It’s another loaded weekend of great games and one that is shaping up to have a huge impact on the College Football Playoff race. As great as some of these college football matchups are this week though, they might not hold a candle to the games within a game — between players on either side of the ball.
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. Notre Dame OLs Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson vs. NC State DLs Bradley Chubb and B.J. Hill
McGlinchey and Nelson form an absolute wall on the left side of the Irish’s line and each should garner some All-American honors at the end of the year. The duo will once again have their hands full on Saturday though, as Chubb (above, right) is the top pass rusher in the country right now and Hill is a load to move in the interior. Whoever comes out on top in this one will no doubt see their draft stock take off in the spring.
2. Ohio State DL Tyquan Lewis, Dre’Mont Jones and Tracy Sprinkle, LBs Chris Worley and Jerome Baker vs. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
If anybody in the Big Ten stands a chance of stopping — or more accurately slowing down — the Heisman front-runner, it’s Ohio State’s front seven. The Buckeyes have to get push into the backfield as soon as Barkley gets a handoff and the linebackers simply can’t miss a gap or just try and arm tackle the tailback or else it could be a big gain the other way.
3. Washington DBs JoJo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp vs. UCLA QB Josh Rosen and WRs Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley
The Bruins have had their struggles this year but it’s pretty clear that no matter what happens, they have a chance in games thanks to their prolific passing attack powered by Rosen’s arm. This week might not be the one to pile up the yards through the air however, as Washington’s safety tandem is one of the best in the country and will be looking to make even more plays with a thin group at corner for the Huskies.
4. Penn State DB Marcus Allen vs. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Barrett (right) should hold nearly every Big Ten offensive record by the time he’s done in Columbus and he’s hoping that the improving passing game for OSU will pay off big time on Saturday. Looking to put a halt to that is Allen, one of the most versatile defenders in the conference and somebody who has the skills to stop Barrett through the air and on the ground.
5. Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins and OL Billy Price vs. Penn State DL Curtis Cothran and LB Jason Cabinda
Everybody talks about the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack but the Buckeyes have a home-run hitter of their own in the backfield with Dobbins. The freshman is not only fast, but he’s wise beyond his years when it comes to being patient and finding the right running lane. Looking to bottle him up is the spine of the PSU defense and the tackling machine that is Cabinda in particular.
6. Texas A&M DB Armani Watts vs. Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald
Watts has been terrific for the Aggies’ defense and a big reason why the team has turned their season around by feeding off his big plays (four INTs). He’ll have a tough task on Saturday though as Fitzgerald can beat you over the top with his arm but also is a dangerous threat to run the ball that the hard-hitting safety will need to be aware of.
7. USC LBs Cam Smith and Uchenna Nwosu vs. Arizona State RBs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard
The Trojans got run out of the building against Notre Dame last week and could see their Pac-12 title hopes slip out of their hands if they don’t bounce back against a suddenly dangerous ASU team. Key to that will be stopping the terrific tandem of Ballage and Richard, who find a dozen different ways to get the ball and can take it to the house if they see even a sliver of open space.
8. Clemson LBs Dorian O’Daniel, Tre’ Lamar and Kendall Joseph vs. Georgia Tech QB TaQuon Marshall, RBs Qua Searcy and KirVonte Benson
Georgia Tech’s option attack heads to Clemson for a huge game in the ACC standings and we’re about to find out just how stingy that Tigers rush defense really is. Marshall has been a touchdown machine and his fellow backs are liable to rip off a big run at any time. The Clemson linebacking corps is as athletic as they come and can range sideline-to-sideline, but they’ll need to play extra disciplined if they want to shut the option down.
9. Washington State DL Hercules Mata’afa, LBs Frankie Luvu and Isaac Dotson vs. Arizona QB Khalil Tate, RBs Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor
Tate has been a revelation at the quarterback position for the Wildcats this season and is absolutely electric running the ball (his fellow backfield mates aren’t too shabby either). Things are a little different this week as the Cougars are one of the best defenses that trio has seen and Mata’afa in particular has been so disruptive he’s a near lock for All-Pac-12 honors. No matter what scheme Wazzu DC Alex Grinch comes up with, it will be up to his front seven to come through and wrap up whoever has the ball or else they could be looking at a long touchdown in the making.
