Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7
Two of the best cornerback prospects in the nation were on display in this SEC West matchup. Alabama's DeMarcus Milliner and Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks are both viewed as potential first-rounders. Each one has been playing extremely well in 2012 with huge games to help their teams enter the contest undefeated. Oddly enough, both Banks and Milliner had their worst games of the season going against each other.
Milliner was beaten for a first down on an out route early on. He followed that by stuffing a run on the perimeter. Milliner stayed too shallow in a zone drop on the next play and that allowed a big gain of 31 yards to the Alabama 16-yard line. However, Milliner came back to end the possession as he came flying around the edge to make a diving block on a field goal attempt.
Milliner was flagged for an obvious pass interference a little bit later. He was holding the receiver out of his break and it was a clear penalty. Another penalty came Milliner's way when he popped the punt returner making a fair catch.
Milliner came up from zone for an open field tackle on a receiver after he got enough for a first down. Milliner missed an open field tackle on the same drive that would've stopped the receiver short of a first down. Milliner finished the night with three tackles and a blocked kick, but it definitely was his sloppiest performance of the season. He will remain as a first-rounder as long as this stays as an anomaly.
The same goes for Banks. He was beaten on a go route by Kenny Bell for a 57-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Banks hurt his knee last week, and he didn't look like he was at full speed on that play.
Banks was part of another Alabama touchdown in the second quarter. He seemed to think think he had linebacker help to the inside covering tight end Michael Williams and shaded to the outside as a result. That left the inside wide open for an easy scoring toss to Williams.
Banks allowed Williams to make an 18-yard reception in front of him later in the third quarter. Banks had four tackles versus the Crimson Tide, but didn't look like his normal self. Mississippi State needs him to bounce back quickly with Texas A&M and LSU in the next two weeks.
Alabama's offensive line had another effective performance at controlling the line of scrimmage. Center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and right tackle D.J. Fluker all were generally solid in run-blocking. Jones and Warmack were challenged by Bulldogs nose tackle Dewayne Cherrington.
There were plays were Jones struggled to move Cherrington. It was a good battle with Jones getting some good wins on the ground and in pass protection. Cherrington (6-3, 335) looks even heavier than his listed weight. He rocked Warmack back to stuff a run for no gain in the second quarter. Jones (6-5, 302) had a bad block early in the contest on a screen pass, but Jones and Warmack were increasingly effective as the game progressed while Mississippi State's defense wore down.
Warmack and Jones had a number of nice combo blocks for their running backs. Warmack (6-3, 320) had a nice block to open up a lane for T.J. Yeldon to run in a touchdown. Jones and Warmack blasted open a 13-yard run for Yeldon on the next drive. They also executed a screen pass well to spring junior running back Eddie Lacy for a touchdown.
Fluker was beaten in the second quarter by the blitzing middle linebacker on a speed rush for a sack. It was further evidence of Fluker's weakness as a pass-protector. The 6-foot-6, 335-pounder did very well as a run blocker, but once again his pass protection left something to be desired.
Fluker's play this season suggests that he really should move to guard in the NFL. His ability to matchup against speed-rushers and blitzers could be a huge liability at tackle in the NFL.
Alabama pulled the starting offensive line early in the fourth quarter after leading the way for another drive inside the 20-yard line. The superb line received a standing ovation from the home faithful.
Mississippi State played the starting line better than expected and maybe it needed the challenge to help get the Crimson Tide ready for LSU next Saturday. Jones and Warmack look like potential first-rounders, while Fluker also has early-round potential if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft.
The player who may have helped himself the most in this game was Alabama safety Robert Lester. He started out the year quietly but has three interceptions in his last four games. Lester started out well against the Bulldogs with a nice hit to break up a pass. He broke on the ball well and timed his contact perfectly.
Lester made a phenomenal goal-line stand in the third quarter. He fired into the hole to stuff a goal-line run. It was an impressive hit from the senior safety. Lester read the quarterback on a play-action bootleg on the very next play. He shadowed the receiver dragging in front, but reacted quickly to the ball going to the target in the back of the end zone to make a leaping interception. It was a fantastic play. Lester looks like a second-day prospect and this tape will definitely help him.
