Tag Archive: Darron Thomas


Vanderbilt-Kentucky:

-Jordan Rodgers has helped revitalize Vanderbilt’s season and in his fourth consecutive start he has Vanderbilt within one game of bowl eligibility. He’s very athletic, has some arm talent, but is still improving and developing as a quarterback. He isn’t on the same level as his brother, but it is worth watching what he can do in the SEC both this year and next. He’s got some weapons on offense in Zac Stacy at RB plus Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd at WR. Matthews and Boyd are both 6’3″ plus, and as Rodgers continues to develop and gain experience I think he might make Vanderbilt a potentially fun offense to watch next year. Rodgers will be a senior in his first full season as a starter next year, Stacy will be a senior, Matthews will be a junior and Boyd will be a sophomore. They’ve got some intriguing pieces on offense, let’s hope this isn’t just a teaser and that they actually take the next step next year. I for one will be rooting for them to do so.
-Zac Stacy had another big day for Vanderbilt. I’ll need to watch him more because he has had a productive season this year. He now has 891 yards and 9 TD’s on the season as well as 16 receptions for 78 yards. I would expect him to exceed 1,000 yards rushing either this upcoming week or next, and if he is able to do then Vanderbilt has a solid shot at a bowl game. He’s their workhorse, and without him I don’t think Vanderbilt’s offense would be nearly as productive as they have been recently. I haven’t scouted him yet, but I will get to it soon when I watch Rodgers just to get a baseline idea of what he can do.
-I’m not sure anyone has enjoyed Rodgers’ presence at the quarterback position more than Jordan Matthews. He had his 3rd consecutive 100+ yard game after totaling just 8 receptions, 107 yards and 1 TD in the first six games he played in (he missed the game against Alabama). It has been a totally different story the last three weeks as he has produced 21 receptions, 452 yards and three touchdowns (one in each of the last three games). He’s been super productive and has helped open up Vanderbilt’s offense. Can’t wait to watch some of these recent games to see what he can do.

Baylor-Kansas:

-Robert Griffin had a very slow start, and while I didn’t see the game and I can’t speculate on how it happened, it certainly seemed like he carried Baylor back into the game and ultimately won it in overtime today against Kansas. I was wondering why he was struggling so much against such a seemingly bad Kansas squad, but he really rallied Baylor late in the game and helped erase a 21 point 4th quarter deficit. They scored three touchdowns in the quarter (all by Griffin, 1 rushing TD and 2 passing TD’s), forced overtime and Kansas went for a two point conversion and failed, resulting in a one point win for Baylor. I’ll definitely be watching this game later, because I have been wondering if Griffin had the ability to lead his team to a comeback win like this for a while. It was against a bad Kansas team, but it is still more than I have seen from him before. Obviously my thoughts on this game will be posted on my blog once I have a chance to break it down at a later date.

Georgia-Auburn:

-Aaron Murray is a guy I’ve been impressed with since he was a freshman. It feels like he’s been leading Georgia forever, but he is still only a sophomore. Still, he seems more mature than your average sophomore and is without a doubt the leader of Georgia’s football team. He had one of the best games of his career today when he went 14/18 for 224 yards and 4 touchdowns while adding 21 yards rushing. He was making plenty of stick throws and was placing the ball perfectly today. It was fun to watch him play this well.
-Jarvis Jones is an animal. I don’t have a lot of defensive players in this list because it’s tough to find stats for defenders the day of the game, but Jones warrants mention. I’m not sure what his final statistics were in this game, but I know he had at least one sack because I saw it. He has 9 sacks on the season I believe and an unreal 16 tackles for loss. He’s been fantastic for Georgia, and has incredible upside. It’s going to be fun to watch him develop. He’s only a sophomore, but he has had an absolute break-out season this year. He’s listed at 6’3″, 241 pounds and looks skinny on film. He has plenty of room to add weight, and I would be surprised if he wasn’t 250+ next year as a junior for Georgia.

TCU-Boise State:

-I definitely kept an eye on this game not only because there were plenty of prospects to see, but because these two teams always seem to play each-other pretty tough. TCU played them tough again today and unfortunately it came down to another field goal attempt and Boise State couldn’t capitalize on it. Must be frustrating for Boise and their fans, but yet again they won’t get a shot at an elite bowl game. I hate to say it, but I have been one of their detractors who said that if they were in a better conference they wouldn’t always be undefeated. They aren’t exactly changing my mind by losing to Nevada last year and TCU this year.
-Kellen Moore is a good QB, but I question his ability to be a NFL starter. His arm strength is an issue, but that can be improved up and overcome at least to a degree. It’s definitely worrisome that he doesn’t throw a great deep ball because of his lack of arm strength and he doesn’t have good zip on intermediate or longer throws. He’s an accurate quarterback though, he’s very intelligent and he has tons of starting experience as a four year starter. I think he can stick in the NFL, I just don’t think his combination of size and arm strength give him a lot of upside as a potential NFL starter. I do think he will make a roster and be quality back-up that might eventually get his shot, but I think he is a developmental guy that will get drafted in the 4th round range. One thing that bothered me about him today was his issues handling pressure that TCU was bringing. He isn’t used to getting hit, and when TCU was able to pressure him, hit him and sack him he seemed rattled and was missing some throws that he usually makes. He obviously rebounded in the second half, but I thought that was worth noting.

