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Florida State midseason football report

No. 13 Florida State isn't where most people thought it would be at its bye week. Two losses for a team with national championship expectations qualifies as a disappointment.

But the Seminoles still have a chance to accomplish some goals — including wins over rivals Clemson and Florida and the 10-win season that coach Jimbo Fisher stresses. Here's our midseason assessment of FSU:

Offensive MVP: Running back Dalvin Cook (right). Despite a slow start to the season (by his standards), Cook is only 360 yards from breaking FSU's career rushing record. He's third nationally in rushing and leads the country with 1,256 yards from scrimmage. The biggest surprise is his newfound versatility as a receiver (356 yards). Cook might not get into the Heisman Trophy race, but he has still been one of the best players in the nation. Also considered: quarterback Deondre Francois, tackle Roderick Johnson.

Defensive MVP: Defensive end DeMarcus Walker. Only Pitt's Ejuan Price has more sacks than Walker (8 ½). Walker's 4 ½ sacks in the second half against Ole Miss on Sept. 5 was one of the most impressive individual performances by anyone this season. His pivotal blocked extra point to hold off rival Miami on Oct. 8 wasn't bad, either. Walker is on his way to topping his 10 ½ sacks last year. Also considered: defensive back Tarvarus McFadden, linebacker Matthew Thomas.

Top newcomer: Francois. We'll include the redshirt freshman because he has been one of the top young passers in the nation and formally ended any quarterback competition with his stellar debut (419 yards against Ole Miss). No freshman in the country has more passing yards than Francois (268 per game). He has shown plenty of poise — he rushed for what seemed like the winning touchdown against North Carolina and successfully ran out the clock at Miami. Francois has been inconsistent, but he has lived up to the hype so far. Also considered: defensive end Brian Burns, offensive guard Landon Dickerson.

Biggest surprises: Wharton High product Auden Tate has only eight catches but has scored on four of them. He has one more touchdown reception than top target Travis Rudolph. … It's not a shock that former five-star recruit Ermon Lane didn't stick at receiver, but who would have thought he'd do so well so quickly at safety (11 tackles in two games)? … In his fourth season, linebacker Thomas looks like the five-star player FSU envisioned (team-high 34 tackles).

Biggest disappointment: Giving up 63 points and losing to Louisville by 43.

Second-half predictions: FSU plays its most complete game of the season and, with a healthy Derwin James, upsets Clemson on Oct. 29. … Cook becomes the school's all-time leading rusher at home against Boston College on Nov. 11. … The LSU-Fisher rumors heat up (again), but Fisher stays in Tallahassee.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

Five midseason thoughts on Miami

1. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has been one of the top assistants in the country. After a mediocre 2015, the Hurricanes defense ranks in the top 15 nationally in scoring, sacks, tackles for loss and yards allowed.

2. New coach Mark Richt's traditionally strong running game has rubbed off on his alma mater. After ranking No. 112 nationally in yards per rush last season, the 'Canes have leaped 100 spots thanks to top back Mark Walton and an improved offensive line.

3. Defensive back Corn Elder might be the most underrated player in the state (35 tackles, two sacks, 13 passes defended).

4. One unsung hero: punter Justin Vogel, a Berkeley Prep product and former Gator. He's third in the ACC in average (44.7) with eight punts of at least 50 yards.

5. The 'Canes don't look like the top team in the Coastal Division … but might be a year away from their first trip to the ACC title game.

Florida State midseason football report 10/18/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 6:59pm]
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