Reuben Foster will be key as Alabama looks to shut down LSU's Leonard Fournette one more time
Alabama taking on LSU is set to be one of the biggest games of the year in the SEC with a lot riding on it and a ton of eyeballs on Baton Rouge as a result. That’s not the only big top-25 matchup on the docket however, as there are a dozen one-on-one pairings between names on the back of the jerseys that might be even more interesting.
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 10:
1. LSU RBs Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice vs. Alabama LBs Shaun Dion Hamilton and Reuben Foster
The Heisman Trophy has all but been handed to Lamar Jackson but there’s no question he could get some company at the top if Fournette has a huge game to help upset Alabama. It won’t be easy going against guys like Hamilton and Foster though, who hit as hard as you can expect and are two of the best at defending the run. Don’t forget Guice either, who will likely join all three by playing on Sundays at some point too.
2. Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo vs. Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley
Etta-Tawo has been perhaps the biggest beneficiary of head coach Dino Babers’ arrival in Syracuse and leads the ACC in just about every single receiving category. He’ll be going up against his biggest test this weekend however as Tankersley is one of, if not the, best cornerbacks in the country.
3. Alabama OT Cam Robinson vs. LSU DE Lewis Neal and LB Arden Key
Robinson has been pegged as a first-round draft pick since he first arrived on campus in Tuscaloosa and backed that up with stellar play against just about every pass rusher imaginable in the SEC, including slowing Derek Barnett and Myles Garrett in back-to-back weeks. He’ll have another tough game on Saturday though as Neal and Key both know how to get to the quarterback as well as anybody.
4. Alabama QB Jalen Hurts and RB Damien Harris vs. LSU LBs Arden Key and Kendell Beckwith
It’s no secret that this Crimson Tide offense is a much different one from even a few years ago. Part of that is because of the youth movement in the backfield with Hurts and Harris providing a threat to pick up yards between the tackles as well as bouncing things outside. That will be hard to do Saturday night with Beckwith in the middle and Key closing in from the outside.
5. LSU DBs Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams vs. Alabama WRs Calvin Ridley vs. ArDarius Stewart
As good as Alabama’s vaunted defensive backs are LSU’s combo is just as highly regarded by some NFL scouts. They’ll have a fun matchup against Alabama’s productive pair of receivers as Stewart is a veteran leader capable of making a big play from anywhere and Ridley is one of the best at his position in the country.
6. Arkansas QB Austin Allen vs. Florida CBs Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson
It feels so strange but Arkansas has had to derive its identity this season not from a feared ground game, but from an aerial attack that is surprisingly one of the best in the SEC. A big reason for that is the tough play from the Razorbacks’ new QB, who will have his biggest challenge on Saturday against two of the best corners in the country.
7. Iowa LB Josey Jewell vs. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
Barkley has been running wild on Big Ten competition once again this year and has become even more of a threat thanks to his improved ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He’ll be faced with a nice challenge trying to get past the Hawkeyes’ run-stuffing linebacker, who will be the leader of the Iowa defense on Saturday.
8. LSU WRs Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural vs. Alabama CBs Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick
Dupre and Dural came to LSU with a ton of hype but haven’t quite lived up to their billing as future first-rounders just yet. Saturday could change that with some big games against Alabama’s tough secondary, led by the two corners in Humphrey and Fitzpatrick.
9. Oregon RB Royce Freeman vs. USC LB Cameron Smith
Freeman hasn’t quite had the year he was hoping for with the Ducks thanks in part to injuries. He will have more room to operate thanks to the emergence of quarterback Justin Herbert but will still need to pick up some tough yards between the tackles as Smith leads the team in stops and has bounced back nicely from a knee injury last season.
10. Wisconsin DB Sojourn Shelton vs. Northwestern WR Austin Carr
Carr has been one of the biggest revelations in Big Ten play for a suddenly potent Northwestern offense that has helped him top the century mark in five of his past six games, including an eight-catch, 158-yard outing against Ohio State last week. He’ll be tested against Wisconsin’s veteran cover man in Shelton, who will likely slide inside to cover Carr when the need arises.
11. Cal WR Chad Hansen vs. Washington CB Sidney Jones
Hansen has missed the past two games for the Bears after injuring his ankle but appears to be in line to start against the Pac-12’s top team on Saturday. He’s a big part of the Cal offense and one of the best pass catchers on the West Coast but he’ll have his work cut out for him as Jones is a potential first-round pick who has slowed everybody who he’s faced off with.
12. Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan vs. Nebraska RB Terrell Newby
It’s no secret that if Nebraska has any hopes of pulling the upset on the road this weekend, they’ll have to run the ball effectively in Columbus. That puts a big load on the shoulders on a veteran back like Newby and presents a nice challenge for the tackling machine in the middle of the Buckeyes’ defense.
— 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.