College Football's 10 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 2

Orlando Brown and Oklahoma's offensive line will have their work cut out going against Ohio State's stout defensive front

College football welcomed us back in thrilling fashion during Week 1 and shows no signs of stopping with a terrific slate of powerhouse matchups. Whether it’s an SEC team going up against Touchdown Jesus, the defending national champions facing their biggest test, or the marquee non-conference matchup between two of the winningest college programs of all time, there’s a little something for everybody this weekend.

 

Whether you’re a college football fan, a coach or an NFL scout, here are 10 of the best position vs. position battles of the bunch between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side:

 

1. Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown vs. Ohio State DLs Tyquan Lewis and Nick Bosa

If Baker Mayfield has enough time to make plays, the Sooners certainly have a chance at avenging last year’s loss and pulling off the upset in the Horseshoe. Of course, whether he has that time will likely come down to his offensive line trying to slow down one of the most talented defenses in the country. Brown has a chance to be the top tackle taken in next year’s NFL draft and he can earn that spot by slowing down the Buckeyes’ pass-rushing duo off the left side.

 

2. Ohio State OT Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince vs. Oklahoma EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

As much as OU has to deal with pass rushers coming at them from all sides, the home team has plenty to contend with as well. That starts with Okoronkwo, who may be a bit undersized but has the speed and pass rush moves to give any offensive lineman trouble off the edge. QB J.T. Barrett is flanked by some quality offensive tackles but both guys will have their hands full on Saturday night.

 

3. Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham, RBs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson vs. Clemson DL Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, LBs Dorian O’Daniel and Kendall Joseph

While the concerns about Clemson in 2017 are focused on the quarterback position, the reason the team remains so highly ranked in the polls is because their defense remains loaded with NFL-caliber talent — especially in the front seven. Trying to get past that will not be easy for Auburn but Gus Malzahn’s offense does have a new wrinkle when trying to run the ball in Stidham’s arm loosening up the front and his ability to scamper for a first down. Combine that with a terrific one-two punch in the backfield and Tigers vs. Tigers is going to be a fun one in Death Valley.

 

4. USC LBs Cameron Smith and John Houston vs. Stanford RBs Bryce Love and Cameron Scarlett

The battle for the Pac-12 kicks off in style this season as old rivals Stanford and USC square off. As you have come to expect out of this series, the run game is key to emerging with a victory and this will be the first big test of the Cardinal in that area without Christian McCaffrey. Love (right) and Scarlett looked good in the opener vs. Rice but they’ll face a huge step up in competition with the Trojans’ inside backers trying to contain them.

 

5. Notre Dame DT Jerry Tillery, LBs Greer Martini, Nyles Morgan and Drue Tranquill vs. Georgia RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel

QB Jake Fromm making his first start is grabbing all of the headlines but figuring out how Notre Dame can stop the Bulldogs’ terrific tandem in the backfield is the more pressing concern for the Irish as they welcome an SEC team to South Bend. The spine of the defense did a quality job slowing down Temple’s rushing attack but Chubb and Michel will both be playing on Sundays this time next year. Tillery should be key in the middle, as he has the potential to cause havoc against an iffy offensive line and make life easier for his linebackers to fill running lanes.

 

6. Auburn OL Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. and Darius James vs. Clemson DEs Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant

The biggest challenge of the weekend might be Auburn’s offensive tackles any time they need to block their man one-on-one. That’s not questioning either guy’s talent, it’s just that Ferrell and Bryant are that good and only figure to get better after an offseason’s worth of work. The visiting Tigers will try and give quarterback Jarrett Stidham a clean pocket to throw from but that is significantly easier said, than done.

 

7. Stanford DBs Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder vs. USC QB Sam Darnold and WR Deontay Burnett

NFL scouts have to really be drooling over the Cardinal’s two terrific corners going up against the presumptive No. 1 overall pick and his star receiver. The latter two were not quite on the same page in USC’s opener but will need to get up to speed quickly if they’re to pull off some big plays against a lock-down secondary.

 

8. Georgia LBs Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Natrez Patrick and Davin Bellamy vs. Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush and RB Josh Adams

All of the hype around Georgia to win the SEC East has a lot to do with the team’s loaded front seven that is big, fast and physical. We’ll see if they’re up to the challenge on the road this week as they try and slow down the Irish’s star-studded backfield that is capable of running the ball all the way to the end zone on just about every play. Don’t discount head coach Brian Kelly finding ways to get Adams in the open field either, including a bunch of screens and swing passes that the UGA outside backers will need to worry about.

 

9. Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray vs. Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins

Murray was just the second true freshman middle linebacker ever to start for Oklahoma last week. Dobbins was the just the second freshman tailback to do the same at Ohio State. The two grew up about two hours apart from each other in Texas but will meet quite a few times in the hole on Saturday and play a big role in giving one team a leg up on a College Football Playoff spot.

 

10. Clemson WRs Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow and Ray-Ray McCloud vs. Auburn DBs Tray Matthews, Carlton Davis and Javaris Davis

It seems like Clemson has been churning out top-flight receivers ever since Dabo Swinney arrived in town and the Tigers are reloading and replacing once again in 2017 despite the loss of Mike Williams and company to the NFL. Expected to take that next step with even more snaps are is a pair of already established playmakers in Cain (right) and McCloud and last year’s title game hero in Renfrow. As good as the group is in helping out new quarterback Kelly Bryant though, Auburn’s defensive backs are all battle-tested and plenty capable of slowing them down.

 

Best of the Rest:

Georgia DBs Dominick Sanders and Deandre Baker vs. Notre Dame WR Equanimeous St. Brown

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, TE Mark Andrews and WR CeeDee Lamb vs Ohio State DBs Denzel Ward, Damon Webb and Jordan Fuller

Oklahoma OL Dru Samia and Bobby Evans vs. Dre’Mont Jones, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes

Pitt QB Max Browne and WR Quadree Henderson vs. Penn State DBs Marcus Allen, Grant Haley and Amani Oruwariye

Nebraska DT Mick Stoltenberg, LBs Dedrick Young, Chris Weber and Alex Davis vs. Oregon RBs Royce Freeman, Tony Brooks-James and Kani Benoit

Arkansas DBs Ryan Pulley and Josh Liddell vs. TCU WR KaVontae Turpin

Utah DB Chase Hansen vs. BYU QB Tanner Mangum

San Diego State RBs Rashaad Penny and Juwan Washington vs. Arizona State LBs Sam Christian and D.J. Calhoun

 

— 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.

Event Date: 
Friday, May 12, 2017 - 15:48

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