Below are 3 of the key Week 8 individual match-ups to keep an eye out for as it pertains to the 2016 NFL Draft.
S/LB SU'A CRAVENS (USC) VS. RB DEVONTAE BOOKER (UTAH)
I don't think anyone had the Utes being ranked #3 in the country in week 8 of the 2015 college football season, but here we are. A big reason for Utah's success has been the stellar play of Senior RB Devontae Booker. Booker, 23, is currently rated as the 4th best RB in college football by PFF and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry with 8 TDs on the year. What makes Booker special as a prospect is his incredible ability to catch passes out of the backfield. In fact, Booker can line up at any of the skill positions and probably beat the guy across from him. We currently have Booker as the #72 prospect on our Big Board, going to the Chiefs in the 3rd round in our 2016 Mock Draft.
On the flip side, if you are a fan of free money, unranked and coach-less USC is still a 3 point favorite to beat Utah this week. Nevertheless, if they are to upset Utah, that means Su'a Cravens did a great job neutralizing Booker throughout four quarters. Cravens' play is similar to fellow Trojan alumni Troy Polamalu, and the knock on him currently is that scouts are torn whether he is ultimately an OLB or SS at the next level. I think as the game and pro defenses continue to evolve, a versatile and hybrid player like Cravens will start to become a commodity, and if a team was smart, they would draft him and play him the way the Arizona Cardinals play Deonne Bucannon. Cravens is the #20 prospect on our Big Board, going to the NY Giants in the 1st round in our 2016 Mock Draft.
Scouts from the Chiefs, Panthers, Buccaneers, Vikings, Colts, Raiders, Packers, Jets and Patriots are credentialed for the game.
DE SHILIQUE CALHOUN (MICHIGAN STATE) VS. OT JASON SPRIGGS (INDIANA)
It feels like Shilique Calhoun has been draft eligible for about four years now, but as a redshirt Senior he has no choice but to enter the Draft after this year. Coming off a 2 sack performance last week vs. rival Michigan, Calhoun already has 29 tackles and 6 sacks in 2014 for Sparty. We currently have Calhoun as the #30 prospect on our Big Board, and staying in Michigan by going to the Detroit Lions at the top of round 2 in our 2016 Mock Draft. Calhoun will face a big challenge this week going up againt an OT who is starting to gain a lot of steam with the scouting community in Indiana's Jason Spriggs.
Spriggs may be on an average 4-3 Hoosiers team, but at 6'7" 305 pounds, the Senior could work his way up a pretty lackluster draft for OTs with a good showing in Indy. We have Spriggs checking in at #100 on our Big Board, going to the NY Jets in the third round in our 2016 Mock Draft.
EDGE KEMOKO TURAY (RUTGERS) VS. OT TAYLOR DECKER (OHIO STATE)
No one is expecting Rutgers to beat #1 Ohio State, but if you're going to watch the game within the game, Kemoko Turay vs. Taylor Decker will be quite the matchup to watch. Only a redshirt Sophomore, Turay has no reason to stay at Rutgers longer than he has to despite having a down year statistically. He is already high on scouting radars and the program is in utter disarray. Turay only has 6 tackles and 2 sacks through 4 games so far this season, having missed games vs. Penn State and Michigan State due to an upper body injury. Known as an athletic "freak" standing at 6'6 240 lbs, teams will fall in love with Turay's athleticism and upside after he destroys the Combine come February. I mean, he blocked this kick:
What sorcery is this? We have Turay as the #39 prospect on our Big Board, going to the San Diego Chargers in our 2016 Mock Draft.
The man tasked with keeping Turay off of JT Barrett this Saturday at 8pm EST will be Taylor Decker. Towering at 6'8 315 pounds, Decker will need to continue to show a good balance between run and pass blocking if he is going to ensure himself a place in the first round this April. We currently have Decker as the #16 player on our Big Board, going to the Minnesota Vikings in the first round in our 2016 Mock Draft to replace a struggling Matt Kalil.
BONUS: DE MYLES GARRETT (TEXAS A&M) VS. LAREMY TUNSIL (OLE MISS)
Ok, ok. I know Garrett is not draft-eligible this year, but how could you not be watching him play with bated breath wishing your team could somehow acquire the #1 pick for the 2017 Draft? The true Sophomore already has 30 tackles and an SEC-leading 8.5 sacks through Week 7, but he will get his biggest test to date vs. future Top 10 pick Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss. Tunsil has missed a large chunk of this season amid offseason strife, but you can believe that scouts will be bringing an extra set of binoculars this week to see this clash of the titans.
Scouts from the Vikings, Ravens, Dolphins, Giants, Buccaneers, Cowboys and Bears are credentialed for the game.
Other match-ups worth mentioning this weekend:
-SS Jeremy Cash (Duke) vs. TE Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech)
-FS LaDarrell McNeil (Tennessee) vs. TE OJ Howard (Alabama)