FSU is set to take on Michigan in the Orange Bowl, so here are some storylines and predictions for the Seminoles ahead of the game.
Florida State will battle Michigan in the Orange Bowl on Friday, Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL.
The Seminoles (9-3, 5-3 ACC) finished their season with a 31-13 home win over rival Florida, as Jimbo Fisher’s squad used star running back Dalvin Cook’s 153 yards on 26 carries to carry the ‘Noles toward a victory. Cook became the first FSU back since Sammie Smith in 1988 to have three straight 100-yard games against the Gators.
Fisher is fresh off of receiving a contract extension through at least the 2024 season, which will keep him among the country’s highest-paid coaches. In postseason games, Fisher is 4-2, although he has lost his last two.
FSU will appear in its 10th Orange Bowl game, the most of any other bowl in program history. It is also in its 35th consecutive bowl game, which ties Nebraska’s NCAA record. FSU is 4-5 all time in the Orange Bowl.
Cook will have a chance to win his first career bowl game at FSU while playing close to home in Miami Gardens. The All-America tailback still has to announce whether he is returning to school, but it’s no secret that Cook will be a high pick, and most expect him to enter the upcoming draft. Cook rushed for 1,008 yards as a freshman, set the program’s single-season rushing yardage record with 1,691 yards as a sophomore and added 1,620 yards on the ground in 2016. He has 37 rushing touchdowns over the course of the last two seasons. Michigan’s defense is very stout, but the former Miami Central High School star will have a standout game in his back yard, going over 100 combined yards on the ground and as a pass-catcher.
No ordinary freshman
Redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois enjoyed a strong start to his Seminoles career, exceeding expectations and proving to be one of the toughest competitors in the country. He was constantly taking hits and getting banged-up behind an offensive line that didn’t give him a lot of help at times this season. He’ll have another stiff test when he faces this Michigan defense. The Wolverines will be looking to get some hits on Francois early and often, and it’s a ball-hawking secondary that will force a couple of mistakes from the FSU QB.
The injury bug bit Fisher’s squad in a big way in an easy win over Charleston Southern very early in the season, as star safety Derwin James was lost to a torn meniscus in his left knee. He was unable to play another down in the regular season. James was second on the team in sacks, tackles for loss, and tackles as a true freshman in 2015. In addition to below-average play from a banged-up defensive line, the loss of a star defensive back unquestionably impacted coordinator Charles Kelly’s unit.
There was hope that James would return for this one, as he teased on social media, and his addition would have been big against this balanced Michigan offense. But it was announced about two weeks ago that he will not play. James had been doing some on-field running in recent weeks, but Fisher ruled him out for the game. Expect the Wolverines to connect on several big plays down the field against a secondary that has played better as of late but is still susceptible to giving up big chunks of yardage.
Despite having a variety of top weapons, FSU’s offense will face a difficult test against the Michigan defense. The Wolverines have allowed 118 plays of 10 yards or longer this season—which is tied for the fewest in the country. Even if the Seminoles give a very good defensive effort, they will need to be able to gain big chunks of yardage throughout, especially if Cook is contained on the ground. But this is a tough Michigan pass defense, while FSU was not its explosive self for much of this past fall.
Keeping it clean
If the ‘Noles are going to beat the Wolverines, they need to better secure the football than they have in their last two bowl games. In each loss to Oregon and Houston, the Seminoles had at least four turnovers, which led to setbacks by at least two scores to the Ducks and Cougars, respectively. This will be the best defense the ‘Noles have faced all season, so moving the football will be hard enough. Giving the ball away will make it nearly impossible to pull an upset.