Skip to main content

College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 11

Adoree' Jackson

Adoree' Jackson

Image placeholder title

The race for many division titles will take a turn this week and the race for a good postseason landing spot will start to really heat up with some of the college football games on the docket. While there are a ton of interesting matchups between the names on the front of the jerseys, it’s the one-on-ones between the names on the back of the jerseys that are 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 11:

1. USC DB Adoree’ Jackson vs. Washington WR John Ross

Jackson is one of the best and most versatile athletes in college football and really stepped his game up at corner this season. He’ll have his hands full with Ross, who is having an all-conference campaign this year and is among the fastest players in the sport.

2. Washington DB Sidney Jones vs. USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Jones is a potential first-rounder at corner and a big reason why Washington’s defense is the best West of the Mississippi. Smith-Schuster is the best wide receiver Jones has faced yet this season and can beat you on every type of route.

3. Pitt RB James Conner vs. Clemson LB Ben Boulware

Conner needs just two rushing touchdowns to become the ACC’s career leader and is hoping to do that in a massive road upset at Clemson. Boulware is one reason why the Tigers are in the running for a second straight College Football Playoff trip and is looking to slow Conner and the Pitt ground game.

4. LSU LB Kendell Beckwith vs. Arkansas RB Rawleigh Williams III

Beckwith is No. 2 in the SEC in tackles and thriving in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s scheme. He’ll be tested between the tackles trying to slow down Williams, who has run all over Ole Miss and Florida in the Razorbacks’ past two wins.

5. Auburn LBs Tre’ Williams and Deshaun Davis vs. Georgia RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel

The improvement from the Auburn defense in 2016 is a big reason why the team is still alive for the SEC West title and possibly a playoff berth. A lot of that has to do with the stellar play of Williams and Davis, who will need to form a brick wall to stop the dangerous tailback tandem for the Bulldogs.

6. Georgia LBs Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith vs. Auburn RBs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson

If Georgia harbors any hopes of pulling off an upset in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, the Bulldogs need their young linebacker pair to continue to be stingy against the run. Pettway has been a revelation for the Tigers but might not be 100 percent on Saturday, which isn’t as big of a deal for the team with Johnson playing well too.

7. Michigan WR Amara Darboh vs. Iowa DB Desmond King

Darboh has stepped his game up for the undefeated Wolverines this season, forming a nice connection with QB Wilton Speight and leading the team in receiving. He’ll have a much harder time racking up numbers this Saturday when he takes on an All-American cornerback in King however.

8. Texas A&M DBs Justin Evans and Armani Watts vs. Ole Miss WR Damore’ea Stringfellow and TE Evan Engram

The Aggies’ defense has made strides thanks in part to the stellar play from their two veteran safeties. They’ll need to be on their game this week if A&M wants to remain a top 10 team, with Stringfellow and Engram both being huge receiving targets over the middle of the field than can torch defenses with ease.

9. USC LB Cameron Smith vs. Washington RB Myles Gaskin

As much press as QB Jake Browning has been getting in the Heisman race, a big reason he’s putting up numbers is because defenses have to respect the running of Gaskin. Smith is a tackling machine and will need to contain the Pac-12 leader in most rushing categories in order to help the Trojans pull off a road upset.

10. Baylor DB Orion Stewart vs. Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook

Stewart has four picks on the year and is one of the most reliable defenders in the secondary for the Bears. He’ll be tested by Westbrook however, who might be the favorite for the Biletnikoff Award after torching every Big 12 defense he’s come across this year.

Image placeholder title

11. USC RB Ronald Jones and QB Sam Darnold vs. Washington LBs Keishawn Bierria and Victor Azeem

If USC wants to shake up the playoff race and capture its biggest win under Clay Helton at Washington this weekend, the Trojans will need a strong ground game from the “Texas Tesla” in Jones. Darnold has been huge for the team at quarterback thanks in part to his ability to run and that will be tested by two of the best linebackers in the Pac-12.

12. Texas LBs Anthony Wheeler and Malik Jefferson vs. West Virginia QB Skyler Howard and RB Rushell Shell

Can Charlie Strong still keep his job at Texas? Since taking over the defense, Wheeler and Jefferson have played extremely well at linebacker and been a big part of a recent winning streak. West Virginia might not be getting a ton of respect from the playoff selection committee but the Mountaineers have a pretty good combo in the backfield that will be hard to stop on Saturday.

Best of the Rest:
Oklahoma DBs Jordan Thomas and Ahmad Thomas vs. Baylor WR KD Cannon and QB Seth Russell
Pitt DL Ejuan Price vs. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
Stanford LBs Peter Kalambayi and Kevin Palma vs. Oregon RBs Royce Freeman and Tony Brooks-James
Oregon LB Troy Dye vs. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

— 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.