The BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl will be littered with NFL scouts and personnel. Both Ohio State and Notre Dame possess double digit future NFL draft selections and luckily, there will be some very intriguing individual matchups. With the amount of NFL talent on the field, it is mind blowing how these teams are not playing in the College Football Playoff. These two teams have arguably more NFL talent than any of the four playoff teams, which should lead to an entertaining matchup and NFL showcase.
DL Joey Bosa vs LT Ronnie Stanley
The Adolphus Washington suspension may limit the amount of times that we see this matchup (if Bosa is forced to play inside) but nonetheless, we will still see this matchup a handful of times and it will not disappoint. Both are projected top-10 selections in the 2016 NFL Draft. Stanley stands at 6'5", 315 pounds and moves extremely well for an offensive lineman. Bosa did not fill up the stat sheet, yet he was arguably more disruptive than ever before. NFL scouts will be keeping a very close eye on this matchup, as it will be the toughest individual battle each will have faced this season.
The 6'5", 315 pound left tackle is excellent in pass protection, as he possesses elite athleticism and excellent footwork. His athleticism shows on rollouts that head toward his side, where he can string out the defensive end and shadow his every move. Stanley is rock solid in pass protection, but he is inconsistent in the run game. His size and athleticism allows him to get to the second level; however, he has trouble holding his blocks and his footwork gets sloppy.
With Washington out, let's hope that the young guys step up so that Bosa can remain in his defensive end spot and will not have to constantly bump to the interior. This matchup will be a huge measuring stick for both players and it will be the tape that scouts will repeatedly play when they get evaluated.
RB Ezekiel Elliott vs LB Jaylon Smith
This will be the battle for the ages between the Butkus award winner and the most complete running back in the nation. There will be violent collisions near the line of scrimmage and in pass protection, where Elliott has yet to let up a quarterback pressure this season (per Pro Football Focus). Just like the Bosa versus Stanley matchup, this one will also feature two first round picks.
Smith is a pure three-down linebacker who makes an impact in the running game, in coverage and pressuring the quarterback. The 6'3", 235 pounder has the ability to play all three linebacker spots, which only boosts his draft stock. When watching him play, his speed and fluid athleticism shows right away. Smith quickly diagnoses plays and puts himself into position to make a play. After he diagnoses, he sheds blocks with ease, sizes himself up with the ball carrier and drives through him.
We all know how violent Elliott is with and without the football, and the physicality will be at another level in this matchup.
CB Eli Apple and S Vonn Bell vs WR Will Fuller
Will Fuller is a big-play waiting to happen. He is Notre Dame's version of Devin Smith, averaging 20.45 yards per catch and 16 of his 56 receptions converting for over 25 yards.
Fuller is a Devin Smith clone; from the wiry body type, to the ability to track the deep ball and go up and get it. Like Smith, Fuller is inconsistent as an intermediate route runner and against press coverage, but he more than makes up for it when he goes vertical. The wideout has 28 touchdown receptions in his past two seasons and like the first two spotlighted players, will be Ohio State's toughest challenge at that position all year.
If Ohio State's typically strong front-seven does not get a good pass rush, look for Deshone Kizer to test the Buckeye secondary deep. If the safeties read their keys and do not get sucked up into the run game, Ohio State's Cover 4 scheme is designed to limit chunk pass plays, which should take care of Fuller. Bell could be the first safety off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft and Apple has been a popular name as a possible day two selection (if he leaves). The Buckeye secondary under Chris Ash has been aggressive and they have done a solid job at limiting the opposing team's number one receiver, but they have yet to face a pure speedster like Fuller. A big play to Fuller could be momentum swinging.
Other matchups to look for:
DT/ DE Sheldon Day versus LT Taylor Decker and LG Pat Elflein- Day can play on the interior or exterior of the defensive line, which should provide a good matchup against future first rounder Taylor Decker and next year's number one ranked guard, Elflein.
DT Jarron Jones versus LG Pat Elflein- Jones has missed the entire season due to a torn MCL, but he has been cleared to play against the Buckeyes. Jones' snaps may be limited, but when healthy, he is arguably more disruptive than Day. Both Jones and Elflein have a year of eligibility left, so we could be looking at two 2017 first rounders.
RB C.J. Prosise and RB Josh Adams versus LBs Raekwon McMillan, Darron Lee and Joshua Perry- Prosise and Adams have been hit by the injury bug this year, yet both will be on the field Saturday. The one-two running back punch should provide a strong matchup against the Buckeyes' elite triumvirate of linebackers, all of which will eventually be solid NFL draft picks.
WR/ Nickel CB Torii Hunter Jr. versus WR Braxton Miller- Hunter has really turned it on as a two-way player and there will not be a more athletic matchup than when he is on defense, covering Miller. It will be a showcase of two elite athletes, assuming Ohio State is able to find ways to get Braxton Miller the ball.
QB Deshone Kizer versus DC Chris Ash- Kizer will be the best dual threat quarterback that the future Rutgers' head coach will have had to scheme for since Marcus Mariotta; not to mention he will have a huge chip on his shoulder to beat the team that he watched growing up.