Last weekend featured several outstanding college games, including a classic SEC clash between Georgia and Tennessee, as well as a slugfest between Stanford and Washington. This weekend's slate of games looks just as promising with high-profile conference matchups in the Pac-12, SEC and Big 12. All five of the players on my watch list will be participating in these crucial contests.
Here are the five players I'll be focused on this weekend:
1. LSU DT Anthony Johnson vs. Florida
Johnson is one of the most athletic interior defenders in college football. He has excellent size, strong hands and a good motor. Last week, he was very disruptive in LSU's win over Mississippi State, recording five tackles. He'll need another productive performance this weekend as the 10th-ranked Tigers host 17th-ranked Florida.
2. Washington QB Keith Price vs. Oregon
Price is coming off one of the best performances of his collegiate career. Although the Huskies fell short against Stanford, Price displayed outstanding toughness, poise and playmaking ability. He completed 33 of 48 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, Price has thrown for 1,394 yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions. As well as he played last week, he'll need to play even better this weekend for the Huskies to pull out a win. Oregon's high-powered offense will surely put up a lot of points and it will be up to Price and the Washington offense to keep pace.
3. Oklahoma RB Brennan Clay vs. Texas
Oklahoma is quietly 5-0 as it heads into its annual showdown with Texas. This game always provides a big stage for one of these teams to make a national statement. Last year, the Sooners did just that, annihilating the Longhorns, 63-21. All signs point to another lopsided Oklahoma win on Saturday. One reason for the Sooners' successful start is the play of senior running back Brennan Clay. He currently leads the Sooners with 450 rushing yards and he is coming off a strong performance against TCU, where he rushed for 111 yards on just nine carries. He doesn't have exceptional size or power, but he's very quick and has excellent vision. He should have a very productive outing against a suspect Longhorns defense.
4. Florida CB Loucheiz Purifoy vs. LSU
Purifoy is one of the top cornerbacks in the nation and he's also a terror on special teams. He has an ideal blend of size and speed to go along with outstanding toughness. This season, he has three passes defended, one interception, a blocked kick and a forced fumble. He will face his most difficult challenge of the season on Saturday, as he tries to slow down a potent LSU passing attack. One area of his game that needs improvement is eye discipline. If he gets caught peeking in the backfield against the Tigers, he won't be able to recover against their talented receiving corps.
5. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota vs. Washington
Mariota is an early favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy. He has already accounted for 21 touchdowns (14 passing, 7 rushing) this season and he's coming off a career-high seven touchdown game against Colorado. The Ducks haven't been forced to play their starters a full four quarters by any of their 2013 opponents. That could change against Washington. The Huskies limited Stanford to 279 total yards last weekend and their defensive front could cause problems for the Ducks. Mariota has enormous upside, but he still needs to improve his ball placement and touch. So far this season, he's completing just 56.7 percent of his passes.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.