Wisconsin-Minnesota:

-Russell Wilson was the epitome of efficiency and Montee Ball broke the Big 10 single season touchdown record with three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) today against Minnesota. He has an unreal 27 touchdowns on the season now. He has 1,232 yards, 23 rushing touchdowns and 14 catches, 234 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season. Definitely a fantastic year, and they still have two games left against Illinois and Penn State (I have a ticket to the Penn State game, very excited for that). Russell Wilson literally threw one incompletion today, and threw for 178 yards and 4 touchdowns.
-Nick Toon showed up big for Wisconsin today, but I am a little concerned that he all but disappeared in Wisconsin’s big games against Michigan State and Ohio State with a combined 5 catches for 97 total yards and 0 TD’s in those games. His only 100 yard games have been against the likes of South Dakota and now Minnesota, two teams with vastly less talent than Wisconsin. To be fair to Toon, who I think has NFL upside, he did have 4 catches, 94 yards and 1 TD against Nebraska which was Wisconsin’s first big game of the year. However, it is a bit concerning that he didn’t step up in much closer games later in the year, but is showing up against less significant opposition like he has.

USC-Washington:

-Matt Barkley continues to play well and I have to say he made Steve Sarkisian look pretty smart for saying he’d draft Barkley over Andrew Luck considering Luck’s relative struggles against Oregon tonight (to be covered later in this post) as well as Barkley’s quality season this year. He seems to have gotten better every week, which makes me think that the chances of him declaring early might be increasing. Regardless, still fun to see him play well because I have been high on him since he was a freshman.
-If you read my blog consistently you may remember me saying that I don’t know why Curtis McNeal isn’t getting more touches for USC a few weeks ago. Well recently he has been, and he has been playing fantastic. He has exceeded 100 yards rushing in three of the last four games, and has exceeded 85 yards rushing in each of the last five. Last week against Colorado he sat most of the second half, but in the first half he had 10 carries for 87 yards. Against Washington today he had 18 carries for 148 yards and another touchdown. Keep feeding McNeal USC, he’s got tons of ability. Looking forward to seeing him continue to grow and develop.
-Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are still beasts. Really fun to watch them play. People are really underestimating how significant Lee’s emergence has been for Woods. If Lee wasn’t playing this well as a freshman then Woods would be getting doubled and USC’s passing attack would be significantly impaired. It’s fun to watch these guys when Barkley has time to get them the ball.

Arkansas-Tennessee:

-Tyler Wilson continues to have a very good season for Arkansas. He’s flying a little under the radar, but he has played very well. He has 2,850 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions on the season after the game against Tennessee today. He has NFL upside, but I don’t think I will put a first round grade on him assuming he comes back for his senior year next year. I’d place him in the 2nd round conversation because he has upside, but needs to work on some things. Doesn’t always spin a clean ball, doesn’t have a rocket arm (though replacing Mallett would make anyone’s arm strength look inferior) but has quality accuracy.
-Dennis Johnson has been very strong the last four weeks and is showing Arkansas fans what might have been if he hadn’t gotten hurt and allowed Knile Davis to become the staple of their running game last season. He has filled in pretty well, and is one of the more underrated running backs in the SEC.
-Jarius Wright continues his fantastic season. He has the potential to end up in the 1st round, he has had a terrific year this year. He has 53 catches, 906 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games now. He is their go-to guy on offense.

Virginia-Duke:

-I didn’t get to see this game since it wasn’t on in my area, but Chase Minnifield, a cornerback on Virginia that I am very high on, had his 3rd interception of the season (13th of his career) and returned it for his first career defensive touchdown. I’m high on him and I look forward to getting to watch him more often.

Oregon-Stanford:

-This was supposed to be the game of the night but Oregon definitely surprised me and played much better than I expected them to. They were in control of this game after the 1st quarter, and they just had way too much speed and athletic ability on offense for Stanford.
-Andrew Luck played well in my opinion, but made a few mistakes and was flustered at times. He threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown and struggled to make plays downfield due to his lack of talent available to him at wide receiver. He still played a good game, but even Luck couldn’t find a way to win this one. His team was overmatched talent wise, especially at wide receiver and cornerback. Luck looked human in this game, but he is still a very good quarterback. He responds very well to adversity and was simply trying to make a play with his back against the wall when he threw his pick 6. It’s unfortunate how it played out for him, but he’s still a lock for the #1 overall pick in my opinion.
-Darron Thomas threw the ball as well as I have ever seen him throw it in this game. He would miss a throw every once in a while, but he was throwing darts all over the field and made some legitimate NFL throws in this game. Makes me wonder where this has been all season, because he looked like a completely different quarterback in this game. I didn’t even see him throw the ball like this last year when he led Oregon to the National Championship game against LSU.
-LaMichael James continues to play well, and it is very reassuring to see him healthy even if he has to play with that big pad on his right arm. He’s very explosive, agile and is stronger with better leg drive than he has had in previous years. I still have a 2nd round grade on him, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to hold up as a feature back in the NFL.
-Chase Thomas, an outside linebacker on Stanford, had a horrible game today in my opinion. He was taken out of the passing game by Darrion Weems, the senior Left Tackle on Oregon, and struggled mightily against the zone read that Oregon runs so well. He consistently collapsed on the running back instead of staying disciplined and making sure Thomas didn’t pull it and run. Instead, Thomas was able to keep it and scamper for significant rushing yardage a number of times and each time it was Thomas who let him break contain. Definitely a disappointing game for Thomas.

