College Football's 10 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 7
On paper this weekend, this is not the most enticing set of big-name college football matchups around the country. That said, the games within a game — between players on either side of the ball — are as good as they come.
Whether you’re a college football fan, a coach or an NFL scout, here are 10 of the best position vs. position battles of the bunch between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side:
1. Boston College DL Harold Landry vs. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson and OL Geron Christian
Landry is a little behind the pace he set last season when he led the country in sacks (he has five so far in 2017) but he’s still the most dangerous pass rusher in the ACC and will be crucial to containing the elusive Heisman Trophy winner for the Cardinals.
2. Arkansas OL Frank Ragnow vs. Alabama DL Da’Ron Payne
Ragnow will likely be the first center taken in the draft next spring and it’s possible he could even slip into the first round. Performing well against one of the best defensive linemen in the SEC in Payne will go a long ways toward helping enhance that reputation.
3. Pitt DB Jordan Whitehead vs. NC State’s Jaylen Samuels
Where is Samuels lining up? That’s the question that will run through the mind of Whitehead on every single snap this Saturday as he tries to contain one of the most versatile players in the country who can score on you from just about any spot he starts out in.
4. Arizona State RBs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard vs. Washington LBs Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria, DB JoJo McIntosh
The Sun Devils may not be a great team right now but they’ve got a heck of a one-two punch in the backfield with Ballage and Richard able to do it all in a pretty wide-open offense. The Huskies’ defense is no joke however, and one of the best units in the Pac-12 is led by some heavy hitters up the spine in Victor (right), Bierria and McIntosh.
5. Texas LB Malik Jefferson, DBs DeShon Elliott, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd vs. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, WRs CeeDee Lamb and Mark Andrews
Luckily for Texas, Iowa State’s upset of Oklahoma means the team seemingly has a better chance to win their annual Red River Shootout game. Unluckily for the Longhorns, that probably means they’re going to get an angry Mayfield who wants to end his college career by beating the team from his backyard one more time.
6. LSU LBs Arden Key and Donnie Alexander vs. Auburn RBs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, plus QB Jarrett Stidham
Auburn has not won in Baton Rouge since 1999 and if the home version of the Tigers want to keep it that way, they’ll have to stop the dangerous ground attack that the visitors form Alabama bring. Pettway and Johnson are the one-two punch of downhill runners but LSU must also account for Stidham’s legs as well. Key hasn’t been great as he slowly progresses into game shape but he could play a big role in pressuring the quarterback too.
7. BYU LBs Fred Warner and Butch Pau’u, DB Micah Hannemann vs. Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald, RB Aeris Williams and WR Donald Gray
The Cougars have had a rough start to the season but nothing would turn things around more than going into the heart of SEC country and pulling out a win. If they’re to do that, it might come down to the defense making some plays in addition to containing one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Fitzgerald.
8. Miami LBs Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pickney and Zach McCloud vs. Georgia Tech QB TaQuon Marshall, RBs KirVonte Benson, Qua Searcy and Jerry Howard
The Hurricanes are in a potential letdown situation coming off that big win against rival Florida State and having to return home to face a triple-option team coming off a bye. Marshall (right) has been terrific executing the offensive attack and Benson is quite the big-play machine, but they’ll face one of the best young linebacking corps in the ACC that are dead set on proving this isn’t the same old Miami we’ve seen the past few years.
9. USC OL Toa Lobendahn, Chris Brown, Nico Falah and Chuma Edoga vs. Utah DL Kylie Fitts, Filipo Mokofisi, Lowell Lotulelei and Bradlee Anae
The Pac-12 may be filled with wide-open offenses but when it comes to the South Division, USC and Utah are two teams built to win games in the trenches. If the Utes want to pull off a surprising victory in Los Angeles, they’ll need to have a big game from that defensive line against a weakened Trojans front in order to do so.
10. Boise State DL David Moa and Curtis Weaver, LBs Leighton Vander Esch and Tyson Maeva vs. San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny
Penny has been having a terrific season for the Aztecs and put them in a prime position to capture the Group of 5 bid behind his big games on the ground. The Broncos are 18th in FBS against the run but will need their best outing of the season if they’re to stand any chance of pulling the upset and topping their budding Mountain West nemesis.
