see Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who might just be the best pass rusher in the nation.
(13) Wisconsin at (15) Iowa: 3:30, ABC/ESPN. Should I get the opportunity to see this game, I'll have eyes only for Iowa defensive tackle Christian Ballard, a very solid player that has caught the eye of a lot of scouts thanks to his size and scheme versatility.
(8) Alabama at Tennessee: 7:00, ESPN. As always, there are tons of Bama prospects that are worth paying attention to. And, as always, I'll be trying to get a better read on linebacker Don'ta Hightower.
North Carolina at Miami (FL): 7:30, ESPN2. Don't hold me to this in January, but of all of the defensive linemen I've watched this season, I think I've been most impressed by Hurricanes end/tackle Allen Bailey.
(1) Oklahoma at (11) Missouri: 8:00, ABC. I suspect many of you that tune in will be looking carefully at Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert. I, myself, am more interested in getting an extended look at Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis.
Washington at (18) Arizona: 10:15, ESPN. If you were tuning in to see Jake Locker v. Nick Foles, you'll be 50% disappointed, as Foles will miss this one with an injury. Locker and UW have a shot at an upset here. Der Jaeger returns for his latest look at Locker, coming off a strong showing against Oregon State.
This was his third straight 60% completion game, and if you start counting dropped passes, the only game this season where he's been under 60% is the Nebraska game. Other than the Nebraska game, he's attempting 30 passes per game, or better. He's still way more comfortable outside of the pocket than inside the pocket, as the throws get simpler, and he's more accurate with the ball. But he's getting a lot better reading defenses and throwing an accurate ball from the pocket. Locker is scrambling instead of running, and he kept his eyes downfield when running, though he still attempted an ill-advised Favre-esque throw that had no chance. He's stepping up into the pocket well, and his overtime TDs were both out of the pocket, where he read the field and made great throws. The corner route, in particular, was impressive, since he stood in the pocket with the rush coming in and made the right, accurate throw. Footwork is almost clean in my eyes, at least as clean as it can be at the college level. He's got improvement, but they are improvements that every college QB can make. Drops the ball in the bucket on the nine route real well, even with tight coverage. Made great decisions all night, except for the Favre throw, and knew where to go with the football. That all said, I don't think Locker is going to be someone who can come in and master the feel of an offense like Peyton Manning or, both very cerebral QBs. Locker's much more of a jock, though he really commands that team from the sideline looks. Locker needs to be brought into the NFL the same way Bill Belichick works in QBs: very slowly, with lots of sure passes at the beginning (screens, rollouts, waggles, etc) where he can gain a feel for the game. Sarkisian tends to roll Locker out a lot and call screens early, and once he has a feel for the game, lets him play more from the pocket. This is Belichick 101, which worked with both with Brady and Cassel.