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Mel's Matchups: Week 1
Mel's Matchups: Week 1
By Mel Kiper Jr.
There are always intriguing player matchups to look for in college football. Often times players who will meet in the NFL first line up across from one another on the college level. Let's take a look at some of the big individual matchups I'll be keeping an eye on from this week's slate of college games:
Minnesota at Syracuse Sat., Sept. 5 Noon ET (ESPN2, ESPN360.com)
Traye Simmons versus Mike Williams: Minnesota's best defensive player is senior cornerback Traye Simmons and he'll be matched up with junior wide receiver Mike Williams. Williams has tons of physical and athletic ability with prototypical size. Keep an eye on this battle.
Also in this game we'll see some other players with NFL potential. Look for Minnesota senior wide receiver Eric Decker (2008 stats: 84 catches, 1074 yards, 7 touchdowns). He has a chance to be a first- or second-round draft choice. On the other side of the ball, keep an eye on Syracuse's defensive tackle Arthur Jones. He had a dominant game against Notre Dame last year but was up-and-down the rest of the year. He'll have to play a lot more games the way he did against the Irish if he wants to fulfill his hopes of being a high draft choice; otherwise, his stock will drop.
For more matchups from Mel, including a showdown at Michigan, a test for the Irish and senior line battle in Los Angeles, you must be an ESPN Insider.
Western Mich. at Michigan
Sat., Sept. 5, 3:30 ET (ABC)
Tim Hiller versus Brandon Graham: When I look at this game I have to start with Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller. He is a big pocket passer with a good arm and has an NFL future. He threw for 3,725 yards and 36 touchdowns a year ago. He'll be facing a Michigan defense led by Brandon Graham, who is going to try to harass Hiller all day off the edge. Graham is one of the best defensive ends/outside linebackers in college football. He's a DE at Michigan but could easily be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. He's a tremendous athlete and an explosive pass-rusher. I would think Graham will be able to get after Hiller a lot, and if Western Michigan can't contain him, we'll get to see what kind of mobility Hiller has within the framework of the pocket.
Nevada at Notre Dame Sat., Sept. 5, 3:30 ET (NBC)
Nevada defensive ends versus Notre Dame O-line: The great matchup here is the veteran Notre Dame offensive line led by right tackle Sam Young against two excellent pass-rushing defensive ends in Kevin Basped and Dontay Moch. Basped, a junior, is a tall, rangy sack artist (10 sacks in 2008). The guy on the other side is Moch, another junior, who was very disruptive a season ago when he recorded 11.5 sacks for the Wolfpack. We'll see if that Irish offensive line will be able to keep quarterback Jimmy Clausen upright with those two rushing off the edges. If the Irish are able to handle those two, I think Notre Dame will be able to hang half a hundred or more on Nevada.
San Jose State at USC Sat., Sept. 5, 3:30 ET
Carl Ihenacho versus Charles Brown: San Jose State senior Carl Ihenacho was one of the best defensive linemen in the WAC last year. He'll be facing off against USC's senior left tackle Charles Brown. The Trojans need a big year out of Brown, and he'll get his first test early in the season against Ihenacho.
Alabama versus Virginia Tech Sat., Sept. 5, 8 ET (ABC)
Jason Worilds versus Alabama's O-line: Jason Worilds is an outstanding junior defensive end for Virginia Tech. In a lot of games he's been unblockable. He's super strong and tremendously quick, and he has great closing speed off the edge. That Alabama offensive line doesn't have Andre Smith anymore. The Crimson Tide are rebuilding that unit and will need to find a way to handle Worilds, arguably the best pass-rusher in all of college football.
Northern Iowa at Iowa Sat., Sept. 5, Noon ET
James Ruffin versus Bryan Bulaga: There's a real good matchup in this game. Northern Iowa defensive end James Ruffin is an excellent player at the FCS level and he'll go up against the best junior offensive tackle in college football in Iowa's Bryan Bulaga. All of Kirk Ferentz's offensive linemen are extremely well-coached, and fundamentally and technically sound. Ferentz is not only the head coach but one of the best offensive line coaches in college football as well as the NFL in recent years. His offensive linemen always have a great understanding of the position, and Bulaga will have chance to put that to work against Ruffin on Saturday.
The Citadel at North Carolina: Sat., Sept. 5, 6 ET
(ESPN360.com) Andre Roberts versus UNC secondary: This one is off the radar for a lot of fans, but lots of NFL scouts will be at this game to see a host of North Carolina's pro prospects. But they'll be there to see someone else as well. Arguably the best NFL prospect on the field that day will be The Citadel senior wide receiver Andre Roberts. He had a phenomenal 2008 season. His stats were off the charts: In 12 games he had 95 catches for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also returned three punts for touchdowns. He's a strong kid with a great burst. To me he's a FBS-caliber player at the FCS level. He certainly has a future in the NFL and could end up being a third- or even a second-round pick come late April. The NFL observers in attendance will be watching him closely against the secondary from North Carolina, a quality team from the ACC.
ESPN.com - Mel's Matchups: Week 1
May the odds be ever in your favor.
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