Arizona State-Washington State:

-It is fitting that this was the last game on tonight as well as the last game in this post because in my opinion it was the best game of the night. I completely expected Arizona State to win, but Washington State pulled off the upset thanks to two unreal individual performances.
-Connor Halliday is a freshman quarterback that has played in only three games in his college football career. I’m not even sure that he started this game for Washington State since I started watching after it had already started, but that doesn’t take away from what he was able to do. Halliday, a 6’4″, 180 pound freshman went 27/36 for 494 yards and 4 touchdowns and led the Cougars to an upset of Arizona State. He wasn’t just checking down and hitting drag routes for lots of YAC either, Halliday was making stick throw after stick throw and he was doing it under pressure, on 3rd down, it didn’t seem to matter. When he was threatening to take the lead he threw a strike to the end zone and it was dropped. Then it was 3rd and long, his RT jumped for a false start penalty. Now it was 3rd and longer and what does he do? Deliver another strike to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game to take the lead. Halliday played a fantastic game and while he doesn’t have perfect mechanics, a rocket arm or perfect accuracy he certainly has good arm strength, accuracy and shockingly good pocket poise for a freshman. The amount of poise it took to go toe to toe with Arizona State’s potent offense led by a quarterback in Brock Osweiler that has legitimate 1st round talent in his first significant playing time in his college career is inconceivable. He played a fantastic game, and was honestly the most impressive player that I watched today. That’s how good he was.
-Marquess Wilson was Halliday’s favorite target today as he accumulated 8 receptions, 223 yards and 3 touchdowns. He had an absolutely unreal game today, and while I had heard of him before as one of the best receivers in the Pac-12 I didn’t really think he was on the same level as Robert Woods and Keenan Allen but after seeing him tonight I think he is worthy of being mentioned as one of the best young receivers in the Pac-12. This was the first I’d ever seen him, but he had an absolutely fantastic game. He made a number of tough catches and obviously came up big when his team needed him to, and he helped make Connor Halliday look like a 4th year starter who had led 10 4th quarter comebacks in his career tonight.
-Brock Osweiler was impressive as well, though his performance will likely be lost in the shuffle because of Connor Halliday’s emergence and because he ultimately won the game. However, Osweiler still went 28/44 for 351 yards and 1 touchdown in this game despite an anemic running game that mustered just 60 yards on 24 carries. Osweiler would have had even more yards if his receivers hadn’t dropped a few catchable balls (particularly one by #13 that absolutely changed the game. He dropped a ball right on the money in a hole in the zone on 3rd and goal that would have been a TD, Arizona State then attempted a field goal and missed it, giving Washington State control). However, he was making some very impressive NFL throws. He was putting touch on passes to get the ball over the linebacker and in front of the safety down the seam and behind the corner, in front of the safety down the sideline. He made stick throw after stick throw in the 2nd half to lead his team to touchdown drives to try to stick with Washington State’s suddenly potent offense. I was very impressed even though he had a couple questionable decisions, but he played very well and deserves props for that. I’m still very high on him for the 2013 NFL Draft.
-Gerell Robinson had a huge game for Arizona State. He had 8 receptions, 158 yards and 1 TD tonight, and when I was watching I didn’t see him drop any passes he should have caught.

I know it was a long post, but hopefully you appreciated some of my thoughts on the afternoon and evening games. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

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Jarrett Lee has done a great job filling in for the Tigers in the wake of Jordan Jefferson's suspension (which coincidentally ended yesterday as LSU reinstated him) and it will be interesting to see exactly what his role is throughout the rest of the season.

