The Bulls’ linebackers vs. Dalvin Cook
Last season FSU running back Dalvin Cook made minced meat out of the Bulls’ defense, rushing for 266 yards and three touchdowns, one of which stretched for 74 yards. Cook was able to bounce off, run over and break through a USF defense that wasn’t able to complete their tackles.
The Bulls were without starting linebacker Nigel Harris last year, and lost fellow linebacker Auggie Sanchez midway through the game due to a controversial targeting call. Sanchez and Harris are now leading the team in tackles this year and looking to help redeem their defense.
While Cook may have started his season off slowly, Sanchez knows that the junior running back will be looking to bounce back; squaring off against the team that allowed him to rack up the second most rushing yards in a single game in Seminoles history.
“We got to defend Dalvin Cook. He’s the same player that he was; he’s a really good player and he can do a lot of things that other people can’t do,” said Sanchez about matching up with Cook. “Eleven guys running to the ball. That’s probably about the best way you can stop him and even when you say ‘stop him,’ you’re really just slowing him down.
"Having our bull shark mentality will really help us.”
FSU’s defensive end DeMarcus Walker vs. left tackle Kofi Amichia
The 6-foot-4, 297-pound senior tackle, Kofi Amichia, will have his work cut out for him on the perimeter of the offensive line, as he’ll be trading hands with the Seminoles' senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker. Walker is currently leading the team in sacks with four and a half, and is second on the team in tackles with 15. He's also chipped in with two forced two fumbles.
While Walker may be leading the Seminoles in a few defensive categories, some of those numbers are skewed. The defensive end has not been able to disrupt opposing quarterbacks since the season opener against Ole Miss, accumulating all of his sacks and six of his tackles in that first game.
Amichia was a part of last year’s offensive line that allowed three sacks on quarterback, Quinton Flowers, but is now anchoring a line that has only allowed Flowers to be sacked just twice through the first three games of the season.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling going up against cornerback Tarvarus McFadden
Junior transfer wide receiver, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, has become the big-bodied deep threat the Bulls missed last year. Valdes-Scantling has become a favorite target of Flowers with 10 receptions for a team leading 186 receiving yards, including a 51-yard bomb for a touchdown.
The 6-foot-5 wide receiver is not accustomed to bumping against defensive backs that match him in height, and Valdes-Scantling will find himself going up against a 6-foot-2 cornerback in Tarvarus McFadden.
The sophomore cornerback is leading the Seminoles defense in interceptions and passes defended, with two and three respectively. With the loss of All-American cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the NFL draft this season, McFadden appears to be quickly filling the big hole that was left behind.
Marlon Mack going up against linebacker Matthew Thomas
In last season’s game, All-Conference running back Marlon Mack had an uncharacteristically pedestrian game, rushing for 83 yards on 18 attempts while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. To put that into perspective, without that game, Mack averaged 6.7 yards per carry the rest of the season; a full two more yards per carry.
After missing the second game of the season, Mack is currently averaging 9.6 yards per carry, but the sample size is small with only 18 attempts so far.
Mack will be facing redshirt junior linebacker, Matthew Thomas, the current leader in tackles for the Seminoles with 20 total tackles, 14 of which he completed solo. The 6-foot-3, 227-pound linebacker has made his presence known on the field after sitting out the 2015 season with a shoulder injury, by picking up 10 tackles in FSU’s week three loss to Louisville.