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
TCU QB Trevone Boykin vs. West Virginia DC Tony Gibson
It's not a coincidence the Horned Frogs' rise to the top of the Big 12 has been fueled by the transformation of Boykin into a top-notch playmaker at quarterback. A 6-2, 205-pound junior, Boykin is one of the most explosive athletes in college football, as evidenced by his ability to play quarterback, running back and wide receiver during his collegiate career, but new offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie has unleashed Boykin as the trigger man of a fast-paced offense.
Boykin's freakish athleticism and sensational arm talent has helped the Horned Frogs become the top scoring offense in the nation. TCU is averaging 55 points per game in Big 12 play, with Boykin's ability to connect with Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Deante Gray on an assortment of short, intermediate and deep throws setting the tone for the unit. With Boykin also capable of breaking off big plays with his legs, the TCU offense poses a tremendous challenge for opposing defenses.
For Gibson, he must make the decision whether to attack the Horned Frogs and Boykin with an assortment of Cover 0 blitzes or mix in some conservative zone/man schemes designed to keep the ball in front of the defense. Considering the success the Mountaineers enjoyed against an ultra-explosive Baylor offense using aggressive tactics, Gibson will probably attack the Horned Frogs with a variety of pressures designed to disrupt the timing and rhythm of the passing game. Boykin's speed and athleticism could offset the Mountaineers' blitz tactics, but the high-risk, high-reward scheme makes this an intriguing battle to watch.
Best under the radar matchup
Utah RB Devontae Booker vs. Arizona State LBs Salamo Fiso and Antonio Longino
The Utes' blue-collar offense leans on the hard-nosed running of Booker to move the chains. The 5-11, 203-pound junior has topped the 100-yard mark in four straight games, exhibiting outstanding vision, balance and body control on inside runs. Additionally, Booker is a shifty runner on the perimeter with the speed to run away from defenders on the second level. With the Utes intent on pounding the rock with Booker between the tackles, the Sun Devils must be prepared to deal with the toughness and physicality of the Utah ground attack.
The Sun Devils have quietly become one of the stingiest defenses in the country under Todd Graham. Graham has helped his ultra-athletic squad bounce back from a disappointing effort against UCLA; Arizona State has held each of its last two opponents to under 300 total yards. Led by Fiso and Longino, the Sun Devils have improved against the run, excelling at plugging holes at the point of attack with tremendous gap discipline. Against Booker, the Sun Devils' linebackers must attack the creases and deliver big shots in hole. If the Sun Devils are able to limit Booker's yardage after contact and eliminate the available seams on cutbacks, Arizona State can take another step towards the Pac-12 South title.
Best WR-DB matchup
Auburn WRs Sammie Coates and D'haquille Williams vs. Ole Miss DBs Tony Connor and Senquez Golson
The Tigers are known for their potent rushing attack, but the 1-2 punch of Coates and Williams on the perimeter makes their passing game downright scary when Gus Malzahn elects to put the ball in the air. Each pass catcher possesses the size and athleticism that overpower smaller defenders on the perimeter, while also displaying the speed to run past the defense on vertical routes.
Thus, Marshall will routinely take shots down the field when he sees one-on-one coverage on the outside. With each guy capable of coming down with the contested catch, the Williams-Coates combination poses a serious challenge for the Rebels.
Ole Miss features a talented secondary with an impressive cast of explosive athletes on the perimeter. Connor and Golson are sticky cover corners with outstanding ball skills, awareness and instincts. Although Connor possesses the size (6-0, 217) to match up with Coates and Williams, the Rebels have to hope that Golson can climb the ladder to contest jump balls on the outside. If the Rebels' corners are able to win their fair share of one-on-one battles, the rest of the defense can focus on stopping Nick Marshall and the Tigers' potent running game.
Stanford OT Andrus Peat vs. Oregon OLB Tony Washington
The Cardinal offense has been one of the biggest disappointments of the college football season, but Peat has lived up to the hype. The 6-7, 312-pound junior is a polished technician with outstanding athleticism, balance and body control. He displays the lateral quickness to shadow elite pass rushers off the edge. Against Oregon, Peat will have the opportunity to square off with a long, rangy athlete with impressive first-step quickness and burst. If Peat can hold up against an NFL-caliber athlete on the edge, evaluators will feel better about his potential to develop into a franchise player at the next level.
For the Ducks, the blueprint for stopping the Cardinal starts on the edges with Tony Washington. The athletic edge rusher is a rangy defender with the size, speed and quickness to set the edge against the run, while also displaying the skills to wreak havoc against the pass. Although Washington (6-3, 250 pounds) has only three sacks this season, he has shown flashes of disruptive potential off the edge and remains a legitimate threat to get home on blitzes from the corner.
Facing Peat, Washington will get a chance to show scouts he has the strength to hold the point against a rugged blocker, yet is agile enough to disrupt the timing of the passing game with a flurry of finesse moves. If he can come up with a few "splash" plays in a marquee game against elite competition, Washington can boost his chances of being an early selection on draft day.