Saturday NFL Draft watch notes: Rivalry week

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the nation's top NFL Draft prospects will be facing each other with more than just a silly trophy on the line.

Week 14 of the college football season is rivalry week. Things got off to a hot start Friday, culminating in Oregon's come-from-behind win against Oregon State. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was having a bad game but put together a good fourth quarter to win the game. Quarterback prospects Derek Carr and David Fales both threw for more than 500 yards and looked on point.

Can the rest of the top NFL Draft prospects keep up? We'll find out today in several key games. Matthew Fairburn will have a full breakdown of Auburn/Alabama shortly.

Florida State at Florida, noon, ESPN

If Georgia Southern could run for 429 yards against Florida, imagine what Seminoles running backs Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams will do against the Gators. This one could get ugly in a hurry. Freeman, a senior, probably isn't going to get drafted overly high because of the position he plays. But he seems like the kind of mid-round pick who could grow into the role of being a solid lead runner. Wilder has come on the past few weeks, albeit on extremely limited carries. Williams supplanted Wilder as FSU's No. 2 running back and has solid potential for 2015.

More to watch: If Florida is to have any shot against Florida State, it will be because its cornerbacks are playing well. Monstrous Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is a tough cover, but Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy tends to play well against bigger receivers. Look for Florida to put star freshman Vernon Hargreaves on Rashad Greene.

Ohio State at Michigan, noon, ABC

There has been some doubt creeping in about Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan. One scout told NFL Network's Albert Breer that he sees Lewan as a third-round pick. Lewan has the physicality on the edge to stop bull rushers. Today he'll match up a lot against Buckeyes sophomore Noah Spence. For those looking ahead to 2015, get to know the speedy Spence. This game will test Lewan's foot quickness and how well he can change direction.

More to watch: Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon is putting together quite a season with 71 catches for 1,109 yards and eight touchdowns. That's impressive considering the inconsistent play from quarterback Devin Gardner. He could give Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby trouble because of his speed – something Roby struggled with against Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin. Roby tends to gamble a lot and can get burned. Teams will want to see him be more disciplined and not bite on double moves so often. Ohio State gets underrated junior cornerback Doran Grant back for this game. As we've seen over the past several weeks, the interior of Michigan's offensive line has struggled. That could mean big things for Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett. Also look for linebacker Ryan Shazier to blitz the A-gap often.

Clemson at South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Remember in the summer when South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was scared of him? In this game last year, Boyd was sacked six times and completed just 45.8 percent of his throws. Boyd may not be afraid of Clowney, but he still hasn't beaten South Carolina in his career. Boyd isn't as highly thought of now as he was in the preseason. He just hasn't taken that next step as a pure pocket passer that some expected.

More to watch: Obviously this is Clowney's last game at South Carolina. But defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and cornerback Victor Hampton could be following him to the NFL. If Hampton wants to jump to the next level, he should request to play against Clemson start wide receiver Sammy Watkins all game. Watkins can break a big play at any moment so Hampton could greatly help himself with a good game. While head coach Dabo Swinney doesn't think he should go pro, Clemson's Vic Beasley may be leaning toward the NFL. Beasley's play has tailed off some the past few weeks, but his quickness and closing speed are impressive.

Texas A&M at Missouri, 7:45 p.m., ESPN

How does Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel bounce back after a down game against LSU? On paper, Missouri's front four should be able to do a lot fo the same things LSU did. Ends Kony Ealy and Michael Sam are athletic and fast. If Missouri can disguise blitzes, Ealy and Sam should be able to finish off the play. Manziel doesn't necessarily need a good game, but another clunker and more people will begin to take pause. Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi, A&M's pair of offensive tackles, need to have better games this week. Ogbuehi in particular tends to give too much space up to defenders.

More to watch: Missouri has a solid cornerback in E.J. Gaines. He's a late-round prospect who doesn't do a lot wrong, but doesn't blow you away in any area in particular. LSU used a bigger cornerback on Mike Evans last week, so Gaines at 5-foot-11 may or may not see much action against the All-American. Evans had just four catches for 51 yards last week and rarely has two poor games in a row.

More to watch today:

Is Notre Dame's left tackle Zack Martin truly a tackle prospect in the NFL, or is he a guard like many project? How he plays Stanford's Trent Murphy today will go a long way in answering that question.

With Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu coming off a stellar game against Oregon State, it may be time to wonder if he's the top cornerback prospect and not TCU's Jason Verrett. The Horned Frogs senior has a Senior Bowl invite in his pocket, but with a good game against Baylor he may not need to go. Verrett has excellent foot quickness and ball skills. He could have some trouble with Baylor wide out Antwan Goodley. The physical junior is built like a linebacker.

Look for Southern California's defensive front led by Devon Kennard to play well against a patchwork UCLA offensive line. Kennard, an outside linebacker, has eight sacks and 10 quarterback pressures on the season. Just don't let UCLA's struggles up front sour you on junior guard Xavier Su'a-Filo. He's been shifting to tackle at times.

More from SB Nation NFL

NFL Week 13 expert picks | 3 teams can clinch playoff spot

Mike Tomlin and the foot of infamy

NFL Black Friday deal: Big discounts on players, coaches and tickets

Stephen White: How to fix Geno Smith

NFL Mock Draft: Where does Johnny Football go?

In This Article

Players
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.