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Meet Florida State, now with more Dalvin Cook

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

This Florida State team is not the complete dominance machine it was during its national title run in 2013, nor is it the 2014 group that had an incredible penchant for theatrics. (In fact, the theatrics went the other way this season.) But the 2015 Seminoles are still loaded with talent, and they gave Clemson a good game in Death Valley.

The loss at Clemson eliminated FSU from Atlantic Division contention, so maybe the biggest obstacle ahead is simply dealing with a sense that there isn't much left to play for. It's got to feel somewhat foreign to be where they are right now, after going more than two years without a regular-season defeat. Must be nice!

Despite the setbacks thus far, the Seminoles can still reach 10 wins for the fourth consecutive season. They haven't been a disappointment in 2015, even if they might have felt a bit that way in the aftermath of the Clemson game.

FSU Offense Off. S&P+ national rank Yds/Play
(national rank)
(national rank)
Yds/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 22
6.7 (21) 5.5 (11) 8.0 (36)
2014 16 6.4 (25) 4.3 (68) 8.2 (22)

Somehow it feels like Dalvin Cook hasn't gotten the attention he's deserved, which is odd to say about a running back with more than 1200 yards rushing on 8.3 per carry. Maybe it's because Leonard Fournette captured so many headlines with his play; maybe it's the FSU has fallen out of the ACC and national title discussion.

Cook would most likely be the nation's leading rusher if he hadn't missed the bulk of two games, but even while hamstring and ankle injuries have cost him time, he's still done incredible things. Here's one look at how good he's been, from the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone:

Cook rushed for 194 yards on 21 carries in the loss [to Clemson] and now leads all Power Five backs in runs of 20-plus yards, 30-plus yards, 40-plus yards, 50-plus yards, 60-plus yards and 70-plus yards. He also leads all Power Five backs with 3.88 yards after contact, according to ESPN.

Thirty-three of his 148 carries (22.3%) have gone for at least 10 yards. The only opponent to sorta shut Cook down was Boston College, which limited him to 54 yards on 15 carries. Still, that's not a terrible effort against a run defense like BC's.

Cook's efforts have helped Florida State's offense snap out of a funk on more than one occasion this season, though FSU's passing game is getting along okay with Jameis Winston. First thing to note here is that Winston threw 20 interceptions in 2014, while FSU's quarterbacks have thrown on two in 2015.

Both Everett Golson and Sean Maguire have higher passer ratings than Winston did in his final college season. Golson started FSU's first seven games but hasn't played since an injury that had him suffering concussion-like symptoms. As of Wednesday morning, Jimbo Fisher wasn't ready to commit to a starter, but indicators from practice suggested it will be Maguire.

Between the quarterbacks' ability to take care of the ball and Dalvin Cook's insane explosiveness, it's gonna be a particular challenge for the Wolfpack defenders at the line of scrimmage.

FSU Defense Def. S&P+ national rank Yds Allowed/Play
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Rush
(national rank)
Yds Allowed/Pass Att.
(national rank)
2015 25
5.0 (30) 4.0 (54) 6.2 (23)
2014 40 5.5 (63) 4.2 (53) 7.3 (84)

Passing defense in particular has been a strength for the Seminoles--they rank 17th in Passing S&P+ and 21st in Passing Downs S&P+. They've also been better at limiting explosive plays, which is a nice recipe for overall improvement, even if they have at times still been vulerable-looking.

Miami, Louisville, and Clemson each averaged 6+ yards per play against the Noles, while Georgia Tech cracked 5.5. FSU is 2-2 in those games. There are reasons for optimism in those games for a Wolfpack offense that seems to be playing its best ball of the year.

Whether or not State can produce enough offensively to overcome Cook, though, I don't know. This is another of those "a few tournovers would be really super extra helpful" sorts of games.