Ohio State vs. Minnesota (ABC/12:00pm EST)
After a sizzling start the Minnesota Golden Gophers have cooled down. The same cannot be said for their star running back Laurence Maroney. Except for the loss against Penn State, Maroney has rushed for at least 125-yards each game this year. Last week he doubled that total against Wisconsin, finishing up with 258-rushing yards. Factor in Minnesota has the Big Ten's worst passing offense and Maroney's achievement's this season are that much more impressive as opposing defenses continually key on him. This week he faces his toughest test of the year.
Ohio State is tops in the conference in every defensive category. They are led by the nation's finest trio of linebackers.
A.J. Hawk has played his way into the top twenty-five selections next April. A three down defender, Hawk is a complete linebacker forceful against the run and equally effective in pass coverage. He is also a nasty tackler who looks for the knockout blow.
Bobby Carpenter has better size\speed numbers compared to Hawk. Equally as explosive, Carpenter is tough to slow down when on his game, yet consistency has been an issue throughout his college career. Possessing top 45 talent, Carpenter is likely to fall into the draft's third round.
Middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel is a two-down defender best in run defense. Likely a late round pick, Schlegel has potential as a back-up in the NFL.
Purdue vs. Penn State (ABC/3:30pm EST)
Purdue is struggling through one of its' worst campaigns since the arrival of Joe Tiller. Yet even with that the Boilermakers still have a potent passing game. Penn State can thank the defense for their resurgence in '05. Overall the unit sits as the Big Ten's second best.
State's secondary is loaded with NFL-prospects who will be sprinkled throughout the draft. Alan Zemaitis has been a shut-down corner who will hear his name called during the opening picks of round two. Fellow cover-man Anwar Phillips is not far behind and a top 60-selection. Safety Chris Harrell lays opponents out with his hard-hitting style of play. Calvin Lowry lacks great size\speed numbers yet is turning into a complete defensive back.
Penn State's secondary this week, specifically the safeties, must stop tight end Charles Davis. In the midst of a disappointing campaign, Davis is known as a pass catching threat . A big game against a quality opponent on Saturday will change the immediate thinking on this potential late round choice.
The world's largest outdoor cocktail party has a lot of meaning this year. The Gators hope to play spoiler as the Bulldogs try to remain one of the few unbeaten teams in the nation. Georgia will be at a disadvantage as they go without starting quarterback, D.J. Shockley, who injured a knee against Arkansas last week.
Again, a secondary will be highlighted as Chris Leak, Florida's struggling passer, faces a trio of top NFL defensive back prospects.
Last April the Bulldogs put safety Thomas Davis into the draft's first round. And though not a top 32 choice, Georgia senior Greg Blue will be selected during the opening rounds. Possessing outstanding size\speed numbers, Blue is having a solid season leading the defense. Like his teammate from a year ago, Blue is known as a hard-hitting run defender who intimidates opponents. His coverage skills have improved significantly and scouts are starting to feel Blue is more then just a one-dimensional defensive back.
Cornerback Tim Jennings could be one of the more underrated players at his position. Productive since his freshman campaign, Jennings offers excellent cover skills. The drawback is a lack of height as Jennings measures just 5-feet\8-inches.
Demario Minter offers the size the NFL covets at cornerback. And while talented, Minter has not taken his play to the next level this year as scouts had hoped.
UCLA vs. Stanford (FSN/6:30pm EST)
UCLA has not lost a game this season and hope they remain unbeaten when they meet traditional rival USC. Slowly Stanford is showing great improvement as coach Walt Harris implements the system which made him so successful at Pittsburgh.
Were it not for two guys names Reggie Bush and LenDale White, Bruins running back Maurice Drew would be the toast of southern California. Drew, who posted 16 touchdowns this season, is also averaging 185 all-purpose yards per game. That's comparable to Bush with 13 touchdowns with 203 all-purpose yards every Saturday.
Unlike Reggie Bush the feeling in Westwood is Maurice Drew will stick around for his senior campaign.
The Stanford Cardinal has some of the best defensive prospects you've never heard of. Tackle Babatunde Oshinowo is a wide bodied run stuffer who clogs the middle of the line. Oshinowo is surpassing the expectations of NFL scouts and moving into the draft's top 75 choices.
Julian Jenkins is a solid prospect at defensive end and a player many feel can develop into a two gap lineman. Though not spectacular, Jenkins is efficient rushing the passer or stopping the run.
One of the most explosive players in the nation, Jon Alston is a terrific athlete yet a linebacker with a safety's build. Possessing great speed, Alston shows terrific range and runs with backs or tight ends in coverage. His ability to play through blocks on Saturday and help in the effort to stop Drew will make scouts look favorably on him next April.