Wisconsin vs Michigan 12PM EST ESPN
Wisconsin's Joe Thomas was wavering about his future plans late last year. That was until the blind side tackle played sparingly at defensive end during the Outback Bowl against Auburn and tore a ligament in his knee. With his rehabilitation ahead of schedule Thomas came into the season as the number one ranked tackle prospect.
And while he's looked good during the Badgers first three games Thomas will face his toughest competition of the year on Saturday.
Michigan's Lamarr Woodley is a ferocious pass rusher on the college level who terrorized Notre Dame last weekend. Were it not for poor size/speed numbers (6'-1"/270lbs/4.80 seconds) Woodley would be a lock in round one yet is likely to be a second frame selection as a rush linebacker for a 3-4 defense. Rondell Biggs is similar in that the productive collegiate defender offers marginal computer numbers for the NFL (6'-1.5"/276/4.80), projecting as a late round pick and pass rush specialist next April.
This point can't be argued, Woodley and Biggs make a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. It will be a great test for Thomas.
This is a terrific opportunity for Cal running back Marshawn Lynch to show off his talent. The top rated junior is expected to enter next April's draft and will be a top 15 selection. Arizona State does not have the defensive firepower in the front seven to slow Lynch down, never mind shut him down.
A different battle on the perimeter between a pair of middle round choices must be watched. After Tim Mixon went down with a knee injury just prior to the season Daymeion Hughes became the top cornerback for Cal. A solid middle round choice, Hughes is a tough coverman effective as a zone corner or backed off the line of scrimmage.
Hughes job this weekend will be to shutdown Arizona State's passing attack which is averaging nearly 300-yards per game. Terry Richardson was suppose to be the heir apparent Derek Hagan, the former Sun Devil who was drafted in the third round by the Miami Dolphins last April.
Though Richardson came into the season with a fourth round grade his play has been disappointing thus far. Totaling just three receptions in '06, Richardson has made lots of noise in the press this week, vowing to become the pass catching force people expect him to be.
Another important Big Ten battle as the Nittany Lions travel to Columbus, trying to pull the upset over number one ranked Ohio State.
Coming into the season linebacker Paul Posluszny was miscast as a potential top ten pick by some. A productive college linebacker, Posluszny, who carries a mid-second round grade from BLESTO Scouting, did not have the athletic skills or computer numbers to warrant a top-twenty selection in our opinion. Factor in Posluszny was coming off a minor knee injury while adjusting to a position switch and it's been tough sledding for the Butkus Award candidate in 2006.
After playing on the outside as a junior Posluszny was kicked to inside linebacker after Penn State switched to a 3-4 defense. His production has been under whelming as has that of Tim Shaw, another solid NFL linebacker prospect who came into the season with a fourth round grade.
This week their prime duty will be to stop Ohio State's potent running attack. Buckeye running back Antonio Pittman has been effective this season, including a solid performance against a tough Texas defense. Pittman could be headed to the NFL where his grades out as a top 75 pick.
Alabama vs Arkansas 3:30 EST CBS
For the second week in a row the SEC West has an important divisional game on the schedule.
To date running back Kenneth Darby has had a very disappointing year. The power runner with outstanding size/speed numbers (5'-10.5"/215/4.50) carried a second round grade into the season. Yet against three marginal opponents Darby has totaled 169-yards rushing with no scores. And while defenses have filled the box and challenging the Tide to throw the ball, more was expected of Darby this year.
Arkansas hopes to turn the corner this year after several losing seasons. Part-n-parcel to this turnaround is a tough defensive front seven which features a pair of run stuffing tackles and a very active linebacker.
Senior Keith Jackson is a plugger in the middle and a lineman built low to the ground. He presently carries a late sixth round grade. Sam Olajubutu is a fiery linebacker who flies around the field and led Arkansas with 118-tackles last season. At just 5-feet-9-inches and 227-pounds he projects as a back-up weak-side linebacker for a 3-4 defense and should be a special teams demon. The top player of the group is junior Marcus Harrison. An explosive defensive lineman, Harrison offers terrific size, quickness and athleticism.
Darby's ability to run through this group would go a long way in getting his game back on track.
USC vs. Arizona 8PM ABC
Thus far the Trojans have carved up opposing defenses with new starter John David Booty behind center. This week they could well do the same to the Wildcats.
Dwayne Jarrett comes off a sensational performance against the black-shirts of Nebraska. Steve Smith also turned in terrific numbers against the Cornhuskers. The Trojan pass catching team faces one of the most talented defensive backfields in the nation this weekend.
Junior Antoine Cason is a terrific cornerback who projects as a top sixty pick if he opts for the draft. Third year sophomore Wilrey Fontenot is a terrific player in his own right and a cover man with great upside. Michael Johnson is a highly rated safety and a senior who likes to intimidate any receiver that comes across the middle.
This is a huge test for all three against the Trojan trio who hopes to keep the momentum going.