The football season is really heating up as games are taking on greater meaning. So far this season has seen its fair share of upsets, impact newcomers, and plenty of quality individual matchups. This week the are some big games with possible national title ramifications and within every game there are always individual battles to be won.
In This Corner ... Clemson RB Andre Ellington.
Coming into this season, it was not certain who would get the most carries in the Clemson backfield but most thought it would be the bruising Jamie Harper with Ellington mixed in as a change-of-pace. Well Ellington has been the recipient of the bulk of the carries and for good reason as he has taken his 102 carries on the season for 642 yards. What is more amazing is that the 190 pound speedster has 10 rushing touchdowns while Harper has just three. Ellington has gone over 100 yards rushing four times this season and scored in all but one game.
And In This Corner ... Boston College LB Luke Kuechly.
Kuechly was a wunderkind last year as he registered an astonishing 12 tackles per game and finishing the season ranked second in the nation in total tackles with 158. Well Kuechly has a year in the system and so far this year has 97 tackles which is tops in the country. Blessed with a non-stop motor and phenomenal technical skills, Kuechly will be a mainstay in the Eagles' linebacking corps for the next couple of years before taking his game to Sundays.
And The Winner Is ... Ellington.
While Ellington will get bottled up at times against the Boston College defense, he will inevitably break one and will have Kuechly and company seeing his numbers streak towards the endzone. Kuechly is rarely out of place as a defender but Ellington is just too shifty to be wrapped up by one person.
In This Corner... Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure.
Last year, LeShoure showed some signs of being the next great Illini tailback as he rattled off three runs of 60+ yards while also showing the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield all wrapped up in a 225 pound package. Sporting No. 5, LeShoure has looked a lot like the previous owner of that number, Rashard Mendenhall. This year, he is the team's workhorse and has rushed for 757 yards in seven games despite not getting much help from the passing game.
And In This Corner... Purdue DT Kawann Short.
Purdue has a star on their defensive line in Ryan Kerrigan but they really needed someone to step up and take some pressure off him. Short has provided that relief from the interior of the line as a 6'4, 310 pound defensive tackle. Short is stout against the run and can even disrupt the opponent's backfield as he has 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss in just seven games.
And The Winner Is... Short.
Expect the Boilermakers to stack the box and make quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase beat them with his arm. LeShoure is a talented back but will meet a stout force in the middle of the line in Short which will cause him to have to prematurely bounce his runs to the outside where he will be met by either Kerrigan or a bevy of speedy linebackers. Short is big and fast enough to really blow up some plays and that will lead to a down day for the Illini back.
In This Corner... East Carolina QB Dominique Davis.
Davis has really taken to the new offense at East Carolina and in just seven games this season, he is worth 23 total touchdowns. Davis started his career at Boston College but has certainly found his home with the Pirates. Davis has been a great field general as he has led his team to close wins over Southern Miss and North Carolina State and will continue to gouge the soft defenses of Conference USA.
And In This Corner... UCF DE Bruce Miller.
Miller is the active career leader in sacks with 30 and is third in tackles for loss with 51.5 so he definitely knows how to get into an opponent's backfield. This year he has faced a lot of double teams but has still managed to tally three sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss. It is suffice to say that Miller is a known terror in the Conference USA and teams have begun to gameplan for him.
And The Winner Is... Davis.
Aside from chipping and double teaming Miller, Davis will also work to get the ball off before he can be touched by the talented edge rusher. Add to the fact that Davis is dangerous as a runner with five rushing touchdowns on the year and you have a long day of work for Miller.
In This Corner... UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin.
It seems like forever that the Bruins have been looking for a capable tailback since Maurice Jones-Drew and they have finally found it in Franklin. Not the biggest back at 5'10 and 198 pounds, Franklin has been the team's workhorse by averaging nearly 20 carries a game. On the season he has 133 carries for 748 yards and five touchdowns despite inconsistent quarterback play and losing 51 carries to Derrick Coleman. Franklin is a speedy back who runs low and with authority and is a perfect blend of speed, elusiveness, and toughness.
And In This Corner... Arizona LB Derek Earls.
Looking back at recent Arizona defenses, it is hard to understand why they were not collectively better than their parts. It is not been a lack of playmakers as the Wildcats have had Devin Ross, Earl Mitchell, Antoine Cason, and many others come across the campus. I was thinking of what has made the defense better this year than defenses in the past and it is the play of the linebackers. In the past, the Wildcats have had a no-name linebacking corps. This is not to say that they were terrible but they just didn't stand out. To correct this, the staff went out and injected some junior college talent in the form of Paul Vasallo and Earls. Earls is the man in the middle and has been a stand out since he arrived in Tucson. He is always around the ball and on the year he has a sack, 6.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and four pass breakups.
And The Winner Is... Franklin.
While the Arizona defense will most likely shut down the Bruin offense on the whole, when Franklin and Earls meet up, Franklin will be the victor of most of those encounters. Franklin is too fast and shifty for Earl to handle and when he does wrap up the Bruin bruiser, he will get a an unexpected wallop.
Honorable Mention: Louisville RB Bilal Powell vs. Pitt LB Max Gruder, Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas vs. Oklahoma State LB Orie Lemon, Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins vs. Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, USC QB Matt Barkley vs. Oregon DE Kenny Rowe.