To date, FSU's superstar running back Dalvin Cook has gone up against rushing defenses ranked No. 1 (Boston College), No. 11 (Louisville), No. 19 (NC State), and No. 25 (Clemson), all of which rank higher against the rush than Florida State's No. 39 ranked run defense. Cook excelled against that top-tier competition, averaging 137.25 yards per game on the ground.
Florida State's run defense is right there, 39th nationally, surrendering 140.9 yards per contest. And considering the reality that it's the defense Cook sees most often, during practice, I thought asking him about how he'd perform against the 'Nole defense was a fair question. The usually stoic Cook was rather tickled by the proposition, immediately breaking into a smile when I posed the question of how he'd produce if he had to play the Seminole defense in an actual game. His response spoke volumes about the top-ten FSU scoring defense.
Per Cook: "I don't know-- that's a good question, man. Our defense is playing really well this year. I was joking with Reggie (Northrup), like, 'do you all think I could beat you?' Just to hype them up, but in practice we go good-on-good, it's hard. So that's a good question, when we compete at practice, it's hard."
I then gave Cook the numbers about his production against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents, a category into which FSU's defense obviously falls. This split works out to about 17 carries for 135 yards per game, and a little over one rushing TD.
When I asked if he'd take the over or under on that in a hypothetical matchup vs. the 'Nole defense, Cook continued to be entertained by the proposition, laughing again at the difficult scenario of facing his teammates. He responded, initially, leaning toward the under: "I don't know, man. I haven't seen a bunch of running backs run for over 100 yards on Florida State this year. They're tough. So I can't give you no numbers today-- I don't know."
As it turns out, Cook is as efficient with his statistical knowledge as he is toting the rock for the 'Noles. Only one running back this year has rushed for triple digits against the Seminole defense: Clemson's Wayne Gallman, who churned out 103 yards on 22 carries.
Later in the day, I posed the same question to FSU safety Lamarcus Brutus. The fifth-year senior was a bit more revealing, and specific, in his response, acknowledging Cook's talent: "Well, it's Dalvin Cook-- I wouldn't really say shut him down."
I followed up by asking Brutus for a prediction on a final line, regarding how many yards and touchdowns to which he thought the Florida State defense could hold the electric Cook. His response seemed a true indication of just how highly the FSU defense views a back it faces every day:
I'd say he'd have over 100 yards and maybe a touchdown or two. But we're not just going to let him put up no 300 yards or nothing like that against us, but of course, this is Dalvin Cook, though. I'm sure other teams have that same mindset. But, when you're a special player like that that, sometimes there ain't nothing you can do about that.