Ohio State and Michigan have long been known for producing outstanding NFL prospects, and there are a few potential stars at the next level suiting up for Saturday's big showdown at the Big House.
The Buckeyes enter the contest with an undefeated record of 11-0 (7-0 in the Big Ten) and are the heavy favorites to win. It's been a month-and-a-half since any team challenged Urban Meyer's squad, which still has an outside chance to reach the BCS National Championship Game.
Michigan began the 2013 campaign with high hopes of dethroning Ohio State, but it's been a disappointing season for the Wolverines. Heading into Saturday's final showdown, Michigan is 7-4 (3-4 in the Big Ten), having lost three of its last four games.
Despite the disparity in overall performance this year, both teams enter the game with elite players who have a chance to make a huge impact at the next level as NFL stars. Here are the top NFL prospects to watch when they take the field in Ann Arbor on Saturday.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (Projected Top-20 Pick)
Elite offensive tackles may look like trees, but they don't grow on them.
Taylor Lewan, at 6'8" and 315 pounds, has the physique NFL teams love, and he possesses the athleticism they're looking for, too. A four-year starter at Michigan, Lewan would have likely been a top-10 pick in last year's draft but decided to return for his senior season.
Though his final year on campus hasn't been the glorious final campaign he likely dreamed of, Lewan has still maintained his status as an elite prospect. He has been the cornerstone to Michigan's offensive line, which has only allowed 18 sacks this season, which ranks No. 28 in the nation.
In addition to being a rock-solid pass-blocker, Lewan excels in the running game. His athleticism and size are a deadly combination in the open field, and he often gets to the second level to spring big runs.
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State (Projected Top-25 Pick)
Ryan Shazier is a missile ready to blow up any offensive player silly enough to take him on.
The undersized linebacker (6'2" and 222 pounds) possesses outstanding instincts, sees the field well and has the raw burst of speed to make plays most couldn't dream of making.
One of the best things about Shazier as it pertains to playing at the next level is that he's equally dangerous against the pass as he is against the run. Possessing freakish athleticism and blazing speed, he's a brilliant defender in the open field who attacks his target with ferocity.
Shazier has been coming on incredibly strong of late, too. In his last six games, he's totaled 72 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks—registering at least one sack in each of his last four contests, as noted by Eleven Warriors:
That kind of production, coupled with his physical attributes, will have NFL scouts and teams drooling over his potential.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (Projected Second-Round Pick)
Before the 2013 season began, Bradley Roby was being touted as one of the nation's top cornerbacks—if not the top guy at his position—by many draft experts.
Unfortunately, his junior season hasn't been nearly as sparkling as advertised, and his draft stock as taken a hit as a result. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently conveyed this on Twitter:
But to say Roby's draft stock has plummeted would be an overstatement.
Miller may have "broken up" with the star cornerback, but he also knows he's a first-round talent:
Roby opened the season as the No. 1 cornerback on my board. He’s since dropped slightly, but he has the size and athletic ability to make scouts and general managers fall in love with him between now and May. Roby has first-round ability.
If Roby slides into the bottom half of the second round, he'll be an absolute steal. He's intercepted three passes this year—one of which he returned 63 yards for a touchdown—and he'll have a big impact on the game on Saturday against Michigan.
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