What did we learn from FSU’s win over Florida?

Another year, another win over the Florida Gators.

It seems like clockwork at this point. Much like their matchup with Miami, Florida State fans have come to expect a win over the Gators on Thanksgiving weekend. Of course, that it only common sense when Jimbo Fisher is now 13-1 against the Hurricanes and Gators since taking over as head coach of the Seminoles.

This year was no different. Dalvin Cook, for the third year in a row, ran at will against the Florida defense. He was virtually unstoppable, setting a career record for touchdowns at Florida State and proving to the numerous NFL scouts in attendance that he is absolutely worth a first round draft pick. Cook carried the ball 26 times for 153 yards and one touchdown and added 26 yards on the ground as well.

Stats aside, Cook put on a clinic against the team that he was formerly committed to. He showed an elite level of burst and acceleration to hit the edge and get to the second level quickly. The angles that Florida defenders used were useless against Cook’s speed. The junior running back also displayed his underrated power, breaking arm tackles and turning 2-yard gains into first downs and more. Overall, it was one of the more impressive performances of the season from Cook and one that Florida State fans will remember for a long time.

It was an up-and-down affair for Deondre Francois in his first game against the Gators. Francois finished the game 15/26 (57%) for 138 yards, a touchdown and an interception. This was not his best performance. He missed some easy throws, overshot others and had a very ugly interception in the second half when targeting Ryan Izzo down the field.

To his credit, Florida has two elite cornerbacks in Jalen “Teez” Tabor and Quincy Wilson, both of whom will likely be first round picks in this upcoming draft. Tabor and Wilson made life difficult for Francois, blanketing his receivers on the outside and forcing Francois to make some tough decisions down the stretch.

But while Francois struggled early in the game, he made some key plays late to seal the win for Florida State. For the first time this year, the offense ran a “QB counter” where Francois faked the pass to the outside, tucked it and followed Cook as a lead blocker up the middle. The first time they ran it, Francois was hit hard at the end and “fumbled.” The second time, Francois ran for a touchdown, sealing the win for Florida State.

Elsewhere on the offense, the offensive line performed fairly decent against Florida’s defensive front. Defensive tackle Caleb Brantley is an NFL draft pick and he had his way with the interior of the line for the most part, but other than that the offensive line did a good job of opening up holes for Cook and keeping Francois upright. They did just that and Florida State averaged 6.2 yards per carry and gave up zero sacks on the day.

It was Cole Minshew at left guard that stood out during film review. With Kareem Are out with a concussion, Minshew performed admirably in his stead and showed coaches and fans that he is ready to take over full-time duties in 2017. At 6-5, 338-pounds, there was no questioning Minshew’s strength, but he also showed some quick feet and was great in pass protection as well. If Minshew can continue to develop and Landon Dickerson can recover from his ACL tear, the Seminoles will have a nice tandem at guard for the foreseeable future.

On the defensive side of the ball, there is no other player to start with than DeMarcus Walker. The senior saved one of his best performances of the season for Saturday night, racking up five tackle and two sacks. He was unstoppable, terrorizing Florida’s freshman right tackle all night. He also lined up inside and got a key sack in the fourth quarter bull-rushing through the left guard and additional blockers.

All in all, this was one of Walker’s best games of his career. With NFL scouts in attendance, this performance should only serve to boost his stock as a high draft pick.

Another senior who had a great night was Marquez White. The box score doesn’t do his performance justice (3 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 PDs). White made his plays when it counted the most: on third down. Both of his pass deflections came on third down as well as the tackle for loss. He also had very good coverage throughout the night on Antonio Callaway, Florida’s best receiver. Similar to Walker, this tape should only help to get White drafted.

Florida State’s defensive line was absolutely dominant throughout the game. The Gators struggled to run the ball (1.9 average) and gave up six sacks. Derrick Nnadi was able to assert his will in the interior, manhandling guards and the center en route to several stops at the line of scrimmage. Josh Sweat had a very athletic sack-fumble in the game where he went airborne to strip Austin Appleby of the football and Brian Burns also added 1.5 sacks on the night as well.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect from Saturday night’s game was the clear disparity of talent between the two teams, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Austin Appleby was bad. No other word for it. He ended the game with a QBR of 5.4.

Yes, you read that right. Five point four.

Jordan Scarlett at running back was fine, but Florida’s offensive line was completely overwhelmed throughout the game. Scarlett averaged 3.8 yards per carry largely because his offensive line was not able to open any holes for him. At receiver, Antonio Callaway had some nice moments, but was largely contained by White and Tarvarus McFadden. He is a good player, but Florida desperately needs someone to emerge as a threat opposite of him.

If you are a Florida fan, what is there to look forward to?

Are you excited that Luke Del Rio is returning as your quarterback? If Del Rio can’t get it done, are Kyle Trask or Feleipe Franks ready to take over? Will the defense, which loses a lot of players to the NFL, be able to carry this team like it has in years past?

Meanwhile, Florida State fans have a lot of reasons for excitement. Deondre Francois returns and will continue to develop under Jimbo Fisher. The offensive line has a lot of room for improvement and the Seminoles have recruited line talent as well as anybody in the country. At receiver, Auden Tate and Nyqwan “Noonie” Murray have emerged as legit threats on the outside. Yes, you do lose Dalvin Cook, but there are several interesting names at running back to take over when he departs.

With the current state of things in Gainesville, it is no wonder that the team that resides in Tallahassee has won the state championship four years in a row. Even in a disappointing year by FSU standards, they still beat Florida to end the season. Quite handily, I might add.

Right now, these programs are trending in two different directions.

On one hand, you have a Florida State squad with a young, talented quarterback, a plethora of skill players and one of the best rosters in college football.

On the other hand, you have a Florida team which has not found a capable starter at quarterback since Tim Tebow left, a defensive that will lose most of it’s talent to the draft and a recruiting class that has become stagnant over the course of the season.

Don’t be surprised if the state championship ends up in Tallahassee for the foreseeable future.

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