We’re just a few days out from the first set of College Football Playoff rankings so the games this weekend figure to play a big part in the national title race. This week 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 9:
1. Georgia RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel vs. Florida LBs Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party isn’t the sexiest of matchups this weekend but it is one game that features a bunch of players who will make it to games on Sunday. The Bulldogs’ running game hasn’t been quite what we’ve expected this season but they still have two really talented backs trying to get some tough yards against a pair of productive linebackers. Davis, it should be noted, is a game-time decision for this game after an injury.
2. Clemson LB Ben Boulware vs. Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Cook is proving to once again be one of the best players in all of college football with an all-around game that is tough to stop. If anybody is going to be up to the task it might be his defensive foil Boulware, who was huge in the win over Louisville and needs to be again to keep Clemson perfect.
3. Washington LB Azeem Victor vs. Utah RB Joe Williams
Williams has been one of the stories in the sport the past few weeks thanks to his return from retirement. He had a career game against UCLA with a school-record 332 yards and four scores. He’ll need more of that against Victor, one of the best players on the Pac-12’s best defense.
4. Florida State OT Roderick Johnson vs. Clemson DL Christian Wilkins
One of the biggest issues FSU will have against the Clemson defense is protecting quarterback Deondre Francois in the pocket from the likes of players like Wilkins. That puts a lot of pressure on Johnson, a left tackle with the physical tools to be a first-rounder who hasn’t quite played at that level this season.
5. West Virginia DB Rasul Douglas vs. Oklahoma State WR James Washington
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Big 12 this season has been the stellar play of West Virginia’s defense. Douglas has been a big part of that with three interceptions but will have perhaps his biggest challenge of the year in squaring off against Washington, one of the best deep threats in a conference full of them.
6. Florida State WR Travis Rudolph vs. Clemson DB Cordrea Tankersley
Much was expected from Rudolph this season but he got off to somewhat of a slow start for the Seminoles. He appears to be back on track after a huge game against Wake Forest last weekend in which he nearly doubled his yardage total for 2016. It will be much tougher on Saturday to get anything downfield though as Tankersley is playing like a first-round pick and potential Thorpe Award finalist.
7. Baylor RB Shock Linwood vs. Texas LB Malik Jefferson
Linwood looks to be on his way to a third straight 1,000-yard season for the Bears and is averaging an impressive 6.5 yards a carry this year. He’ll need to come up big again against Jefferson, his Lone Star State rival Texas and impressive sophomore, who will look to wrap up Linwood between the tackles.
8. Miami CB Corn Elder vs. Notre Dame WR Equanimeous St. Brown
Elder has been playing at an All-ACC level this year and been a reliable part of Miami’s defensive resurgence. He’ll be tested against one of the best wideouts he’ll face this season though, as St. Brown can make you pay on just about every route.
9. Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong vs. Wisconsin LB T.J. Watt and CB Sojourn Shelton
Let’s face it, if Nebraska is to remain undefeated and take control of the Big Ten West, the Cornhuskers will need their enigmatic quarterback to come up with some big plays and limit the turnovers. Looking to prevent that will be the Badgers’ stingy defensive combo of Watt looking to take away Armstrong’s legs while Shelton prevents anything in the passing game.
10. Michigan State RB LJ Scott vs. Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers
It’s been a wild season in East Lansing and not in a good way. One of the few bright spots for the Spartans’ offense has been the play of Scott though, who leads the team in rushing and is averaging five yards a carry. Those numbers are sure to go sharply down against the versatile Peppers, who helps lead a top five-defense against the rush.
11. Ole Miss OLs Greg Little and Javon Patterson vs. Auburn DLs Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams
Ole Miss is banged up along the offensive line and will probably have to trot out Little, a true freshman, at left tackle on Saturday against Auburn. That’s a big issue with Lawson looking like an All-SEC pick with his stellar play for the excellent Tigers defense. Adams and Patterson going to battle on the interior of the line also is shaping up to be an excellent matchup.
12. Cal WR Chad Hansen vs. USC CB Adoree’ Jackson (Thursday)
Hansen has been a revelation for the Bears’ offense and one of quarterback Davis Webb’s best friends. He is in the top 15 in just about every receiving category entering the week despite playing in one fewer game than most and has made an incredible catch every time he’s on the field. He’ll be tested on Thursday night though with Jackson being one of the top cover guys in the Pac-12.
Best of the rest:
Florida State LB’s Ro’Derrick Hoskins and Matthew Thomas vs. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson and RB Wayne Gallman
Nebraskas LBs Josh Banderas and Michael Rose-Ivey vs. Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Florida State DB Trey Marshall vs. Clemson TE Jordan Leggett
Notre Dame LB James Onwualu vs. Miami RBs Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby
Utah WR Tim Patrick vs. Washington CB Sidney Jones
Florida RB Jordan Scarlett vs. Georgia LB Lorenzo Carter
Oklahoma State CB Ashton Lampkin vs. West Virginia WR Shelton Gibson
Pitt OT Adam Bisnowaty vs. Virginia Tech DL Ken Ekanem
Clemson OT Mitch Hyatt vs. Florida State DE DeMarcus Walker
— 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.