2017 NFL Draft: Championship Weekend Scouting Match-Up Preview


Championship week is among us, which calls for some excellent next-level matchups the weekend before the College Football Playoff bracket is formed. The Power Five championship games are a given to produce NFL talent but even the MAC championship has a few names to keep tabs on Friday night.

By: Christian Page

In the last preview of the season, here are some players to watch and matchups to highlight this weekend with a focus on draft-eligible players.

MAC Championship // No. 17 Western Michigan vs. Ohio // 7 p.m. EST // ESPN 2
Now being the highest-ranked Group of Five team, a win puts Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl to most likely face the loser of the Big Ten Championship Game. Behind a potent offensive attack, the Broncos have been recognized as one of the best teams in the whole country behind projected first rounder Corey Davis (#84) and efficient play of quarterback Zach Terrell (#11). Opposite from Western Michigan excelling on offense, Ohio possesses a stout defense that has carried it to a conference championship appearance. This is Ohio’s fourth appearance (0-3) and Western Michigan’s third (0-2).

Addressing the success of the Broncos’ offense was heavily featured in last week’s preview, so Davis and Terrell will have to take a back seat in this week’s write up. Bronco right tackle Taylor Moton (pronounced Mow-tin) recently accepted an invite to participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile (listed as a guard). Moton has shown improvements as a pass protector this season complementing with his elite run blocking skills. Moton (#72) has heavy feet producing choppy footwork but he is still quick enough to catch speed on the outside.


His timing has improved with a more effective punch and engaging initially (more of a puncher/grabber than last year). Moton’s engagement and quickness will be heavily tested Friday night with the league’s top pass rusher on the opposite side.

Tarell Basham (#93) creates pressure from both sides of the defensive line for the Bobcats. A quick get off with some slipperiness due to adequate flexibility, Basham consistently creates pressure in the backfield from his defensive end position. The school’s sack leader (26.0) boasts impressive recognition skills in the run game and in play action fakes while also showing good acceleration to chase down ball carriers like he did Joshua Dobbs of Tennessee earlier this season.


Basham’s speed and quickness may give Moton some issues if he isn’t consistently quick on his feet. Moton’s upper body strength, though, could cause for a stalemate if Basham doesn’t win off the snap initially. Basham has accumulated nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss this season.

Pac-12 Championship: No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 4 Washington // 9 p.m. EST // FOX
With its highest ranking since 1996, Colorado eyes its first conference championship since 2001 (Defeated No. 3 Texas 39-37). Washington has been on a conference championship drought as well with its last one coming in 2000 (three-way with Oregon and Oregon State). This game is loaded with NFL prospects with many you have constantly been reminded of, and will again, if you are a frequent visitor to this preview series.

This game consists of duos: the best defensive tackle duo with Vita Vea (#50) and Elijah Qualls (#11) of Washington and the Colorado cornerback tandem of Ahkello Witherspoon (#23) and Chidobe Awuzie (#4) only taking a backseat to Florida’s crew. According to Pro Football Focus, Colorado boasts two of the best cornerbacks in the Pac-12.


It will be interesting to see how Colorado chooses to man up in the secondary to contain the speedy deep threat John Ross (#1) for Washington. Awuzie has the better speed of the two and is overall more polished but Witherspoon has more length and lockdown ability and is a better open field tackler. Whoever covers the speedy No. 1 will garner a huge test for both parties.

As for the Husky defensive tackles, the two, and the rest of the Washington defense, will have their hands full with a dynamic Colorado offensive attack. One of the most improved players in all of football, Buffalo quarterback Sefo Liufao (#13) creates plenty of ways for the offense to be productive. His passer rating has jumped from 126.4 to 140.8 as he has also cut down on turnovers. The goal for the Washington defense is to contain the run game from Liufao and make him beat them from the pocket by maintaining outside leverage. Liufao will then have to go up against a dominating secondary with safety Budda Baker (#32) and first round cornerback Sidney Jones (#26).


No. 10 Oklahoma State at No. 9 Oklahoma // 12:30 p.m. EST // FOX
Technically the conference championship game, the Oklahoma schools go at it for the ultimate bragging rights. Points will not be stagnant in this matchup as both teams average over 40 points a game and average giving up at least 27 a game. This is the third time in the past six meetings of the Bedlam rivalry with both teams being ranked in the top 10 (2011 & 2015).

