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Bucky's Best: Top CFB matchups to watch in Week 3


In his weekly Bucky's Best series, former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks identifies the must-see matchups of the weekend in college football.

Most intriguing matchup

Georgia RB Todd Gurley vs. South Carolina defense

The Heisman Trophy front-runner is coming off an epic performance that saw him tally 298 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns against Clemson. Gurley let the college football world know that he's fully recovered from the nagging injuries that plagued his sophomore season. Most importantly, he set the tone with his rugged, hard-nosed running style between the tackles. Given Georgia coach Mark Richt's desire to pummel opponents with a powerful running game that features a talented stable of backs, Gurley will have plenty of opportunities to soften up South Carolina's defense on an assortment of power runs.

» Sources Tell Us: Gurley is by far CFB's top RB

The Gamecocks' defense is reeling after allowing more than 450 yards of total offense in each of the team's first two games. While most of the damage has been done through the air, South Carolina hasn't looked like the dominant defensive force that we've grown accustomed to seeing over the past few years. If defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is unable to come up with some answers for the Gamecocks' lackluster play, the Bulldogs could bludgeon South Carolina with a heavy dose of Gurley between the tackles.

Most favorable defensive matchup

UCLA defense vs. Texas QB Tyrone Swoopes

With QB David Ash still suffering from concussion-like symptoms, the Longhorns are forced to trot out an inexperienced quarterback against one of the top defenses in college football. Swoopes, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound sophomore, is a talented athlete with exceptional size and running skills, but he's an erratic passer still mastering the nuances of the passing game. In his second collegiate start, he faces a Bruins defense that scored three defensive touchdowns in the opener and features a host of athletic defenders along the front line.

» Predictions for top 10 CFB games of Week 3

While Texas head coach Charlie Strong will encourage his dual-threat quarterback to cut it loose on the perimeter, the Bruins' nasty defense could make it a rough outing for Swoopes and the Longhorns on Saturday night.

Most favorable offensive matchup

Arizona State offense vs. Colorado defense

It's easy to forget about the defending Pac-12 South champs amid the optimism swirling around the Los Angeles programs (USC and UCLA), but Arizona State coach Todd Graham boasts one of the most explosive offenses in football. Led by QB Taylor Kelly and RB D.J. Foster, the Sun Devils have totaled 1,191 total yards, including 690 rushing yards and 57 first downs, in dismantling Weber State (45-14) and New Mexico (58-23) to open the season. The Sun Devils' warp-speed attack puts relentless pressure on the defense with rapid pace and superb execution, which could spell doom for a Colorado defense that's surrendered 69 points in its first two games. If Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre isn't able to come up with a creative game plan to neutralize the Sun Devils' most explosive playmakers, the score could get ugly in Boulder with Graham intent on keeping his foot on the gas.

Best wide receiver-cornerback matchup

ECU WR Justin Hardy vs. Virginia Tech CBs Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson

Don't sleep on Hardy, the Pirates' explosive pass-catcher, because he is a legitimate big-time prospect based on his performance, production and skills. He has 19 receptions for 220 receiving yards and two scores in two games, and his impact has been significant on the perimeter. Hardy's speed and quickness make him a tough matchup on the outside, but the Pirates will also go to him on an assortment of screens and quick passes designed to get him the ball in space. With Hardy capable of taking it the distance from anywhere on the field, the Hokies must have an effective plan for dealing with the Pirates' electrifying playmaker.

» Hardy on pace to become NCAA's leading career receiver

The Hokies' secondary features a pair of terrific cover corners in Fuller and Facyson. The youngsters are exceptional bump-and-run corners with the speed, quickness and agility to shadow receivers throughout the route. Additionally, Fuller and Facyson excel at knocking around receivers with physical jams at the line. Facing a talented playmaker like Hardy on the perimeter, Fuller and Facyson will need to step up their games to neutralize the Pirates' high-octane attack.

Best matchup in the trenches:

South Carolina OT Corey Robinson vs. Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks digs deep into the game tape to evaluate college football's most talented players.

» Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
» Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
» Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
» Leonard Williams, DL, USC
» Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
» Wisconsin's Gordon vs. Georgia's Gurley

The Ol' Ball Coach wants to throw the ball around the yard, so the pressure is on Robinson to solidify the edges for QB Dylan Thompson. The 6-8, 341-pound redshirt senior has the length to create problems for rushers at the point of attack. Although he has struggled with speed rushers at times, Robinson understands how to utilize his superior size and wingspan to make it hard for rushers to turn the corner.

Floyd is an athletic freak with outstanding first-step quickness and explosion. He attacks blockers with a ferocious burst, yet he also flashes enough strength and power to outmuscle stout blockers. Robinson's extraordinary length will certainly pose a problem for the Bulldogs' star rusher, but Floyd's athleticism and speed could tip the matchup in his favor.

Best coaching matchup

Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino vs. Virginia defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta

Say what you want about Petrino's prickly personality, there's no disputing his brilliance as a play caller. He's a superb tactician adept at creating mismatches through formation diversity and play design. He is one of the best in the business at identifying and exploiting isolated matchups; we've already seen the Cardinals' offense produce fireworks in his return with Will Gardner at the helm. Louisville destroyed Miami with an efficient offensive attack and raced past Murray State on the strength of the big play.

Against Virginia, however, the Cardinals could find it challenging to move the ball with Tenuta drawing up a pressure-packed game plan that will challenge the inexperienced quarterback to make sound decisions under duress. The approach has certainly worked well for the Cavaliers this season with the unit surrendering just two scores in two games. We will soon see if Petrino can crack the code to the Cavaliers' stifling defense.

Best under-the-radar matchup

Missouri QB Maty Mauk vs. UCF defense

After teasing the college football world with his talents a season ago while filling in for an injured James Franklin, Mauk has crept into the spotlight as one of the most intriguing prospects at the position. He is a natural gunslinger with a great sense of timing, anticipation and ball placement. Mauk throws guys open with precise throws in tight windows, yet avoids the big mistake that typically accompanies a risk taker at the position. While he certainly needs to continue to improve his judgment within the pocket after tossing a pair of interceptions against Toledo, Mauk is a big-time passer with the skills to take the Tigers to the next level.

UCF coach George O'Leary is a terrific defensive mind with a knack for rattling savvy quarterbacks in the pocket. He will mix in a host of blitzes and different looks in coverage to disrupt the quarterback's rhythm, while also testing the signal-caller's football IQ and awareness. As a result, quarterbacks have a tough time getting into a rhythm in the pocket, leading to errant throws and turnovers. Given Mauk's inexperience (just six career starts) at the position, the wily defensive coach could come up with a recipe to slow down the Tigers' fast-paced attack.

Bucky's Beast

Notre Dame QB Everett Golson

It's time to insert Golson's name into the Heisman Trophy conversation after watching the 6-1, 200-pound senior guide the Fighting Irish offense with exceptional efficiency and precision. He has looked fantastic making pinpoint throws from the pocket, while giving coach Brian Kelly a sneaky dual-threat playmaker to use on the perimeter. Against a Purdue squad that struggles holding up against MAC opponents, Golson could ring up big numbers this weekend in a laugher.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.



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