WR/CB showdown: JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Lloyd Carrington
Week 4 features two ascending players in a Pac-12 battle. USC looks to assert its dominance against Arizona State after dropping a home contest to Stanford last week. The premier matchup will be on the outside when wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster squares off against cornerback Lloyd Carrington in Tempe, AZ on Saturday night.
Smith-Schuster, an electric sophomore wide receiver, owns our second-highest receiving grade (+7.3) and is off to a torrid start in 2015 averaging 144.7 yards per game. He had a monster outing against Idaho in Week 2, going off for 10 catches, 192 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The freshman All-American a season ago is shaping up to be one of the top wide receivers in the nation.
Carrington enters this contest with a +3.9 overall grade and is coming off an impressive performance last week against New Mexico where he earned a +2.8 coverage grade. The redshirt senior is lauded for his work in the film room as much for his work on the field. He is known as one of the smartest and most technically sound cornerbacks in the country. After earning an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2014, Carrington is viewed as the leader of the defense this season.
Smith-Schuster wins if…
He continues to beat his opponent off the line and get free releases. Arguably the most dynamic player in college football with the ball in his hands, Smith-Schuster has made every opponent pay when he catches the ball on the run. He is faster than his numbers suggest, and continually ruins pursuit angles. He has all the tools you look for in a receiver and can bust a game open in multiple ways.
Carrington wins if…
He presses Smith-Schuster and plays with flawless technique. Getting his hands on Smith-Schuster will disrupt the timing of his routes and make USC QB Cody Kessler look elsewhere. Carrington has enough size and nastiness to ruin Smith-Schuster’s rhythm and force the sophomore sensation to get into a cerebral battle instead of a physical one. The Sun Devil cornerback cannot keep up with Smith-Schuster’s top-end speed, so it is vital to maintain balance and leverage at the line of scrimmage.
Smith-Schuster over Carrington
He may not post his customary jaw-dropping numbers, but he’ll produce a healthy stat line and make two or three game-change plays for the Trojans. His size, strength and speed combination gives defensive coordinators fits. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks loose and gets behind the Arizona State defense. Look for him to run plenty of crossing routes to maximize his best trait: making defenders miss in the open field. Carrington will do a better job than most at containing the front-runner for the Biletnikoff Award, but it won’t be enough as USC cruises to a wide margin of victory.