The Daily Nole

Dalvin Cook, Miami and Don Brown: Something’s Got to Give

Ross Obley/FSU athletics

Most suspect that the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 will be the last in a Florida State uniform for junior running back Dalvin Cook. The contest also happens to take place in Miami — Cook’s hometown.

A victory in his hometown would be a nice way to go out for Cook, a Unanimous All-American and unarguably the greatest running back in FSU history. This season, Cook broke the FSU school-records for career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, surpassing in three years what FSU greats Warrick Dunn and Greg Allen did in four.

In two prior visits to his hometown, Cook put on a show in victories over rival Miami. In those 2014 and 2016 contests against the Hurricanes, Cook accounted for 319 total yards and three total touchdowns, including the 26-yard game-winning scamper in 2014.

That’s 242 yards rushing on 34 carries and 77 yards receiving on three catches. Those totals amount to 7.1 yards per carry and nearly 26 yards per reception.

Though Cook hasn’t faced Michigan before in his collegiate career, he will be facing a familiar foe on the other sideline in what is probably his final collegiate visit to Hard Rock Stadium. That foe is Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown.

The former Boston College coordinator watched his defenses hold Cook to a pedestrian 147 yards of total offense in two prior meetings. In two games against Brown’s defense, Cook has rushed for just 130 yards on 29 carries — a 4.5 yards per carry average. While that’s not bad on the surface, it’s two full yards below Cook’s career average.

In games like this season’s opener against Ole Miss when Cook was largely bottled up as a rusher, he was still able to make an impact as a receiver with seven catches for 101 yards. In two previous meetings against a Don Brown-coached defense, Cook was limited to just 17 yards receiving on four catches.

The bad news for Cook is that the athletes Brown has at Michigan are much better than the ones at Boston College. Up front, defensive ends Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton were each first-team All-Big Ten selections and defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow was a second-teamer. Linebacker Jabrill Peppers was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

As a whole, Michigan ranks second nationally in total and scoring defense, 13th in rushing defense and sixth in yards per rush allowed. FSU, who ranks 39th nationally in rushing, will be the second-best rushing attack Michigan has faced this season. Against Ohio State, who ranks ninth nationally in rushing, the Wolverines gave up 206 yards on the ground, but on a substandard 4.1 yards per rush.

The Wolverines will be the fifth top 25 rush defense that Cook has faced this season. In the previous four, Cook combined to rush for 396 yards on 71 carries and six touchdowns. That’s an average of 99 yards rushing per game and 5.6 yards per carry.

While Michigan boasts the best overall defense Cook and the Seminoles have faced this year, the same is true for Michigan when it comes to tailbacks. The Wolverines have yet to face a back that currently ranks in the top 20 nationally in rushing yards while Cook ranks eighth nationally in that category and second among Power 5 backs.

Against Wisconsin’s Corey Clement and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who respectively rank 21st and 22nd nationally in that category, Michigan allowed 127 yards combined on 32 carries. That amounts to less than four yards per rush.

We’re just more than a week away from finding out whether Cook can buck the trend of being contained by Brown’s defenses or whether he can continue the one of big-time performances in his hometown — this time for a grand finale. There’s only one thing we know for sure: something’s got to give.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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