With week 10 looming tomorrow, here are five players who will excel and lead their teams. I expect all five to have big games.
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: In a game where quarterback play will be at a premium in a top-five matchup, AJ McCarron will be the difference for the Tide. His transformation from a game manager and role player into an impact player who is garnering Heisman hype with his 18 touchdowns and no interceptions has been truly impressive to watch. LSU’s secondary is very good, but there will be extra attention stopping the Bama running game. McCarron will have some opportunities to hit Amari Cooper and Kenny Bell in certain passing situations. He’ll need to make those count, and I think he will.
Kevin Minter, LB, LSU: Minter is the best unknown player on the LSU defense. We hear all about Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Eric Reid, but it’s Minter who is showing out in his junior season. He’s fourth in the SEC in tackles with 75, and he’s the heart and soul of the LSU defense at middle linebacker. He’s the one guy the Tigers could ill-afford to go down at any time with an injury. I think he has a big game against Alabama in helping to stop the running game of Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon.
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: Gurley is on his way to a 1,000-yard season, and he’d be only the second freshman in Georgia history to do it. The Rebels are ninth in the SEC in stopping the run, allowing 148 yards per game, and there will be some big holes and running lanes for him throughout the game. He’s a homerun hitter and a power running back built like a truck as an 18-year-old. He was a monster last week against Florida, and the Bulldogs will get back to basics running the football with their two freshmen. Gurley will get more touches of the two.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: The best wide receiver you’ve never heard of resides in Oxford in Donte Moncrief. He has future NFL talent written all over him as a sophomore, and he’s caught 39 passes for 540 yards and five touchdowns. Bo Wallace will need to have a big game, as will the running game, and Moncrief will have to make a couple explosive plays against the Georgia secondary. The Bulldogs’ defense played better last week than they have all season, and we’ll see if they bring that same kind of intensity against Ole Miss.
Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida: Ever since Gillislee’s 34 carries for 146 yards and two touchdowns against LSU, he’s been quiet. Against Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Georgia, Gillislee has only rushed for 181 yards total. I fully expect Florida to feed the running game more after last week, and Gillislee is the heartbeat of the power running game for Will Muschamp and company. Look for Gillislee to get 25 to 30 carries this week and have a big impact against Missouri.
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