We’ve finally gotten to the matchup that we were all waiting for: it’s FSU week! The week where all the taunts, criticism and ridicule will give way to a game with definitive results. With no further ado, here are the matchups that will go a ways to determining the victor Saturday in primetime.
1 vs. 1 Matchup of the Day
WR Ahmmon Richards (six foot one, 190 pounds) vs. Tarvarus McFadden (six foot two, 205 pounds)
“Big time players make big time plays in big time games” — Santana Moss
WR Ahmmon Richards qualifies as a big time player. It would only be fitting that Richards returned to Miami’s lineup against Duke and balled out with three receptions for 106 yards, highlighted by a spectacular 49-yard touchdown reception. In his introduction to the Miami-FSU rivalry a year ago, Richards caught four passes for 58 receiving yards with an average of 14.5 yards-per-catch. He’s Miami’s most talented option in the passing game, but there will be no time to acclimate to game speed as every possession in this rivalry is significant. With Richards battling against FSU CB Tarvarus McFadden, this is another prime opportunity for Richards to impress scouts at the next level. Contributing to a Miami victory over the Seminoles would further immortalize Richards’ lore as a Hurricane.
Tarvarus McFadden has returned to form this season. Coming off a 2016 season where he secured eight interceptions and seven pass breakups, McFadden leads all FSU defenders with three pass breakups this season. What’s impressive about the tall, lean corner is his ability to play press coverage at the line of scrimmage, redirecting wide receivers from their intended route. McFadden is vulnerable to giving up big plays due to poor tackling and aggressiveness, however.
There is no guarantee that McFadden will shadow Richards for most of the game — however, if FSU truly believes in their defense, then we should see McFadden trailing Richards for the majority of the contest. With Richards likely to command the attention of FSU’s top corner, perhaps drawing help from the safety over top, it should help to create opportunities for WR Braxton Berrios, WR Lawrence Cager and TE Christopher Herndon IV to find space in the defensive coverage based on the attention that Richards draws.
Positional Matchup to Watch
FSU’s Running Backs vs. Miami’s Front-Seven
The Seminoles have a good thunder and lightning combination at running back. RB Jacques Patrick plays the role of thunder, taking the ball between the tackles. Patrick averages 5.23 yards-per-carry, having rushed for 162 yards in three games and one rushing touchdown. Patrick is also FSU’s best option at the position in pass protection. Cam Akers serves as lightning to Patrick’s Thunder, averaging 4 yards-per-carry with 144 rushing yards. Akers may be the more talented option, but he has not been able to take over the position — something that many predicted would happen in the preseason. Akers is a freshman who needs to work on his patience, but given the blocking in front of him, he may not have too many options.
Against Duke, Miami’s front-seven piled up 11 tackles for loss. The ’Noles allowed Wake Forest to set a new team record 17 tackles for loss. Miami should continue to feast this week against a vulnerable FSU offensive line that has allowed 31 tackles for loss and 12 sacks to rank near the bottom half in the country in each category. FSU’s left tackle Derrick Kelly was injured last week against Wake Forest and the ’Noles struggled to get a good push against Wake’s defense. We could see a repeat performance from LB Michael Pinckney and DE Joe Jackson running free in the backfield. This should also be a big game for Miami defensive tackles Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton who have, combined, 5 tackles for loss and two sacks so far this season.
Caneseye Players to Watch
Because this is such a big matchup, this week’s CPW features four players, two from each team, who could be catalysts for their squad.
It’s impossible to avoid safety Derwin James, whether on the field or from his glorification in the lead up to his return in the off-season. James deserves high billing for his role within Florida State’s defense. James has the talent to line up just about anywhere — on defense, rushing from the line of scrimmage, dropping back in coverage or lining up as a cover corner on the field, FSU lines him up everywhere. As soon as the huddle breaks, you must account for James; it should be a priority before every single play. James can single-handedly swing the moment for the Seminoles, especially if Miami’s defense stymies FSU. The pressure won’t just be on the Seminoles defense to stop the ’Canes, but to score as well.
While wide receivers George Campbell, Nyquan Murray and Keith Gavin are all great complements, it’s Auden Tate who has been Mr. Reliable this season. A big target at six-foot-five and 225 pounds, Tate leads all Seminole receivers with 13 receptions for 226 yards and his 3 touchdown receptions are the only scores by a ’Nole wideout this season.
Miami looks to have found their number one cornerback in Malek Young, who leads Miami with four pass breakups this season. Young blanketed Duke receivers a week ago, however FSU will be a true test of his prowess given their size and athleticism. Look for Young to be tested — perhaps not much as Dee Delaney, but enough to prove that he is Miami’s best cornerback.
The stage is set for Mark Walton. There will be plenty of scouts in attendance, more than the 16 that were said to be on-hand for the Duke game. It was a grind for every yard against Duke, and he will be in for a similar grind against FSU. Limited to 39 yards on 14 carries for a 2.79 yards-per-carry average, Walton could face a eight-man front to limit his impact. With the return of Ahmmon Richards to lineup, it could take a defender out of the box, giving Walton more cut back options.
Walton did not finish the game against Duke because of a bothersome ankle injury. It’s expected that Walton is good to go for the contest — however, Miami will need a significant contribution from RB Travis Homer, who has flashed throughout the season and has an impressive 8.09 yards-per-carry average and is tied with Walton for the team lead in rushing touchdowns with three.