We’ve had some big weeks in college football during the first half of the season but things certainly are not going to slack off as we cross the midway point. This week in particular has some huge Top 25 matchups between some big-name teams but 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 8:
1. Alabama OT Cam Robinson vs. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett
Robinson and Garrett are no stranger to this list in 2016 given how highly regarded they are (both potential top 10 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft) and how well they’ve been playing. If the Aggies are to pull off a huge upset of No. 1, they’ll need a big game out of their star defender in order to make QB Jalen Hurts look like the freshman he is — just what Robinson is aiming to prevent as the left tackle.
2. Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan vs. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
Barkley exploded onto the scene in a big way during last year’s meeting with Ohio State to the tune of 194 yards and has continued to excel in Happy Valley as the focal point for the Nittany Lions’ offense. Looking to stop him is McMillan, a veteran presence and tackling machine in the middle of the OSU defense.
3. Alabama DBs Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick vs. Texas A&M WRs Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk
Humphrey and Fitzpatrick are playing at an All-SEC level this year and are one reason why the Crimson Tide’s defense is one of the best units Nick Saban has ever had. They’ll be tested by Reynolds and Kirk though, with each having the ability to break long touchdowns any time they’re targeted.
4. LSU DB Jamal Adams vs. Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
Adams is in the top 10 of the league in tackles and a key part of the Tigers’ stingy defense under first-year coordinator Dave Aranda. Adams will have his hands full trying to contain Engram, who leads the SEC in receiving and is one of the best pass catchers in the country regardless of position.
5. Kansas State DE Jordan Willis and LB Elijah Lee vs. Texas QB Shane Buechele and RB D’Onta Foreman
Willis leads the Big 12 in sacks and tackles for a loss and teams up with Lee to help the Wildcats’ league-leading run defense. They’ll have a great battle between freshman signal-caller Buechele and the No. 2 rusher in the country in Foreman.
6. Boise State QB Brett Rypien vs. BYU DB Kai Nacua
Nacua has a whopping five interceptions on the year and is among the better ball hawks west of the Mississippi (he had three picks against BSU in 2015 too). Rypien will have to be aware of where the safety is on every snap or else risk a repeat of last season’s loss to the Cougars.
7. Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams vs. Alabama LBs Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster
Williams has been one of the biggest surprises for the Aggies this year and the true freshman leads the SEC in rushing entering the week. It will be hard for him to keep his ridiculous 8.6 yards/carry average up against the hard-hitting duo of Anderson and Foster however.
8. BYU LB Butch Pau’u vs. Boise State RB Jeremy McNichols
Pau’u will be a game-time decision for the game but when healthy he is one of the best linebackers west of the Rockies and a huge playmaker for the Cougars. If he’s good to go he’ll have a tall task in front of him in McNichols, who is coming off a school-record 40 carries for a career-best 217 yards last week.
9. Miami CB Corn Elder vs. Virginia Tech WR Isaiah Ford
Ford doesn’t get the press he should but you can ask anybody in ACC country about him and find out quickly that he’s one of the best receivers in the nation. The Coastal division could hang in the balance on Thursday night so Elder will need to be on his A-game this week trying to lock down the Hokies’ star.
10. Texas A&M OT Avery Gennesy vs. Alabama DE Jonathan Allen
The Aggies’ run of stud left tackles continues with Gennesy, who has benefited quite a bit from the return of Jim Turner as offensive line coach. In both paving the way for the run game and protecting Trevor Knight, Gennesy will need to step up even more on Saturday though with Allen likely the best overall defensive end in the country.
11. Boise State LB Tanner Vallejo vs. BYU RB Jamaal Williams
Williams became the school’s all-time leading rusher last week and hopes to put up even more numbers against his team’s regional rival. That means it will be up to Vallejo to turn into a brick wall as one of the Broncos’ best defensive players.
12. Temple DE Haason Reddick vs. USF QB Quinton Flowers
Flowers is one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the AAC and is coming off a five-touchdown effort last week against UConn. Looking to contain him in the pocket will be Reddick, who has three straight games with multiple sacks.
Best of the rest:
Oklahoma LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo vs. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes III
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement vs. Iowa LB Josey Jewell
Virginia Tech CB Brandon Facyson vs. Miami WR Stacy Coley
Arkansas RB Rawleigh Williams III vs. Auburn DT Montravius Adams
Arkansas OT Dan Skipper vs. Auburn DE Carl Lawson
— 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.