Why FSU is still a strong ACC title contender
After five games the Florida State Seminoles are tied atop their division with the also undefeated Clemson Tigers (a team getting a lot more hype right now than the Noles). Here are the reasons for their success so far, along with why they should be able to remain in the ACC title hunt all season.
1. Dalvin Cook is a stud.
When the game was on the line against Miami, Jimbo Fisher rightly turned to his star playmaker. Running back Dalvin Cook (+8.3 grade) is one of the best running backs in the nation. Despite having been given just 88 carries, Cook has broken 30 tackles. He’s also recorded an absurd 5.05 yards after contact per attempt, second in the nation to only Baylor’s Shock Linwood, and he currently ranks third in PFF’s elusive rating (a measure of how good a back is independent of his blocking). He is No. 1 in the nation in breakaway percentage.
Only drops in the passing game (four from 11 catchable passes) have prevented him from ranking even higher in PFF’s running back grades. He’s a playmaker that few college teams in the country have in their backfield.
2. The defensive front is coming together.
After an unsurprisingly sluggish start to the year on the back of losing a number of players to the NFL, the Seminoles’ defensive line is improving. That improvement is exemplified by DE Demarcus Walker, who had a cumulative +2.1 grade through the first three weeks, before exploding with a +9.6 grade in his last two. He has been equally effective as a pass-rusher and a run defender. In fact, all six FSU defensive lineman who have played more than 100 snaps have positive grades. Nile Lawrence-Stample (+11.1), Josh Sweat (+9.7) and Giorgio Newberry (+9.1) have also made impressive contributions.
3. Everett Golson is avoiding mistakes.
While Golson’s performances this season won’t wow you, he’s making good plays on a consistent basis. He’s one of just seven quarterbacks to have played 50 percent of his snaps without throwing an interception. Golson has also played well under pressure, completing 21 of 41 attempts for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While he simply hasn’t produced big plays (just six deep pass completions), Golson leads all college quarterbacks with an accuracy percentage of 83.6.
Florida State has clearly made a decision to be methodical in its offensive approach, playing to the Seminoles’ strengths of a good running game and defense (as stated above), and Golson is perfectly executing that strategy by protecting the ball. He has only had one negatively graded game all season, a big reason why he remains near the top of our QB grades.