CFB Week 8: Player Matchup Preview
Week 8 is upon us and we are deep into the college season. Teams simply cannot afford to take a loss in conference play. On an individual basis these heavyweight battles throw up some fantastic matchups. Here’s five to keep an eye on over the weekend.
Justin Herbert v Jacob Eason
Pac-12 teams have history for spoiling one another’s playoff chances. Oregon, whose one loss so far is to a strong looking Auburn, still remain in the hunt. Their matchup with Washington could be one of the few hurdles remaining. The key battle in this one is likely to be between two of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Herbert has now started two seasons in a row as QB1 for a lot of draft analysts. The problem with being at the top is that the only way is down. Herbert has still shown his immense arm talent but in big spots, such as at the end of the Auburn game, he has been found wanting. Saturday gives him another chance to shine when the lights are brightest.
Eason, by contrast, has found his stock firmly on the rise. Having transferred and sat out a year, his name had been taken off the radar. It didn’t take long for him to display the talents that made him a five star recruit. However, after spotty games against California’s strong secondary and a shock loss to Stanford, he will also be looking to prove his worth as a day 1 draft talent.
Cam Dantzler v Justin Jefferson
Things don’t get any easier as the weeks tick over in conference play. That’s especially true for Cam Dantzler and Mississippi State as the SEC serves them up another powerhouse this week. Having been blown out by Auburn and then shocked by a poor Tennessee side, Dantzler faces a Joe Burrow-led LSU offense. Dantzler has the speed and length to be an effective corner in the NFL but lacks the physicality to impose himself on receivers. He will need to be at his best against Tigers main man Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson is an excellent route runner and has rocketed up the wide receiver rankings. His 6’3 frame will ask questions of Dantzler in this mouth-watering ding-dong. Jefferson has only failed to top 100 yards twice in the first six weeks of the season and will hope that trend continues against a fragile Bulldogs.
Denzel Mims v AJ Green
This may not be the matchup that first catches the eye out of this selection. However, it could be the one I am most excited about. The Big 12 is not known for its defensive performances. The conference is known for its offensive juggernauts but in all the noise one name keeps cropping up. AJ Green has a solid reputation as a lock down corner for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He has faced plenty of talent so far this year and only logged a solo interception. A good showing against Mims could boost him in what looks to be a talent filled cornerback crop.
Mims led the Bears in receiving yards as a sophomore in 2017. Having played second fiddle to Tennessee transfer Jalen Hurd last year, he is now back as the primary target. It was clear in the Bears game against Iowa State that Mims was the go-to option for Baylor QB Charlie Brewer. Baylor have generally flown under the radar this year but led by the excellent coaching of Matt Rhule they could end up having a big say in the outcome of the conference. Mims will be pivotal in ensuring their copybook remains unblemished.
Yetur Gross-Matos v Jon Runyan Jr
Penn State versus Michigan looks set to be a defensive battle as two top-20 units face offenses that have yet to set the world alight. One of the key matchups will be Penn State defensive end Gross-Matos and Michigan tackle Jon Runyan Jr.
Nittany Lions edge rusher Gross-Matos has had a solid start to the year tallying 5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss. He appears to have everything in his locker to become an elite pass rusher at the next level. Opposing him Runyan will have his hands full protecting Wolverines QB Shea Patterson.
Runyan missed the start of the season and since his return the offense has shown signs of life. They managed to rack up 52 points against Rutgers and 42 vs Illinois but have remained below par against better opposition. Runyan’s physicality may help him help in the run game but the true test will be Gross-Matos’s length and speed off the edge.
Darrell Taylor vs Jedrick Wills Jr
There has been very little cheer around the Tennessee Volunteers program in recent years. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt will have been expecting more of a jump in performance but that hasn’t been forthcoming. One of the bright spots on the team is pass rusher Darrell Taylor. He earned a place on the SEC team of the week after a dominant showing against Mississippi State. His two sacks and a forced fumble were key to the shock victory over the Bulldogs.
This week is unlikely to be as easy for Taylor and co. They face one of the most potent offenses in the country. In particular Alabama’s offensive line is beginning to knit together nicely having lost key figures to the NFL Draft. We have previously focussed on Alex Leatherwood who, at left tackle, is being talked about as a potential first round but don’t sleep on Jedrick Wills Jr. Wills has a fantastic anchor making him difficult to move off his spot. Taylor will need to use his speed to test Wills but the Crimson Tide will know they can focus plenty of attention on him, considering the lack of talent elsewhere on the Vols.
formerly writing for the inside zone, rory will be breaking down college tape and keeping you up-to-date with all things CFB for the touchdown. an avid bengals fan, you can also find some of rory’s work at stripehype.com