Nov 7, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) leaps over Alabama Crimson Tide defense during the fourth quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama won 30-16. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
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Week 10 of the college football season is here, which means the first College Football Playoff has been released. Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Texas A&M are the top four and all four programs are loaded with talent that will be available in the 2017 NFL Draft.
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All four of those schools will be in action this Saturday. In addition, there are several other games in which NFL scouts will be paying attention to closely.
A few of those games are highlighted here as a few draft-eligible prospects face intriguing matchups. These five players have a golden opportunity to enhance their 2017 NFL Draft stock this weekend.
Apr 16, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Jarron Jones (94) leaves the field following the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. The Blue team defeated the Gold team 17-7. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; California Golden Bears quarterback Davis Webb (7) reacts against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the second half at Sun Devil Stadium. The Sun Devils won 51-41. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The graduate transfer from Texas Tech has thrown for over 300 yards in seven of eight games this season, but will face his toughest test of the season.
The Huskies pass defense is one of the best in the country. Not only does the secondary feature All-American candidates Sidney Jones and Budda Baker, but the pass rush led by Joe Mathis will look to force Webb to get rid of the ball quickly.
Washington is ranked in the top 13 in the nation in sacks, opponent’s QB rating and passing yards allowed per game.
Webb didn’t even enroll at California until May of this year, but has picked up where Jared Goff left off. Webb’s ability to find open windows in the Washington secondary will heavily influence how early he’s selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Goff was able to exploit the Washington defense for 342 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-24 win last season. Webb won’t be selected anywhere near first overall, but he’s looking to move up to the middle rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Oct 22, 2016; Evanston, IL, USA; Indiana Hoosiers running back Devonte Williams (2) is tackled by Northwestern Wildcats linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. (1) in the second half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
If Northwestern is going to pull off the upset and defeat Wisconsin, Anthony Walker, Jr. is going to have to step up on defense. The team’s top prospect will have his hands full with the Wisconsin running game, but will be counted on to prevent the big play.
Ever since Wisconsin lost their first game of the season against Michigan, the Badgers have made significant improvements in the running game. In three games since (against Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska), Wisconsin is averaging over 208 yards on the ground. Whether it’s been Corey Clement or Dare Ogunbowale, the Wisconsin backs have done a very good job of finding the open running lane and gaining large chunks of yards at a time.
Against Ohio State, another highly-rated inside linebacker, Raekwon McMillan, failed to make an impact. He often found himself lost in traffic and only recorded three tackles. Northwestern doesn’t have the talent to make up for a subpar performance by their star LB. Walker is a day-two prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft who can enhance his stock with a good outing against the Badgers.
Oct 10, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) during pregame of a game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
For the third and likely final time in his career, Leonard Fournette faces his kryptonite. He was the Heisman front-runner last year until he faced the Crimson Tide and will look to reverse his fortunes against Nick Saban’s defense this weekend.
Oct 15, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) is tackled by Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) and defensive back Bryce Lewis (30) during the first quarter at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Much like Anthony Walker of Northwestern, Zach Cunningham is an inside linebacker with a challenging matchup this weekend. The Vanderbilt linebacker leads his team into Auburn to take on the number three rushing offense in the country.
Auburn is averaging over 303 yards per game on the ground this season and they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down.
Sophomore running back Kamryn Pettway rushed for 236 yards last week against Ole Miss, and the Tigers as a team gained 543 yards on the ground against Arkansas.
The good news for the Commodores is that their defense has been much better against the run than either of Auburn’s previous two opponents.
Vanderbilt allows an average of 157 yards on the ground per game and is one of just 27 FBS teams to give up less than 10 rushing touchdowns this season.
The biggest reason why Vanderbilt has played well against the run is Zach Cunningham.
The semifinalist for both the Bednarik and Butkus awards has recorded 85 tackles this season, 31 more than anyone else on the team. His attacking style of play has also allowed him to amass 13.5 tackles for a loss.