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CFB preview: 10 individual matchups between future NFL stars


We're 10 days away from the launch of the college football season, and there are some incredibly appealing games on the 2017 schedule. I can't wait to watch Alabama and Florida State square off in their opener on Sept. 2. There's also the rematch between Oklahoma and Ohio State on Sept. 9. The battle for Los Angeles (UCLA vs. USC) should be must-see TV at the end of the season. While these games get me pumped up, I get even more excited to watch the individual matchups within these contests, as they can have a big impact on the draft stock of the players involved. After studying the schedule closely, I've come up with my top 10 individual matchups to look forward to this fall. Here's my list:

CFB 24/7 is marking the days to the start of the 2017 season by counting down the top 25 players in college football.

10. Ohio State C Billy Price vs. Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

When: Nov. 25, at Michigan
The skinny: Price will be moving to center this fall after previously lining up at guard. He's started 41 straight games for the Buckeyes and enters the fall as one of the top interior offensive line prospects in the country. Hurst elected to return to Ann Arbor for his senior campaign after he flashed some big-time athleticism and quickness last fall. I'm looking forward to watching these two battle in both the run and passing game.

9. Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown vs. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard

When: Sept. 9, at Ohio State
The skinny: Outside of FSU-Alabama, this is the best non-conference game on the 2017 schedule. Oklahoma will need to contain a dynamic Ohio State defensive front to have a chance to beat the Buckeyes. Brown is a hulking offensive tackle with enormous potential. He will have his hands full with Hubbard. The talented Buckeye edge rusher uses his length and quickness to wreak havoc on opponents. I'll give the early edge to Hubbard in this matchup, but Brown will have every opportunity to prove me wrong.

8. Washington LB Azeem Victor vs. Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage

When: Oct. 14, at ASU
The skinny: These are two of the most underrated players in college football. Victor was playing at a high level prior to suffering a fracture in his right leg last fall. He has outstanding instincts and range. Ballage is an enormous back with breakaway speed. He quietly rushed for 14 touchdowns last fall. It won't be easy to run against a talented Washington front seven, but I wouldn't bet against Ballage.

7. Texas A&M Christian Kirk vs. Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

When: Oct. 7, at Texas A&M
The skinny: This matchup will feature two of the most versatile and dynamic players in the country. Kirk is at his best with the ball in his hands. He has the ability to make defenders miss and the strength to break tackles. Fitzpatrick has the skill set to excel at either cornerback or safety. His combination of instincts and athletic ability is easy to spot on tape. These two players should meet in the open field, and it will be fun to see who prevails.

6. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley vs. Florida State CB Tarvarus McFadden

When: Sept. 2, in Atlanta
The skinny: Ridley has elite speed and playmaking ability. He was underutilized down the field last fall, but I expect that to change this season. He's no longer playing with a freshman quarterback and I believe we will see a more aggressive approach under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. McFadden had excellent ball production last fall (eight INTs) and he will get a chance to answer any questions about his speed in this Week One matchup.

5. Texas OT Connor Williams vs. USC OLBs Uchenna Nwosu and Porter Gustin

When: Sept. 16, at USC
The skinny: Williams is one of the top offensive tackles in college football. He plays with outstanding technique, balance and toughness. I love the way he finishes in the run game. Nwosu and Gustin form one of the top outside linebacker duos in the country. Nwosu is extremely athletic, while Gustin is a powerful point-of-attack defender and he possesses outstanding speed to chase plays from the backside. Williams will need to contain these two edge defenders in order for Texas to pull off an upset on the road.

4. Boston College DE Harold Landry vs. Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey

When: Sept. 16, at BC
The skinny: Landry is the most fluid and natural edge rusher in the country. He has an explosive get-off and can really bend the edge at the top of his pass rush. His production speaks for itself. However, he will face a big challenge (literally and figuratively) when he faces McGlinchey this fall. McGlinchey has the size and strength to anchor down vs. power rushers, and he can generate some movement in the run game. He needs to improve his balance in pass protection. The winner of this individual matchup will greatly improve his 2018 draft stock.

3. LSU RB Derrius Guice vs. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison

When: Nov. 4, at Alabama
The skinny: Guice is a gifted runner with outstanding instincts, balance and burst. Harrison is a playmaker against the pass, but he's even better as a force player against the run. These two should meet up on several occasions in this key SEC West contest. Given the supporting cast around him, I think this matchup should favor Harrison.

2. Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough vs. Florida State S Derwin James

When: Sept. 2, in Atlanta
The skinny: This is going to be a heavyweight battle. Scarbrough is arguably the most physical runner in college football and Derwin James is the most explosive hitter in the country. Both guys are coming off injuries (a meniscus tear for James and a broken leg for Scarbrough), but they will be 100 percent when they meet in Atlanta. I love the fact that Scarbrough seeks out contact, but he better lower his pads when James shows up in the alley.

1. USC QB Sam Darnold vs. UCLA QB Josh Rosen

When: Nov. 18, at USC
The skinny: Ok, this is cheating. Darnold and Rosen won't be on the field at the same time, but their teams will meet near the end of the 2017 campaign. I believe these are 2 of the top 3 pro prospects at the quarterback position (Wyoming's Josh Allen is the third) and this game will be heavily attended by scouts for QB-needy NFL teams. Darnold provides a little more playmaking ability, while Rosen is a superior technical passer (footwork, release). They both have more talent than any of the quarterbacks in the 2017 draft class. I can't wait for this game.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.



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