While we don’t have three games pitting top-10 teams against one another like last week and several games (including LSU vs. Florida) have already been postponed due to Hurricane Matthew, the upcoming college football slate is still loaded with some quality contests. As good as the matchups between the names on the front of the jerseys are this week 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 12 of the best position vs. position battles between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side heading into Week 5:
1. Tennessee DE Derek Barnett vs. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett
These two won’t play each other one-on-one on the field but they’ve been compared to each other ever since breakout campaigns as true freshmen. The two athletic freaks are in contention to be the first defensive player drafted in the spring and this game could help determine which one goes first.
2. Oklahoma RB’s Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon vs. Texas LB Malik Jefferson
Oklahoma’s offense really gets rolling when Perine and Mixon are ripping off big chunks of yardage and taking it to the house. The Texas defense has not been great this season but Jefferson’s play has been a bright spot and he’ll need to step things up even more for the Red River Showdown game on Saturday.
3. Oregon RB Royce Freeman vs. Washington LB Keishawn Bierria
Freeman is clearly the focal point of the Ducks’ offense and far and away the team’s best player. Bierria is a tackling machine in the middle of the stingy Husky defense, leading the FBS in fumble recoveries (four) and has either forced a fumble or recovered one in each of the team’s first five games. That’s a nose for the ball.
4. Washington State LB Peyton Pelluer vs. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
McCaffrey was slowed considerably last week in Stanford’s first loss of the season so you can expect the Heisman Trophy candidate to make up for that against Wazzu. Pelluer is an all-conference-caliber linebacker who will be key in slowing down the all-purpose star on the other side of the ball.
5. North Carolina WR Ryan Switzer vs. Virginia Tech DB’s Brandon Facyson and Chuck Clark
Switzer has topped the 100-yard receiving mark three straight games and is looking to keep that streak going against a tough Virginia Tech defense that is not allowing much of anything through the air. Expect Facyson and Clark to try and bracket the dangerous Tar Heels star when they can.
6. Florida State WR Travis Rudolph vs. Miami CB Corn Elder
Rudolph leads Florida State in touchdown grabs and is one of the more reliable targets for Deondre Francois to find when he drops back. He’ll be challenged by the very reliable Corn Elder, who is one of the few veterans on a young Hurricanes defense.
7. Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage vs. UCLA LB’s Kenny Young and Jayon Brown
Ballage is a touchdown machine who played a big role in last year’s upset of the Bruins at the Rose Bowl. His tough running and ability to factor into the passing game will be something UCLA’s linebacker duo will look to contain.
8. Arkansas OT Dan Skipper vs. Alabama DE Jonathan Allen and LB Tim Williams
Life in the SEC as a left tackle can be rough given the number of NFL-caliber pass rushers there are. Things don’t get any easier for Skipper this week as the Alabama tandem of Allen and Williams are about as good as there is in all of college football.
9. Miami WR Stacy Coley vs. Florida State DB Trey Marshall
Coley nearly signed with Florida State coming out of high school and will be looking to make sure Miami gets the win on Saturday in potentially interesting conditions. He’ll likely try to use his speed out of the slot to get past Marshall and an iffy Seminoles secondary.
10. Arizona State Devilbacker Alani Latu vs. UCLA QB Josh Rosen
Latu lines up all over the field for the Sun Devils and mixes in rushing the passer with dropping into coverage on just about every other snap. Rosen will need to be aware of where Latu is on the field and what he’s doing on every snap or life could be rough on the road in Tempe for the young quarterback.
— 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.