Among the most anticipated match-ups in Saturday's 111th "Brawl of the Wild" should be Montana State's Elvis Akpla battling Montana's Trumaine Johnson.

Both seniors are among their respective teams' best players. Both should be NFL prospects come next spring.

Akpla, a wide receiver, leads the Bobcats with 43 catches for 827 yards. The former University of Oregon football and track star has 10 touchdown grabs.

Johnson, a senior cornerback, is widely renowned as the top NFL prospect in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Buck Buchanan finalist has 13 career interceptions, although he hasn't picked off a pass this season. Johnson's stats are down due to offenses throwing away from the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder from Stockton, Calif., but Johnson does have team-highs with nine pass breakup and nine pass defenses.

Montana is similar to Montana State in that each team's defense plays "boundary" and "field" cornerbacks. In other words, Johnson plays a specific side of the field depending on the offense's field position- wide side or short side - rather than defending a specific player. Still, look for Johnson to be matched up with Akpla frequently Saturday afternoon.

"It will be a great matchup because both of the guys are extremely competitive," said Montana State sophomore quarterback DeNarius McGhee. "Both of them will have a chance at the next level. This will be a huge game for those guys to battle each other and see what next-level competition is like. In my opinion, those are two of the best players in the Big Sky and in the country."

Akpla, at 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds, won't blow away NFL scouts with his size. But he possesses elite athleticism. He was the Oregon state long jump champion as a senior at Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore. Akpla's winning jump of 24 feet, 11 inches ranked in the Top 10 nationally. He long jumped more than 26 feet consistently during indoor track season as a freshman for the Ducks. He has been clocked in the low 4.4s in the 40.

Johnson is a rare blend of size, speed and fluidity. Some scouts are already comparing him to former Tennessee State standout and current Philadelphia Eagle Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, the 16th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Johnson is ranked among the top 10 corners available in next spring's NFL draft by The 2010 consensus All-America also runs in the low 4.4s in the 40.

When asked about the matchup, Akpla couldn't help but make an NFL analogy.

"It's what receivers dream of," said Akpla, a native of Senegal. "It's like a Chad Johnson or a Randy Moss goes up against a (Darrelle) Revis or a (Nnamdi) Asomugha. It's a test to see where you really are as a player."

Johnson, now known as Chad Ochocinco, has played 11 seasons in the NFL and is currently with the New England Patriots. Moss played 13 NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, the Oakland Raiders, the Patriots and the Tennessee Titans before retiring after last season. Revis is an All-Pro corner for the New York Jets. Asomugha is an All-Pro corner who currently plays for the Eagles.

Akpla said going up against a cornerback of Johnson's caliber is something he relishes.

"For me, more than most people, when the pressure is on, the better the competition, the better I have to be, the better I try to match it," Akpla said.

Johnson did not return repeated calls from the Chronicle for this story.

Montana head coach Robin Pflugrad echoed McGhee in saying he anticipates the battle to be ultra-competitive. Pflugrad coached Akpla at Oregon while serving as the wide receivers' coach in Eugene before taking the same position at UM in 2009.

"They are both very talented players, physical players at the line of scrimmage," said UM's second-year head coach. "Elvis does a nice job of getting into his routes and Trumaine does a great job of not letting guys get into their routes. It's going to be a tremendous match-up."

Both players have evident athleticism and stocked resumes. MSU head coach Rob Ash said, on paper, the matchup appears to be a draw. He thinks the man who will emerge with the upper hand is the one with the most poise.

"I think whoever stays the most calm will be better off," Ash said. "They got after each other last year. It was a good battle between two fine football players. We just have to make sure we don't over-hype it so we can just relax and play."

In MSU's 21-16 win in Missoula over UM last fall, the two players basically negated one another. Akpla caught two passes for 16 yards. Johnson had one tackle.

Johnson picked off four passes last year, returning two for touchdowns. This season, he's helped hold down the likes of Eastern Washington senior Brandon Kaufman (5 catches, 27 yards) and Idaho State senior Rodrick Rumble (6 catches, 73 yards). Both came into their teams' contests against UM averaging more than 100 yards receiving per game.

Despite Johnson's abilities, McGhee said Montana State will not make any effort to stay away from the UM corner.

"We are just going to take what the defense gives us," McGhee said. "If they give us something on his side, we are going to take it. If the defense, doesn't allow us anything on his side, we will take the other side or take the run. Whatever they give us, that's what we are going to take. If they give us a one-on-one against Elvis, we are going to hit that."

‘Cat Tracks: Johnson's 13 career interceptions are tied with Blayne McElmurry for the fourth-most all-time at UM... Johnson's 32 pass breakups are the most in school history... Johnson is a three-time All-Big Sky selection, including earning first-team All-Big Sky honors each of the past two seasons... In three seasons at Montana State, Akpla has racked up 1,899 career receiving yards, the third-most in school history behind Chip Hobbs (2,070 from 1995-99) and Rob Tesch (1,920 from 1989-92)... Akpla's 17 career touchdown catches rank third in school history as well, behind Kelly Davis' 21 (1983-86) and Hobbs' 18... Akpla, an honorable mention All-Big Sky pick last season, has caught at least one pass in all 32 of his games at MSU.