This weekend is annually one of the greatest and most important of the college football season. It’s Championship Weekend. This weekend will host title games for the ACC, Big Ten, Pac 12 and SEC. As we flip through channels today, it will be easy to decide which games to watch, the hard part will be finding which players to really focus on. Here are some ideas.
Missouri vs. Auburn (CBS, 4:00)
The Missouri Tigers are another team, like Duke, who has surprised the nation with their success and their subsequent appearance in the SEC title game. The Tigers match up with another set of Tigers in Auburn and as Mizzou takes the field, I will be zooming in on one player – Sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Green-Beckham disappointed as a freshman and started this season slowly as well, but has been on a tear lately, highlighted by his four touchdown game against the Kentucky Wildcats three weeks ago. We have another year to wait for the talented wide receiver to hit the league, but if you are in a league where developmental player must be draft eligible, Green-Beckham should be high on your list come August drafts.
The Auburn Tigers have a dynamic sophomore wide receiver of their own in Sammie Coates, who has shown his big play ability with a per catch average of over twenty-three yards. The Tigers also have bruising runner Tre Mason, who leads the team with over 1,300 yards and eighteen scores. The junior is expected to enter the draft, considering the somewhat weak class of running backs. He’ll likely be a mid-round pick and a second or third round rookie pick in dynasty leagues.
Pac 12 Championship
Stanford vs. Arizona State (ESPN, 7:45)
The Cardinal of Stanford have had a great year and though they have a few NFL prospects worth watching, the majority of them are not expected to be part of this year’s draft. Quarterback Kevin Hogan leads this group. Hogan is a Redshirt Sophomore, could make the jump, but that is not expected at this time. With more consistent play as a junior next year, expect Hogan to be part of a suddenly crowded 2015 class of quarterback, including Winston, Mariota and likely UCLA’s Brett Hundley.
Stanford also sports a pair of solid, but low upside prospects who could be in the league next season. Running back Tyler Gaffney has had a surprising season after returning from a professional baseball career to finish school and use his final year of eligibility just in time for Stanford, who needed a starting running back after the loss of Stepfan Taylor last season. Gaffney is nearing 1,500 rushing yards and has scored seventeen touchdowns. At wide receiver, Ty Montgomery leads the Cardinal, though it is clear by his yardage and touchdown totals that Stanford relies on the run. Finally, I am still holding out hope that we will see more of the dynamic runner, Barry Sanders Jr., who has just five carries on the season.
Arizona State has one prospect I was looking forward to seeing again, senior running back Marion Grice, but after suffering a leg injury, Grice will miss the game. This does give us a chance though, to see more of sophomore running back DJ Foster, who has played well in place of Grice. Foster is just another in the stacked running back class of 2015.
Duke vs. Florida State (ABC, 8:00)
After Alabama shockingly lost last week, the Seminoles of Florida State are the new number one team in the nation. Head coach Jimbo Fisher and starting quarterback Jameis Winston got even more good news this week when it was announced Winston would not face charges in the sexual assault case that has hung over this program the past few weeks. While the story won’t simply go away, the team can begin to move on with what is expected to be a dominant victory over one of the most surprising team’s in the country, the Duke Blue Devils.
While the team has exceeded all expectations, they clearly lack NFL caliber talent on their roster. One interesting player to watch is diminutive wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who leads the team with 88 grabs for over 1,100 yards. Crowder can play both the in the slot or outside, though he would most likely play in the slot exclusively in the NFL, considering his 5’9”, 175 pound frame. Crowder is just a Junior and is not expected to declare early.
The Seminoles, on the other hand, are chock full of future pros at all spots, especially the offensive skill positions. We’ve already mentioned Winston, who will challenge Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota for the top overall draft spot in 2015, but there are a few players who will be a part of the upcoming draft as well. Both running backs James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman are juniors, but expect at least one to declare their eligibility for May’s draft. That would likely be Freeman, who’s had the much better season. The last game Freeman didn’t score a touchdown was in September. Finally, the Noles have a pair of underclassmen wideouts who will likely both enter the draft early, Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin. While Greene has been Winton’s top receiving option all year, Benjamin really exploded in the regular season finale against the rival Florida Gators, catching nine balls for over 200 yards and three scores. Benjamin is only a Redshirt Sophomore, but is already 23 years old. Expect him to join the stacked wide receiver class on 2014.
Big Ten Championship
Ohio State vs. Michigan State (Fox, 8:17)
Despite this premiere matchup of two top ten teams, both likely bound for BCS bowls, there are surprisingly few offensive skill draft prospects. The Spartans don’t have any of note, while the Buckeyes feature a pair of quarterbacks who are borderline NFL draft prospects- starter Braxton Miller and backup Kenny Guiton. Miller could be asked to consider a position change once he enters the league, but also has another season to hone his passing skills, unless he surprises and declares early. Guiton is a senior and has earned some extra playing time after he took over for an injured Miller and the team didn’t miss a beat. The star of the show is senior running back Carlos Hyde, who has had a breakout season and established himself as the top senior back in the draft. Hyde has rushed for one hundred or more yards in seven consecutive games, including going for over two hundred in two of the past three games. Hyde can now be considered a borderline first round rookie draft pick in dynasty leagues and could climb the board even more depending on his landing spot. Finally, the Buckeyes sport a impact freshman in Dontre Wilson, who has been active as both a running back as well as being used as a receiver out of the backfield. Hopefully, Wilson can stay on the field this week after being thrown out of the Michigan game last week for fighting.
Mountain West Championship
Utah State vs. Fresno State (CBS, 10:00)
This game is all about the Bulldog duo of quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Devante Adams. The pair has basically put up video game numbers all season and their draft stock seems to be rising as of late. Adams has been hot and cold with six 100 yard games out of a possible eleven, but when he’s on, he’s really on. In three of his past six games, Adams has over two hundred receiving yards, including the past two straight. He also has found the end zone an amazing seven times in the past two weeks. Though he’s just a sophomore, Adams is expected to enter the draft with his quarterback and teammate Carr.
Though Adams has been a bit inconsistent, Carr has been amazing week in and week out, with only two games under the 300 passing yard mark this season, and one of those he threw for 298. Carr has totaled over 4,400 passing yards and forty-five touchdowns. The buzz surrounding Carr has been growing over the past few weeks, especially thanks to last week’s shootout with San Jose State and David Fales, who gave the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. With Oregon’s Marcus Mariota now out of the upcoming draft, Carr is in line to be a top five pick and could even challenge Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater to be the top player chosen overall.
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