James Quick Vs. FSU's Safeties/Star Positions
Last year I wrote in my breakdown of FSU's defense that Louisville could have a lot of success attacking the safety spots for the Seminoles. Then, Louisville went out and did just that. James Quick had a huge day with three touchdown catches and he beat Tyler Hunter so badly that he was benched. Quick was a slot receiver last year and has now been moved back outside for the most part but he has been in the slot and inside receiver spot multiple times so far. Quick beat Syracue's best player in Antwan Cordy last week on the first play of the game. Cuse had no business trying to match up with man coverage, but the Seminoles have the talent and depth to put players in a much better position this season.
Rod Johnson Vs. Devonte Fields
Rod Johnson was voted as the top offensive tackle in the ACC by the media and coaches while Devonte Fields got plenty of All-American nods after finishing last season on a tear. Johnson is a tall linemen that has plenty of length to keep rushers out of his pads, but on one particular play against Ole Miss two weeks ago he was absolutely dominated by a bull rush from a fairly small linemen. Fields is mostly a speed rusher, but he does a good job of using his length to aid him in his bull rushes. Most guys have to get much lower than the tackle to gain leverage but Fields does well to get his hands underneath the pads of the linemen and getting the linemen off balance. Fields should be highly motivated this weekend after such a poor showing last year. He also gets to go against a top offensive tackle on national television with all the eyes on him.
Lamar Jackson Vs. Matthew Thomas
Lamar Jackson has run wild for about half a season, compiling jaw-dropping rushing numbers and garnering national attention. However, it should be pointed out that Jackson has put up those great numbers against some pretty awful defenses. Kentucky, Charlotte, and Syracuse were porous run defenses without much talent to match up with Louisville. Texas A&M had some talent, but struggled to stop the run much of last season. Not to take away from Jackson's talent or performances, but he has a chance to show that he can do it against good competition this weekend. Those teams didn't have guys that could come close to Lamar's athleticism. FSU has those guys.
That brings me to Florida State's outside linebacker Matthew Thomas. Thomas was a highly recruited kid that has had a handful of issues that have kept him off the field for the Noles. Thomas is finally playing and he is everything he was hyped up to be. Rangy, long, and fast linebackers are hard to come by but Thomas sets himself apart from even that small group by being a very sound tackler. So far this year, Thomas has done an outstanding job of chasing down running backs and making strong open field tackles. Thomas and his counterpart, Jacob Pugh, are both extremely long guys that have enough speed and quickness to handle Lamar's speed coming around the corner. Florida State's game plan last year was to let the four man rush rush clog the middle and have the edge guys be there to "catch" him on the outside. Think of it as a filter that forces option plays right into the linebackers and safeties on the outside. Jackson's tendency to keep the ball on option runs so far plays right into the plan to force him to Thomas on the edge. Thomas' exceptional tackling so far this season should be a concern for the Louisville offense if their game plan works out again this season.