The Bills are heading west for their game this week, and so we will too, stopping in Nebraska before heading out to the Pac-12. Who should you be paying attention to? We have you covered.
No. 25 Minnesota at No. 23 Nebraska
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In this Big Ten matchup, you can bet that Minnesota running back #27 David Cobb is salivating at the thought of facing Nebraska's defense. The Cornhuskers just gave up a record-breaking rushing performance to Melvin Gordon, and Cobb has 1300 rushing yards of his own on the season. He's yet another member of a strong 2015 running back class. The Minnesota passing attack isn't pretty, but redshirt sophomore tight end #88 Maxx Williams does his work just fine. He leads the team in receiving and has caught seven of his quarterback's ten touchdown passes. The Golden Gophers' defense has a couple names worth watching for: DB #29 Briean Boddy-Calhoun has four interceptions and seven pass breakups this season, and senior LB #5 Damien Wilson is all around the ball, with eight TFL, a forced fumble, three pass breakups, and an interception.
This Nebraska team is itching for a huge win, although Minnesota is no pushover. They definitely have the talent to make it happen. Edge rusher #4 Randy Gregory has a great combination of size and athletic ability, and plenty of scouts want to place him in the first five picks of the draft. Running back #8 Ameer Abdullah looked like the best back in the class for multiple games this season, but injuries have slowed him down, and he really struggles in pass protection. You'll also want to watch for senior safety #6 Corey Cooper.
No. 15 Arizona at No. 17 Utah
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In this first of two Pac-12 matchups on the day, you're going to see some good defensive plays. Arizona can claim a future top draft pick in linebacker #33 Scooby Wright, who has 118 tackles (22 for loss), 12 sacks, and five forced fumbles on the season. He's all over the ball, every play. Also around the ball a lot is senior safety #38 Jared Tevis, who has 94 tackles (eight for a loss) so far. As a whole, Arizona's defense is Scooby and the DBs - on their leading tacklers list, seven of the top eight are defensive backs, and Wright is the top overall player. On offense, it's a little early to be watching the freshman QB #12 Anu Solomon, who has put up good stats this season. But redshirt sophomore receiver #1 Cayleb Jones and senior receiver #29 Austin Hill are both good tall receivers worth watching. Hill looked better a couple of seasons ago, before a torn ACL in spring practices forced a redshirt season. You should also watch LT #68 Mickey Baucus, who scouts think has an NFL future at right tackle or guard.
Utah's offense is a bit more pedestrian in comparison to Rich Rodriguez's work. The passing game's leading receiver is senior #6 Dres Anderson, whoh only has 355 yards on the year. The running game is where the real battle lies, with RB #23 Devontae Booker putting up over a thousand yards with over five yards per carry. But the true testament to Utah's strength is the defense. Start with Nate Orchard. DE #8 has 16.5 sacks this season and 73 tackles. You'll also want to keep an eye on DB #18 Eric Rowe and DB #4 Brian Blechen, and OL #73 Jeremiah Poutasi.
No. 19 USC at No. 9 UCLA
I don't often get to highlight many great Pac-12 matchups because they tend not to be televised on local channels and at sane hours for East Coast residents. Luckily, we get one of those matchups in prime time this week, and you can bet this is the one I'm recording for later.
USC's big man, #94 Leonard Williams, has made a lot of scouts drool this season. He's 6'5" 300 pounds and a total wrecking ball on the defensive line. WR #15 Nelson Agholor has picked up the slack well from Marqise Lee and looks like he might be on his way to early entry into the draft and a day one or two selection. Looking for running back prospects? #37 "Buck" Allen has rushed for 1100 yards at 5.5 yards per carry, and he can receive too. QB #6 Cody Kessler has been super efficient this season, passing for a 29:3 TD:INT, completing 70.2% of his passes, and throwing for 8.61 yards per attempt. He's still a junior and might return for another season yet. Linebackers #58 JR Tavai and #10 Hayes Pullard should also be on your radar.
UCLA has a bunch of talented players, but the big one on everyone's mind is definitely QB #17 Brett Hundley. The redshirt junior has been efficient, keeping pace with his previous passing numbers while improving his accuracy, and is a threat running the ball as well. He has struggled under pressure behind a weak offensive line, though, and is slow going through his progressions. But he has the look of a franchise QB - it just comes in bursts rather than a constant appearance.
On defense, you'll want to watch LB #6 Eric Kendricks. At 6'0" 230 pounds, he barely qualifies as an NFL-sized linebacker, but he's another one of those guys with great instincts for finding the football. He might project as an ideal weak-side linebacker in the NFL. Defensive end #94 Owamagbe Odighizuwa is still a work in progress, having missed last season due to hip surgery. But he's an athletic 6'3" 270 pounds, and has seven tackles for loss on the season.