Jarrett Lee (Senior) has been a quality starter for LSU this year, but he isn’t a great NFL prospect. He has solid size at 6’2”, 206 and he has solid mobility. His arm strength leaves a lot to be desired, and he struggles to put zip on throws beyond 10 or so yards. His deep passes have a lot of air under them, and I’m not sure he can make every NFL throw with solid zip. He’s a pretty accurate passer but his deep balls aren’t often well placed, either over throwing his receivers or putting the ball on the wrong shoulder. I think that a lot of his inaccurate passes can be traced back to his issues with stepping into his passes, especially in the face of pressure. He has gotten better about this, but it is still a very significant issue. Frequently when he feels pressure he instinctually fades away from the pressure as he throws instead of stepping into it. That hurts his zip and his ball placement, and it’s very noticeable. He seems to be very smart and the team seems to respect him as a leader in spite of the loss of Jordan Jefferson, and I think they have a chance to win a National Title with him at the helm thanks to their amazing defense. I thought he reminded me a bit of Matt Flynn when I had seen him before, but he doesn’t have the same arm and poise that Flynn did in my opinion. I think he’s a very late round prospect or an undrafted free agent as of right now, but he’s got the potential to stick as a #3 or as a practice squad QB in the NFL. He’s only throw 87 passes in four games (about 22 per game) and while he has been efficient in those attempts, it will be interesting to see how he and the rest of the LSU offense does if he is forced to throw to open up the running game if opposing defenses stack the box and slow down LSU’s powerful combination of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford. I think they might struggle, but I think they can win as long as he isn’t forced to throw 35+ times a game.

Spencer Ware (Sophomore) is a guy that I was extremely impressed with him when I watched him against Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. He seems bigger and more powerful this season, and he has really impressed me in all three games of his that I’ve watched. Against Oregon he demonstrated fantastic leg drive, a great ability to push a pile, an unwillingness to go down to the first hit, and he frequently ran through arm tackles. His cuts weren’t incredibly crisp and were at times slightly deliberate, but he also has good quickness considering his size (5’11”, 225 pounds or so). He also showed pretty reliable hands out of the backfield. I think he definitely has the potential to be a 3rd or 4th round pick in the NFL Draft (since he probably won’t run a great 40 yard dash time or blow people away in drills) when he comes out this year or next, and then be a very effective power back in the NFL. I think he has quality vision, great power, and good hands. He has done a great job of wearing defenses down and grinding out tough yards for LSU this year. Then Michael Ford comes in and gashes them, and Jarrett Lee burns them with play-action passes.

Michael Ford (Sophomore) is the quicker LSU back, though he is still a load to bring down. He’s listed at 5’10”, 215 pounds and he has a lot of quickness and burst based on what I have seen. He demonstrated solid hands in addition to good vision to find cut-back lanes and seams, he ran patiently much like Spencer Ware, but he has more speed to rip off runs for large chunks of yardage. That’s why he and Ware are such a potent one-two punch. Ware grinds the defense down, then Ford comes in and is just as likely to run you over as he is to outrun you to the edge. He’s a quality back, and definitely has it in him to be a feature back in the NFL.

Rueben Randle has a lot of potential due to his combination of size and athletic ability, but I want to see him make catches with his hands away from his body more consistently. He tends to body catch, and that leads to unnecessary drops at times.

Rueben Randle (Junior) is an intriguing wide receiver because of his size, but his hands are inconsistent. He can make catches with his hands, but will also let passes get into his pads. He also attempts to jump up and catch passes at chest level (like on back shoulder throws in the red zone) instead of simply catching them with his hands away from his body. But at 6’4”, 208 pounds he definitely intrigues you because he has the speed to threaten deep and he can win jump balls because of his size and athletic ability. But if his hands don’t improve he won’t ever reach his upside as a receiver. That sounds stupid to say because a receiver’s job is to catch the ball first and foremost, but every year there are players that are over-drafted because of how good they could be if they learned how to catch the damn ball.

Odell Beckham (Freshman) has been huge for LSU so far this year. He doesn’t have great numbers (17 receptions, 193 yards and 1 touchdown) but he has made some big catches and has proven to be one of the most reliable (if not the most reliable) receivers on LSU’s roster. He’s been getting significant playing time and he continues to impress me every time I watch him. But being able to play well in his first game as a true freshman receiver in a critical game against one of the two teams who played for the National Championship the year before is extremely impressive. I always say that I love identifying players that step up in critical moments or in big games, and Beckham is well on his way to getting that reputation as far as I’m concerned. Watch out for him, because he’s going to be a good one.

Deangelo Peterson (Junior) is a tight end that reminds me a lot of Lance Kendricks, a tight end that I was extremely high on last year and had as my #1 TE for almost the entire year. Peterson is very athletic, has reliable hands, tracks the ball very well in the air, adjusts to the ball well in the air, can catch the ball away from his body, makes tough catches in traffic or with defenders draped over him, has enough speed to threaten down the seam, and offers solid run blocking as a wall-off blocker in the run game. He isn’t the same blocker that Kendricks is, but he’s got a similar blocking “style” in that he won’t drive block defensive ends four yards downfield, but he will get his hands on them and “wall them off” to create a seam or a cut-back lane and to take his man out of the play, even if he doesn’t dominate him. He’s only a junior, and in LSU’s run-heavy attack he won’t be featured very often, especially with all the talent they trot out at receiver, but outside of Orson Charles and Michael Egnew there might not be a better tight end in the country.

Darron Thomas has ability as a quarterback, but I don't think he is a consistent or polished enough passer to project well to the NFL at this point.

