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Derwin James Key vs Lamar Jackson

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Wherever Lamar Jackson goes on Saturday, expect Derwin James to follow him step-for-step.

Florida State's last game against Louisville was, for the Seminoles, a forgettable one. The Seminoles gave up 63 total points and 530 total yards in an afternoon that helped springboard Lamar Jackson towards becoming the youngest Heisman Trophy winner ever. A Florida-native, Jackson scored five total touchdowns, sprinting past defenders on numerous highlight-reel runs. Derwin James, Florida State's all-everything safety, was a mere spectator while recovering from surgery on a torn meniscus.

Though this Saturday's meeting lacks championship hype with the two teams entering with a combined record of just 6-6, Jackson and James give the pairing almost-unrivaled star power. Projected by some outlets as a top five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, James will be directly in the spotlight after missing this meeting the year prior. He, at 6'3'', 215 pounds with the versatility to play near the line of scrimmage or deep in coverage, is one of college football's few defenders with the athletic versatility to match Jackson on the field.

James will undoubtedly be tested. Jackson, after rewriting the record books last season, has now improved his yards per game, completion percentage and yards per attempt as a passer and is averaging more yards per carry as a rusher. For point of reference, he, this fall, is throwing for more yards than Washington State's Luke Falk and running for more yards than Georgia's Nick Chubb. In both run and pass defense, James will have to be at his absolute best.

In what has been a strange season for Florida State, James is leading the Seminoles with 29 total tackles, 19 solo stops and ranks second with four passes defended. A week one injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois, forcing true freshman James Blackman to lead an already-young unit, has resulted in Florida State having to lean on its defense heavily thus far. Beating Jackson Louisville would draw the struggling Seminoles back to .500; Florida State will need James to set the tone.

Two years ago, it was James that came up with a critical play in Jackson's Doak Campbell Stadium debut. Late in the third quarter, with Florida State clinging to a narrow 20-14 lead and the Cardinals near midfield, James sacked Jackson and knocked the football free; Josh Sweat recovered and the Seminoles scored a touchdown three plays later. The final score, 41-21 in favor of the garnet-and-gold, was set into motion by a memorable turnover forced by James, the first of his career.  

Schematically, Jackson vs James will be fascinating. Wherever Jackson goes on Saturday, expect James to follow him step-for-step. In this individual showdown worth remembering, James will get the chance he didn't have last fall. 

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports