COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: Most entertaining individual matchups of 2015
Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of a seven-part series designed to prepare you for the 2015 SEC regular season. We’ve provide you with a guide of the SEC players who could get selected in next year’s NFL draft, our bold predictions for the 2015 season, a printable SEC schedule, a list of each team’s best/worst fans and a comprehensive ranking of all 128 quarterbacks in FBS college football.
Happy Kickoff Eve from the staff at SDS!
We’re just as excited as you that in less than 24 hours, live SEC football will be played in Charlotte and Nashville as Gamecocks and Commodores try to start their seasons with a win.
Glancing at the rest of this season’s slate, here’s a quick look at some of the most intriguing matchups we’re looking forward to this fall. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments.
SEC’s most entertaining matchups in 2015
Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil vs. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett
Date: Oct. 24
Venue: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
A near unanimous choice as the nation’s top-ranked tackle and possible No. 1 pick in next year’s draft vs. an emerging superhero disguised as a freakish pass rusher? Count me in.
Moreover, the loser of this game is all but eliminated from the West Division race beginning the home stretch.
Defensive ends rarely beat Tunsil last fall. Despite being so massive, Tunsil’s agility is his strength, and he’ll use that skill to his advantage against Garrett. Texas A&M’s star is considerably faster and more athletic and could pose problems for the preseason All-American. I’d imagine numerous scouts will have their eyes glued to this game in October.
LSU DB Tre’Davious White vs. South Carolina DB Pharoh Cooper
Date: Oct. 10
Venue: Williams-Brice Stadium
There’s a chance South Carolina’s best player will be college football’s most targeted receiver this season. Cooper will act as a security blanket for first-year quarterback Connor Mitch, who is surrounded by inexperienced pass-catchers.
One of the leaders in LSU’s dominant secondary, White is hoping the Tigers once again flex the SEC’s best pass defense. His length will pester the Gamecocks’ jack-of-all-trades, but I’d take Cooper in a leaping contest against the rangy ballhawk.
Looking at the rest of LSU’s schedule, this isn’t the only 1-on-1 matchup the two-year starter has circled. He’ll have to cover several All-SEC caliber wideouts throughout his junior season including De’Runnya Wilson, Duke Williams and Laquon Treadwell in addition to the East’s best (Cooper).
Florida DB Vernon Hargreaves vs. Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
Date: Oct. 3
Venue: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
College football’s premier corner against a receiver many deem the league’s best promises to be a must-watch matchup early in the season in Gainesville.
Hargreaves has blanketed every top-flight wideout he’s been tasked with defending in the last two years except Alabama’s Amari Cooper, who burned the Florida secondary with an array of crossing routes, posts and quick screens. Hargreaves gives up three inches to Treadwell, but that won’t be a factor in how he performs.
Treadwell is one of four Rebels projected as a first-round pick in next year’s draft and the top playmaker on offense for a squad breaking in new quarterback Chad Kelly. The Florida game will make for Kelly’s second road start if Hugh Freeze is pleased with his progress through September.
Alabama DT A’Shawn Robinson vs. Texas A&M OL Mike Matthews, Joseph Cheek
Date: Oct. 17
Venue: Kyle Field
First-year offensive line coach Dave Christensen has stressed the importance of physical football and running between the tackles at Texas A&M this season, an offensive element the Aggies failed to do in 2014 after rushing for a division-low 149.9 yards per game.
Texas A&M’s focus on winning the line of scrimmage makes the Alabama game on Oct. 17 most intriguing.
Center Mike Matthews and guard Joseph Cheek are two senior returning starters who will be asked to take down preseason All-American A’Shawn Robinson at the point of attack. That’s nearly 1,000 pounds of brute strength bumping heads off the snap.
Both Robinson and Matthews are projected as early first-round selections in next year’s draft as two of the best players at their respective positions. At 6-foot-7, 305 pounds, Cheek will be playing on Sundays as well.