College football's championship weekend did much to determine the fate of several NFL draft prospects with the 2014 draft on the horizon.
While prospects must still jump through plenty of hoops before the big day, their performances in championship games with everything on the line serve as an exclamation point on their collegiate resumes.
In particular, two prospects from the Big Ten and one under-the-radar quarterback who may break the top 10 from a small conference had much at stake in their respective championship contests.
Suffice to say, draft stock was on the line on Saturday. The results are in after a wild weekend.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (Big Ten Championship)
Expectations for Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard have been on a steady rise all year, with things coming to a head as of late with this jaw-dropping quote from Charles Davis of NFL.com:
I've heard chatter that some think he's as good a corner as they've seen since Deion Sanders. I'm not co-signing on to the Primetime comparison, but I think he's very good and has the potential to be terrific at the next level.
The hype is real. Dennard entered the Big Ten Championship with 47 tackles, four interceptions and seven pass breakups as the main cog in an elite Michigan State defense.
Scouts know he is a special player with all the intangibles. Casual fans can see it. But the knock on the senior was simple—whom had he played this year? Was his impressive production a byproduct of an easy schedule?
We found out Saturday with Dennard's performance against the Buckeyes. He was arguably the star of the show for the Spartans in the 34-24 victory. He notched several major pass breakups and did not allow anything of merit to be completed in his direction.
With the impressive showing, he likely jumped to the No. 1 corner slot on most NFL boards.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State (Big Ten Championship)
Flip to the other side of the Big Ten Championship, where fans will find another prospect who has been impressive but needed a big day to improve his stock.
Being a running back at the pro level is a fickle thing these days, especially with teams neglecting the position in the early rounds and finding solid production from late picks (re: Alfred Morris and Zac Stacy).
But Carlos Hyde is a special back at 6'0" and 235 pounds. Entering the game against the Spartans, he would have been firmly in the Heisman conversation had he not missed three games. Despite this, he had 1,290 yards and 14 touchdowns on a 7.8 yards-per-carry average.
Those are great numbers, but Michigan State stuffed the talented back a year ago when he took only 11 carries for 49 yards.
While his team lost, Hyde was stellar on Saturday with 18 carries for 118 yards, which gave him a 6.6-yard average. Against the best defense in the land, that will go a long way toward helping his draft stock.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (MWC Championship)
Derek Carr is far from a big name. Credit Fresno State for that one.
He was easily one of college football's most prolific passers entering the MWC Championship. Not only did his 4,462 yards, 45 touchdowns to five interceptions and 70.3 completion percentage have scouts buzzing, his physical traits and smooth mechanics did, too.
But there was cause for concern. Carr has undoubtedly played an easy schedule. Would he go all Jordan Lynch in the MAC Championship (219 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in loss) in the face of the biggest game of his career to date?
Nope. While he did throw two interceptions, the Bulldogs won, 24-17. The senior was the biggest part of the win thanks to his 404 yards and three touchdowns.
Carr has put together a fantastic year, capped by a championship win. All things considered, his stock is soaring.