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Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:
QB Zach Mettenberger vs. FS Tray Matthews (LSU at Georgia)
Mettenberger’s ties to Georgia run deep. He grew up in nearby Watkinsville. His mother, Tammy, is an administrative assistant in the Georgia football offense. And he spent the first two years of his career as a Georgia Bulldog. This is not just another game for Mettenberger, who is in his second season as the starter at LSU. So far, he has thrived under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, but this will be his toughest test — in a very difficult environment — of his senior season. With two elite wide receivers and a solid offensive line, it falls to Mettenberger to accurately attack the Bulldogs' young, but talented secondary. Matthews, a true freshman, will be responsible for handling the top of the defense against two great vertical threats in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
RB Melvin Gordon vs. LB Ryan Shazier (Wisconsin at Ohio State)
The hard-hitting Ohio State linebacker was all over the field for the Buckeyes last year against Wisconsin. He registered 12 tackles, 3.0 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble in last year’s win over the Badgers. He’s right back at it again this season, topping the team in tackles (30). It will fall to the explosive junior to stop the three-headed monster in Wisconsin's backfield, led by Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon. The Badgers' star tailback is leading the nation in rushing (156.0 ypg) with an absurd 11.8 yards per carry average and seven rushing touchdowns.
WR LaQuon Treadwell vs. CB Deion Belue (Ole Miss at Alabama)
Treadwell was a difference-maker in the Rebels’ win over Vanderbilt in Week 1, catching nine passes for 82 yards in addition to a key 2-point conversion in the third quarter. He has teamed with Donte Moncrief to give Ole Miss two big-time targets in the passing game. Alabama’s secondary is talented, but it’s difficult for any team to take away two elite wide receivers. Treadwell, a 5-star recruit from Illinois, could have an opportunity to play a key role in the Rebels' attack against one area of the Alabama defense that can be exploited. Belue (toe) and Jarrick Williams (eye) both missed last week’s game with Colorado State but have returned to the practice field and are expected to play a big role in this weekend’s contest.
C Gabe Ikard vs. DT Louis Nix III (Oklahoma at Notre Dame)
The Sooners’ star center will match up once again with Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who got the better of Ikard last season. Ikard may be one of the Big 12’s best linemen, but the OU veteran called Nix one of the best in the country in controlling the line of scrimmage. The Sooners rushed for only 15 yards on 23 carries in last season’s game. The Sooners trail only Baylor in the Big 12 in rushing and sit at 16th nationally with over 270 yards rushing per game in three games thus far.
RB Tre Madden vs. DT Will Sutton (USC at Arizona State)
The best way to help out a struggling passing attack is with a quality running game. And Madden has been just that for Lane Kiffin over the first four weeks. He has topped 100 yards in all but one game and has scored in each of the last two contests. His 90 carries are second only to Iowa’s Mark Weisman nationally and his 455 yards are eighth in the nation. Cody Kessler needs No. 23 to come up big on the road. Sutton has been fairly quiet this season so far, registering just 9.0 tackles and no big plays yet. The All-American defensive lineman needs to play well this weekend to avoid an 0-2 start to the Pac-12 season.
LB Chris Borland vs. QB Braxton Miller or QB Kenny Guiton (Wisconsin at Ohio State)
Wisconsin’s All-American linebacker has been making big plays for the Badgers for years but stopping the Buckeyes' versatile offensive attack might be his tallest order — no matter who plays quarterback. Borland constantly disrupts opposing backfields and makes big special teams plays — he even completed a 23-yard pass on a fake punt against Arizona State — but has missed two of the last three meetings with Ohio State. That said, he went head-to-head with Miller in 2011, posting 10 tackles in the historic Hail Mary game. Keeping Miller or Guiton contained within the pocket will go a long way to giving UW a chance at the win.
LB Lamin Barrow vs. RB Todd Gurley (LSU at Georgia)
Few teams in the country are as balanced offensively as Georgia, which has the personnel to throw for over 400 yards or run for 300 on any given Saturday. Barrow, one of the leaders of this new-look LSU defense, will have to be at his best from his weak-side linebacker position on Saturday. When Georgia gets its play-action attack going, the Bulldogs are very difficult to slow down. Gurley, who is averaging 125.7 yards per game, is arguably the nation's most talented running back and will be asked to pound the very physical Tigers front seven.
RB Ka'Deem Carey vs. LB Shaq Thompson (Arizona at Washington)
Stopping one of the nation’s best running backs in one of the nation’s most explosive offensive schemes falls to Thompson and his running mates John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono. The top three tacklers on the Huskies' squad must contain Carey (149.5 yards per game) and Daniel Jenkins (80.7 yards per game) at home. This will force Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker to throw the ball — something he hasn’t proven he can do in a hostile environment yet.