Saturday college primer

Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State
What to watch for:

• Talk about a contrast of styles in running backs. Mississippi State features a real sledge hammer between the tackles in RB Anthony Dixon, while Ole Miss uses the undersized yet explosive and shifty Dexter McCluster to consistently create at the second level. Either way you size these two up, they look like players who can definitely enhance an NFL offense.

• We talked about Ole Miss DT Jerrell Powe last week and his ability to not only clog up the run game inside but also use his overall power when asked to push the pocket. Powe is getting better every week and is the one junior defensive tackle no one seems to be talking about. At 6-2, 340 pounds, he looks like a guy who could really fly up draft boards if he declares for the 2010 draft.

• Another underclassman who has really caught my eye is Mississippi State DE Pernell McPhee. McPhee is a tall, (6-4, 275), well-built defensive lineman who possesses the length and body control to routinely stack and shed vs. the run and make plays on the football. He’s done a nice job holding up vs. opposing SEC right tackles and is one guy who can consistently push the pocket as a bull-rusher and collapse the pocket for the Bulldogs defense.

Arkansas vs. LSU
What to watch for:

• Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett has shown a vast improvement in recent weeks as the baptism by fire looks to be paying off. Mallett is averaging 323.7 yards through the air over his last four games and has thrown 13 touchdown passes compared to only three interceptions during that span. Now, his incredible skill set has always been there, but the light finally looks to be going on from a mental standpoint, and with another good performance against a talented LSU defense, Mallett could end up being a legitimate contender for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

• One player Mallett has looked to in recent weeks is TE/H-back D.J. Williams, a 6-2, 251-pound target who displays impressive body control and burst for a guy his size and knows how to consistently separate vs. SEC linebackers in coverage. He has reeled in 17 catches over the last four games and gives Mallett the type of consistent safety blanket underneath he needs in the face of pressure.

• LSU head coach Les Miles didn’t exactly take full responsibility for the mismanagement of the clock/game in the closing seconds of last week’s loss to Ole Miss. It will be interesting to see just how motivated the Tigers are to come out and play for Miles in this one.

Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
What to watch for:

• What adjustments will the Georgia defense make this year to slow down the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack? Last season, the Georgia Tech offense ran for 409 yards against the Bulldogs and was consistently able to make creative adjustments and keep the Georgia defense on its heels. It will be interesting to see what tricks Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson has up his sleeve this time.

• One of the main reasons for Georgia Tech’s continued success running the football this year has been the additional threat of the Josh Nesbitt deep ball. Nesbitt is an athletically gifted quarterback who has the ability to consistently pick up yards in the run game and also has a big target on the outside in WR Demaryius Thomas, who’s averaging 24.4 yards a catch. Nesbitt has done a great job getting Thomas the ball down the field and making opposing safeties pay for playing to close to the line.

• Does the Georgia offense have enough punch to keep this one close? Wideout A.J. Green’s availability for today’s game is in doubt, and the Bulldogs simply lack much big-play ability on the outside without him. Expect a conservative game plan again from Georgia, which will try to move the ball on the ground, work off the play-action game and keep the turnovers to a minimum.

UCLA vs. USC
What to watch for:

• UCLA has run off three straight wins, and you have to think after watching Oregon and Stanford run wild over the USC defense, the Bruins should be feeling a bit more confident about their chances than in past years. UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel is a smart guy and definitely has the ability to match wits with the USC coaching staff. However, it may be his passion and will to win that end up being the biggest reasons the Bruins have a chance to pull this one off.

• One guy I can’t wait to watch in this matchup is UCLA DT Brian Price. Price is an explosive, quick-twitch athlete who can really fire off the football and work his way into the backfield. To make matters worse, the Trojans have struggled at times this season with the interior of their offensive line, and Price could prove to be a real difference-maker up front.

• As we’ve seen in recent years, the Trojans consistently possess the far superior athletes/talent in this matchup, so it will be interesting to see how UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow elects to move the football and which mismatches he has highlighted. Chow loves to work off play-action fakes and throw the ball horizontally, allowing his receivers to make plays after the catch. Look for TE’s Logan Paulsen and Ryan Moya to have big roles in the Bruins’ game plan.

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