The final week of the college football regular season is here and it’s one of the best around because these games matter just a little bit more with so many of them resulting in some impressive hardware for the winner’s trophy case. While there are a ton of interesting matchups from coast-to-coast 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 many conference title games and the rest of the Week 14 slate:
1. Washington QB Jake Browning, WRs John Ross and Dante Pettis vs. Colorado DBs Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon
The Pac-12 Championship Game presents one of the juiciest matchups between high-flying offenses and stingy secondaries. Jake Browning was the conference offensive player of the year behind an incredible 40:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, with many of those scores coming from way down field to Ross and Pettis. They’ll have their work cut out for them against Colorado’s talented secondary, which features three All-Pac-12-caliber players.
2. Colorado QB Sefo Liufau, WRs Shay Fields and Devin Ross vs. Washington DBs Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, Kevin King and Taylor Rapp
Colorado’s remarkable Cinderella story has a chance to get even better on Friday as senior dual threat Lifau, one of the toughest quarterbacks in the game, looks to find his big-play receivers and head to the Rose Bowl. It won’t be easy though, as Washington has one of the best secondaries in the country and a trio of the most talented corners you’ll find anywhere.
3. Alabama WRs Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart vs. Florida DBs Teez Tabor vs. Quincy Wilson
There’s not a lot of juice to this year’s SEC title game thanks to the dominance of Alabama and the fact that Florida is banged up all over the board. Still, one thing to watch in Atlanta is the terrific pass-catching duo for the Crimson Tide trying to create some big plays against a pair of corners who each might go in the first-round of the NFL Draft.
4. Virginia Tech WR Isaiah Ford and TE Bucky Hodges vs. Clemson DBs Cordrea Tankersley and Jadar Johnson
The Hokies’ Ford might be one of the country’s best kept secrets as far as being a top-tier wideout is concerned and he’s got a great running mate down field in the ever-reliable Hodges, an All-ACC selection this season. An upset in the ACC title game will need some big plays out of them but that won’t be easy with one of the best corner/safety combinations in the country trying to lock them down.
5. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley vs. Wisconsin LBs T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel and T.J. Edwards
Barkley was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and also the conference’s running back of the year this week and you’d find few who would argue after seeing him run over defenses this season. He’ll find things much tougher in the league title game as Wisconsin’s linebacker corps is one of the best and deepest in the country and are hoping to limit another big runner to a season-low outing.
6. Oklahoma DBs Jordan Thomas, Jordan Parker and Ahmad Thomas vs. Oklahoma State WRs James Washington, Jhajuan Seales and Jalen McCleskey
The Oklahoma secondary luckily gets to practice against wideout Dede Westbrook every week. As big of a challenge as it is to play against the favorite for the Biletnikoff Award in drills though, the group will need to step things up even more for the de facto Big 12 title game as their Bedlam rivals all average more than 12 yards a catch and have speed to burn — big-play threat Washington especially.
7. Virginia Tech DBs Greg Stroman and Chuck Clark vs. Clemson WR Mike Williams and TE Jordan Leggett
One thing Clemson hasn’t seen this season is coordinator Bud Foster’s nasty Virginia Tech defense and if the Hokies are to pull off the upset in Orlando, strong secondary play from corner Greg Stroman and safety Chuck Clark is a must. They’ll have their hands full with two of the best pass catchers in the country in Williams and Leggett, who are quarterback Deshaun Watson’s favorite targets.
8. Wisconsin RB Corey Clement and WR Jazz Peavy vs. Penn State MLB Jason Cabinda and DB Marcus Allen
Everybody knows Wisconsin’s defense is one of the best in the country but the Badgers’ offense has really come on the past few months thanks to Clement’s rushing and Peavy’s big-play ability. They’ll need some of their best games of the season in Indianapolis if the Badgers are to get past a pair of All-Big Ten selections in the Nittany Lions’ back seven.
9. Clemson OL Mitch Hyatt, Tyrone Crowder and Jay Guillermo vs. Virginia Tech DLs Ken Ekanem, Woody Baron and Nigel Williams
Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson has had trouble with turnovers this season and if he gets pressured constantly, things could get a little more interesting in the ACC Championship Game. Ekanem is one of the best pass rushers in the conference, Baron leads the Power Five in tackles for a loss and Williams is a load in the middle. Clemson’s offensive line is one of the best but this group will need to prove it on Saturday night.
10. Penn State DLs Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan vs. Wisconsin OLs Ryan Ramczyk, Beau Benzschawel and Ryan Ramczyk
Sickels and Schwan both earned All-Big Ten honors this season thanks to their ability to set the edge against the run and get to the passer (six sacks each). That’s what makes their matchup against the wall that is Wisconsin’s mammoth offensive line so fun in the B1G championship game in Indy.
11. Ohio DB Javon Hagan vs. Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
A lot of folks tuning into the MAC Championship Game on Friday will get to see the FBS career leader in reception yardage in the Broncos’ Davis. He’ll have a fun matchup with one of the younger players in the game in Hagan, who has a team high three picks and is fourth in the country with five forced fumbles. You would tend to favor experience but the young buck might be looking forward to stopping one of the best in the game.
12. Colorado LB Jimmie Gilbert vs. Washington RB Myles Gaskin
The Buffs’ return to national prominence has been fueled chiefly by the huge strides they’ve made on the defensive side of the ball this season. Gilbert has been a big part of that as he’s third in the Pac-12 in sacks and second in the country with six forced fumbles. Next up for the tackling machine: one of the most prolific running backs in the conference in Gaskin, who is averaging six yards a carry as he hopes to carry his team to a College Football Playoff berth.
Best of the rest:
Temple DL Haason Reddick vs. Navy QB Will Worth
Virginia Tech OL Jonathan McLaughlin, Augie Conte and Wyatt Teller vs. Clemson DL Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence
Oklahoma State DBs Ashton Lampkin and Jordan Sterns vs. Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook
Penn State QB Trace McSorley and WR Chris Godwin vs. Wisconsin DBs Sojourn Shelton and Leo Musso
Colorado RB Phillip Lindsay vs. Washington LB Keishawn Bierra
Florida RB Jordan Scarlett vs. Alabama LBs Ryan Anderson and Shaun Dion Hamilton
Virginia Tech FB Sam Rogers vs. Clemson LB Ben Boulware
— 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.