After the best opening week ever in college football and some of the most anticipated position battles of the season, week 2 pumps the brakes a little when it comes to the product on the field. The non-conference slate is a little bare when it comes to power teams taking on other worthy challengers but there are still plenty of one-on-one battles that will be worth tuning in for.
Whether you’re a college football fan, a coach or an NFL scout, here are 10 of the best position vs. position battles between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side:
1. Iowa DB Desmond King vs. Iowa State WR Allen Lazard
King is the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s best defensive back and opted to skip the NFL Draft to return to Iowa for one more season. He’ll have one of his toughest challenges of the year in Lazard, a junior who is the top passing threat for the Cyclones and the most dangerous player on the ISU offense.
2. Utah DL Kyle Fitts vs. BYU QB Taysom Hill
Fitts is now the top dog on the defensive line and figures to be active as can be when rival BYU comes to town. He’ll have to have a big game if the team wants another win in the series however, trying to both contain Hill when the quarterback takes off to run and get to him when he drops back to pass.
3. San Diego State CB Damontae Kazee vs. Cal QB Davis Webb
San Diego State had one of the more impressive seasons in the country last year even if it went under the radar and Kazee was a big part of that with an impressive eight interceptions in 2015. It will be interesting to see how much Webb, one of the top passers in Week 1, even looks Kazee’s way.
4. Washington State LB Peyton Pelluer vs. Boise State RB Jeremy McNichols
McNichols was the focus of the Boise State offense last year while breaking in a new quarterback and still delivered despite the defensive focus with 26 touchdowns on the ground and through the air. If Washington State wants to bounce back from its opening loss, Pelluer will have to shut down the Broncos’ star from his linebacker spot.
5. Texas LB Malik Jefferson vs. UTEP RB Aaron Jones
Jones went off for 249 yards and two scores in the Miners’ opener but faces a much stiffer test at Texas. Jefferson was all over the field in the Longhorns’ victory over Notre Dame but will have to face a vastly different offense this week.
6. Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey vs. Western Kentucky WR Taywan Taylor
Taylor racked up an incredible 1,467 yards and 17 scores last season for the Hilltoppers and was one of QB Mike White’s favorite targets in the opener. Humphrey played a big part in limiting USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster in the opener and will look to do the same in one of the few battles worth watching in this contest.
7. Nebraska DB Nate Gerry vs. Wyoming QB Josh Allen
Gerry will be seeing his first action of the season after serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules but is among the most experienced players for the Blackshirts defense. He’ll have to be on his toes this week in both defending the pass and coming up in run support after the dual-threat Allen was named Mountain West offensive player of the week in an upset of Northern Illinois.
8. Virginia Tech DB Chuck Clark vs. Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs
Clark is the veteran on the back end for the Hokies and he’ll be roving all over the temporary field at Bristol Motor Speedway against Tennessee on Saturday trying to limit big plays against Dobbs. Clark also will likely be counted on to come up to support the run against Jalen Hurd and whenever Dobbs takes off to run.
9. North Carolina DB Des Lawrence vs. Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Lawrence isn’t as well-known as he should be outside ACC circles but he will have a chance to jump out to folks in one of the few games between Power Five programs on Saturday. Lunt has a quick release and, if given time, should be able to find Malik Turner and Justin Hardee if they’re open.
10. TCU DB Ranthony Texada vs. Arkansas WR Keon Hatcher
Texada is slowing getting back into game shape after missing most of last season but was a key part of the Horned Frogs’ defense two years ago. He’ll have his hands full with Hatcher, who also is coming off an injury that caused him to miss last season but is making up for last time as the top option for QB Austin Allen.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.