The Battle at Bristol is almost here as the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tennessee Volunteers are making their final preparations ahead of the biggest game of the week. There are a few matchups in this game that have the potential to make the difference in the final outcome and have an impact on both teams’ aspirations for the season as a whole.
With that said, let’s take a look at these key matchups.
WR Isaiah Ford vs. CB Cameron Sutton
Isaiah Ford and Cameron Sutton are two of the top NFL Draft prospects in this game with this being a NFL matchup that scouts are bound to be watching given the talent of these two players. However, this isn’t only a big matchup for NFL scouts but also could have a huge impact on this game.
Isaiah Ford is the most talented player for the Hokies and many teams would likely have to figure out a way to double team Ford without putting themselves in trouble in regards to covering Bucky Hodges and Cam Phillips. However, the Volunteers are one of the few teams that have a cornerback who may be able to slow down Ford without extra help in senior Cameron Sutton.
Ford and Sutton both had strong week 1 performances with Sutton having an interception against Appalachian State and Ford having 11 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown against Liberty. Both players already are in mid-season and that will only make this matchup better and more entertaining for fans.
If Ford can find a way to have a big game despite Sutton covering him, the Hokies will be in a lot better shape to upset the Volunteers. If Sutton is able to slow dow Ford and allow Tennessee to not double team the star junior receiver, Jerod Evans and Virginia Tech’s passing game will have some serious issues.
LT Yosuah Nijman vs. DE Derek Barnett
Derek Barnett is one of the top defensive ends and pass rushers in all of college football and will present the young but athletic Yosuah Nijman a tremendous challenge on Jerod Evans’s blind side. Barnett is going to be a top 10 to 15 pick in next spring’s NFL Draft and this is his first big stage to make a name for himself before next year’s draft.
For Nijman, this is the toughest matchup that he may face all year in the All-American candidate Barnett. However, Nijman is a tremendous athlete and has a chance to make a big impression that he can play at the next level. Nijman also has the potential to flip this game upside down if he can find a way to contain the dangerous Barnett.
While Barnett is expected to be a disruptive force for Tennessee, Nijman has the potential to make a difference on this game if he can find a way to contain Barnett. This matchup could end up making a big difference as to whether Jerod Evans has some time to make some plays or if he ends up on his back a few times.
DTs Nigel Williams, Woody Baron vs. Tennessee Interior OL
Tennessee has some experience on the offensive line in particular in the interior with both guards and their center being either juniors or seniors. However, Tennessee’s offensive line struggled as a whole last week including the interior and the interior offensive line will face off against a talented group of defensive tackles headlined by seniors Nigel Williams and Woody Baron.
Baron and Williams both played well against Liberty and have the potential to be disruptive forces that can limit the ability of Jalen Hurd to make plays. For Tennessee, a big part of their offensive game plan will rely on getting Hurd going to set up their passing attack with Joshua Dobbs and company.
Charley Wiles has definitely shown these guys the film of Tennessee last week and is likely telling them to be even more aggressive than normal against a vulnerable Tennessee offensive line. Baron and Williams seem poised for a big game but if Tennessee can find a way to slow them down, running back Jalen Hurd will have a fairly big game.