Best Game For Scouting NFL Fantasy Football Prospects:
Georgia @ Clemson
Two of the best quarterback prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft square off in this match-up featuring Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. Both quarterbacks are fifth year seniors entering their age 23 season, so there should be minimal opening weekend rust. As this will be Boyd’s first game without DeAndre the giant Hopkins, it will be interesting to see if uber-prospect Sammy Watkins can regain freshman year (2011) form and break through for some big plays. For Boyd, avoiding interceptions will be a key as he posted the highest 2012 INT% of any of the top prospects. From Murray, I’m expecting to see some NFL caliber deep throws, especially off play action. The outstanding Georgia run game will take pressure off him, so there’s no excuse to be wayward with his deep passes.
Honorable mention: Rutgers (WR Brandon Coleman) @ Fresno State (QB Derek Carr, WR Davante Adams)
Game I’m Most Excited To Watch
Ole Miss @ Vanderbilt
You’re probably thinking “who cares about these middle tier SEC teams?” Well, I do, and here’s why. 1) It’s opening night of the college football season, so I will be like a kid on Christmas morning. 2) Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief and Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews are two of the four best wide receiver prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft. 3) I think that Ole Miss is one of the deep sleeper teams of 2013. They have a second year coach (which typical means a big jump in performances), they came on strong in the second half, and destroyed Pitt in their bowl game. 4) Because the resurrection of the Vanderbilt football program has been awesome to see. Yes, really. They’ve been to consecutive bowl games and the arrow is pointing up.
Mississippi State vs Oklahoma State…a great early test–and credibility booster–for my National Championship sleeper Oklahoma State.
Highest Scoring/ Most Exciting Game
Washington State @ Auburn
Simply put, these teams are coached by two of the best offensive minds in college football; Gus Malzahn from Auburn and Mike Leach from Washington State (and, formerly, Texas Tech). Leach’s team should see a big leap forward in year two of his system. When he was at Tech, his team scored 8 more points/game in year two compared to year one. Meanwhile, Malzahn was the brains behind the Chizik/Newton/Auburn 2010 National Championship. He left Auburn after the 2011 season to become the Arkansas State head coach but is back just a year later. His offensive scheme is incredibly potent and should be quick to implement given the program’s familiarity. I’m counting on points galore!
Honorable Mentions: Northwestern @ Cal, Texas Tech @ SMU
Best Defensive Slugfest
LSU vs TCU
From 2008-2010 TCU ranked as the #1 defense in America. 2011 saw them take a step back and things were even worse last year due to a young defense and the transition to the Big 12. The Horned Frogs return 17 of their top 19 tacklers this season and I expect them to play with a chip on their shoulder to re-establish themselves as an elite defense. When it comes to LSU, I recognize that they lost some major talent to the NFL, but here’s what I like: this class is loaded with premier prospects who should be hungry to make a difference in their first year as starters. I felt like last year’s D could have played “hungrier.” I expect both defenses to be full throttle on Saturday night. (9pm eastern, ESPN)
Honorable Mention: Alabama vs Virginia Tech
Player To Watch
Casey Pachall. Senior QB, TCU– Going into last season I had Pachall ranked as my #2 QB prospect in college football (Yes, I’m man enough to admit it). He played great through four games completing 66% of his passes with a 10:1 TD/INT ratio. Unfortunately Pachall would leave the team due to drug & alcohol abuse issues and not play another game in 2012. He’s back in the saddle for the 2013 season and
eases back into things gets thrown into the fire with a week 1, primetime game against LSU. It will be fascinating to see how he handles the spotlight in the Jerrydome.