10. Florida RB Lamical Perine and Malik Davis, OL Martez Ivey vs. Georgia LBs Lorenzo Carter, Roquan Smith, Davin Bellamy and Natrez Patrick
The Bulldogs have clamped down on just about everybody defensively thanks to their linebacking corps that is as good as any in college football. If Florida holds out any hope of pulling off a shocker in Jacksonville to upend the SEC East race, they’ll need the ground game to come through and hope that highly touted offensive line can open up some running lanes.
Best of the rest:
*Georgia Tech OL Parker Braun, Will Bryan and Shamire Devine vs. Clemson DL Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant
*Notre Dame LB Nyles Morgan and DB Nick Coleman vs. NC State HB Jaylen Samuels and RB Nyheim Hines
*Florida State DL Derrick Nnadi, LB Ro”Derrick Hoskins and DB Derwin James vs. Boston College QB Anthony Brown and RBs A.J. Dillon and Jon Hilliman
*North Carolina DBs M.J. Stewart, Myles Dorn and Donnie Miles vs. Miami WRs Braxton Berrios and Ahmmon Richards and TE Chris Herndon
*Louisville DB Chucky Williams vs. Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch and TE Cam Serigne
*Florida State QB James Blackman and RB Cam Akers vs. Boston College DL Harold Landry and LB Ty Schwab
*Virginia Tech DL Tim Settle, LBs Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds vs. Duke OL Austin Davis, QB Daniel Jones and RB Shaun Wilson
*Miami DL Chad Thomas vs. North Carolina OL Bentley Spain
*Wake Forest DL Duke Ejiofor, LB Jaboree Williams and DB Jessie Bates vs. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
*Virginia DB Quin Blanding vs. Pitt WRs Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson
*Virginia QB Kurt Benkert and WR Donovan Dowling vs. Pitt DBs Jordan Whitehead and Avonte Maddox
*Penn State QB Trace McSorley and WR DaeSean Hamilton vs. Ohio State DBs Damon Webb and Denzel Ward
*Iowa LB Josey Jewell vs. Minnesota RB Rodney Smith
*Illinois WR Malik Turner vs. Wisconsin DBs Derrick Tindal and D’Cota Dixon
*Indiana DB Rashard Fant vs. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
*Michigan State LBs Chris Frey and Joe Bachie vs. Northwestern RB Justin Jackson and HB Garrett Dickerson
*Rutgers DL Kemoko Turay and Sebastian Joseph vs. Michigan OL Mason Cole and Patrick Kugler
*Michigan State OL Brian Allen vs. Northwestern DL Tyler Lancaster
*Michigan LB Mike McCray, DBs Tyree Kinnel and Lavert Hill vs. Rutgers WR Janarion Grant
*Nebraska DBs Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones vs. Purdue QBs David Blough and Elijah Sindelar
*Oklahoma State DBs Tre Flowers, A.J. Green and Ramon Richards vs. West Virginia WRs David Sills, Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White
*West Virginia DBs Kyzir White, Dravon Askew-Henry and Mike Daniels vs. Oklahoma State WRs James Washington, Jalen McCleskey and Marcell Ateman
*TCU DBs Ranthony Texada and Niko Small vs. Iowa State QB Kyle Kempt and WR Allen Lazard
*Oklahoma DBs Steven Parker, Jordan Thomas and William Johnson vs. Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek, WRs Dylan Cantrell and Cameron Batson
*Iowa State LB Joel Lanning vs. TCU RB Kyle Hicks
*Texas Tech DBs Ja’Shawn Johnson and Octavious Morgan vs. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and WR CeeDee Lamb
*West Virginia LB Al-Rasheed Benton vs. Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill
*Oklahoma State LB Chad Whitener vs. West Virginia RB Justin Crawford
*TCU LBs Montre Wilson and Travin Howard vs. Iowa State RB David Montgomery
*Baylor RB Terence Williams vs. Texas LB Malik Jefferson
*Texas RB Chris Warren vs. Baylor LB Taylor Young
*Oregon RB Royce Freeman vs. Utah DL Lowell Lotulelei and LB Sunia Tauteoli
*Arizona State LBs Christian Sam and D.J. Calhoun vs. USC RB Ronald Jones
*Stanford DL Harrison Phillips, LBs Peter Kalambayi and Bobby Okereke vs. Oregon State RBs Ryan Nall and Artavis Pierce
*USC OL Nico Falah and Viane Talamaivao vs. Arizona State DL JoJo Wicker and Tashon Smallwood
*Utah WR Darren Carrington vs. Oregon DBs Arrion Springs and Thomas Graham Jr.
