Winter has come and gone. Summer is waning. But brighter days are finally upon us. We’ve waited months for meaningful football, and that hour is finally here. We’ve already seen the beginnings of the college football season, but the real show kicks off in earnest this Saturday. There’s never been a bigger opening day matchup than the one we’ll see Saturday when the Alabama Crimson Tide face off against the Florida State Seminoles.
This game is chock full of intriguing matchups on both sides of the field. You have guys like Bo Scarborough and Jalen Hurts looking to slash and dash through a tough Florida State defense. Conversely you have guys like Deondre Francois looking to pick apart the always tough Crimson Tide defense. But the most intriguing matchup in this game isn’t within the trenches. It’s not on the quarterbacks versus all-star defenses. It’s the potential first-round receivers and their battles with their equally great defensive back counterparts.
These pivotal matchups will set the tone for the rest of the college football season, and are sure to have a large impact on the upcoming NFL Draft. On one side you have potential first round wide receivers in Calvin Ridley for the Crimson Tide, and the near-consensus top-rated 2018 NFL Draft receiver prospect Auden Tate for the Seminoles. Opposite them are two of the best cornerbacks in all of college football in Anthony Averett (Alabama) and Tavarus McFadden (Florida State), and a duo of safeties — Derwin James (Florida State) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) — who are “can’t miss” prospects.
There will be plenty of big time names on the field between FSU & Alabama. Be sure to watch Calvin Ridley and Tarvarus McFadden go at it. pic.twitter.com/9GeENZis4e
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) August 29, 2017
In one half of our matchup, we have Florida State’s Tavarus McFadden going toe-to-toe with Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. McFadden is already considered one of the best corners in college football and should be a sure-fire first-round selection. However, a strong performance against Ridley can all but cement his place among the top 3 corners. The task isn’t going to be an easy one, though. Ridley could very well pose McFadden’s biggest challenge all season. Ridley is a burner who will line up in multiple spots on the field. He eats corners alive with great footwork and quick movements, creating separation in mere moments. McFadden will have his hands full, to say the least.
On the flipside, we’ll have one of the two or three best wide receiver prospects, Auden Tate, going head’s-up with Anthony Averett of Alabama. Tate exploded onto the scene last season with some impressive performances in his sophomore season. He was inconsistent and didn’t receive a ton of work, but he planted the seeds for an explosion in year three. Tate is already considered by some pundits to be the top receiver prospect, but a strong performance against possibly the best team in college football could go a long way towards swaying those not yet buying into the Tate hype.
Opposite Tate in this meeting of college football Goliaths is one of the most under-rated corners in college football. Averett has been overshadowed by a ton of talented secondary players during his tenure, but now is his time to shine. Should Averett have a strong performance against one of the biggest names in the game, he should vault into the discussion of the top corners. Tate is going to be a tough matchup for Averett, as Tate is a big, physical receiver who is extremely adept at using his body to gain position on the corner. With Tate’s size, his catch radius is tremendous. It’s going to take a superb effort on Averett’s part to shut Tate down. Is Averett up to the challenge? I think so.
I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s minds that Fitzpatrick and James are the two best safety prospects heading into the college football season, but that’s not to say that this matchup isn’t big for them as well. Both guys take immense pride in being able to perform at their best when the stakes are at their highest. It doesn’t get any bigger than backing up your corners against two of the premier wide receivers in college football.
College football fans, get your popcorn ready. This is going to be an amazing show. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the 2017 college football season. See you Saturday!