Darron Thomas (Junior) had his struggles in this game. I don’t think he is a pure passer, rather he has the ability to pass but also threatens as a runner because of his athleticism, and I think he will be an effective college quarterback but not an effective NFL quarterback. He has solid size at 6’3”, 215 but he looks VERY skinny on film. He doesn’t go through his progressions very regularly and has a tendency to stare his receivers down, partially because of him and partially because of the offense he plays in. Regardless, it reinforces bad habits and it almost led to a pick six or two against LSU because of Tyrann Mathieu’s great instincts and closing speed. His accuracy is good on shorter throws, but as he passes further downfield it becomes more erratic, and he doesn’t seem to have a very good sense of timing. I do think he understands  how to attack zone coverage, but doesn’t understand WHEN to attack zone coverage. A few times he threw the ball behind his intended receiver but it was in the correct hole in the zone, so his receiver had to stop and make a catch on a ball thrown behind him. While that might look like a bad throw/poor accuracy, it reflects that Thomas knew that if he led his receiver he would lead him either into a huge hit or potentially give the defender a shot at the turnover. However, after re-watching the plays it was evident that he just didn’t go through his progressions fast enough and didn’t get the ball out quick enough, because the throw was there earlier as the play was developing. He just didn’t see it, and because he was delivering it late he had to throw it behind his receiver to put it where only his receiver would have a chance to catch it. So while he does have above average accuracy, solid arm strength and mobility, I’m just not sure he has the intangibles to make it as a quarterback in the NFL.

LaMichael James (Junior) has a ton of potential as a 3rd down back and as a complementary back in the NFL, but I don’t think he can be the feature back for an offense like he is at Oregon. The Ducks throw the ball very frequently, and James rarely has to be the guy that grinds down the defense at Oregon. While he did average about 24.5 carries per game as a redshirt sophomore last season, he was averaging almost 6 yards per carry and did not get hit hard frequently. He is most dangerous in the open field, when he can find a cut-back lane, or when he can bounce a run outside. While he is also effective running between the tackles, that is not the best use of his speed and elusiveness. And because of his size (5’9”, 185 pounds) I don’t think he could hold up to the constant pounding that a NFL RB takes on a game to game basis. That makes me think he is a late 1st to early 2nd round pick as far as my grade on him. He has a lot of ability and is an absolute game-breaker, but I don’t think he should be running the ball 20+ times per game in the NFL every week. Giving him 8-10 carries and some passes out of the backfield or when he is split out on a linebacker maximizes his value in my opinion. I really do think he can go that high though, because his speed, quickness, burst, vision and hands are all good enough to step in and contribute to a NFL team right away.

D'Anthony Thomas has a lot of game-breaking speed, and he impressed me as a receiver and as a running back against LSU. He's going to be fun to watch as he develops.

D’Anthony Thomas (Freshman) definitely stuck out to me because this was his first game as a true freshman as well, and he played very well before having some “rookie” struggles in the second half when he lost two fumbles to an opportunistic LSU team. However, his upside and versatility is undeniable. In four games playing both receiver and running back he has totaled 11 receptions, 172 yards and two touchdowns, 173 rushing yards on 23 attempts (7.52 ypc average) and one touchdown. Plus he has returned eight kickoffs for 163 yards, and has returned 3 punts for 52 yards (17.33 average per return). He’s undersized at only 5’9”, 173 pounds but he can get up to 180 or 185 pretty easily in my opinion. But one thing he definitely has is speed. He is extremely fast, has great burst and has reliable hands. He made some big catches on 3rd downs and was one of Darron Thomas’ most reliable targets against LSU as he had six of his 11 total receptions on the season in that game. It will be interesting to see how his role develops as the season goes on, but he is definitely a talented player and one that everyone should keep an eye on.

David Paulson (Senior) is a solid TE who I think will creep up boards slowly this year. He isn’t featured in this high flying Oregon offense by any means, but he has great size for a TE at 6’4”, 241 pounds. He isn’t an athletic freak and I don’t think he will blow you away with his 40 yard dash time, but he has reliable hands and provides Thomas with a reliable security blanket. He only has seven receptions for 48 yards and one touchdown in four games, but I think Paulson is a guy that will be under the radar for the majority of the season. If he is going to emerge I think it will be during the post-season in a game like the Senior Bowl or more likely the East-West Shrine Game where he will prove he has the necessary skills to play at the next level once he gets more reps and touches throughout the practices. I think he’s a solid sleeper at the TE position based off of what I’ve seen, but I don’t think he will ever be a game-breaker either.

Hopefully you enjoyed the second section of my Oregon-LSU post. I apologize for the length of each post, but hopefully most people reading this appreciate more information versus less. Thanks for reading, and look for a couple preliminary scouting reports in the next couple days!

–Tom

NCAA Top 25 Picks Post

Here is a post where I make some picks for the games the top 25 teams are playing for the week. I’ll try to do this every week, but I might not always have time. I’ll track them to see how well (or poorly) I do over the course of the season. Enjoy!

