Well here we are folks. The last week of major college football but it is chocked full of conference championships and intense rivalry games. While there is not much quantity, there is certainly no lack of quality. Below are three pivotal matchups that could make-or-break seasons for some teams and will make for some good TV watching.
In This Corner ... SMU QB Kyle Padron.
Padron has masterfully run June Jones' offense this year as he has thrown for over 3,300 yards and 28 touchdowns with just 10 picks. Padron is also a dangerous scrambler with 251 yards rushing and four more scores. Padron has thrown for over 300 yards and three or more touchdowns on five separate occasions this season and has been the linchpin that drove the Mustangs to the Conference USA title game.
And In This Corner ... UCF DE Bruce Miller.
Miller is quite a football player as he is not the fastest or biggest defensive end in the game but he consistently produces despite constant double-teams. Miller has a relentless motor and has the football smarts to find the ball and tackle opposing players behind the line of scrimmage. In his career with the Knights, Miller has accumulated 32 sacks and 53.5 tackles for a loss which rank third and fourth for active players, respectively.
And The Winner Is ... Miller.
Padron is a good passer but still tends to hold on to the ball a little too long for the run-and-shoot and that can lead to him having to take off scrambling or getting sacked. On the year, Padron has been sacked 24 times which is not terrible but could be worse if it wasn't for his escapability. All this is to say that if Padron does not fire off the ball quick enough he will most certainly be met by Mr. Miller.
In This Corner... Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros.
Collaros started off the season pretty slow this year but certainly caught fire as he has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns this year while also rushing for four touchdowns. Collaros is a gamebreaker and if given the time, can knife apart a secondary. Not as much the runner as he was last year, he still has the uncanny ability to extend plays with his legs as he searches downfield for Armon Binns and D.J. Woods. Collaros has thrown for three or more touchdowns six times this year so he definitely can put up points in bunches.
And In This Corner... Pitt DE Brandon Lindsey.
Coming into this season, Pitt had two incredible pass rushing ends in Jabaal Sheard and Greg Romeus which made Lindsey an afterthought. Well, after Romeus went down with a back injury after the first game of the year, someone needed to step up opposite Sheard and Lindsey has certainly done that and more. On the year, Lindsey is actually leading his team and his conference in sacks with 10 while also registering 16 tackles for loss. Sheard is the bigger, prototypical end while Lindsey is the pure speed rusher.
And The Winner Is... Lindsey.
The Pitt defense can bring so much pressure from their front four that it is impossible to key on just one player. When Sheard gets double-teamed, that will leave Lindsey free to roam. Lindsey cannot be contained and I have a feeling he will be harassing Collaros all day.
In This Corner... South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore is the top freshman in the country and is the best running back in his conference, regardless of class. He runs with power, surprising speed, and can catch out of the backfield. Although he was playing high school ball last year, he is a complete back and has shown it this year with his 1,114 yard yards rushing and 17 rushing touchdowns. Lattimore also has 23 catches for 328 yards and two more scores. While a team is much more than just one player, it can be said that Lattimore is the main reason for the Gamecocks success as they have struggled to muster much of a running game before the super frosh arrived.
And In This Corner... Auburn DT Nick Fairley.
Much like Lattimore, Fairley burst onto the scene in this year in the league but he is not a freshman. Fairley came from the junior college ranks but wasted no time making his name known in the SEC and the country. One of the top defensive lineman in the country, Fairley has 9.5 sacks and an astonishing 20 tackels for loss. Bear in mind that this is all from the interior of the line which makes his accomplishments that much more impressive. Fairley has been a gamechanger for the Tigers and have muted all attempts to rush between the tackles.
And The Winner Is... Fairley.
The last time these two teams squared off, Fairley won the battle in the middle and Lattimore was only able to rush for 33 yards and 14 carries. In the SEC title game, Auburn has even more to play for which most likely means little room to run between the tackles for Lattimore and at least a couple of trips behind the scrimmage line for Fairley.