It’s already been an interseintg season for the AAC in 2020, one full of surprises and talented offenses. Of course, the offensive success isn’t exactly new. A conference known for scoring a ton of points continues that tradition, while nearly every defense takes the year off. Except for Cincinnati, of course. Two big time matchups in Cincinnati-Memphis and UCF-Houston loom this weekend, but there are matchups worth watching all across the conference this weekend. Let’s take a look at the best five.
Obinna Eze vs. Myjai Sanders
Make no mistake, Brady White is having another great year, but it wouldn’t be possible if not or a great offensive line. Eze especially continues to protect White’s blindside and control the line of scrimmage. The Tigers offense only works if the line wins up front, and they’ve been doing a great job. Eze also has NFL aspirations, and this will be a great week for him to face another future pro. After a good 2019 season, Myjai Sanders is already off to a great start in 2020. He currently leads the team in tackles for loss (6.0) and sacks (3.5), and it seems like he’s in the opponents backfield every other play disrupting something. Cincinnati’s defense is elite, and Memphis’ offense is explosive. One of those has to give this weekend, and these two play big roles in determining which side wins that battle.
CJ Johnson vs. Allie Green IV
It’s going to be a lot of wide receivers against defensive backs matchups in this article. Johnson and the ECU offense are still waiting to explode, and it doesn’t seem likely that it will happen this weekend against the Tulsa defense. Green is improving his draft stock on a weekly basis, so Johnson needs to bring his best. Johnson leads the starting ECU receivers in yards per catch (23.7) but only has seven catches to his name. If the Pirates are going to get something going offensively, they might need Johnson to dominate, which is a tough task given the competition he’s facing. Last time these two faced each other, Johnson had 141 yards and a touchdown, but it feels like things are different this year.
Marquez Stevenson vs. Aaron Robinson
UCF’s known for its speed, but they’ll see some of Houston’s speed this weekend. Stevenson’s a burner capable of breaking a game wide open, but Robinson is one of the most underrated defensive backs in the country. Nickel backs don’t typically get the recognition they deserve, especially at the level of difficulty in which they compete, and Robinson thrives in his role. I’m not sure if Houston’s offense can keep pace with the Knights, but I do know there are matchups that can help that cause. Stevenson against Robinson is one of them, and the winner can impact the game in a big way.
Calvin Austin III vs. Arquon Bush
It seemed impossible that Calvin Austin III would improve upon his 18.5 yards per catch in 2019, but he’s close. His 17.7 has been aided by a recent explosion. In the last two games, he’s averaged 22.3 yards per catch, becoming the next Tigers explosive playmakers. He faces his toughest test to date this weekend when he faces Bush and the Bearcats secondary. While Austin will most likely be in the slot against Bush, he could also see Darrick Forrest or James Wiggins.
Damarion Williams vs. Marlon Williams
This could also very easily be UCF center Matt Lee against Houston defensive tackle Chidozie Nwankwo too, but we will stick with the Williams matchup. Damarion hasn’t had the best start, but he’s still a good cornerback capable of shutting down the best receivers. He faces Marlon, a big and physical receiver who’s on fire right now.
In the last two games alone, he’s produced 22 catches for 365 yards and four touchdowns, which is production that few can match so far. Houston’s defense will face its toughest test this weekend against the Knight's passing attack, and it will be a good test for a young group that needs to face more adversity. Damarion and the defensive backs are good, but we’ll gain a good measurement of how far they’ve come since last year.