Now that every college team has played four or five games this season, we are starting to get a better idea of how the conference races are shaking out and what games will be important for the second half of the college season. One of the best games this week is scheduled for Thursday night, when Louisville plays North Carolina State in an ACC matchup, but it may be history before you get to read this so I’ll pass on that one.
Another important game in the ACC is the always tough Miami-Florida State game. This year the game is at Florida State. I have had the opportunity of attending that game in the past, and to say tension is high during the pregame is an understatement. Many of the players on the opposing teams know each other from high school play, and regardless of their records, the game is for bragging rights. This game always is played with a high level of intensity.
Florida State has one of the best safety duos in the country in junior Derwin James and senior Trey Marshall. Many feel James may be the best safety in this year’s draft class. Although it’s still too early to proclaim that, he is a player who can come in and start right away. What some scouts have been disappointed about this year is that he isn’t as big a hitter as they would like. Marshall isn’t a top-round guy, but he is a very consistent player who can cover and support the run.
Florida State also has a junior corner who had high grades going into the season. Tarvarus McFadden at 6-2, 200 lb.'s, has ideal corner size and is an exceptional press-cover guy with ball skills.
Along the defensive front, junior defensive end Josh Sweat has edge pass rush skills and shows the athleticism to play up or down depending on the defensive front. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is short (6’1) but he has long arms, a quick first step and is very explosive.
On offense, Florida State has a big wide receiver in junior Auden Tate. He has 13 receptions for a 17.4-yard average so far this season. Those numbers don’t seem all that good, but remember Florida State has only played three games. Two of their games have been postponed or cancelled due to hurricanes this fall.
Miami — which has seen a resurgence under head coach Mark Richt — is a very young team that is still developing and doesn’t have as strong a senior class as usual. Still, there are a few players that will get drafted late or sign as free agents. Among them are defensive end Chad Thomas, who has seven tackles and a sack through three games. Chris Herndon is a 'move' tight end with some speed. Wide receiver Braxton Berrios has deep speed but lacks size. Junior running back Mark Walton also lacks ideal size but he is quick, fast and elusive. He is averaging 9.2 yards per carry to date this season.
If you’re in the Chicago area, stop by Ryan Field at Northwestern to see Penn State play the Wildcats. I previewed Penn State last week, and they have the Heisman Trophy favorite in junior running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley has already run for 574 yards and has added another 27 pass receptions. Add to that the fact that he is a dynamic kick returner, also.
Northwestern’s junior quarterback Clayton Thorson will probably stay in school, but the NFL scouts are already taking a close look. This year he has completed 91-of-142 passes for 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has thrown five interceptions. Senior tight end Garrett Dickerson is also getting a close look from scouts on the offensive side.
Northwestern’s best prospect is senior safety Godwin Igwebuike, who looks to be the ideal strong safety, at 6’0 – 212. Igwebuike is a tenacious tackler and already has 29 total tackles on the season. He could be an early-to-mid-round pick if he tests out as well as he plays.