What Should I Watch? College Football Week 1 edition

Image via PDA Photo/Flickr
Image via PDA Photo/Flickr

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.

Continue this conversation with me on Google+ or Twitter.

Advertisements

Who to watch: Vanderbilt v. NC State (Music City Bowl)

Stay tuned for must-see prospects from every game of the bowl season.

Music City Bowl

Monday, December 31, 12:00pm EST

ESPN

The one guy I’ve been dying to watch all bowl season

Vanderbilt

Jordan Matthews, #87, Junior, WR

The best wide receiver prospect in the state of Tennessee isn’t Justin Hunter or Cordarrelle Patterson, it is Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews.  In my November WR rankings, I named Matthews the #2 receiver prospect for the 2013 draft. In fact, JM is one of the best SEC receiver prospects of the last decade.  Check out this production compared to other elite SEC performers:

  • Alshon Jeffery (2010)  6.3 receptions,  108.3 yards,  .64 touchdowns  *played one more season before entering NFL
  • Jordan Matthews  (2012)  7.3 receptions,  105.2 yards,  .58  touchdowns
  • AJ Green  (2010) 6.3 receptions,  94.2 yards,  1 touchdown
  • Julio Jones (2010)  6 receptions,  87.2 yards,  .54 touchowns

In five of Matthews’ eight SEC conference games, he hauled in at least 115 yards and one touchdown, proving his consistency and high-end ability.  #87 is also a big play threat, tallying five receptions of 50+ yards throughout the season.

In the Music City bowl it will be fascinating to watch Matthews face NC State CB David Amerson, who many considered to be the #1CB prospect in the country coming into the 2012 season.  Let’s hope that the poor field conditions don’t spoil this.

If he were to enter the NFL Draft and forego his senior season, he would easily grade in my top four wideouts, and possibly even grade as my #1 receiver in the draft.  Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin said: “The funny thing, and the scary thing, is I think he can get a lot better.  Probably the most powerful trait he has is he thinks he is the best wide receiver in the country. He behaves like that, he acts like that and he practices like that every day.”  I too think he might be the best wide receiver in the country.

Check the highlights vs Georgia…

North Carolina State

Mike Glennon, #8, Senior, QB

The National  Football Post’s Russ Lande just named Mike Glennon his #1 quarterback prospect for the 2013 draft.  I have some other thoughts on Glennon.

In the five games when the lights shone brightest on Glennon, there’s one word to describe him: quantity.  In relevant games, Glennon threw 49.6 passes per game, up from 32.6 in 2011, a  52% increase in attempts.  In these games, the Wolfpack went 1-4, and presumably Glennon was throwing to play catch up.  This theory is further supported by the fact that his yards/completion jumped from 11.3 (in 2011) to 14 (in 2012) while his completion percentage dropped by nearly 7%.

I’d attribute those numbers mostly to the environment in which he played… so, let’s look at what he could control.  He threw touchdowns 5% more frequently compared to 2011, but also threw interceptions 5% more often compared to 2011.  This advances my theory of quantity: he threw more, he threw more touchdowns, he threw more interceptions.

Overall, his grade in my system fell slightly from 90.4 in 2011, to 87.5 in 2012, neither of which puts him above the “potentially elite” hurdle of 95.  Watch the Music City Bowl and see what you think, but I think he’s far from the #1 quarterback prospect in the draft.

Watch him against NC State’s big rival…

Observations– 30 August 2012

South Carolina 17- Vanderbilt 13

South Carolina’s offensive and defensive lines were dominant.  Jordan Rodgers was under pressure all night and Vanderbilt’s defense just couldn’t get a stop.  QB Shaw and RB Lattimore led the attack for the Gamecocks who overpowered their way to an early season, nailbiting win.  It’s interesting to see Spurrier ‘just win’ games.  It seems like he is content to win ugly, which is completely necessary in the SEC.  The SC defense certainly passes the eye test but it will be itneresting to see if the offense can produce against the better SEC teams.

In an unrelated note, Connor Shaw reminds me of Forrest Gump when he runs.

