Week 3 of the 2016 college football season is in the books and so is the non-conference slate for most of the teams across the country. As a result, the move into league play is set to produce some interesting games all over the map as the season really starts to heat up. As good as the matchups between the names on the front of the jerseys are though, the one-on-one battles between the names on the back of them might be even juicier.
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 heading into Week 4:
1. Florida LB Jarrad Davis vs. Tennesse RB Jalen Hurd
Davis is 3-0 against the Volunteers and is looking to close out his stellar career with a perfect record against the Gators’ rival. The tackling machine has already thrown out a few jabs at Tennessee over the summer and will have his hands full containing Hurd, who should be the offense’s focus against a stingy defense.
2. Arkansas OT Dan Skipper vs. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett
Skipper is one of the veterans on a powerful offensive line and will be the biggest — literally at 6-foot-10, 320 pounds — challenge for Garrett, who is one of the best defensive ends in the country and could be the top draft pick next spring.
3. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley vs. Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers
Barkley is one of the best backs in the country and the biggest threat in the Nittany Lions offense. The do-everything Peppers, who will line up all over the field, will look to contain the tailback whether he’s bouncing it outside or trying to find yards between the tackles.
4. Iowa DB Desmond King vs. Rutgers WR Janarion Grant
A game involving Rutgers isn’t typically a big focus but it should be this year when these two square off. In addition to containing the speedster Grant when he splits out wide, King also will try to one-up his counterpart on special teams since both are game-breakers on kick returns.
5. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey vs. UCLA DL Eddie Vanderdoes/LB Kenny Young/S Randall Goforth
Heisman Trophy favorite McCaffrey is a threat to score in every phase of the game. UCLA will need defenders like these three at every level to play at a high level if they’re to slow down the all-purpose threat for the Cardinal and end a long losing streak to their Bay Area rival.
6. Oklahoma State CB Ashton Lampkin vs. Baylor WR KD Cannon
Cannon had 210 yards and two touchdowns last year when these two teams met up as Baylor ended the Cowboys’ perfect season. This time Lampkin is hoping to slow down the speedy receiver and turn the tables on this matchup.
7. Georgia DB Dominick Sanders vs. Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
Sanders is one of the best safeties in the SEC but will have his hands full trying to patrol the middle of the field against Engram, who has quickly become Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly’s favorite target no matter the down and distance.
8. USC DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu vs. Utah OL J.J. Dielman
Dielman was Utah’s starting right tackle last year and one of the better linemen in the Pac-12 but was shifted to center to start the 2016 season. As a result, he’ll go up against Tu’ikolovatu, a mammoth inside presence for the Trojans who is a former Ute that practiced against Dielman the past several seasons.
9. Florida State LB Ro’Derrick Hoskins vs. USF RB Marlon Mack
The Seminoles’ defense didn’t stop hardly anything in last week’s blowout loss to Louisville so you can bet that Hoskins and his fellow FSU linebackers will be looking to stop the dangerous and underrated Mack from running wild when the two teams meet on Saturday.
10. Wisconsin RB Corey Clement vs. Michigan State LB Riley Bullough
Clement was supposed to be the next great Badgers tailback but got sidetracked last season in every way possible. But he’s back this year with a vengeance and living up to the early billing so far in Wisconsin’s hot start to the year. Things will be tough in the team’s first Big Ten battle however as Bullough is one of the best linebackers in the conference and adept at shutting down the run no matter who’s on the other side.
— 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.