|Associated Press / USA TODAY Sports|
|Jake Matthews and Cyrus Kouandjio are among those in Saturday's big showdown with much at stake.|
Scouts love to watch matchups with players from two top teams. Week 3 in college football offers plenty of big games, none bigger than Alabama at Texas A&M on Saturday. We asked our experts to think beyond the obvious (namely a certain quarterback from Texas A&M) and give us the individual who has the most at stake in the game.
Take eye off ball and direct attention toward left tacklesI know the question asked for one individual with the most at stake in the game between Alabama and Texas A&M, and the easy answer is Johnny Manziel.
But, let's not take the easy way out, and try to move this discussion along to other impact players in this game. First, the left tackle for Alabama, Cyrus Kouandjio, came into this season seen as a first-round talent. The view of him has not changed, but his performance in the season opener against Virginia Tech created some questions. Expect him to play with something to prove on Saturday.
The second player (yes, you get a bonus guy) I'm looking at is Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews. He has been a top performer for the Aggies, and has started since his freshman year, but he's always been a right tackle. Against the expected pressure and athleticism of Alabama's defensive front, this will be quite a test of how he's taking to his new position, protecting his QB's blind side.
Can we kick this game off already?!
Matthews, Mosley can really boost draft stockTexas A&M LT Jake Matthews and Alabama senior LB C.J. Mosley will both have a lot at stake in this contest. Matthews will square off against a very physical Alabama front and he'll have the opportunity to display his strength and power. Mosley will be challenged to make plays sideline to sideline against Manziel and the rest of the A&M spread attack. Both of these players are highly regarded already, but a big game on Saturday could push their draft stock even higher.
Showdown with big Aggie WRs could be boon or bust for BelueThere are plenty of higher-profile NFL prospects in Saturday's Alabama-Texas A&M game than Crimson Tide cornerback Deion Belue, but few if any have a better opportunity to boost their stock with scouts. One of the primary questions about the senior, who ranks No. 81 on the Hot 100 seniors list by NFL.com's Gil Brandt, is his size (6-foot, 170 pounds). Locking down bigger receivers is the best way to dispel such concerns, and Belue has that chance here. He'll spend plenty of time matched up with 6-5, 225-pound sophomore Mike Evans, a dominant receiver who is Johnny Manziel's primary target. When not lined up on Evans, Belue might at times draw monster freshman Ricky Seals-Jones, who lists at 6-5, 225 but looks more like 250. The last thing Belue wants is film of himself getting pushed around and outmuscled becoming a reference point for his evaluation.
Matthews faces stern test from Tide's front sevenAside from both quarterbacks (AJ McCarron looked mediocre vs. Virginia Tech and the Johnny Manziel saga certainly needs no rehashing), I'd say Jake Matthews has the most at stake. Michigan LT Taylor Lewan was dominant in a big game last week, and Matthews needs a big game this week against a better defense than Lewan went against last week. Alabama will present a wide variety of defensive looks, and Matthews -- and his linemates -- need to make sure Manziel remains upright. Matthews also needs to carve out some running room against a stout Alabama front seven that includes DE Ed Stinson and LBs C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePreist -- a quartet that will draw scouts' attention, too.
Poor opener places Kouandjio into scouts' critical spotlightAfter entering the season as one of the top three offensive tackles in college football, Kouandjio has some work to do following a dismal performance against Virginia Tech. He struggled handling the speed and quickness of the Hokies' defensive ends, which resulted in a pair of sacks and numerous quarterback hurries from the left side. While he is not solely responsible for the leaky protection in the pocket, the fact that he failed to sufficiently protect McCarron's blindside raises major concerns about his ability to develop into a franchise tackle at the next level.
An AFC personnel director told me he thought Kouandjio might be a better right tackle at the next level after watching him struggle against the Hokies' speed and quickness. Of course, one poor showing doesn't completely alter a scout's grade on a player, but it will lead them to view Alabama's next few games with a ton of intrigue, particularly the marquee matchup this week with Texas A&M.
While the Aggies don't have an established pass rusher on the defensive line, the fact the unit is loaded with explosive athletes will give evaluators another opportunity to see how well Kouandjio handles speed and explosiveness off the edge. If he turns in another poor performance in front of a large contingent of NFL scouts, Kouandjio could see his stock plummet dramatically.