*USC DBs Chris Hawkins and Marvell Tell vs. Arizona State QB Manny Wilkins and WR N’Keal Harry
*Arizona LB Kylan Wilborn, DBs Jace Whittaker and Scott Young vs. Washington State RB Jamal Morrow and WR Tavares Martin Jr.
*Colorado LBs Derek McCartney and Rick Gamboa vs. Cal RB Vic Enwere
*Oregon State WRs Jordan Villamin and Timmy Hernandez vs. Stanford DBs Alijah Holder and Quenton Meeks
*UCLA OL Scott Quessenberry vs. Washington DL Greg Gaines
*Oregon WR Charles Nelson vs. Utah DB Chase Hansen
*Cal DL James Looney vs. Colorado OL Jeromy Irwin
*Oregon State LB Manase Hungalu vs. Stanford RB Bryce Love
*Washington QB Jake Browning and WR Dante Pettis vs. UCLA DBs Nate Meadors and Adarius Pickett
*Florida DL Taven Bryan, LBs David Reese and Vosean Joseph vs. Georgia RBs Nick Chubb and Sony MIchel
*Mississippi State DL Jeffery Simmons, LBs Leo Lewis and Dezmond Harris vs. Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond, RBs Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams
*South Carolina LB Skai Moore vs. Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb
*Texas A&M DL Qualen Cunningham and LB Otara Alaka vs. Mississippi State OL Martinas Rankin and RB Aeris Williams
*Arkansas DB Josh Liddell vs. Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown
*Ole Miss OL Greg Little vs. Arkansas DL McTelvin Agim
*South Carolina OL Alan Knott and Donell Stanley vs. Vanderbilt DL Nifae Lealao
*Ole Miss LB DeMarquis Gates vs. Arkansas RB Devwah Whaley
*Kentucky DB Mike Edwards vs. Tennessee TE Ethan Wolf
*Mississippi State DBs Brandon Bryant and Tolando Cleveland vs. Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk
Group of 5
*Boise State QB Brett Rypien and WR Cedrick Wilson vs. Utah State DBs Jalen Davis and Dallin Leavitt
*Hawaii DB Trayvon Henderson vs. San Diego State TE David Wells
*Tulane DBs Parry Nickerson and Jarrod Franklin vs. Memphis WRs Anthony Miller and Phil Mayhue
*USF OL Cameron Ruff vs. Houston DL Ed Oliver
*Hawaii DL Meffy Koloamatangi and David Manoa, LB Jahlani Tavai vs. San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny
*Memphis LB Genard Avery vs. Tulane RB Dontrell Hilliard
*Tulsa OL Evan Plagg vs. SMU DL Justin Lawler
*Ball State DB Marc Walton and DL Anthony Winbush vs. Toledo QB Logan Woodside
*Houston LBs Matthew Adams, D’Juan Hines and Khalil Williams vs. USF QB Quinton Flowers and RB D’Ernest Johnson
*San Diego State LBs Ronley Lakalaka and Jay Henderson vs. Hawaii FB Diocemy Saint Juste
*New Mexico DL Garrett Hughes vs. Wyoming QB Josh Allen
*Tulsa DB McKinley Whitfield vs. SMU WR Courtland Sutton
*Colorado State DL Darnell Thompson, LBs Josh Watson and Evan Colorito vs. Air Force QB Arion Worthman, RBs Timothy McVey and Parker Wilson
*Wyoming LBs Logan Wilson and DL Carl Granderson vs. New Mexico RBs Tyrone Owens and Richard McQuarley
*Eastern Michigan QB Brogan Roback vs. Northern Illinois DB Shawun Lurry
— 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.