CFB Week 9: Player Matchup Preview
Week 9 is upon us and College Football is at its sharp end. A false move now could derail playoff hopes and as we all know Saturday’s are never short of a shock or two. Each game will come down to the star players and how they face off. Here’s five matchups that could prove pivotal in how the final Top 25 looks.
Josh Uche v Liam Eichenberg
Michigan’s defense has come together and helped to cover up some of the deficiencies their offense clearly has. It is a unit that allows them to stay in games and will be called on again if they are to challenge Notre Dame. Uche in particular stood out against Penn State. The linebacker combines power with athleticism and displayed both in equal share. He added a sack to his season total of 4.5 and even managed to track back and force a pass deflection on a deep ball downfield.
Notre Dame tackle Liam Eichenberg will have to be at his best to control Uche but the Fighting Irish line has been one of the better units in the country. Eichenberg had his struggles that we highlighted in Week 4 vs Georgia. The left tackle gave up numerous penalties as well as struggling to contain the Bulldogs pass rush. He gets his shot at redemption here to show he is still a draftable prospect.
K'Lavon Chaisson v Prince Tega Wanagho
This battle should be an intriguing one as these SEC powerhouses collide. Auburn came unstuck against Florida and freshman QB Bo Nix threw three picks. He will need strong protection against an LSU defense that has underwhelmed despite their obvious talent.
In particular these two prospects will be of interest due to their clear natural ability but lack of polish at the position. Chaisson is a lengthy, speed rusher who can explode off the edge. He has only accounted for two sacks so far and will be hoping for his breakout game to come against fellow draft prospect Wanagho.
Ironically, the same knock applies to the Auburn tackle. He is a prototypical size for the position with lengthy arms making him difficult to escape. Wanagho’s lack of polish comes from the fact he had no idea what American Football was until five years ago, following his move from Nigeria to chase the dream of becoming a pro basketball player. Seeing these two raw prospects go toe-to-toe will be fascinating and play a large part in the final outcome.
KJ Hamler v Josiah Scott
KJ Hamler could be the most dangerous offensive weapon in college football right now. A dynamic kick returner, Hamler displayed his threat as a true receiver against Michigan last weekend. His pure speed makes him a matchup nightmare and the long standing connection he has with QB Sean Clifford is clear.
Trying to comtain Hamler will likely be Josiah Scott. The junior cornerback was on the Jim Thorpe watchlist (nation’s top defensive back) at the start of the year and has important picks against Ohio State and Northwestern. He is unlikely to come up against as dynamic a threat as Hamler but he will be backed up by an elite defensive line. Scott will hope to hang with Hamler long enough for the likes of Raequan Williams and Kenny Willekes to get to the QB.
Thayer Munford v Zack Baun
Thayer Munford is probably the most important player along the Ohio State offensive line but has been struggling with an ankle injury. He didn’t start last week and there were issues in his absence. Which led to him eventually stepping in to take snaps later in the game. The junior left tackle is a strong prospect when fit and healthy. It will be key for the Buckeyes to give Fields as much protection as possible against a frisky Wisconsin team.
The Badgers are coming off a shock loss to Illinois which takes the shine off this encounter. However, they will be keen to upset the Buckeyes and damage their rivals playoff hopes. Stopping this juggernaut offense will be a big task and Zack Baun will be vital in pressuring Justin Fields. Baun can play as a true linebacker and does drop in coverage but at the collegiate level he offers an excellent pass rush option. Munford will be tested by Baun’s speed off the edge. The Badger ‘backer will be hoping to add to his 6.5 sacks against the banged up left tackle.
Neville Gallimore v Adam Holtorf
The Big 12 is not known for its defense so it has been a pleasant surprise to see Oklahoma display its quality on that side of the ball. While Kenneth Murray sets the tempo from middle linebacker it is the giant Neville Gallimore who has drawn attention on the defensive line. He has the ability to break into the backfield with ease and wreak havoc on both rushing and passing downs.
Looking to combat Gallimore’s explosive style will be Kansas State center Adam Holtorf. The senior offensive lineman was on many pre-season award watchlists. He remains a name to watch in terms of next year’s draft. Holtorf is stronger in the run game, something Kansas State are looking to re-establish. The real test for him will be stopping the penetration Gallimore gets on passing downs. There is a notable difference between the Wildcats’ centers ability going downhill in the run game and retreating in a pass block set.
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