This week in College Football: Historic programs battling for glory. There are three Intra-conference matchups on the slate this week, and that includes at least one storied rivalry.
Texas at No. 11 Kansas State
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Kansas State welcomes Texas while being on the verge of the program's 500th victory. Given that Charlie Strong inherited a program on the downswing and the Longhorns haven't won at Kansas State in 12 years, that seems pretty likely. While neither team is packed with blue chip draft prospects this year, both tend to send a few players to the NFL each year, so it's good to check in on them.
The most interesting players for Bills fans to watch might be found on the Kansas State offense. Center #66 BJ Finney is a 3-time team captain who has started every game since his redshirt freshman season. The guy to his left, guard #55 Cody Whitehair, is also worth watching. One player who might catch your eye on the Wildcats Saturday is quarterback #15, Jake Waters. He's not going to blow you away with size or arm talent, but he's dangerous in the zone read, putting together 371 yards and 7 TDs this season. Much like Collin Klein a few seasons ago, however, he's not an NFL quarterback prospect. Wide receiver #16, Tyler Lockett, will get some scouts interested, and he leads the team in receiving. But his small size (5'11" 175 pounds) leaves something to be desired. Oh, and you might be interested to know that Rob Gronkowski's younger brother, Glenn, is a FB/TE for Kansas State (#48). The redshirt sophomore still has another year or two left in school though.
Last season Texas was full of disappointment, and that found its way to the draft, as the program found itself blanked all weekend. This year with a new coach, it's trying to build back up, but they aren't quite there yet. Take Cedric Reed, for instance. Edge rusher #88 put together 10 sacks last season, and at 6'5" 265 pounds he looks like a prototypical defensive end, but he hasn't done a whole lot this time, only getting 1.5 sacks so far. Or Malcolm Brown, the 5'11" 225 pound running back (#28) who definitely looks the part, but has only rushed for just under 400 yards at 3.8 YPC so far this season. Not to be confused with DT #90, Malcom Brown. He has had himself a good year, which includes a 10 tackle, 2.5 sack performance in a loss to BYU. #8 Jaxson Shipley's brother Jordan looked like the next Wes Welker before shredding his knee and retiring, but Jaxson, while coming from the same mold, isn't quite as talented.
Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State
The battle for Michigan supremacy takes place today, although it doesn't seem like much of a fair fight. Michigan State has been a perennial top 10 team for a few seasons now, while their opponent has been very up and down, sometimes looking like world beaters, and sometimes flopping over in a loss.
We went over Michigan's best prospects a couple weeks ago. The cupboard is pretty bare, but your main target should be TE/WR #1 Devin Funchess. He has the rare combo of size and athleticism that plenty of top receivers in today's NFL can tap. While he's had a rough season, QB #98, Devin Gardner, could be thought of as a potential day 3 option. He has the size, the arm, and the ability to scramble, but there are quite a few holes in his game. LB #47, Jake Ryan, is the best of the bunch on defense.
Why do we want to watch Michigan State? That answer starts with Connor Cook. #18 is one of the few possibilities in this year's draft for teams looking for a franchise QB. He has a strong arm and prototypical size, and all of his stats are measuring up well this season. You want to see him continue his strong play against a beatable defense. It helps that he has #14 Tony Lippett on his team. The 6'3" 185 pound senior has been a major big play threat, averaging 20 yards per catch on 39 receptions so far. On the defense, edge rusher #89 Shilique Calhoun is a prototypical 4-3 DE that sets the tone every game.
No. 3 Ole Miss at No. 24 LSU
7:15 PM EST
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Ole Miss could make the case that it's the #1 team in the nation, and that case could continue with a win today over LSU. The Ole Miss roster has been stacked with blue chip talent over the last few seasons, and this year is when some of it starts to emerge. They can thank that for their smothering defense. CB #21 Senquez Golson is undersized, but has amassed seven picks. S #25 Cody Prewitt has two interceptions of his own, and is built like a modern safety, at 6'2" 215 pounds. We went over the not-eligible prospects for Ole Miss a few weeks ago, including edge rusher Robert Nkemdiche and receiver Laquon Treadwell. One more guy to watch is QB #14 Bo Wallace, who is 9th in passing efficiency for the NCAA this season.
One player who'll be fun to watch against the Ole Miss defense: WR #83, Travin Dural. He leads the nation in yards per catch at 25.6, and will provide a good challenge to the secondary. For those scouting offensive linemen, pay attention to #70, the left tackle La'el Collins. While he may end up sliding to guard (and he reportedly isn't a big fan of the weight room), he has enough natural talent to keep you thinking about what he could do as a Bill. Edge rusher #94 Danielle Hunter has been around the ball a bunch, but he's only accumulated a single sack so far this season.