College football season is here, which means NFL draft season is here too. The 2013 NFL draft class is loaded with quarterbacks, offensive tackles and pass-rushers who will have an immediate impact in the NFL next season.
But first, how will they look in their college football debut this season?
Here are the key matchups for the weekend that we'll be watching, as well as the top-ranked players for each team.
South Carolina vs Vanderbilt
South Carolina Key Players: RB Marcus Lattimore (No. 12 overall), DE Devin Taylor (No. 49), OLB DeVonte Holloman (No. 150)
How does running back Marcus Lattimore look in his first action coming off a knee injury that ended his 2011 season? Lattimore is the top-ranked running back in the country entering the season, but we'll be paying close attention to his ability to change direction and accelerate on his repaired knee.
Boise State at Michigan State
Michigan State Key Players: DE William Gholston (No. 38), TE Dion Sims (No. 75), RB Le'Veon Bell (No. 133), CB Johnny Adams (No. 143)
The underclassmen at Michigan State are worth checking out in this one. Even against a depleted Boise State team, we'll be looking to see if William Gholston gives max effort all game--something he struggled with in 2011.
Also, Dion Sims and Le'Veon Bell are worth watching. How Sims does without Kirk Cousins will be telling. Bell is a wrecking ball at the position, and scouts will keeping an eye on his speed and open-field ability.
Notre Dame vs Navy
Notre Dame Key Players: ILB Manti Te'o (No. 13), TE Tyler Eifert (No. 32)
Navy doesn't have any top-level NFL draft prospects, but Notre Dame does. Inside linebacker Manti Te'o has exceptional range against the run, which will be tested by Navy's option attack. Tyler Eifert is the offense's best weapon with Cierre Wood out, so keep an eye on the big tight end getting up-field.
Clemson vs Auburn
Clemson Key Players: RB Andre Ellington (No. 66), DE Malliciah Goodman (No. 83)
Auburn Key Players: DE Corey Lemonier (No. 91), TE Philip Lutzenkirchen (No. 181)
This should be a great game no matter the talent on the field. Keep an eye on running back Andre Ellington against the aggressive Auburn defense. He has a chance to move up into the second round, depending on the play he shows this year.
Auburn is going through a rebuilding year, but Corey Lemonier is a monster on the edge. In a loaded pass-rusher class, Lemonier is worth watching.
Michigan vs Alabama
Alabama Key Players: RT D.J. Fluker (No. 17 overall), CB Dee Milliner (No. 18), OG/OC Barrett Jones (No. 19) OG Chance Warmack (No. 25), OLB Nico Johnson (No. 26), DT Jesse Williams (No. 40), OLB C.J. Mosley (No. 59), RB Eddie Lacy (No. 64), SS Robert Lester (No. 67), TE Michael Williams (No. 125)
Michigan Key Players: OT Taylor Lewan (No. 31), QB/WR Denard Robinson (No. 100), DE Craig Roh (No. 123), SS Jordan Kovacs (No. 195)
The game everyone will be watching, Michigan vs. Alabama, features a loaded group of draft prospects.
Alabama's defense against Michigan's speedy offense will be a scouting point. Can the linebackers and secondary keep up with the speed of Denard Robinson? How will Michigan's Taylor Lewan do against elite SEC outside linebackers crashing the edge?
There's a lot to be gained from this one game.
Georgia Tech vs Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Key Players: QB Logan Thomas (No. 1 overall), DE James Gayle (No. 69), WR Marcus Davis (No. 101)
The player the entire nation will be watching in this one lines up at quarterback. Logan Thomas enters the year as our top-rated player, but that's largely on potential and projected improvement. For Thomas to be the No. 1 overall player by next April, he needs to dominate each week.
Tennessee vs North Carolina State
Tennessee Key Players: WR Justin Hunter (No. 14), QB Tyler Bray (No. 54), OT Dallas Thomas (No. 58)
North Carolina State Key Players: CB David Amerson (No. 2), QB Mike Glennon (No. 81)
The best individual matchup of the week comes when Justin Hunter lines up across from David Amerson. The No. 3 rated wide receiver against the No. 1 rated cornerback and a player with 13 interceptions in 2011. How Tyler Bray and Hunter look against Amerson will have a huge role in determining each player's draft stock throughout the season.
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