Texas A&M 63, Auburn 21
Any debate for the top left tackle prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft should be settled resoundingly at this point. Texas A&M junior Luke Joeckel has earned that high-level grade after shutting down two potential first-round picks in back-to-back weeks.
Joeckel had a superb day going against LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery two games ago. After dominating Montgomery, took on Auburn defensive end Corey Lemonier this week and had another impressive day. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Joeckel was too quick in his drop to be beaten by a speed rush and his base was perfectly sound to stand up the bull rush. He made it look easy all night.
Lemonier totaled only two tackles in the contest. Joeckel was rock solid in pass protection, not allowing any pressure on the quarterback. He also opened holes in the ground game throughout his playing time. Joeckel and the rest of the starters left the game in the third quarter. He has played like a franchise left tackle and potential top-10 pick going against two first-round pass rushers.
Right tackle Jake Matthews also was rock solid against Auburn. He had no issues in pass protection and was a force on the ground. Matthews looked the part of a first-rounder as well.
Aggies senior wide receiver Ryan Swope had a big day against Auburn. He had a 16-yard score on an out route to the front of the end zone. His second score came after he spun away from a defender and dove into across the goal line. Swope came from the slot on his fourth catch of the night after he ran an intermediate dig route and broke it down the sideline for a gain of 50 yards. He followed that up with a 30-yarder running a go route down the seam.
Swope made a leaping catch over the head of a defensive back for a 21-yard gain. Swope had a 30-yarder running down the seam in the third quarter. It was his final catch of the night as the starters left the game in the second half because Texas A&M was blowing out Auburn.
Swope totaled six receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns in this contest. He has missed quarterback Ryan Tannehill this year, but his play of late helps his bid to be a top-100 selection.
Aggies defensive end Damontre Moore has had a great season and is one of the nation's leaders in sacks. He was banged up in the first quarter, but returned to the game later in the first half.
Moore made one big play as he rushed standing up over the B gap. Moore rocked the center into the pocket. After shedding the center, Moore turned around to chase down the quarterback, who was running toward the line of scrimmage. Moore finished with three tackles and his sack. He looks like a future first-rounder in 2013 or 2014.
It was a mixed outing for Texas A&M senior outside linebacker Sean Porter. He made his presence felt on consecutive plays. First, Porter stuffed a run in the hole for no gain on a second down. He then burned the right tackle around the edge on the next play. Porter was knocked to his knees, but he quickly crawled into the back of the legs of the quarterback to get a sack.
Porter missed a tackle on a touchdown during the third quarter. It was an ugly play as he tried to grab the tight end by his shoulders, but couldn't bring him down. What made it even worse was it happened along the sideline and Porter could've just as easily pushed him out of bounds. Porter totaled three tackles and a sack. He could be a third- or fourth-rounder.
Two other prospects are worth mentioning. Texas A&M senior running back Christine Michael looked good. He ripped off a 34-yard touchdown up the middle. Michael totaled 75 yards and the score on nine carries.
Auburn senior receiver Emory Blake totaled 106 yards and a touchdown on five catches. He made a nice-hands catch running into the end zone for a 27-yard score during garbage time. Blake has some athletic ability and it is a shame that his senior season has been largely wasted by subpar quarterback play.
Blake and Michael look like mid-rounders.
Notre Dame 30, Oklahoma 13
The Big XII is the Arena league of college football, so it is rare for a Big XII team to be challenged by a good defense. That happened for the Sooners last Saturday night as they hosted the Fighting Irish. Led by senior middle linebacker Manti Te'o and featuring some extremely talented defensive linemen, Notre Dame has one of the best defenses in college football
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has had a rollercoaster senior season with a low of a terrible outing against Kansas State and a high with a romp over Texas. The Fighting Irish featured the best defense that Jones will play all year, but Te'o and his teammates were simply phenomenal.
