The annual "Battle of the Bowden's" moves to Clemson this year. Florida State comes off a disappointing loss to North Carolina State while Clemson is fighting for post-season positioning.
Clemson's Charlie Whitehurst is not having the campaign NFL-scouts were hoping for. While he's reduced his mistakes from a year ago, Whitehurst presents himself as a signal caller who won't lose games for a team rather then a passer that'll go out and win them for a squad.
His mettle will be tested on Saturday as Whitehurst will face the fierce front seven of Florida State. Junior linebacker Ernie Sims is developing nicely and looks like a future first round pick. Senior counterpart A.J. Nicholson is having a terrific campaign and watching his draft stock soar. Though slight of size middle linebacker Buster Davis has also caught the attention of NFL scouts.
Whitehurst must stare this trio down and not panic in the face of pressure. He may catch a break as Seminole pass-rusher extraordinaire Kamerion Wimbley will likely sit on the sidelines with a knee injury.
USC vs. Cal (ABC/3:30pm EST)
The last time USC lost a game it was against the Cal Bears in Berkley. This year's contest won't be that close yet offers some exciting match-ups for draftniks.
Cal has three good prospects in the defensive secondary. Harrison Smith is highly rated by several NFL-scouting concerns and is a well sized cornerback who also has potential at safety. Donnie McCleskey is a talented yet undersized safety with a medical history. Effective against the run and pass, the senior has done well this year after missing most of '04 with a shoulder injury. Junior Tim Mixon is an exciting young cover-man.
All three will have their work cut out for them.
The Trojan air assault has been well documented. Matt Leinart will be trying to connect all day with receiver Steve Smith, tight end Dominique Byrd and running back Reggie Bush. Good results from the Cal secondary will make scouts take even more notice and improve their draft stock.
This game should be over rather quickly, with Texas on top. And while all eyes will be on Longhorn signal caller Vince Young, there is another junior NFL-scouts will also focus on.
Continuing the momentum he began as a sophomore, Kansas multi-purpose player Charles Gordon is building a buzz in the scouting community. A terrific shut-down corner, Gordon's ability to stay in the game against the Longhorns Heisman Trophy hopeful will be carefully watched.
The same can be said when Gordon is put on the field as a receiver or used to return punts. Expected to enter April's draft, Gordon presently ranks as a top 45-selection.
The main battle in this contest resides along the line of scrimmage.
After missing an early season match-up against Mathias Kiwanuka of Boston College, only to come back and play well against Florida State, D'Brickashaw Ferguson now faces one of his tougher tests of the year. Eric Henderson of Georgia Tech played well early in the season but has recently been hobbled with a bad ankle. Ferguson's forte is pass blocking. Henderson is a terrific pass rusher. This is a match-up to watch.
North Carolina State vs. Boston College (ESPN/7:15pm EST)
The eyes of the scouting world will once again be focused on Chestnut Hill as this contest features two premiere defensive ends. Both are top eight selections and each will be trying to make a statement Saturday night.
Most NFL-scouts rate Mathias Kiwanuka of Boston College just slightly below Wolfpack junior Mario Williams. Large and athletic, Williams easily moves his 285-pound frame around the field . Effective up off the edge or out to the flanks, Williams can also drop into coverage and play in space. He'll have his work cut out for him as the Eagle's offer several solid prospects on the offensive line.
Jeremy Trueblood will be matched-up against Williams most of the night from his left tackle spot. A first-day prospect in next April's draft, most feel Trueblood lacks the foot-quickness to play on the blind-side at the next level. A good performance against Williams will silence many of those critics.
Kiwanuka could have an easier time of it. While the Wolfpack will game plan around the explosive Kiwanuka, they really don't have the talent to stop him.