Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:
Ed Reynolds, S vs. Brandin Cooks, WR (Stanford vs. Oregon State)
“Wow” is all Stanford coach David Shaw had to say about Cooks’ play this season. The Beavers wide receiver has been uncoverable all season and is leading the nation in receptions (76), yards (1,176) and touchdowns (12). He has a comfort level with quarterback Sean Mannion and will be called upon to play his best this weekend against a front seven that will likely shutdown the Oregon State rushing attack. It falls to All-American safety Ed Reynolds to play physical but disciplined football on the backend of the Cardinal defense.
Allen Robinson, WR vs. Bradley Roby, CB (Penn State at Ohio State)
Robinson is the best wideout in the Big Ten and Roby might be the best coverman in the nation. So a head-to-head duel should be a sight to see for 60 minutes in the Horseshoe on Saturday night. Robinson is leading the Big Ten in receptions per game (7.2) and is 10th nationally in yards per game (117.5). Roby will be tasked with guarding A-Rob all game long and fans can bets NFL scouts will be watching.
Anthony Barr/Myles Jack vs. Marcus Mariota/De’Anthony Thomas (UCLA at Oregon)
UCLA’s linebackers are extremely talented and versatile. Jack, a freshman, has starred in open space and in pass coverage while Barr is an elite pass-rusher and disruptive force. Thomas returns to the field after missing the last four games and will be tested by Jack’s raw athletic ability. Meanwhile, Mariota and Oregon’s zone-read will be focused on No. 11 in blue all game long. Sit back and enjoy.
Victor Hampton, CB vs. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR (South Carolina vs. Missouri)
Missouri’s outstanding crop of big, physical and athletic receivers has been instrumental in the Tigers’ 7-0 start. This week, Green-Beckham (and L’Damian Washington) will face a South Carolina secondary that has held four of six opponents under 200 yards passing but gave up 300-plus to both Georgia and UCF. Hampton is the most physically talented of the group and gets matched up with the opposing team’s best pass-catcher usually. He is leading Carolina in interceptions and will be guarding either Green-Beckham or Washington all game long.
Jace Amaro, TE vs. Gabe Lynn, DB (Texas Tech at Oklahoma)
Amaro is enough of a matchup problem that it’s going to take a handful of Oklahoma defenders to limit his catches, something only a first-half suspension against SMU has done this season. Some of the focus will be on Lynn, a hard-hitting safety, but expect outside linebacker Dominique Alexander, safety Quentin Hayes and nickel back Julian Wilson to all play roles in trying to handle the 6-5, 260-pound junior.
Jay Ajayi, RB vs. Kyle Van Noy, LB (Boise State at BYU)
The Broncos' back is quietly having one of the best seasons in the nation at his position. He is third nationally with 12 total touchdowns and is coming off a career-high 222 yards against Nevada. Van Noy is a well-known commodity for his disruptive and big-play ability. He is second on the Cougars with 43 tackles, is 10th nationally with 10.5 tackles for a loss and has 4.0 sacks on the year. This should be a good matchup.
Jeremy Langford, RB vs. Jonathan Brown, LB (Michigan State at Illinois)
The Spartans tailback is seventh in the Big Ten in rushing at 78.7 yards per game, but has quickly developed into one of the league’s best backs. He has back-to-back 100-yard games against Indiana and Purdue with four total touchdowns in the two wins. Jonathan Brown is leading the Big Ten in tackling (11.0 pg) and is seventh nationally. He and Langford will go head-to-head all game long.