While there are few games of national consequence this weekend there are a number of contests which will impact conference rankings. And when the ball’s in the air there are several prospect match-ups scouts will focus on. Here are three games to watch for week nine.
USC vs Cal
3PM EST FOX
A resurgent USC Trojan team takes on Cal with much talked about Jared Goff, the recently struggling signal caller who looks like he’s headed toward the draft. This is a big match-up from both a scouting and conference perspective.
Goff was a player I spoke about during last week’s Risers and Sliders. He’s a cerebral quarterback with the ability to accurately place passes into the hands of intended targets. Goff needs to physically mature as he possesses a thin build and struggles standing up against the rush but he offers a tremendous amount of upside. It may take a bit longer than many expect for him to be truly NFL ready.
After two tough outings Goff has a chance to right the ship against USC, a team whose pass defense ranks in the bottom half of the PAC 12. The Trojans allow almost 238-passing yards per game and have posted 17 sacks in seven games played, ranking 7th in the conference.
USC does feature safety Su’a Cravens, a top 60 junior expected to enter the draft. Cravens can be a difference maker as he’s disruptive on the blitz and shows cover skills between the numbers.
Clemson vs North Carolina State
3:30 EST PM ABC
Nationally ranked Clemson hopes to stay unbeaten. North Carolina State hopes to pull off an upset and become bowl eligible with a victory.
Clemson enters the game with the top pass defense in the ACC which features highly considered pass rusher Shaq Lawson as well as underrated cornerback Mackensie Alexander.
Lawson made the risers list earlier this week as he’s constantly getting pressure off the edge and up the field. He has the ability to flatten and the speed to chase in pursuit. Lawson must shake off what’s been a string of mostly disappointing undersized pass rushers from the Clemson program but he does project as a second day choice.
Alexander’s stats are not great; 11 tackles and 1 pass broken up in seven games though most of this is due to the fact opponents won’t challenge him. Alexander is a nice combination of size, ball skills and upside. Like Lawson, he also projects as a day two pick but the red shirt sophomore could move into the first round with a good junior campaign in 2016.
Alexander and Lawson now face Jacoby Brissett, possibly the most underrated quarterback from the senior class.
Brissett is a terrific athlete with a big league arm which allows him to make all the throws. He’s more than a run first signal caller as Brissett plays smart football and delivers accurate passes. He’s under 200-yards passing per game this season but his completion percentage stands at 67% and he’s tossed just a single interception versus 10 touchdown passes.
I expect Brissett to receive an invitation to the Senior Bowl if healthy at the conclusion of the season. A good performance against a highly ranked team which puts the top pass defense in the conference on the field every week would be a major plus for his draft stock.
Mississippi vs Auburn
12PM EST ESPN
Ole Miss hopes to build off their important win a week ago against Texas A&M. On the other hand Auburn needs this win to keep their head above water. There are a several match-ups scouts will monitor during this contest including a battle between juniors in the secondary.
After a slow return to the field Mississippi receiver LaQuon Treadwell has his game back on track. In eight games this season he’s totaled 54 receptions for 756 yards with 5 scores. Thirty two of those catches have come in the past four games. If his medicals pan out Treadwell is a top 12 pick and projects as a number one receiver on Sunday.
Treadwell will be the focus of the Auburn defense and safety Johnathan Ford will be a big part of the effort. Considered one of the best junior safety prospects in the country, Ford is efficient, makes a lot of tackles (leads Auburn with 72) and covers a lot of area on the field. His consistency and ball skills are red flags and Harris has a single interception/pass break-up this year.
Ford can quell many of the concerns by delivering a big performance against Treadwell, who overmatches him in areas of size, performance and overall talent.