Only a handful of players in NCAA history have earned All-American honors in their freshmen seasons. College greats like Herschel Walker, Adrian Peterson, and current Clemson sophomore Sammy Watkins are a few that can claim to be a part of this club.
After a freshman campaign in which he gained 1,219 receiving yards and notched 12 touchdowns, Watkins enters the 2012 college football season as the ACC preseason player of the year favorite and a Heisman candidate as well.
The running back/wide receiver hybrid is a threat to take the ball the distance at any time, as he led NCAA rookies in receiving yards per game, all purpose yards, and touchdowns. An integral part of the special teams, Watkins is a dynamic returner and one of the most elite all-around playmaking talents college football has seen since Reggie Bush was at USC.
A drug suspension, however, will keep Watkins from playing in a huge Week 1 matchup for preseason No. 14 Clemson against the No. 25 Auburn Tigers. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney plans to keep Watkins out of their Week 2 matchup as well, but if the Clemson offense struggles as it did against NC State last season without their most dynamic playmaker, Swinney may need to go against his disciplinary commandments and allow Watkins to play.
Though neither team will receive the aid of their overwhelming home stadium advantages, facing a Watkins-less offense is a huge boost for Auburn. This, along with a few other interesting matchups and storylines, make this Week 1 ACC and SEC clash at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA a pivotal game for both teams and a difficult job for odds makers in Las Vegas. Here are a few of those matchups the College GameDay crew will likely analyze when they gear up for this game between two national championship hopefuls.