Te'o had a nice open field tackle in pass coverage early on. He did a tremendous job defending the run in Norman. Te'o made tackles on the perimeter and moved through the trash to stuff runs near the line of scrimmage.
Te'o made a superb tackle for a loss late in the first quarter after firing into the backfield on a check down pass. He showed nice closing speed. Te'o exploded up the middle in the second quarter to sack Jones on a third down. The senior linebacker timed his blitz perfectly and precisely read the hole to go unblocked.
With four and half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Te'o made a diving catch off of a deflected pass for his fifth interception of the season. That ties him for second in the nation in picks. He finished the game with 11 tackles, two tackles for a loss, an interception and a sack.
Te'o was omnipresent, as is his habit, with tough run defense and big plays defending the pass. It was another great game for his cause to be selected in the top half of the first round.
Jones was playing really well early in the game. He had plenty of time to throw and was picking apart soft zone coverage. The senior had a quality drive in the second quarter, including a good throw down the seam and a quick out to Kenny Stills (7-86).
Jones had a big gain of 35 yards on a slant to Jalen Saunders. That set up a short touchdown run for the Sooners. Jones completed 35 of 51 passes for 356 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception versus the Fighting Irish. He threw the ball well, but came up short on the scoreboard because Notre Dame's defense consistently would bend but not break. This tape shouldn't hurt Jones and could help.
The junior Saunders had a breakout game with 15 receptions for 181 yards. It was his third game of the season after missing the first four contests.
Two potential early-round picks went at it when the Fighting Irish offense was on the field. Senior tight end Tyler Eifert went against Oklahoma junior safety Tony Jefferson. The fast and physical safety is the Sooners' leading tackler despite missing time with an injury early in the season.
Eifert had a great block on Jefferson to spring a 62-yard touchdown run. Jefferson was the last defender who could have stopped the play, but Eifert locked him up with a slight hold that Jefferson didn't shed.
Jefferson contributed to a tackle for a loss after firing into the backfield on an end around. Eifert had his first catch of the game in the third quarter on a quick out. Jefferson came over the top to combine for a tackle. The next play saw him fly up to stuff a run in the hole for a minimal gain.
Jefferson laid a bone-rattling hit on quarterback Everet Golson at the end of the third quarter. That knocked the signal-caller out of the game temporarily. Eifert made a catch for a first down on the next play, converting the third-and-7 after running a stop route.
Jefferson had another tackle for no gain after starting deep and closing to the line of scrimmage in an instant. His straight line speed is superb. Jefferson flew over to blast Eifert short of the goal line with a massive hit a few plays later. The Notre Dame tight end made an amazing catch as the ball bounced around, and he managed to control it despite the big hit from the Oklahoma safety.
Jefferson totaled 11 tackles, while Eifert had three receptions for 22 yards. It was an impressive performance from Jefferson. It showed how fast and instinctive he is. Jefferson didn't take perfect angles on every play, but he took the right angle on the vast majority. Jefferson was a sure tackler and physical. This was a good tape from him for NFL scouts.
Georgia 17, Florida 9
There was a lot of pro talent on display in the rivalry game between Florida and Georgia including what many feel is the top player in the nation with Bulldogs outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. The USC transfer helped put himself on the map last year with a four-sack outing against the Gators. He continued his domination versus Florida on Saturday.
Jones recovered a fumble on the first drive of the game. He then ran down quarterback Jeff Driskel after he stepped up to avoid a defender later in the first quarter. Jones and a teammate sandwiched Driskel to force a fumble that the Bulldogs recovered.
Jones spun off a block in the third quarter to make a tackle for a loss on a running play. He also recovered another fumble in the backfield on a botched handoff. Shortly later, Jones started on the outside and looped up the middle to sack Driskel. Jones beat left tackle Xavier Nixon for another sack that could have saved a touchdown as there were receivers open downfield.
