football-fbs flag

Janie Harris | | August 17, 2016

Week 1's key position matchups

  On Sept. 3, Houston and Oklahoma will face off in the season opening game for the two teams.

With college football’s opening game about a week away, fans across the country prepare for their teams’ season. With that, news of power players and opponents continues to come up, so for the first week, how will these players compare when their teams battle it out in Week 1?


Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield vs. Houston’s Greg Ward Jr.

While this game overall is likely to be interesting, the battle between two experienced, dominating quarterbacks makes it a bit more exciting.

Mayfield, a quarterback difficult to defend, threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns as well as ran for 405 yards and seven touchdowns. He has impressed many with his ability to improvise and work with Oklahoma’s “Air Raid” offense.

Jun 1, 2016 at 11:20am PDT
However, Ward Jr. is creeping up as another big name in college football, and he seems to be a perfect fit for Houston’s system. He remains an explosive runner with a great arm, leading the Cougars to a 13-1 record last year, in which he threw for 2,828 yards, 17 touchdowns and ran for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns. He looks to be the reason Houston is a feared opponent in 2016, but this game will answer fans’ questions about if Ward Jr. has the skills necessary to take the Cougars to a national championship.

Both quarterbacks are fairly matched; it should be exciting to watch the clash between the two.

Running Back

LSU’s Leonard Fournette vs. Wisconsin’s Corey Clement

The hype around Fournette is overwhelming, but him coming into this game off a sprained ankle makes these two running backs have a little in common.

Clement just couldn’t stay healthy last year. However, he seems to be ready for this year, and he looks to be a real force on Wisconsin’s offense. He has rushed for over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns in his career, so if he is truly ready for this game, he may be able to keep up with Fournette.

However, Fournette, if he is healthy, has only had one bad game in his career at LSU. Otherwise, he dominated the field. Last year, he was just short of breaking 2,000 yards, so he is not a running back that Wisconsin’s defense can ignore.

Wide Receiver

USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley

Both of these players haven’t quite received the recognition they deserve for their talents. Each could easily be considered the best wide receiver in college football.

Smith-Schuster comes off a season where he finished with 89 catches, 10 touchdowns and over 1,400 yards. However, he plays with a team of little experience this year, so while he should be making a big impact on college football this year, he might have difficulty getting to where he needs to be to compare to Ridley. However, the new talent could surprise football fans, and he could easily pass Ridley up in this opening game.

Ridley, with a matching 89 catches overall, looks to step up this year and maintain his role as a great target for Alabama’s quarterback this year. In fact, 2016 may be the best year for Alabama’s passing game to date.

Defensive End

Ole Miss’s Marquis Haynes vs. Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker

Often an underrated position, many believe that defensive ends can make or break a game, and these two are both sure to majorly impact this season opener.

Built more like a linebacker, Haynes size doesn’t slow him down, which fans can see in the numbers since he totaled over 17 sacks. Ole Miss calls him a superior athlete and a dynamic pass rusher. Paired with the rest of Ole Miss’s experienced defense, he will be difficult to top.

However, Walker had over 10 sacks last year and established his single-season career highs with 58 tackles and four forced fumbles. He has continued to improve with each year he returns to the Seminoles, and this year should be no different.  

Offensive Tackle

Georgia’s Greg Pyke vs. North Carolina’s Jon Heck

Another position that is often forgotten lies on the offensive line. Without these players, quarterbacks and running backs alike would have difficulty completing their jobs. However, in this match up these teams have some key players that most likely will affect the overall outcome of the game.

After a bumpy year last year, Pyke is coming back to prove to fans the talent he possesses. This year, he helps lead the way for what could be a dominate rushing year for Georgia, and fans could be seeing him emerge as an all-conference player.

Heck helped lead North Carolina to top the nation in yards per play with consistent blocking by the offensive line. He is constant in his task and good at what he does. If he keeps this up, he could be called one of the best offensive linemen of 2016. 

5 storylines to follow this college wrestling season

Penn State will once again be a hot topic leading into the 2023-2024 college wrestling season, so here's everything you need to know about the Blue and White, as well as the teams, coaches and athletes that will be looking to challenge the reigning champs this year. 

D1Softball's top 100 college softball players from 2023

Who were the best players of the 2023 college softball season? Based on offensive stats, defensive impact, value to their team, advanced metrics and a splash of postseason success, D1Softball compiled the best 100 players of this past season.

5 major men's college wrestling transfer portal moves — and how they impact the 2024 team title race

Here’s a look at the biggest transfer headlines in college wrestling this summer and how these moves might impact the 2024 NCAA wrestling team race.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners