2013 NFL Draft: Saturday watch notes for college football rivalry week

Stephen Dunn

The rivalry games get the headlines, but let's not forget about the NFL Draft implications of Saturday's incredible slate of college football games.

Rivalry week is finally here. Although it's not quite what it used to be, the annual week of classic games has a chance to live up to its billing in 2012.

We'll take a look at Saturday's three best rivalry games with an eye towards the NFL Draft.

Stanford at UCLA - 6:30 p.m. - FOX

Standford and UCLA could be playing one another in consecutive weeks. A Stanford victory would ensure a rematch between the two schools in the Pac 12 Championship Game.

When UCLA has the football, running back Johnathan Franklin is the man to watch. He seems to get better with every game. Franklin has outstanding speed and has demonstrated improved vision throughout the 2012 season. Stanford's defense will provide a stiff test, however. Linebacker Chase Thomas has caught the attention of draftniks everywhere, but the entire Cardinal defense shined last week in a victory over Oregon. UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria is also worth keeping an eye on.

Another top running back prospect will be on display when Stanford has the ball. Senior Stepfan Taylor is the most balanced running back prospect in the country. The Bruins' defense has its fair share of NFL talent, though. Defensive end Datone Jones along with cornerbacks Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester are UCLA's top prospects.

South Carolina at Clemson - 7 p.m. - ESPN

Not only is South Carolina vs. Clemson one of the best rivalries in college football, but the Gamecock defense against the Tigers offense will provide one of the most exciting matchups of the weekend.

When Clemson has the football, all eyes will be on the trio of running back Andre Ellington, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd. Defensively, South Carolina boasts a solid front seven, but defensive back D.J. Swearinger will command the most attention. He is quickly becoming one of the best defensive backs in the entire country.

Notre Dame at USC - 8 p.m. - ABC

Notre Dame has a chance to return to glory, and only a rivalry game on the road against USC stands in its way. Matt Barkley won't play in this game, but wide receiver Robert Woods is always worth keeping an eye on. Manti Te'o is the obvious prospect to watch on Notre Dame's defense, but the entire stop unit has been dominant throughout the season.

USC's defense also boasts some NFL talent. The key player to watch will be safety T.J. McDonald, who has had a disappointing season thus far. Meanwhile, Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert is making a strong case to be drafted in the first round, and running back Cierre Wood could declare early for the draft.

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