Jones made the play of the game late in the fourth quarter. He pursued downfield and tackled tight end Jordan Reed from behind. Jones ripped the ball out of Reed's hands and it was recovered by Georgia in the end zone for a touchback. That turnover sealed the Bulldogs win.
Jones had a great game for NFL talent evaluators that will help his cause to go early in the first round. Not that he really needed it, but Jones showed why he is a candidate for the first-overall pick.
Another prospect who helped his cause was Georgia senior safety Bacarri Rambo. He made a huge clutch play with an interception in the end zone on the final play of the first half. It took away at least three points from Florida and protected a 7-6 lead. Rambo timed a blitz perfectly to sack Driskel in the fourth quarter. Rambo's strong performance against the Gators should help his draft stock.
Gators senior running back Mike Gillislee has had an impressive season to really help his cause. He was having a hard time finding good running lanes against the Bulldogs superb front seven, but he produced a big play with a 29-yard reception on a screen pass. Gillislee had a nice run on a third-and-10 of a about 15 yards after juking linebacker Alec Ogletree to break free.
Gillislee was shaken up midway through the fourth quarter, but came back a short time later for two runs of about 20-yards. He totaled 77 yards on 22 carries, but played better than those numbers indicate.
Florida junior safety Matt Elam is an underrated prospect who has been the MVP of the Gators' defense this season. He had a nice tackle in run support for no gain on his first play. Elam was playing centerfield during the second quarter and picked off an overthrow. He had a nice return to inside the Georgia 20-yard line.
Elam had a missed tackle in the fourth quarter, but made up for it with a diving pass breakup. He also had a bad angle on a Bulldogs' touchdown pass. Elam lost his composure late in the fourth quarter, too, and drew a personal foul penalty. He is expected to enter the draft and could be a second-day selection. This was a mixed outing that won't help him or hurt him significantly.
Georgia junior quarterback Aaron Murray had a horrific start. He, single-handedly, kept Florida in the game when Georgia was dominating in all phases for most of the first half. Murray made a bad throw late in the first quarter. There were four defenders around his tight end and the easily deflected pass ended up being intercepted by the Gatoes.
Murray was pressured on a third-and-goal and forced a pass into traffic. Another deflection was intercepted by Florida. He had a terrible overthrow late in the second quarter that was intercepted by Elam and returned inside the Georgia 20-yard line. Murray had one more completions (4) than interceptions (3) at halftime.
Murray continued to struggle in the second half before throwing a huge touchdown in the fourth quarter. It was a quick out that was broken downfield for a big gain, so it was more of a great play by the receiver rather than Murray doing something special. He finished 12-of-25 for 150 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. This performance showed again that Murray struggles against good defenses. He should return for his senior season, and this won't help him to get selected early.
A few other prospects had noteworthy games. Gators junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd had a good day. He stuffed a few runs at the point of attack. Floyd burst into the backfield to make a tackle for a loss just before halftime. He continued to make plays in the third quarter with a shed and stuff on an inside run.
Ogletree had a dropped interception that probably would've been a touchdown had he caught it. Ogletree was instinctive and around the ball, but wasn't finishing plays as well as he normally does.
Gators senior offensive tackle Xavier Nixon was excellent against LSU, but had an ugly outing against Georgia. He was incapable of blocking Jones and was ineffective as a pass-protector or run-blocker. This tape will definitely hurt Nixon.
Florida State 48, Duke 7
The Duke Blue Devils have been one of the surprise teams in college football this season. While Duke doesn't have many pro prospects, the Blue Devils do have a good wide receiver in senior Connor Vernon. He was going against the best secondary he'll see all season led by cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The latter is a potential first-round pick, while Vernon could be a mid-round pick.
It was pretty certain that Duke would fall behind against this talented Florida State team and be forced to pass the ball a lot to try to stay in the game. That would provide a good opportunity to watch Vernon against Rhodes, along with Florida State's pass-rushing defensive ends of Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine.
Vernon had the opportunity in this game against the Seminoloes to break the career receiving yardage total in ACC history held by Florida State's Peter Warrick.
