On Tuesday, we unveiled the most entertaining bowl games of the year, but that was more team-oriented. Today, we look at the games within the games. Here are some of the most intriguing individual matchups you’ll see in college football over the next few weeks:
Clemson defensive line vs. Alabama offensive line: There certainly won’t be a shortage of talent in Alabama-Clemson, Part III, in the College Football Playoff at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, but there might not be a matchup on the field that more closely resembles an NFL game than the line play — on both sides — when Alabama has the ball. Clemson’s Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins could all be on NFL roster next year, while the Crimson Tide’s offensive line is, collectively, a finalist for the Joe Moore Award, given to the best offensive line in college football.
Georgia LB Roquan Smith vs. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield: By the time Oklahoma and Georgia meet in Pasadena in the College Football Playoff at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Mayfield will likely be able to list “Heisman Trophy winner” on his resume. But he probably hasn’t seen a defensive player on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage as talented as Smith, the Butkus Award winner, all year.
Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin vs. Akron coach Terry Bowden: They’re both former SEC head coaches and sons of coaching legends, but while Bowden has hovered mostly under the radar in his six-year tenure at Akron, Kiffin engaged in a, well, different approach in his first year at FAU. Will Kiffin’s first-ever bowl win come at home in the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl?
LSU LB Arden Key vs. Notre Dame OL Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson: On one side, the Notre Dame duo of LT Mike McGlinchey and LG Quenton Nelson are ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s top-ranked offensive tackle and offensive guard. They’ll get one of their biggest challenges of the year going against Key, who is Kiper’s top-ranked outside linebacker, in the Citrus Bowl Presented by Overton’s.
San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny vs. Army’s run game: Penny led the nation in rushing (2,207 yards) and ran for 200 yards in five games, including the last four. For his next trick, can he outrush the nation’s top-ranked rushing team in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl? Probably not. Army averages 368.1 rushing yards per game.
TCU rush defense vs. Stanford RB Bryce Love: The Horned Frogs will enter the Valero Alamo Bowl with the country’s fourth-ranked rush defense, allowing just 99.8 yards per game. Love, the Doak Walker Award winner, rushed for 1,973 yards in 12 games to become a Heisman Trophy finalist, and eclipsed the 100-yard mark in all but one game, including 166 yards against Washington, the country’s top-ranked rush defense. Assuming Love plays, something has to give.
USC QB Sam Darnold vs. Ohio State DE Nick Bosa: Part of what makes Darnold great is his ability to feel pressure and instinctively buy time. He hasn’t faced many top-flight pass-rushers this year, though, and that’s what he’ll be up against Bosa, and the Buckeyes’ defensive line, in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
Washington DT Vita Vea vs. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley: Vea isn’t the prototypical space-eating defensive tackle one would expect from someone that’s 6-foot-5, 340 pounds. He’s a physical freak who can make plays well outside the tackle box when the situation calls for it. That doesn’t mean, of course, he’ll be able to chase down Saquon Barkley, arguably the nation’s most exciting player with the ball in his hands, in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, but it’ll sure be fun watching him try.