Jordan Matthews looked good.  The SEC has graduated a lot of receiving talent in recent years (AJ Green, Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery, Randall Cobb, Rueben Randle) and it will be interesting to see who steps up to be among the SEC’s best receivers.  Da’rick Rogers (Tenn) was the obvious choice but with his recent transgressions it looks like an open race.  Matthews flashed in the second quarter after hauling in a mid range pass and turning on the jets to take it for a touchdown.  He hauled in 8 balls for 147 yards and 1 td, but had a drop on a critical 3rd and long play.  For Vandy fans, the game will be most remembered for the non-call on an obvious pass interference play involving Matthews late in the game.

The ‘Dores proved that they’re headed in the right direction.  After falling behind 10-0 early, it would have been easy to go away quietly.  They held tough, took a lead, and were a play or two from pulling the huge upset of #9 ranked South Carolina.  Kudos to the job that James Franklin is doing.

BYU 30- Washington St 6

Washington State looked out of synch all night.  The pace of play was slow in the early going and they never seemed to get into a rythm.  Once they fell behind, BYU’s offensive and defensive lines just wore them down.  Wazzu does have some players, but overall they’re too thin, especially where it counts; in the trenches.

Riley Nelson is completely average.  The 25-36, 285 yds, 2TDs line looks great, but Nelson had a clean pocket all night and a helpful running game.  I was curious to watch him because BYU has had a good string of quarterbacks in the past decade.  However, Nelson’s 2011 season graded outside my top 40 QB ratings for last season and this game proved why.  Against a team with a better defensive line, BYU’s offense will struggle.

Friendly reminder:  Because BYU players often go on mission trips and then come back to play football, they have guys that are 23-25 years old starting for them, which gives them a few extra years to physically mature.  Their lines looked overpowering last night.

What is BYU’s motivation?  They’re not Notre Dame, but they made the choice to go independent last season.  I don’t think they’ll ever be a national title contender.  They have no conference and no place.  They’re a nice team, but I can’t help but wonder in what framework their goals exist.

What to watch- 30 August 2012

The College Football Season kicks off tonight.  A few things I’ll be watching:

South Carolina @ Vanderbilt, ESPN 7:00pm EST

Jordan Matthews #87, Junior WR, Vanderbilt– Over the last six games of the 2011 season, Matthews averaged 5.5 catches for 110 yards and .7 TDs.  After tallying only 8 catches in Vandy’s first seven games, Matthews shined when given the opportunity.  When he does make plays, they usually go for big yardage as evidenced by his 19 yds/catch average which ranked 6th in the NCAA last season (min. of 30 receptions).  With a historical context, Matthews 2011 season ranks right up there with Earl Bennett, within the context of the offense.   If the ‘Dores are going to pull the big upset in Nashville tonight, chances are Jordan Matthews will have something to do with it.

UPDATE:  Matthews hauled in 8 catches for 147 yards and 1 touchdown in Vandy’s 13-17 loss.  His impact could have been even greater if not being interferred with (missed call) on a critical fourth down play in the final minutes.

(A few nice highlights at the 28 second mark and the 59 second mark)

Washington State @  BYU, ESPN 10:15pm EST

Marquess Wilson #86, Junior WR, Washington St.– It’s easy to be overlooked when your team goes 9-40 over a four year stretch, but Marquess Wilson would like your attention.  In 2011 he was utterly dominant.  In 11 of 12 games, he tallied at least 75 receiving yards.  He recorded a touchdown in 8/12 games.  Overall, his 2011 season ranked as the second most dominant in the last decade of Wazzu football, behind Jason Hill.  With a new sheriff in town in 2012 (Air Raid genius Mike Leach) expect Marquess to become a Pac-12 STAR and an All-American caliber player.  His 2011 AVERAGES– 6.8 catches, 115 yards, 1TD– rank him right with Greg Jennings and Roddy White’s college numbers.  GET ON THE BANDWAGON!!!

UPDATE: Wilson caught 4 balls for 61 yards and 0 touchdowns as Wazzu was out of rythm and manhandled by BYU in a 6-30 loss.  Washington State’s offense looked out of rythm all night although Wilson flashed at times.  Brighter days lie ahead.

(The combination of music and phenomenal plays make at least the first two minutes of this video must-see)