Best of the Rest
*Duke QB Daniel Jones and RB Shaun Wilson vs. Florida State LB Matthew Thomas and DB Derwin James
*Syracuse WRs Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips vs. Clemson DBs Ryan Carter, Van Smith and Mark Fields
*Duke OL Austin Davis vs. Florida State DLs Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas
*Georgia Tech OL Will Bryan vs. Miami DL Chad Thomas
*Syracuse LB Zaire Franklin vs. Clemson RBs Tavien Feaster and Travis Etienne
*Duke DB Bryon Fields vs. Florida State WR Nyqwan Murray
*Virginia DL Andrew Brown vs. North Carolina OL Bentley Spain
*Nebraska QB Tanner Lee, WRs De’Mornay Pierson-El and Stanley Morgan vs. Ohio State DBs Damon Webb, Denzel Ward and Jordan Fuller
*Michigan RBs Chris Evans and Ty Isaac vs. Indiana LB Tegray Scales
*Wisconsin DB D’Cota Dixon vs. Purdue QBs David Blough and Elijah Sindelar
*Minnesota RB Rodney Smith vs. Michigan State LBs Joe Bachie and Chris Frey
*Michigan WRs Grant Perry and Kekoa Crawford vs. Indiana DB Rashard Fant
*Michigan State OL Brian Allen vs. Minnesota DL Steven Richardson
*Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey and WR Simmie Cobbs vs. Michigan DBs David Long and Tyree Kinnel
*Maryland WR D.J. Moore vs. Northwestern DB Godwin Igwebuike
*Northwestern RB Justin Jackson vs. Maryland LB Jermaine Carter
*Oklahoma LBs Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Caleb Kelly and Kenneth Murray vs. Texas QB Shane Buechele, RBs Kyle Porter and Chris Warren
*Texas Tech QB Nic Shimonek and WR Dylan Cantrell vs. West Virginia DBs Kyzir White, Dravon Askew-Henry and Mike Daniels
*Kansas State WR Byron Pringle vs. TCU DBs Ranthony Texada and Niko Small
*Texas WR Collin Johnson vs. Oklahoma DB Jordan Thomas
*TCU DL Ben Banogu, LB Travin Howard and DB Ridwan Issahaku vs. Kansas State QBs Jesse Ertz (may not play due to knee injury) and Alex Delton, RB Alex Barnes
*Baylor LB Taylor Young vs. Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill
*Kansas DL Dorance Armstrong and LB Joe Dineen vs. Iowa State RB David Montgomery
*Texas Tech DB Jah’Shawn Johnson vs. West Virginia WR David Sills
*Texas Tech LBs Jordyn Brooks and Dakota Allen vs. West Virginia RB Justin Crawford
*Oregon RBs Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit vs. Stanford DL Harrison Phillips and Peter Kalambayi
*USC QB Sam Darnold vs. Utah DB Chase Hansen
*Oregon LB Troy Dye vs. Stanford RB Bryce Love
*Utah WR Darren Carrington vs. USC DBs Iman Marshall and Chris Hawkins
*UCLA LBs Kenny Young and Lokeni Toailoa vs. Arizona QB Khalil Tate and RB Nick Wilson
*Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry vs. Washington DBs Taylor Rapp and Jordan Miller
*USC LB Uchenna Nwosu and DL Rasheem Green vs. Utah OL Jackson Barton and Salesi Uhatafe
*Washington RBs Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman vs. Arizona State DL Tashon Smallwood and LB D.J. Calhoun
*Utah LB David Luafatasaga vs. USC RBs Ronald Jones and Stephen Carr
*Cal DL James Looney vs. Washington State OL Cole Madison
*Washington State LB Isaac Dotson vs. Cal RB Vic Enwere
*LSU RBs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams vs. Auburn LBs Tre’ Williams, Deshuan Davis and Darrell Williams
*Arkansas QB Austin Allen vs. Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
*Florida DBs Duke Dawson and Nick Washington vs. Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk
*Auburn OL Austin Golson, Braden Smith and Darius James vs. LSU DL Greg Gilmore and Rashard Lawrence
*Mississippi State OL Martinas Rankin vs. BYU DL Corbin Kaufusi
*South Carolina LB Skai Moore vs. Tennessee RB John Kelly
*Missouri QB Drew Lock and WR J’Mon Moore vs. Georgia DBs Malkom Parrish and Dominick Sanders
*LSU WR D.J. Chark vs. Auburn DBs Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews
*Arkansas DB Josh Liddell vs. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
*Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson and WR A.J. Brown vs. Vanderbilt DBs Ryan White and Tre Tarpley
*Tennessee WR Marquez Callaway vs. South Carolina DBs Jamarcus King and Chris Lammons
*Florida OL Martez Ivey and Jawaan Taylor vs. Texas A&M DL Qualen Cunningham and Jarrett Johnson
*BYU OL Tejan Koroma vs. Mississippi State DL Jeffery Simmons
*Texas A&M LB Otara Alaka vs. Florida RBs Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson
*Ole Miss LB DeMarquis Gates vs. Vanderbilt RB Ralph Webb
Group of 5
*Memphis LB Genard Avery vs. Navy QB Zach Abey and RB Darryl Bonner
*Wyoming QB Josh Allen vs. Utah State DBs Jalen Davis and Dallin Leavitt
*Tulsa RB D’Angelo Brewer vs. Houston LB Matthew Adams
*Tulsa OL Chandler Miller, Tyler Bowling and Evan Plagg vs. Houston DL Ed Oliver and Nick Thurman
*Central Michigan LB Malik Fountain vs. Toledo RB Terry Swanson
*Toledo QB Logan Woodside and WR Jon’Vea Johnson vs. Central Michigan DBs Amari Coleman and Josh Cox
*Utah State QB Kent Myers, WRs Ron’Quavion Tarver and Gerold Bright vs. Wyoming DBs Andrew Wingard, Marcus Epps and Robert Priester
*East Carolina QB Thomas Sirk and OL Brandon Smith vs. UCF DL Jamiyus Pittman and LB Shaquem Griffin
*Appalachian State OL Beau Nunn and Colby Gossett vs. Idaho DL Aikeem Coleman
— 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.