Vernon made a diving catch early on after running a go route from the slot, but a booth review took the play away. It was questionable because there wasn't clear evidence that the ball hit the ground, but the officials saw it that way.
The normally sure-handed Vernon dropped a pass in the second half. He struggled to get separation all day and had a disappointing performance with just three receptions for 12 yards. Vernon needed to play well against to help his cause, so this outing will push him deeper into the third day of the draft.
Rhodes allowed a catch to Max McCaffrey (son of Ed McCaffrey) for a gain of 13 yards on the first drive. That happened again for a gain of about 10 yards late in the first half. Both plays had Rhodes in zone coverage. Otherwise it was a quiet game for the standout corner.
Florida State's pass rush played extremely well in this contest. Carradine was a relentless animal in the first half. He was constantly pressuring the quarterback and put on some hard hits that contributed to knocking quarterback Sean Renfree out of the game.
Carradine had a nice pass rush to force a failed third-down play. He had a superb ball rush and drove the left tackle right into the quarterback to force another third-down incompletion. He was owning the left tackle with speed rushes as well. Carradine also had another hit for an incompletion.
Werner had a near sack in the third quarter, but the quarterback just got the ball off as he was tackling him. Werner had a nice tackle in run defense after staying home on a misdirection play. On the same drive, he flew into the backfield to make a tackle for a loss. Werner was held a few plays later and drew the penalty.
Both Carradine and Werner came out of the game in the third quarter as their backups played in garbage time. Both starters had impressive tapes, as they should, against a team like Duke.
Florida State senior quarterback E.J. Manuel has had a good senior season to help himself. He's shown improvement as a pocket passer and that was on display against the Blue Devils. Manuel threw a 71-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter. He aired out an accurate deep ball to his receiver running a deep post. Manuel had bad ball-security a bit later as he tucked the ball while scrambling, but ended up fumbling the ball away when he was hit.
Manuel tossed a 52-yard completion on another post route. He also lofted in a beautiful 35-yard touchdown pass to his receiver running a fade into the end zone during the third quarter. That score put Florida State up 45-7. Manuel completed 8-of-16 passes for 282 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions versus Duke. This performance should help confirm the development of Manuel as a pocket passer.
South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35
A lot of pro talent was on display in this game, but the tragic injury to running back Marcus Lattimore was the horrible result that will have the biggest impact on the NFL draft. Lattimore entered the weekend as the consensus top running back in the nation who was draft eligible. The junior was coming off a sophomore season that was shortened by torn left knee ligaments.
Lattimore came back to play well as a this year and was gradually regaining his top speed. He started the day with some good runs for over 10 yards. Lattimore made a nice cut in the hole to dodge a defender and break downfield for a 28-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Disaster struck late in the first half. Lattimore had a defender's helmet crash into his right knee and it looked like his knee turned in the completely wrong direction. It was a gruesome injury that saw Lattimore carted off the field. As many have compared it to, the bend of the leg was reminiscent of Willis McGahee's injury in his final game for Miami. The extent of the injury could be massive.
The injury puts Lattimore's draft status and football career in limbo. He had 11 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown along with two catches for eight yards against Tennessee. Everybody across the nation is hoping that the junior can make a full recovery and the injury isn't as serious as it looks.
Lattimore wasn't the only prospect with a first-round skill set on display. The Volunteers' junior trio of quarterback Tyler Bray, wide receiver Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson has had a mixed season with flashes of elite ability and the propensity to make self-destructive mistakes.
Patterson dropped a pass thrown a little off the mark on a third down fter getting wide open. Bray moved the ball on his second possession with some short passing. He finished the drive with an eight-yard touchdown to senior Zach Rogers, who got wide open on a slant-and-go route. Bray and Rogers hooked up for another touchdown on a perfectly thrown 37-yard deep ball. The 6-foot, 172-pound wide out made a leaping catch in the end zone after a running a straight go route from the slot.