Week Four NCAA Picks Post:

Oklahoma over Missouri

Analysis: Oklahoma’s offense and defense are both very good, and Missouri didn’t prove they could win against Arizona State, losing 37-30 in OT. James Franklin will probably struggle to carve up the Oklahoma defense like he did the ASU secondary, and I wonder just how much pressure their defense will be able to apply to Landry Jones. Jones will make poor throws when he has pressure in his face, so that will be the key to hanging in on this game. The problem is, I don’t think Missouri’s secondary can hold up consistently if the Tigers are forced to blitz to create pressure.

Oklahoma by 17

LSU over West Virginia

Analysis: LSU’s defense is the best in the country as far as I’m concerned. They were tested right off the bat against Oregon and stood very tall. I’ve never seen a defensive tackle rotation like theirs in all my years of watching football. I believe that they have four starting caliber defensive tackles, and they arguably have three starting caliber cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon. Claiborne is a junior and Mathieu and Simon are both sophomores, but they might be the best trio of cornerbacks in the country. LSU’s run defense and pass defense are both very good and their defense is very fast, and I think they are going to cause a lot of problems for Geno Smith and his offensive counterparts. On defense, West Virginia will have to pressure Jarrett Lee, but also stop LSU from establishing the running game because they love to run play action after establishing the run (and they’re quite good at it). Without the play action fake LSU struggles to threaten downfield due to Lee’s lack of arm strength. However, I think WVU will struggle to take away the run game, end up loading the box, and therefore allowing Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham and Deagnelo Peterson to get behind the secondary.

LSU by 16

Alabama over Arkansas

This one was tough for me to call. Alabama probably has the #2 defense in the country behind LSU (at least as far as I’m concerned, but it’s definitely close) and they have a quarterback with limited experience as well in AJ McCarron. Luckily, they have two talented running backs to take the pressure off of him in Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Marquis Maze has stepped up as I thought he would and has 15 receptions, 186 yards and 1 TD in the first three contests. I think Alabama will be able to move the ball on offense against Arkansas’ defense, but I think that Alabama will be able to slow down the Razorbacks offensive attack. I love their WR’s, led by Cobi Hamilton as of now (13 receptions, a team leading 252 yards, 19.4 average per catch and 1 TD) and Tyler Wilson has stepped in to fill the void left by Ryan Mallett like I thought he would. However, Alabama’s defense is vastly better than Missouri State, New Mexico, Troy (the three teams he has faced this year) and much better than Auburn’s defense that struggled mightily to stop big, physically gifted receivers every time they matched up against them. Arkansas won’t get shut out by any means, but Alabama is going to be Tyler Wilson’s first real taste of what it’s like to play against a SEC caliber defense, and I don’t think he’s going to enjoy it.

Alabama by 13

Boise State over Tulsa

This really isn’t a hard pick in my opinion. Boise State’s defensive line is fierce and I expect Billy Winn and company to be in GJ Kinne’s face for the majority of this game. Boise State’s offense is still clicking thanks to Kellen Moore, so I expect this to be a relatively easy win. Kinne has a chance to show talent evaluators what he can do though, as his team is clearly overmatched.

Boise State by 21

Wisconsin over South Dakota

This shouldn’t be much of a contest either, as Wisconsin’s offense has the potential to be one of the best in the Big 10 if it isn’t already the best. Their running game and play action game will be way too much for South Dakota to handle, and hopefully they have continued to work on their run defense. If they don’t have it tuned up soon they will have a lot of trouble stopping Nebraska.

Wisconsin by 21

Texas A&M over Oklahoma State

This one was very tough for me to call as well. This could very easily go either way considering it is a rare battle between the #7 and #8 teams in the country. Oklahoma State’s offense is a juggernaut still led by Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, but Weeden has thrown 6 interceptions already this season, so that is a concerning stat for OSU fans. However, Joseph Randle has stepped up to replace Kendall Hunter very nicely, running for 378 yards and 7 TD’s on only 62 carries (6.1 average). Ryan Tannehill is a dangerous quarterback though, and he’s got a number of weapons to work with. I’m not sure which defense is better than the other, but I do think that Texas A&M will miss Von Miller rushing the passer in this game. However, Oklahoma State’s defense is traditionally their weakness, so that is why I had to go with Texas A&M. I will be at an away game during this contest and I am very angry that I will miss it. It should be a great game. But I had to give A&M the slight edge.

Texas A&M by 6

Nebraska over Wyoming

Not a very tough call on this one. Nebraska should win this game easily even if Taylor Martinez doesn’t dazzle as a passer.

Nebraska by 28

Oregon over Arizona

This one wasn’t as easy for me to pick as I thought it might be. Oregon has a pretty good defense, but Arizona can move the football pretty well. I’m still confident in Oregon, but Nick Foles has a habit of surprising people when they sleep on him. I don’t think Oregon will take him for granted though especially after losing a tough one to LSU in Cowboys Stadium, and that’s why I think they will end up with a big Pac-12 win here.

Oregon by 14

Clemson over Florida State (Upset)

Clemson is absolutely on fire right now, and this is the worst time for Florida State to be playing them. This isn’t a guarantee by any means, but Clemson’s offense is firing on all cylinders and Florida State didn’t get consistent pressure on Landry Jones last week. Clemson’s offensive line isn’t nearly the equivalent of Oklahoma’s, but they have enough weapons on offense to at least make this a plausible upset. I don’t think Clemson has the defense to keep them in the game if they can’t score, so unless their defense steps up and slows FSU down they are going to make me look foolish for this pick.