After three consecutive games, Sooner running back Samaje Perine (#32) has been playing at an elite level. In his last three full games, Perine has averaged 29 carries for 158 yards with two touchdowns and a 5.32 yards per rush average. Oklahoma State’s rush defense has improved the past couple of weeks after a poor performance at Kansas State (surrendered 325 yards on the ground in the win) but have yet to face a runner with the caliber of Perine within the past six weeks. Perine shows off his physicality and in between the tackles running style with great seal blocks by left tackle Orlando Brown (#78) and the pulling center Erick Wren (#58)


A key player to stopping the run for the Cowboys is be defensive tackle Vincent Taylor (#96) who leads the team in tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (5.5). Taylor shows off his athleticism being able to shake off blockers in pursuit to the quarterback in the interior. The Sooners start a young offensive line that entered the season with just 32 combined starts in their career. Taylor could have a big day with penetration in the backfield while pressuring Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield (#6) who has improved in the pocket when compared to 2015.

Joining his quarterback for Heisman consideration, Sooner wide receiver Dede Westbrook (#11) has been nearly unstoppable this season. Mayfield and Westbrook have connected 53 times this season (targeted 66 times) for 15 touchdowns. The player to highlight in preventing big plays downfield in this matchup is safety Jordan Sterns (#13) who has been sensational this season. Sterns serves the name “safety” well as he is solid in covering the deep ball with great range as an open field tackler as well. Sterns also shows the ability to play close to the line of scrimmage and be effective on the edge keeping outside leverage in the run game.

SEC Championship: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 15 Florida // 4 p.m. EST // CBS
Facing off for the ninth time in the 25 years of the SEC Championship Game, Alabama and Florida create the usual SEC narrative of hard-nosed defenses going at it as both units rank in the top five in scoring defense and top six in total defense. Simply the offense that makes the most big plays may come away as the victor. Turnover margin will be a big factor in this one, as it always is.

Beating the same drum for the players that have been mentioned almost every week now in this matchup is what will occur today. Florida has dealt with a plethora of injuries with plenty coming on the offensive line, which doesn’t bode well Saturday evening versus the best defensive line in college football. My current top player in the draft class, Jonathan Allen (#93), will be key in this game, as always, taking away the run from Florida making Austin Appleby attack a stout secondary. Though I think he is sound in stopping the run, many are not convinced that edge prospect Tim Williams (#54) can be a three down player in the NFL. This game featuring a solid running back dup for the Gators should help Williams’ stock going forward if he performs well.

Though this is from last season, the clip goes to show how explosive and effective Brantley is in the run game. Thanks, Jon.


Though a few underclassmen make up the interior offensive line for Alabama, I look forward to seeing how defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (#57) performs versus them upfront. A dominating penetrator in both elements of the game, Brantley has been virtually an unstoppable force up the middle. Brantley constantly takes away the interior run game being an excellent block shedder with solid upper body strength while also playing with outstanding contact balance. The Gators hopeful for a Jarrad Davis (Inside Linebacker, #40) return, stopping the run initially making freshman Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (#2) beat them from the pocket will be the goal for this Gator defense.

ACC Championship: No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 23 Virginia Tech // 8 p.m. EST // ABC
It’s no surprise to see these familiar faces in the title games as Clemson makes its fourth appearance and Virginia Tech leads all members with its sixth. There are plenty of offensive playmakers to highlight in this game starting with possibly the most polarizing of the bunch, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (#4).

Watson has had an up and down year based on where he was projected coming into the season but still finds himself second in the Heisman race which the media states is still up for grabs. Watson continues to impress with intermediate throws of 15 to 20 yard routes but has gotten in a bad habit of missing the layups and takes more risks than usual potentially putting his team in bad situations. Running back Wayne Gallman (#9) has dealt with some injuries this season but has put together a string of two great games and is becoming more of a workhorse type ball carrier averaging 20 carries over the past two games. Tight end Jordan Leggett (#16) is another name to highlight being a x-factor in games multiple times during his career.

The Hokies on offense showcase a couple of pass catchers that have accumulated many looks from next-level evaluators. Wide receiver Isaiah Ford (#1) does a great job at tracking the deep ball and will look to exploit Cordrea Tankersley (#25) with quick movements off the line of scrimmage. Tankersley has been known to be too grabby when he senses separation so look for that as Ford’s quickness should be on display. Tankersley’s length and ability to react and locate will be huge in this matchup.

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