Bray later threw a bullet on a third-and-10 between a few defenders to Hunter. They followed that up with another third-down conversion, but Hunter had a dropped pass on another third down on the drive to force a punt.
The Tennessee signal-caller threw a bomb to receiver Vincent Dallas for a 61-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. The cornerback had fallen down, and Bray threw a great pass to lead Dallas into the end zone. It happened again afew minutes later where the corner fell down and another receiver, this time Hunter, was running wide open down the field. Bray had a terrible overthrow to miss an easy touchdown. He converted a fourth down on the next play, but had another terrible overthrow of a wide open receiver downfield.
Bray threw a frozen rope to tight end Mychal Rivera down the sideline for a big gain of 27 yards. Bray threw a pass to Rogers in the corner of the end zone on the very next play for a 22-yard touchdown. That brought the score to 38-35.
Bray started a nice drive with good gains to Hunter and Rogers late in the fourth quarter. Bray got his team inside the South Carolina 25-yard line, but then held onto the ball a touch too long and was blind-sided by superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for a sack-fumble that was recovered by the Gamecocks. Bray threw a ball up for grabs in the final minute, and Hunter made a poor effort to get high for the pass. The defensive back came down with a superb catch for an interception.
Bray completed 26-of-42 passes for 366 yards, four touchdowns and one interception against South Carolina. Hunter caught eight passes for 91 yards, while Rogers totaled 107 yards on six receptions and three touchdowns. Patterson was held to only 22 yards on two catches.
Until late in the fourth quarter, Bray was having a day that could help his draft stock, but his late meltdown with ugly overthrows and turning the ball over dampered his performance. Hunter and Bray are both too sloppy in their overall play and each should return for his senior season. They could be early-round picks, but would have a better shot of being first-rounders in the 2014 NFL Draft if they improve as seniors.
Missouri 33, Kentucky 10
There was a great draft matchup to watch in this game between two under-the-radar programs: Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson taking on Kentucky guard Larry Warford. Richardson and Warford are both potential early-round picks, and the victor in their battles could really help their draft status.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Richardson is a speed player who has a great motor. He's had an excellent junior season for Missouri. Warford (6-3, 343) is a powerful beast who can blast open running holes but retains more quickness and athleticism than one would expect from such a large blocker.
Warford had some nice nice blocks on Richardson on the first drive, but when Kentucky was getting close to the end zone, Richardson flipped the script. He didn't go against Warford on the play, but met the running back in the hole. Richardson stood the back up and ripped the ball away from his body. It rolled into the backfield, and Richardson scooped it up to run it downfield. He returned the fumble 59 yards deep into Wildcats' territory to set up a Tigers' touchdown.
Warford came back on the next drive to help spring a big play. He pulled around the left side and blocked the linebacker to spring the ball-carrier. Warford then hit another backside block on a defender in pursuit to help continue the gain. Warford blasted open a hole a couple plays later for a two-yard touchdown.
Later on, Richardson fired by Warford to almost make a tackle for a loss, but the big guard landed a last second shove to get Richardson too deep to tackle the running back. After that, Warford stuffed a pass rush from Richardson on a third-and-6.
There was one very impressive run block with which Warford drove Richardson out of his gap. The Tigers defensive tackle held his ground reasonably well in run defense against the Wildcats. Warford stopped Richardson at the line of scrimmage on a pass rush. The play resulted in a sack-fumble for Missouri, but Richardson didn't cause any disruption. He had a tackle in pursuit on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, but Warford mirrored pass rushes from Richardson on the next two plays to keep him out of the backfield.
Richardson was quiet against Kentucky aside from that one fumble strip and return. Warford and the Wildcats did a tremendous job of blocking him. Kentucky was far more effective against Richardson than Alabama was, and the Crimson Tide has the top offensive line in college football.
A minor criticism I have of Warford: he cut blocks too often. He is such a powerful blocker that I don't like seeing him leave his feet as much as he does. However, that may not be Warford's fault as that could be the instructions of his coaches. This tape should help Warford's draft stock while Richardson's won't be helped or significantly hurt.