If there were ever a weekend for highlighting teams outside of the Power Five conferences, it could have been this one, with a matchup between undefeated Houston and 8-1 Memphis. Unfortunately the game lost a bit of luster with the Tigers' loss to Navy last week. There are several other good games worth viewing this week, if Paxton Lynch against Williams Jackson isn't your preferred battle. The SEC has several 7.5/10 type games on its schedule between very good and solid teams, North Carolina is hosting Miami and trying to nail down its half of the ACC, and the Pac-12 is featuring the annual Oregon-Stanford game. As for Rex Ryan, he'll be in Syracuse watching his son's team take down the Orange, in all likelihood.
Game of the week
(12) Oklahoma at (6) Baylor
8:00 p.m. ET, ABC and WatchESPN
Those other games are all well and good, and Memphis-Houston might be the most compelling matchup in terms of winning records, but this game between undefeated Baylor and a resurgent Oklahoma hits the sweet spot of prospect density and matchup intrigue. Baylor has done its thing blowing out opponents week after week, but it's starting a schedule gauntlet that will show whether it's any good.
The Bears lost their starting quarterback for the season recently, but freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham managed the offense just fine in his first game. It's not very hard when a guy like Corey Coleman is involved in the offense. Coleman has played like a video game character in stacking up 20 touchdown catches so far this season. He flashes good agility in his route running, but in the Baylor offense he has an aggravating tendency to do absolutely nothing when the play isn't headed to his side of the field, thanks to coach Art Briles. It's strange that a player with 1000 rushing yards would feel like an afterthough, but Shock Linwood isn't catching the same attention he did last year due to the Coleman hype. He's still a draftable three down running back prospect. Their offensive line has five seniors starting, each one at least 6'5" and 305 pounds. Left tackle Spencer Drango and center Kyle Fuller (no relation to Chicago Bear Kyle Fuller) are the main names to watch from there.
The Baylor defense has its own big names. Cornerback Xavien Howard is 6'2" 200 pounds and has 10 passes defended on the year (four of them interceptions). Defensive lineman Shawn Oakman gets lots of press for his 6'9" 275 pound sculpted body and has eleven tackles for a loss, but he really struggles to play with good technique. Defensive tackle Andrew Billings looks like he has the makings of an interior pass rushing threat. Beau Blackshear is another defensive tackle who might make the NFL.
The Sooners have made it as far as they have because of their excellent defense. Erik Striker is the major driving force, with 13 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He's undersized for a linebacker, let alone an edge rusher, but the senior produces, and that should have teams finding him a spot somewhere on their defense. Defensive end Charles Tapper is a three year starter that ranks second on the team in sacks. Linebacker Dominique Alexander is a junior, but he holds down the middle of the defense. Cornerback Jordan Thomas isn't draft-eligible, but he leads the team in passes defended and has NFL size.
Since taking over for Trevor Knight, quarterback Baker Mayfield has been extremely efficient, completing 70 percent of his passes for 28 touchdowns against only four interceptions. That being said, he's only started one year, and he doesn't have NFL size. His top target is Sterling Shepard (who has a great football name), an undersized wideout with excellent route running abilities.
Discussion topic for the week
Here are some quick thoughts on overrated and underrated players that I've looked at this year:
Overrated: Vadal Alexander. Looks every bit of his 345 pound frame, a slow mover who doesn't convert all his weight into power. Also gets chippy after the play is over.
Underrated: Laremy Tunsil. Yes, that's somewhat hard to say given that he's already a top five pick in most drafts, but I really think he's that good. Top player on my board, and would've been the top player against last year's prospects.
Overrated: Paxton Lynch. I'm not seeing a tremendous #1 overall talent with Lynch. Right now, I'm mostly seeing Brock Osweiler who plays against bad teams and makes better decisions with the ball. There's a lot that has to develop with him.
Underrated: Cooper Kupp. The EWU receiver makes some silky-smooth movements in his routes, looking a lot like some hated Patriots receivers when he does it. Someone's going to be happy they drafted him.
Overrated: Jayron Kearse. I'm really skeptical of his ability to read and react to a play. He guesses wrong on simple things like run versus pass a lot, is rarely in on tackles, and doesn't show natural coverage instincts. He's a big body with speed, but so was Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
Underrated: Noah Spence. He's an afterthought for some after transferring to FCS, but the former Ohio State edge rusher still has all of his talent. He had to go through a major drug addiction that had him kicked off of his former team, but by reports he has learned his lesson and rebuilt his life. If he falls to the second round someone is getting a great talent.