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WHO TO WATCH IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL THIS WEEKEND

October 18
 
After a couple of weeks during which the college football world was focused on the super competitive SEC West, the focus shifts to Tallahasse where defending national champion Florida State hosts Notre Dame in a battle of unbeaten, top-ranked teams national powers. And needless to say the battle between the 2nd ranked Seminoles and the 5th ranked Irish also has huge implications for college football's first 4-team playoff at the end of the year. Meanwhile, while the SEC West has been grabbing most of the top college football headlines so far this fall, the Big XII has quietly emerged as a rising power conference with 5 teams ranked among the top 15 teams this week. And two of those teams get a chance to show that they are legitimate contenders rather than pretenders this fall with key road games. Here's a quick preview of who to watch in college football's big games this weekly with an eye toward the 2015 draft.

#5 Notre Dame (6-0) at #2 Florida State (6-0); 8 PM ET; ABC ...
After losing a ton of talent at last May's draft, nobody really expected Notre Dame to be unbeaten and still very much part of the playoff discussion when they headed south to take on the national champs. Indeed, its unlikely that Notre Dame will have a player selected in this year‘s opening round after a 4-year run in which the programhad at least one player selected in the first round. However, the Irish have gotten a huge boost with the return of junior QB Everett Golson (#5, 6-0, 200) who led the Irish to the national title game in 2012, but didn’t play last year because of academic integrity issues. Golson is an athletic dual-threat with a decent arm, but needs to take better care of the football for the Irish to have a chance against the Seminoles. Meanwhile, TE Ben Koyack (#18, 6-5, 265), who figures to be one of the best two-way TEs in this year’s draft class, is a second-day prospect as is junior DE Sheldon Day (#91, 6-2, 285), while veteran OG Christian Lombard (#74, 6-4, 315), a solid interior offensive lineman, although he‘s not a particularly gifted athlete, and CB Cody Riggs (#2, 5-9, 185) are later round candidates..

The big question in Florida State is just how focused redshirt sophomore QB Jamies Winston (#5, 6-4, 235) will be on the game as he has been dealing with a myriad of off-field issues. Winston, who won last year's Heisman Trophy when he led the Seminoles to the BCS national championship and is considered to be a top 5-10 prospect for the upcoming draft, for example, reportedly will have his hearing regarding an alleged sexual incident on Friday just before the game; to make matters worse, Winston has been linked to the dealer that got Georgia RB Todd Gurley suspended for accepting payments for autographs and other signed memorobilia. Even if Winston somehow doesn't make it to the upcoming draft, Florida State will have arguably the deepest class for the 2015 draft in the country. Junior CB P.J. Williams (#26, 5-11, 195) is also considered to be potential first round pick this coming spring, while DE Mario Edwards (#15, 6-3, 295) and DT Eddie Goldman (#90, 6-3, 315), along with veteran OT Cameron Erving (#75, 6-5, 310) are close. Meanwhile, RB Karlos Williams (#9, 6-0, 225), WR Rashad Greene (#80, 5-11, 180), TE Nick O'Leary (#35, 6-3, 235), and OGs Tre Jackson (#54, 6-3, 330) and Josue Matias (#70, 6-5, 325) are solid second-day candidates.

#14 Kansas State (4-1) at #11 Oklahoma (#11, 5-1); Noon ET; ESPN ... At the start of the season, the Big XII race looked to be a two-team race between Oklahoma and Baylor. Then Texas Christian got into the act when the Frogs stunned to Sooners a couple of weeks back. And while no one was watching both Kansas State and Oklahoma State have quietly taken care of business and both have a chance to really muddle the conference race when they play at Oklahoma and TCU respectively. However, don't expect either K-State or Oklahoma State to have much of an impact at the upcoming draft. KSU does have a solid pass-and run combination in Jake Waters (#15, 6-1, 210) and WR Tyler Lockett (#16, 5-10, 175). Waters isn't flashy, but doesn't make many mistakes, while Lockett, a late second or early third round pick this coming May, is a sneaky quick receiver with great hands who doubles as an outstanding kick returner. Meanwhile, other Wildcats to watch include steady C B.J. Finney (#66, 6-3, 305) and DE Ryan Mueller (#44, 6-2, 245), while junior OG Cody Whitehair (#55, 6-3, 310) has future potential.

Interesting story at Oklahoma where the Sooners' best propsect - junior WR Dorial Green-Beckham - may never play a game in Norman. The 6-5, 225-pound DGB was the top recruit in the country a couple of years back when he signed with Missouri, however, he transferred to OU this summer after getting the boot at Missou in the wake of several off-field issues. And Green-Beckham, who won't play this fall while he complys with NCAA transfer rules, is getting increased attention from NFL scouts as a potential opening round pick wit huge upside if he were to declare for the 2015 draft. Meanwhile, the Sooners' best prospect who will actually be in uniform against KSU is junior OLB Eric Striker (#19, 6-0, 225) an undersized blur who reminds many scouts of former Ohio State star Ryan Shazier whom Pittsburgh selected with the 15th pick overall this past May. The Sooners also have an interesting story in TE Blake Bell (#10, 6-5, 240), who drew national attention at QB as the Belldozer, but switched to TE this fall to improve his pro options. Other Sooners to watch include OTs Daryl Williams (#79, 6-5, 335) and Tyrus Thompson (#71, 6-5, 320) who combine with rugged OG Adam Shead (#74, 6-3, 320) to give OU one of the better core offensive lines in the country.

#15 Oklahoma State (5-1) at Texas Christian (4-1); 4 PM ET; Fox ... At best Oklahoma State has a couple of seniors who could get some late round interest this coming May in DT James Castleman (#91, 6-2, 300) and OT Dan Koenig (#58, 6-5, 300). However, the Cowboy NFL teams are really intrigued by is junior WR/KR Tyreek Hill (#24, 5-9, 185), a junior college transfer with world class speed - he finished 5th in the 200M at the NCAA Indoor championships - who the Cowboys line up all over the field including at RB and in the slot as well as outside. For good measure, Hill has also already returned a couple of KOs for TDs this fall.
TCU is also unlikely to have a major impact at the upcoming draft, although SS Sam Carter (#17, 6-1, 215) is a steady third-day type safety, while CB Kevin White (#25, 5-10, 180), OLB Paul Dawson (#47, 6-2, 230) and massive OT Tayo Fabuluje (#59, 6-7, 360) are later round or free-agent candidates.

Bonus coverage: Interesting Mountain West game on Friday evening when Fresno State (3-4) plays at Boise State (4-2) at 8 PM ET on ESPN. Neither team is going to make the playoff this year, but this game features a number of solid prospects for the 2015 draft including Fresno State FS Derron Smith (#13, 5-11, 200), WR Josh Harper (#3, 6-1, 185) and NG Tyeler Davison (#92, 6-2, 305) along with Boise State junior RB Jay Ajayi (#27, 5-11, 220) ... Speaking of the Mountain West, check out Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo (#51, 6-5, 310)  when the 5-1 Rams host Utah State at 8 PM ET on CBS Sports Network. 


Have a great weekend!!!