Clemson by 7

South Carolina over Vanderbilt

This isn’t as easy of a pick as I thought it would be, especially since South Carolina is in a state of flux and Vanderbilt is undefeated for the first time in recent memory after three weeks. I don’t think Vanderbilt will be able to hold off South Carolina, but stranger things have happened. If it was ever going to happen, I think it would happen now. Steve Spurrier doesn’t seem to have much faith in Stephen Garcia and even though they have one of the best backs in the country in Marcus Lattimore you just never know what will happen in the SEC. I don’t expect Vanderbilt to pull it off, but this is one I would watch as a POSSIBLE upset.

South Carolina by 10

Virginia Tech over Marshall

Analysis: This shouldn’t be much of a challenge for Virginia Tech, but it should be a good tune-up game for Logan Thomas. I think he has tons of upside, and it’ll be interesting to see how he develops throughout the season.

Virginia Tech by 17

Florida over Kentucky

Analysis: Kentucky isn’t a terrible team, but Florida’s defense is vastly better than I expected it to be even without Janoris Jenkins. Chris Rainey really impressed me last week and if he can stay healthy I think he could really improve his draft stock. I’m pretty high on Jonathan Bostic, Jaye Howard and Dominique Easley on their defense, so I’m excited to see them play against Kentucky again. I don’t anticipate the Gators having a lot of trouble in this game.

Florida by 14

Baylor over Rice

Analysis: Robert Griffin has been absolutely LETHAL this year. He’s 41/49 for 624 yards (83.7% completion), 12.74 yards per attempts and he has 8 touchdowns and no interceptions. On top of that, he has 116 yards rushing. Kendall Wright has been huge for Baylor with 20 receptions (14 more than the next receiver), 312 yards (184 yards more than the next receiver) and 3 TD’s. I don’t think Rice has much of a chance to slow Griffin down. The first time he might slow down in my estimation would be October 15th against A&M once they get into the real meat of their schedule. I haven’t been able to watch much of him, but it will be interesting to go back and watch him play to see if he has corrected any of the things I said he needed to work on in my preseason scouting report.

Baylor by 21

South Florida over UTEP

Analysis: South Florida is having one of their best seasons in recent memory, at least to start the season, and BJ Daniels seems to be maturing rather nicely. As long as he continues to develop the sky is the limit for USF, and I don’t think UTEP will have much of a chance to slow them down this week.

South Florida by 17

TCU over Portland State

Analysis: TCU lost a tough one against Baylor in week one, but they seemed to have bounced back in recent weeks. Portland State shouldn’t pose much of a threat, even with an inexperienced quarterback still getting a feel for the starting role.

TCU by 17

Michigan over San Diego State

Analysis: Brady Hoke welcomes his former team into the Big House as the Head Coach of the Wolverines this week as pretty heavy favorites. Denard Robinson isn’t my favorite quarterback but he is incredibly fast and I’m not sure SDSU has the speed to keep up with him in this game. Junior Hemingway has really stepped up this year (even though he looks like a TE rumbling downfield sometimes on go routes). It’ll be interesting to see how Michigan does in this game, but I would be pretty surprised if they botched this game after clawing their way into the top 25.

Michigan by 17

USC over Arizona State

Analysis: Before the game against Illinois last week I might have picked Arizona State in this one, but Brock Osweiler is still developing and even though the Sun Devils had a huge win against Missouri a couple weeks ago I don’t think they are ready to knock off USC. USC has a big chip on its shoulder because of the bowl ban that was placed on them, and I think they will approach this game with something to prove even though they are favored.

USC by 10

Illinois over Western Michigan

Analysis: This shouldn’t be a challenging game for Illinois. Western Michigan isn’t a bad program, but I don’t think they have the firepower to stick with Illinois on either side of the ball. They just fought their way into the top 25, so I don’t think they’ll get upset after just earning their #24 ranking.

North Carolina over Georgia Tech (Upset)

Analysis: I have to admit that I am a UNC fan, so that may have had something to do with this pick (which really isn’t much of an upset, though technically it is). I think UNC’s offense can score on Georgia Tech’s defense, and I think UNC’s defense is fast enough and disciplined enough to slow down Georgia Tech’s option offense that absolutely dominated Kansas last week. Georgia Tech is flying high, but UNC usually plays them pretty well and they are talented enough to pull this off. I really wish I could see this game, but I will be traveling and working while it goes on.

Those are my picks for this week. Hopefully you enjoy them and I look forward to seeing some good football this week. Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Oklahoma finally managed to win a big game, even though it was against a significantly less talented UCONN team. Will they be able to win a National Title?

