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:
Anthony Barr, LB vs. Travis Wilson, QB (UCLA at Utah)
Stopping a 6-foot-6, 240-pound quarterback is a daunting task — even for a freakish 6-foot-4, 245-pound outside linebacker like Barr. Wilson has been dynamic for Utah, rushing for 251 yards and five touchdowns to go with his 279.5 passing yards per game. Barr has the quickness, power and athletic ability to mirror Wilson everywhere he goes. This could be one of the best individual matchups of the entire weekend.
Bishop Sankey, RB vs. Shayne Skov, LB (Washington at Stanford
On the other side of the ball, Steve Sarkisian’s balanced offensive attack will put major pressure on Stanford’s extremely talented linebacking corps, led by the senior inside linebacker. The Washington offensive line was decimated last year and Stanford took advantage with three sacks and seven tackles for a loss. This unit is much healthier this time around and has been churning out yards on the ground and protecting Keith Price. Skov will go head-to-head with Bishop Sankey, who broke the game-winning 61-yard touchdown run last year, all game long in what could be one of the most physical games of the year.
Robert Nkemdiche/C.J. Johnson, DE vs. Greg Robinson/Patrick Miller, OT (Ole Miss at Auburn)
The super freshman Nkemdiche and veteran Johnson are a formidable duo on the edge of the Ole Miss defensive line. Charged with stopping them will be Auburn's sophomore tackle tandem of Robinson and Miller. The Tigers have been solid up front, allowing just 4.0 sacks in 2013, and the Rebels have struggled to get pressure (100th in sacks nationally). To hold serve on the road, the Rebs need to disrupt the quarterback and hold their ground against Tre Mason and the Tigers’ running game.
Vad Lee, QB vs. Anthony Chickillo, DE (Georgia Tech at Miami)
Chickillo was active around the line of scrimmage in last year’s game against Georgia Tech, recording seven stops, three tackles for a loss and one sack. The Yellow Jackets are struggling at times to execute the option, but are still a handful to defend. Assignment football is an overused cliché at times, but it’s important for Chickillo and the other Miami defenders to not lose responsibility of their gaps. Georgia Tech’s offensive line struggled to block Virginia Tech last Thursday, and if Chickillo can disrupt the offense, the Hurricanes will contain quarterback Vad Lee.
Braxton Miller, QB vs. Tyler Scott, DE (Ohio State at Northwestern)
Scott, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior, will be under a microscope this weekend. He leads the Wildcats in tackles for a loss (4.0) and sacks (3.0) but will be in for his toughest challenge this weekend against Braxton Miller. It goes without saying the goal for Scott and the Cats defensive line will be to contain Miller in the pocket but, moreover, they need to punish the oft-injured Buckeyes star every chance they get. The more physical the game gets, the better chance Northwestern has at an upset.
Alex Collins, RB vs. Antonio Morrison, LB (Arkansas at Florida)
Jonathan Williams will be a heavy factor in the backfield for the Hogs as well, but his carries have decreased in every game this season. Collins, a freshman from Florida, has quickly shown why he was so highly touted as his 119.4 rushing yards per game rank No. 2 in the SEC. He returns to his home state and gets to face one of the most vicious hitters in the nation in Morrison. The rest of the Gators’ front seven will be tough to move as well, but watching these two underclassmen battle all day will be fun for all parties involved.
James Hurst, OL vs. James Gayle/J.R. Collins, DE (North Carolina at Virginia Tech)
Hurst is the leader of a struggling North Carolina offensive line. The Tar Heels have allowed nine sacks and rank last in the ACC in rushing offense after four contests. With three new starters, the Tar Heels' line was expected to be a work in progress in 2013. However, while the line is inexperienced, this group needs to have a good showing on Saturday against Virginia Tech’s defensive front. Hurst will be matched up against ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, who have combined for 6.5 sacks in five contests. This Hokies' defensive line is one of the best in the nation, and if the Heels can’t move the line of scrimmage they will have no chance on the road.
Tyler Lockett, WR vs. Justin Gilbert or Kevin Peterson, CB (Kansas State at Oklahoma State)
Kansas State’s offense needs work, but Lockett is a dynamic presence. The Wildcats' primary pass-catcher has hauled in 29 for 469 yards and a touchdown this season despite K-State’s struggles at quarterback. Gilbert is listed as the starter on the school’s two-deep for this game but Oklahoma State could be without its top cornerback, who was ejected against West Virginia for throwing punches. A suspension of some kind could be possible, giving talented sophomore Peterson the chance to mark Lockett.