Florida State-Michigan: Three thoughts on next week's Orange Bowl
With the national title game coming to Tampa next month, I'm settling into College Football Playoff mode. In the spirit of not skimping on the other bowl games, here are three random thoughts about the Florida State-Michigan showdown in the Dec. 30 Orange Bowl.
1. This will be one of Dalvin Cook's toughest tests yet. Opponents are averaging 3.1 yards per carry against Michigan. Only six teams in the country are better in that statistic. One of them is Louisville, which held Cook to 54 yards on 16 carries in September. The Wolverines are slightly ahead of N.C. State, which held Cook to 65 yards on 18 carries in November. That's not to say that Cook can't gash Michigan; he put up 108 yards on a top-12 Boston College run defense. But the challenge will be steep.
2. It won't be easy for quarterback Deondre Francois, either. The Wolverines have one of the nation's top two passing defenses in almost every statistic. Opponents are completing only 44.5 percent of their passes for a 91.9 rating. Yikes. Francois improved as the season progressed, putting up two of his top performances of the season in November. But against the other top-five passing defenses he faced (Clemson and Florida), he finished 32-of-61 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions. This is another opportunity for Francois to grow, especially considering the team he'll face in Week 1 next year: Alabama. Which leads to...
3. This could be a springboard for 2017. I don't know if I really put too much stock in bowl games as momentum builders for the next season. It's a long time between now and September, and some of FSU's top players will leave. But there might be something to the idea. Fisher called the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl win over South Carolina a "pivotal point" in pushing FSU ahead. Throttling Northern Illinois in FSU's last Orange Bowl helped pave the way for the undefeated season in 2013. It's unfair to expect that much of the 2017 team yet - we don't even know what players will be on it - but ending 2016 on a high note sure wouldn't hurt.