1. Oklahoma- It’s hard to put anyone but Oklahoma at the top. Obviously the quarterback position is integral in college football, and while they lost talent at running back in Demarco Murray they are returning Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and 15 other starters. The way Jones and Broyles were playing last year, you have to think they are going to be pretty lethal again this year. Jones has tons of starting experience and while his decision making is questionable at times, he knows how to win and should give Oklahoma a good shot to get to the National Championship in what may be his final college season.

2. LSU- I really like LSU’s chances this year. They might not be returning a ton of talent (I think a lot of people underrate Terrance Tolliver, plus they lost star corner/return man Patrick Peterson) but Jordan Jefferson may be ready to take the next step in his progression, and their defense should be fierce as usual. If Jefferson can improve as a passer he has already proven he can win without consistently passing accurately, which could make LSU very dangerous. He has a lot of starting experience too, which I don’t think he gets enough credit for. I also have to give both LSU and Oregon a ton of credit for opening the season playing each other, even though a loss will dash the respective teams’ hopes at a National Title (most likely). A lot of teams will be playing schools like Apple Valley State Technical College of the Arts and other pathetic teams for a free win and tune-up, so it is absolutely imperative that we give LSU and Oregon the credit they deserve for “manning up” so to speak and playing a legitimate out of conference opponent, especially one ranked so high.

Darron Thomas led Oregon to the National Championship last year, but it will be harder to get out of the Pac-12 with Stanford and USC both returning a lot of talent.

3. Oregon- Oregon gets props for scheduling LSU as well, though it is funny that both Oregon and LSU are being investigated by the NCAA currently. Regardless, Oregon is returning a lot of talent including Quarterback Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and a talented secondary (especially if Cliff Harris stays out of any more trouble) and should make a run at a Pac-12 title. Their main opposition, Stanford, will be right on their heels however.

4. Stanford- Stanford fans everywhere were finally able to exhale when Andrew Luck announced he would return for his redshirt junior season at Stanford and if they are REALLY lucky he may even stay for his senior year, but that is obviously getting ahead of ourselves. After his fantastic season last year when he helped resurrect Stanford from a downtrodden program to a Pac-10 title contender the expectations will be high for him individually and for the team. I expect him to meet expectations with another very impressive season, but it won’t be as easy with the bulls-eye on their back this time around.

5. Arkansas- I am very high on Arkansas and I think they are going to be a dynamic team this year, especially on offense. Tyler Wilson showed flashes of greatness leading a comeback against the future National Champion Auburn Tigers, and will have a bevy of talent to work with as a first year starter. Knile Davis, one of the best running backs in the country, should continue to be very effective, and the Razorbacks return their four best wide receivers from last season (Greg Childs, Jarius Wright, Joe Adams and Cobi Hamilton. Hamilton is the youngest and he is a junior this year) who should form a very dynamic passing game. Arkansas can usually sling the ball around the field, but what made their offense truly dominant last season was their ability to run the ball effectively to set up play-action, and that was largely thanks to Knile Davis. With him back, and Wilson ready to step in and sling the ball around like he did against Auburn after Mallett left the game, Arkansas’ offense shouldn’t miss a beat. They also have some talent on defense, especially at defensive end. They should have a pretty good pass rush, but it remains to be seen how good their secondary will be. It could very well be a weakness for their team, but their offense will be loaded enough to win them games even if they get in the occasional shootout.

Thanks for reading the last of my preseason ranking installments! Hopefully you enjoyed them. In the coming days I will be getting back to scouting and writing up preseason scouting reports, etc. So look out for those!

–Tom

Hey everyone, sorry I have been so absent lately. Tonight is my last night in Mexico so I have a few scouting reports that I will post once I am home including Blaine Gabbert, A.J. Green and Justin Houston. I have not been able to post predictions for the most recent bowl games, but I have to go on record for how I think the National Championship will go. It starts in thirty minutes, but maybe some people will still read it.

I think this game is going to be a shootout. As soon as I say this it will probably end up a 6-3 game after two overtime periods, but I do not think that either defense is capable of stopping the opposing offense consistently. Oregon is a great passing team and Auburn has a very inconsistent pass defense largely due to a pretty porous defensive backfield. I have a feeling Jeff Maehl and other Oregon receivers will have no problem finding openings in their defense. Cam Newton and Auburn should not have a lot of trouble finding ways to move the ball either, though I imagine their attack will be more focused around the run than the pass.

I think this will be a close game, and I hope it will be too so it is interesting right down to the end. But ultimately I think Auburn will win the game because of Cam Newton. He has led them back again and again this year, and even though I think Oregon may go into halftime with the lead Auburn has been such a good second half (and more importantly, fourth quarter) team this year that I just cannot find it in my heart to bet against them tonight. Newton has proven to be reliable in crunch time and honestly is one of the more clutch quarterbacks in the nation in my opinion. I may have my doubts about him as a pro prospect, but players like Newton usually play their best on stages like this and I expect that to be the case tonight. It will be close, but like great players usually do I think he will give his team the slight edge in what should be a close and high scoring game.

Score: Auburn: 41 – Oregon: 38

Thanks for reading all of my bowl game predictions up until this point. Enjoy the game! I know I will.

–Tom