This weekend's college football schedule features several big games, but there is one particular contest that stands above the rest. Alabama-Texas A&M is a battle of top-10 teams featuring a handful of high-profile players on both squads. Every viewer will be focused on the quarterback play in this contest but there are two other players worth monitoring throughout the game. Both cracked my list of the top five players to watch this weekend. Check it out:
1. Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews vs. Alabama
Matthews is a four-year starter at offensive tackle for the Aggies. He's made 35 straight starts and he'll need to rely on that experience on Saturday, when the Aggies host the No. 1 team in the country. Matthews lined up at right tackle for last year's meeting but he'll be responsible for protecting Johnny Manziel's blindside in this year's contest. Alabama's defensive front is very physical and they'll provide a stiff challenge for Matthews in both the ground game and the passing attack. A solid performance in this game could solidify Matthews' standing as one of the top three offensive tackles in college football.
2. Alabama FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix vs. Texas A&M
In order for the Crimson Tide to contain Johnny Manziel, they will need a big night from their athletic free safety. The Aggies' offensive attack is very versatile and explosive. Missed tackles in the secondary can turn modest gains into long touchdowns. Clinton-Dix is the last line of defense for Alabama and he needs to have a very high batting average as a tackler in this contest. Keep an eye on Clinton-Dix in the passing game as well. He has outstanding instincts, range and ball skills. He picked off five balls last season, and don't be surprised if he gets his hands on a few footballs on Saturday.
3. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota vs. Tennessee
Mariota put up silly numbers as a redshirt freshman last year and the numbers are looking even sillier through the first two games of the 2013 season. How about this one: Mariota is averaging 26.1 yards per carry! That's ridiculous. The competition hasn't been great (Nichols State, Virginia), but it doesn't take away from how impressive Mariota has looked running the football. This week he faces a much tougher foe. Look for Mariota to be more productive in the passing game as the Vols focus their attention on containing him as a runner.
4. UCLA LB Anthony Barr vs. Nebraska
In last year's meeting with Nebraska, Barr collected four tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He'll look to duplicate that performance on Saturday in Lincoln. Barr has made several improvements to his game in the offseason, including using his hands better against both the run and pass. This high-profile game will provide an excellent stage for the UCLA defender to show off his improved technique.
5. Arizona St. DT Will Sutton vs. Wisconsin
Sutton's production was off the charts last season and more than a few observers were surprised when he decided to return to Arizona State for his senior season as opposed to entering the 2013 NFL Draft. In my opinion, he made the right decision. Sutton played last season at around 280 pounds and he needed to add more bulk before his senior campaign. He did just that, packing on more than 20 pounds before the start of the year. He had a quiet opener against Sacramento State, collecting only two tackles, but he did look comfortable carrying his new weight. This week will be an outstanding challenge for Sutton, as the Sun Devils host Wisconsin, which always boasts a physical offensive line. Sutton will be challenged the entire game.
Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.