Her’s a look at two key games on the college football schedule this week and the matchups that will go along way toward deciding the outcomes:
20 USC vs. Utah
After two nail-biting victories for the Trojans, they travel to Salt Lake City where they are looking to emerge victorious for the first time since 2012. The Utes, on the hand, have yet to play either of their first two games due to COVID-19. The Trojan offense won’t be an easy assignment.
In addition, the Utes will have plenty of new faces on defense when they kick off. After losing six starters on defense — three defensive backs and three linemen — to the 2020 NFL Draft, it will take a total team effort to halt the Trojan offense and their biggest playmaker.
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Utah Secondary
Trojan junior WR Amon-Ra St. Brown is one of the most polished receivers in college football. He is an exceptional route runner that has versatility to play all over the field. St. Brown leads the Trojans with 14 receptions and 213 yards but has yet to score a TD. Look for that to change this weekend against a young and inexperienced Utes secondary. He is a player I fully expect to skyrocket up draft boards after the season.
LT Alijah Vera-Tucker vs. EDGE Mika Tafua
Another name for the Trojans that is not generating a lot of draft attention right now is offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, who moved to LT from LG this season to replace former first-rounder Austin Jackson. He started 13 games last season as the left guard, but his athleticism allows him to kick out to the perimeter.
It will be interesting to see how head coach Kyle Whittingham uses edge defender Mika Tafua in this matchup with the Trojans. Tafua is the only remaining starter on the Utes defensive line from last season and he primarily lined up outside the right tackle. The Utes desperately need Tafua to take a leap this year in production to replace the 13 sacks that DE Bradlee Anae had last season. It bears watching if Whittingham uses him all over the field for the Utah defense.
Tennessee vs. 23 Auburn
After plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season, the Volunteers started 2-0 with wins over South Carolina and Missouri and were ranked as high as 14th in the country. However, they have lost four straight games now and Auburn has been one of the hottest teams in the country.
To make the odds worse for Tennessee, QB Jarrett Guarantano suffered a head injury in the Arkansas game that sidelined him for the remainder of that game and kept his availability for the this week in jeopardy.
Hence, the postponement of the game against Texas A&M might have been a blessing in disguise for the Volunteers, as they are set to travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium this Saturday. If the Volunteers are going to have a chance of pulling off the upset, they are going to need to run the ball effectively and control the time of possession. Thus, here is the matchup to watch.
Tennessee Interior OL vs Auburn LBs
In terms of NFL-ready prospects, the Volunteers boast two outstanding guards on their offensive line in LG Trey Smith and RG Cade Mays. Both play with tremendous physicality at the point of attack and when they are uncovered, you better keep your head on a swivel as a defensive lineman because they will look to bury you into the turf.
For Auburn to counteract the two maulers on the inside, their linebackers are going to have to play with sound gap discipline and great instincts at the second level. The Tigers are without their senior leader, LB K.J. Britt, who has been out the last four games recovering from thumb surgery.
Therefore, LB Zakoby McClain, the sixth-leading tackler in the SEC (62), and LB Owen Pappoe will be relied upon heavily in the run game. Not only are they the top two leading tacklers for the Tigers, they also share the team lead for sacks with two each.