Kevin C. Cox
Two premier matchups stand out tonight as LSU-Alabama and Oregon-USC look to determine the national college landscape, but could also cement some prospects' futures in the NFL.
#4 Oregon at #17 USC (7:00 p.m., FOX)
Points, points, points, points, points, points, points.
Oregon may have its best offense ever, averaging more than 500 yards and 50 points per game. On average. Insanity has been achieved, because as usual, it's not a very NFL-friendly roster. Kenjon Barneris shifty as heck, and De'Anthony Thomas can fly...but I don't know that anyone else on that offense has a future in the NFL. Defensively, though, they've got plenty of talent, headlined by DE Dion Jordan. He may find himself as a 3-4 OLB in the pros though.
As for USC, they continue to produce plenty of top NFL options: QB Matt Barkely, FS T.J. McDonald, C Khaled Holmes, CB Nickell Robey and of course WR Robert Woods look all to go in the top 100 in the 2013 NFL Draft. WR Marqise Lee continues to impress and could be the #1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft as a true junior. And keep an ear on the ground for RS sophomore OLBs Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard. Both are very mobile, especially Bailey, and play the pass well enough to go early in the draft.
#1 Alabama at #5 LSU (8:00 p.m., CBS)
Punts, punts, punts, punts, punts, punts, punts.
As I wrote in the matchups, the metrics here are very easy to understand. Bama's defense is excellent, LSU's is very good. Bama's offense is mediocre (though the run game is a plus), LSU's is poor and bland.
So the game pretty much is determined by which offense can eke out a smidgen of consistency, because these two defenses are going to win the large majority of the battles on the field. For Alabama, CB Dee Milliner, LBs C.J. Mosley and Nico Johnson, DT Jesse Williams, SS Robert Lester, and DE Quinton Dial...that's a lot of players to possibly go in a single draft on one side of the ball. And with G Chance Warmack, C Barrett Jones and RT D.J. Fluker on the line, well, you have a stable of prospects that are going to make some NFL teams happy come April.
For LSU, DEs Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, FS Eric Reid and ILB Kevin Minter could all be first round selections. Bama's Cyrus Kouandjio and LSU's La'El Collins might be the top offensive linemen of the 2015 class, but LSU DT Anthony Johnson might be selected before either team.
It's an embarassment of riches that lacks the offensive firepower of the USC-Oregon game, but will have as much impact on the national scene and draft months from now.