Florida @ Miami
Loucheiz Purifoy (CB, Florida) makes his debut after serving a suspension last week. He divides opinion among the draft community, but very few teams threw at him last year. He’s not a huge Seattle-type corner, but he’s an athlete who can stick. Stephen Morris (QB, Miami) will be trying to avoid Purifoy, but should have a long day against the Gators defense anyway. Some have touted Morris as a possible early pick in 2014. I think there’s next to no chance of that happening. He makes too many basic errors. If I’m going to be proven wrong, let’s see it against Florida.
Oregon @ Virginia
The Ducks got their pre-season game out of the way last week, but this won’t be much of a challenge either. I want to see Colt Lyerla (TE, Oregon) used more often. Despite his obvious physical talent, if he’s going to crack the first round he needs to show basic pass-catching qualities and production. Very few tight ends go in round one these days. Lyerla needs the chance to shine. I’m still trying to work out how De’Anthony Thomas (WR, Oregon) fits into the NFL. Now that he’s eligible, it’s time to really focus on his game. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) is another one to watch. And hey, Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) is eligible too, so why not?
South Carolina @ Georgia
Get ready for endless shots of Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina), constant commentary on every little thing he does and the wreaking stench of over-analysis. If he gets tired again, expect a whole heap of criticism. Clowney’s best football will come in the NFL. It’s inevitable he’ll have an impact here. I wouldn’t want to be Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia), who showed against Clemson he has a very limited NFL future (weak arm, no supreme accuracy to compensate). Damian Swann (CB, Georgia) also had a rough outing against the Tigers and purely for the sake of my ego, hopefully he rebounds after I built him up.
Texas @ BYU
I’m intrigued by this game. Mostly because yet again Texas appears set for a season of flattering to deceive. They do that so well these days. But it’s also a chance to get a first 2013 glimpse of Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU). He just finds ways to impact a game and I want to compare his athleticism and speed to the athletes playing for the Longhorns. I’ll take a first look at Cody Hoffman (WR, BYU) tomorrow if he’s healthy. It’s also a chance to check on Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas) — a player who kind of defines Texas football in recent years. Amazing upside, but so often disappoints.
Notre Dame @ Michigan
There’s a cluster of talent on defense to watch, such as Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame) and Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame). Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame) is also being tipped as a potential first round pick. I want to see how Devin Gardner (QB, Michigan) gets on against a good defense. He looked quite sharp against Central Michigan last week. But is he a capable passer, or is he just another athlete playing quarterback for the Wolverines? My main focus will be Nix, who looks every bit a future NFL nose tackle who can clog up the middle and make plays.
NFL predictions ahead of kick off weekend…
Team that will do better than expected… Cleveland Browns
Cleveland actually has a fair amount of talent, and now they have an excellent coaching staff. Rob Chudzinski was an inspired choice and the fact he added Norv Turner and Ray Horton as coordinators is almost unfair. Brandon Weeden isn’t elite, but he suites Turner’s offensive scheme perfectly. Horton will create pressure. They still need another draft or two to max out their potential, but it wouldn’t surprise me if in a year or so we’re faced with the bizarre prospect of Cleveland and Cincinnati being the two dominant teams in the AFC North.
Team who will struggle more than people expect… Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians is a media darling for everything that happened in Indianapolis last year. And that’s fair enough. But let’s not forget two things. 1. He has his quarterbacks throw a ton, perhaps too much. 2. His quarterbacks get hit way too much. In Arizona, he has an ageing Carson Palmer to work with. An ageing Carson Palmer who is going to be destroyed unless Arians pulls off a miracle with that offensive line. The loss of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator will also be felt. And they also play in the toughest division in football. This’ll be a long year.
Break out player
Randall Cobb (WR, Green Bay) — Aaron Rodgers has lost Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, while Jordy Nelson can’t stay healthy. Cobb could become Rodgers’ go-to receiver this season and a star to boot.
Break wind player
Christian Ponder (QB, Minnesota) — He should’ve never been a first round pick, he regularly throws less than 100 yards in a game and consistently holds his team back. The Vikings are an average quarterback away from being a force. It’s just a shame their quarterback is way below average.
Oakland to go 0-16