This week, expect to see some high scoring games in the lineup. Miami's strong offense goes up against a weak UNC defense, TCU just put up 80 points against Texas Tech (and WVU is a perennial scoring machine), and Oregon has the talent and scheme to put up 50 points any day, if they can get over the Stanford hump. And there are plenty of talented prospects powering those offenses (and the defenses trying to stop them).
North Carolina at Miami (FL)
In an early slate of games that doesn't have any "wow" matchups, I recommend this game if you're able to get online and set up the ESPN stream. North Carolina is a perennial contributor to the NFL draft, as is Miami, and both have multiple intriguing prospects. It's also worth nothing that Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly will be in attendance as the honorary captain for Miami today.
Miami might be the team I'd pay the most attention to. On offense they have a dynamic running back in #8 Duke Johnson who may threaten to go in the first round, though he has a history of small nagging injuries. There aren't a lot of marquee linebackers in this year's class, but one of the ones at the top of the list is Miami's #52, Denzel Perryman. And you'll also want to check out tight end #46, Clive Walford, who is usually good for a few catches every game. One player you won't see out there is left tackle Ereck Flowers (no relation to former busted draft pick Erik Flowers). He's going to miss the game with a knee injury.
One thing you can say about North Carolina - the defense that produced Robert Quinn, Kareem Martin, and several other early picks in recent seasons has fallen apart. They have yet to allow fewer than 27 points in a game this season, although they've generated plenty of turnovers. On offense, you'll see the run/pass threat #12, Marquise Williams a whole lot. The junior quarterback leads the team in rushing and has been efficient in the passing game this season. Most of his top receivers, including true sophomore Ryan Switzer, aren't draft eligible yet, but pay attention to #14 Quinshad Davis - the junior hasn't had a great season, but has size and could conceivably enter the draft this year.
No. 7 TCU at No. 20 West Virginia
After a big win over Baylor, West Virginia is back on our list for a matchup against a TCU team that just put up 80 points on their last opponent. Fortunately, it seems like the Mountaineers have some experience with shutting down high-octane offenses.
#17 Shaquille Riddick was a highly touted transfer edge rusher to WVU, but had a quiet season until a breakout three sack game against Baylor. You'll want to pay attention to see if WVU uses him in the same way to shut down the Horned Frogs offense. WR #11 Kevin White had his first game with fewer than 100 yards receiving last week against Oklahoma State, which was still a 34-10 win for the Mountaineers. He's a star at the point of attack, and dangerous in the open field. You might also want to watch the left guard, #67 Quinton Spain.
TCU has surged this season, led by junior quarterback Trevone Boykin. He's putting up some strong stats this season, although he's buoyed by a 7 touchdown performance last week against a completely lost Texas Tech. Keep an eye on #17, safety Sam Carter. He's in his third straight season as a starter and has a knack for following the football. DT #9 Chucky Hunter and CB #25 Kevin White are also worth a watch (I personally can't wait for the Kevin White-Kevin White one on one matchups).
Stanford at No. 5 Oregon
7:30 PM EST
Oregon's playoff hopes may hinge on the outcome of this game. The Ducks have very little room to spare after their loss to Arizona earlier in the season, and Stanford has been a consistently tough matchup over the last few seasons. It's time for Marcus Mariota to make his Heisman statement (if one is coming) and conquer a team known for controlling the ball and playing a stout defense. The quarterback has put up career highs in YPA, completion percentage, TD and INT percentage, but has taken more sacks this season. However, questions remain (and may not be answered until draft day) about if teams will be sold on Mariota's ability to read an NFL defensive scheme. This game is a good litmus test. Watch out for #9 Byron Marshall, the receiver/running back who is capable of breaking open a 60 yard play any time he gets the ball. On defense, DL #9 Arik Armstead is a massive person who won't put up a lot of stats because he's probably best setting the edge, but a guy with his build should always catch attention. He's missed the last few games with an ankle injury and this should be his return. Cornerback #14 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is kind of similar to Brandon Flowers, in that he's a little on the smaller side but still brings serious coverage skills to his game. He has been a bit up and down this season though, including getting exposed against Washington State earlier in the year.
When Stanford has the ball, be sure to watch the left tackle, #70 Andrus Peat. He's potentially the top guy for this year's draft at that position. While Byron Marshall is a threat for Oregon, Stanford has their own big play machine: #7 Ty Montgomery is a threat in the run, pass, or return game, although he's been mostly held out from monster gains this season. Senior QB Kevin Hogan has plenty of size and arm strength and plays in a pro style offense, but has been decidedly "meh" this season - already having 3 games where he failed to throw a touchdown pass (all losses). The Stanford defense has helped keep the team in games though - it's one of the strongest units in college football. Unfortunately they're out 2 linemen as well as starting safety Zach Hoffpauir. DL #91, Henry Anderson, is worth a watch. Also check out linebackers #9 James Vaughters and #17 AJ Tarpley. The cornerbacks, #2 Wayne Lyons and #25 Alex Carter, are also up to snuff. Basically, watch everyone on the defense.