College Open Thread - Sep. 29, Early Games

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An open thread for the college action on Sep. 29th from the early half of the day's schedule.

We've only got two games in which both teams are ranked. Both come in the early half of the day this week as we get ready for Upsetmageddon.

Just an administrative note - Mocking the Draft is in the midst of transitioning to a major rehaul at the mothership. Make sure you stay tuned to see how we're going to re-package draft coverage moving forward.

#25 Baylor at #9 West Virginia (12 p.m., FX)

Baylor's had to win its way back into the top 25 in the wake of RGIII's departure, as well of that of WR Kendall Wright and RB Terrence Ganaway. West Virginia, on the other hand, has offensive mastermind Dana Holgorsen manning the helm, so points are automatic; the Mountaineers are currently third in the nation in passing yards per game racking up 370 yds through the air through three games. Baylor's hardly an offensive slouch at 5th in passing yards per game (361.7) and 5th in points per game (51.3).

Baylor's had a relatively easy slate thus far with SMU, Sam Houston State and a surprising Louisiana-Monroe team in the first three weeks. Given how many points the Bears have allowed, you could be forgiven for assuming West Virginia is going to put up 60+. That being noted, Baylor's strongest prospect is WR Terrance Williams. Unlike Kendall Wright, the shorter yet faster WR from Baylor who's currently a Tennessee Titan, Williams spreads the field laterally. He can work deep, but is at his best from 10-20 yards, using his size and body control in traffic to move the sticks. Rams fans need to get a look at OL Cyril Richardson. Dude is a monster at 6'5", 335. He played LT last year protecting RGIII's blindside, but has pinched inside this year at guard. Also get a look at Ahmad Dixon, who plays a bit of a hybrid role between CB and rover. He's got the frame for either CB or FS at the next level; it may be a pick that comes into play next April.

As for West Virginia, QB Geno Smith is going to get the bulk of the focus. For Rams fans, check out WR Tavon Austin. He's a true playmaker that can function in different offensive roles thanks to his quickness and athleticism. WR Steadman Bailey is worth some time as well. There's a sleeper candidate in the Baltimore-based LB/SS Terence Garvin; given that the Rams have needs at both, Rams fans would do well to key on him when Baylor has the ball. Joe Madsen, the Mountaineers' center, is a fringe option as well.

#14 Ohio St. at #20 Michigan St. (3:30 p.m., ABC)

As College Gameday discussed this morning, the Big Ten is a grumpy place right now. Only two undefeated teams remain in the Legends division - Minnesota and Northwestern. Over on the Leaders side, tOSU is the only team without a loss, and they're ineligible for postseason play this year... Things haven't started off well for the elder statesman among Division I conferences.

For the Buckeyes, that defensive line is going to get much of the draft focus with massive DT Johnathan Hankins and DE John Simon impressing scouts. But Rams fans need to check out two other guys on this defense: LB/SS C.J. Barnett and OLB Etienne Sabino. I know plenty of people have been underwhelmed by Sabino, a blue chip recruit out of Florida in 2008. Me? I see the tools that made him so. Good speed, acceleration, physicality, size -- has he been able to put it together week in, week out? No. But he had his best game of the season last week (you could argue his performance against Cal was on the same level), and I think he's primed to push up toward early day two contention. The entire offensive line is worth inspection as well, given the state of the Rams' front five. OLB Ryan Shazier looks fine, but he's just a true sophomore and would do well to bulk up a bit more. WR Corey "Philly" Brown has really stepped up his game this year, though I'm more interested in Devin Smith. Smith had a monster game against Cal (5 rec, 145 yds, 2 TDs). A big performance today, and the true sophomore will make the 2015 WR class look even better.

While this is the first game in which Ohio State plays a ranked opponent, it's the third for Michigan State. They downed Boise State in the season opener, but lost to Notre Dame two weeks later in embarrassing fashion (that Irish defense looks really good, BTW). Make no mistake -- the Spartans are a defensive team. DE William Gholston, CB Johnny Adams, DT Anthony Rashad White and OLB Denicos Allen are all headed for the NFL. Dion Sims, though, has helped his stock the most this season. The monster TE (6'5", 285 lbs.) had been used mostly for blocking situations behind Brian Linthicum, recently released by the Jets. This year, however, Sims has taken advantage of the increase in playing time. This is a great game to gauge his progress. And somehow, I've gotten this far and haven't mentioned RB Le'Veon Bell. He's a beast, though I'm doubtful his power game translates to the NFL very well. I see him as a goalline/3rd down option, but I could see teams overdrafting him on day 2.

Make sure to key on WR Devin Street and whoever covers him from the MSU defense as well as the Ohio St. linebacking corps who will have their hands full dealing with RB Le'Veon Bell. And a tip of the cap to Gordon Gee. Ballin' is a habit, good sir.

Other games worth checking out

Arkansas at Texas A&M - 12 p.m., SEC Network

It's all offense for the Hogs. Rams fans should get a look at G Alvin Bailey. For the Aggies, it's the bookend tackles, Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews that Rams fans need to keep tracking. Both continue to play very well. Keep Oct. 3 on your schedule. A&M plays LSU and will have both facing NFL competition with DEs Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo testing both sides of the offensive line.

Penn St. at Illinois - 12 p.m., ESPN

Defensive prospects all over the place. For Penn St., ILB Michael Mauti, OLB Gerald Hodges and DT Jordan Hill. And despite last week's disappointing loss to Louisiana Tech ('twasn't pretty as Brandon Birkhead could tell you), I still like DT Akeem Spence and OLB Jonathan Brown. CB Terry Hawthorne and DE Michael Buchanan are worth time as well. Rams fans should get a good look at C Graham Pocic and G Hugh Thornton as well.

Tennessee at #5 Georgia - 3:30 p.m., CBS

Get your look in on Tennessee's offense before the cameras just turn to Dooley's pants for the whole game. WR Justin Hunter and OT Dallas Thomas should be on your radar. On Georgia, OLB Jarvis Jones might be the most disruptive defensive player in the country. Were the draft today, the Rams could easily justify spending one of their two 1st round picks on him. DT John Jenkins is a large, large human being. While he's likely a 3-4 NT, I think he would be a solid play for a 4-3 defense as well. And Baccari Rambo might well make his first showing of the 2012 season. Given the Rams' need for an upgrade at safety in pass defense, he should absolutely be on your watch list.

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