College Football Week 4: 7 matchups to watch
It's already been an interesting year for college football. We're a month into the season, first season, Fall Season #1, whatever you want to call this, and it's already chaotic. One thing we're learning: just because you're scheduled to play games doesn't mean they'll actually happen. Houston's learning the hard way. Their game against North Texas was canceled, making it the fifth game on their schedule that's been canceled, including four season openers. At this point, they should probably ask the Big Ten or Mountain West if they can just start their season with them. Despite losing games on the schedule, there are still many games to watch that will provide excitement. Same with the matchups. Oh and we should mention that the SEC begins their season this weekend, so that's fun.
Randy Charlton vs. D'Ante Smith
ECU's not only looking for a breakout season, but they're hoping to pull off an upset to get it going. Smith has his hands full this week when he faces Charlton, and keeping Holton Ahlers comfortable is the biggest factor for the Pirates offense. Charlton was a menace for the Knights last week against Georgia Tech.
Both of Charlton's pass deflections turned into interceptions, and he could have produced more than four quarterback hurries if not for quick throws and chip blocks. Even with the Yellow Jackets sending help to block him, Charlton blew up plays. Smith returns 32 games of experience and is a two time All-AAC selection, but he'll have a tough test to begin the season.
Dillon Gabriel vs. Holton Ahlers
Gabriel started his season in spectacular fashion, throwing for 417 yards and four touchdowns in the Knights 49-21 win over Georgia Tech. UCF fought back after the Yellow Jackets were either tied or within one score by scoring 42 combined points in the second and fourth quarters. Now he faces a team that's ready to breakout and score a ton of points.
Ahlers has been the talk of the AAC, at least in terms of a breakout player. We've seen what his ceiling looks like when he's on, but can he do it consistently? This is a guy who threw for 535 yards against the Cincinnati secondary, one of the best in college football UCF boasts another elite secondary in the game, but Ahlers has already shown that he can handle the pressure. If this is the shootout I hope it will be, it's going to be one of the best games in all of college football. Especially if Ahlers and Gabriel can't be stopped.
Elijah Moore vs. Florida Secondary
Moore is one of the best route runner in the country, and he's due for a tough battle this weekend when the Rebels host Florida. The Gators will field a number of great players with Marco Wilson, Shawn Davis, Donavan Sinter and Brad Stewart, but also have a rising star in Kaiir Elam. With how Ole Mike likes to use Moore in the slot, it's not out of the question for any of those Gators defensive backs to cover him at some point. It's the first time they'll face each other, but both sides will get a great test when they face each other.
Eric Stokes/Tyson Campbell vs. Knox/Woods/Burks
Normally a Georgia-Arkansas matchup wouldn't excite, but this year's a much different story. Stokes and Campbell return to a Georgia defense stacked with talent, and both players are two of the many that will move on to the next level. Campbell is gaining popularity in the scouting community, and Stokes is a speedster who's still developing as a corner (though quickly). They'll take on a group that didn't produce at a high level, but has a ton of potential heading into 2020.
First things first, the arrival of Florida transfer Feleipe Franks makes this group even better. Their potential is aided by Franks' arm, so we have to acknowledge that first. Which is why this group's so enticing to watch. Knox is a big body receiver (6'5", 205 pounds), Burks led the team in receiving last year, and Woods has been making big plays in nearly every highlight video Arkansas' posted this preseason. Both sides will need their best performance to keep the other subdued, but it's a great matchup that will certainly draw attention from NFL teams.
Cincinnati D vs. Army triple option
The Bearcats allowed 143.4 yards per game on the ground defensively. Army's offense averaged 297.2. Something's got to give, and it might determine the outcome. This is a completely different test for a Bearcats team that normally likes to field five defensive backs, but sticking with that personnel requires those players to assume different roles. They'll have to play the run without losing discipline to the play action. Army's going to run the ball and use a bunch of clock, but the back end for Cincinnati can't get caught napping. Forcing short drives, punts, and turnovers normally helps a team get the ball back to their offense, but it's paramount to Cincinnati's defense this weekend. A trip to the NY6 is on the line (or maybe a playoff appearance if you think they actually have a chance still).
Dante & Darius Stills vs. Josh Sills
Former teammates clash this weekend, and it's a pivotal game in the Big 12 when the Cowboys and Mountaineers square off in Stillwater. Sills transferred this offseason to play for the Cowboys after spending three years Morgantown. Now he'll go against his former teammates who he saw a lot in practice.
The Stills brothers are violent interior defenders who can disrupt an offense quickly, and they're a problem in both the run and pass game. Both will play at the next level, and they'll face Sills at some point Saturday. The familiarity is an advantage to both sides. Each of them most likely knows a move or two that the other likes to do, the only difference is that Sills is in a new offense. The brothers combined for 26 tackles for loss last year, and that's significant heading into this game. Oklahoma State allowed 14 tackles for loss against Tulsa last week in their 16-7 win, and the Golden Hurricane didn't have anyone up front that's as talented as Darius or Dante. Oklahoma State will be in trouble if the line doesn't shape up, and Sill can help with that.
Aaron Sterling vs. Wanya Morris
Morris saw action early as a freshman last year for the Volunteers, and grew into a solid tackle as the season progressed. He returns for an offensive line that also features Trey Smith and Darnell Wright (and should also have Cade Mays if the NCAA didn't make up transfer rules as they go). Tennessee's a dark horse team in the country, but also in the SEC. That's largely thanks to Morris and the offensive line, and the sophomore gets his first test of the season right off the bat.
South Carolina no longer has Javon Kinlaw to dominate for them, so other players must emerge. Sterling figures to be next in line on the line, and he'll get a chance to show what he can do without Kinlaw stealing the spotlight. His 10 tackles for loss led the team last year, so it's not like he's brand new to disrupting an offense. It's just that teams will be able to give him more attention. How he does against Morris (or even Wright) can have a huge impact on the game.