NoleGameday

Florida State’s most dangerous player is flying under the radar

 

Make no mistake about it, Florida State is headed into an absolute war against Louisville on Saturday. The Cardinals are going to pull out all of the stops to try and complete the upset.

We’ve heard about the dynamic Lamar Jackson, and how great of a player he is. His 1015 total yards and 13 touchdowns are the most by a player in the first two games of a season in the last 10 years.  We’ve heard about the defense Louisville boasts, and they certainly are a veteran group with 10 of their 11 starters being upperclassmen.

But let’s face it, Louisville hasn’t played an opponent that tested them yet. They’ve taken Charlotte and Syracuse to the woodshed. Florida State overcame a 22 point deficit while absolutely dominating the second half en route to a win over the then #11 Ole Miss Rebels. The Cards will be tested tomorrow by the best team they’ll play all season.

Florida State also has one of the best offensive weapons in the entire country, Dalvin Cook, and Cook has flown under the radar all week as we’ve inched towards this match up. He’s had two subpar games to start off the year and failed to reach 100 yards or more on the ground since going off for 183 rushing yards against Florida in 2015.

Honestly, Cook’s ineffectiveness in the first two games has a lot of people concerned about what’s wrong with him. He had shoulder surgery before the spring game and returned for the full fall camp before the season, did he come back too soon? Cook also put on a little weight (about 10 pounds) over the offseason, but noted that it had not affected his speed. However, it is clear that something is bothering him, he hasn’t had the same burst that we saw last season and isn’t shedding as many tackles. In fact, it’s almost been strange seeing Cook go down instead of bouncing off of hits. If he is truly healthy, then it’s time for him to have his first breakout performance of 2016.

Cook will be one of the focal points of an offense that will be playing in an extremely hostile environment. Louisville will be hosting their first College Gameday this weekend, so I’m expecting their crowd to be pretty raucous. I expect Jimbo to try and open up the run game early and often, he knows that Cook is going to need to have a good game if they are going to leave with a win.  

With the passing game easing into a rhythm that it missed in 2015 and the rushing game struggling thus far in 2016, the Noles have found their comfort on offense behind quarterback Deondre Francois. He has proven that he can make plays with both his arm and legs, and that is going to take some of the defensive focus off of Cook. Francois is averaging almost 340 passing yards per game, and has thrown 5 touchdowns to 1 interception. He needs to continue to be an efficient passer and not let the moment overwhelm him. This is the first time Francois will be playing in a true road environment and it’s important that he stays calm and believes in himself as well as his teammates.  

Dalvin Cook has shredded Louisville in the two games he has played against them thus far in his career. He has amassed a total of 31 carries for 273 yards (8.8 YPC) and 4 touchdowns on the ground. Through the air he has caught 8 passes for 100 yards. Cook is essentially averaging 186.5 yards of total offense per game against the Cards, which is insane.

It’s no secret how talented this guy is, but good running backs usually at least have above average offensive lines making holes for them. Unfortunately for Dalvin Cook, his offensive line so far in 2016 has been a group hit hard by injuries. The returns of veteran offensive linemen Kareem Are (8 career starts) and and Wilson Bell (13 career starts) will certainly help the productivity of the front five overall. Center Alec Eberle has dealt with the injury bug himself, but he is good to go for this game. The offensive line finally having a healthy and experienced starting five on the field should definitely help the offense as a whole. 4 of the 5, Rick Leonard being the outlier, have started 6 or more career games. Cook has to be happy to have the original starting offensive line in it’s place for the first time this season.

Personally, I’m expecting at least 120 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns for Dalvin Cook in the game against Louisville tomorrow. The star of this team is ready to shine bright for the first time in 2016 behind a healthy offensive line.

Dustin Lewis

Lead writer for NoleGameday. Majoring in English Editing, Writing, and Media at Florida State University. Writer for FSView Sports and Hashtag Basketball.



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