RUNNING BACK DALVIN COOK
Cook was left off the Doak Walker finalists and might not get an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York next month. None of that matters Saturday. The Florida defense knows it is in for a difficult test against Cook. The statistics are staggering. Despite battling multiple injuries this season, Cook has 1,682 total yards and 17 touchdowns.
Cook is the only player in the nation ranking in the top 10 in scoring (8th, 10.2 points per game), rushing touchdowns (7th, 16), rushing yards (6th, 1,475 yards), all-purpose yards (7th, 1,682 yards), rushing yards per game (3rd, 147.5 yards) and rushing yards per carry (2nd, 8.0 yards). The sophomore has posted those numbers despite battling ankle and hamstring injuries throughout the season. His 1,475 rushing yards already broke the FSU record for rushing yards in one season, surpassing Warrick Dunn’s 1,242 yards in 1995. Cook also has two of the top-five games in rushing yards in FSU history, going for 266 rushing yards against South Florida and 222 rushing yards against Miami both this season.
WIDE RECEIVER TRAVIS RUDOLPH
The sophomore has 51 catches for 693 yards and six touchdowns this season, averaging 63 receiving yards per game. He only has one 100-yard receiving game, going for 191 receiving yards at home against Syracuse. He also caught three touchdowns in that game, the first time a Seminoles receiver did that since Kelvin Benjamin had three at Florida in 2013.
Rudolph is a big play threat, leading the Seminoles with 13.6 yards per catch. He’ll have the full attention of the Florida secondary on Saturday night.
WIDE RECEIVER KERMIT WHITFIELD
The statistics are almost exactly even between Rudolph and Whitfield. They have the exact number of receptions and touchdowns while Rudolph has three more receiving yards. The reason Whitfield is on this list is his ability as a receiver and kickoff returner. He averages 28.1 yards per kickoff, the 12th best in the country. Whitfield hasn’t returned one for a touchdown, but he has the speed to do it at any point.
For all of the shortcomings Florida kicker Austin Hardin has, leg strength isn’t one of them. He can pound the ball consistently through the end zone to eliminate the threat of the return game, and that’s exactly what the Gators will ask him to do on Saturday.
DEFENSIVE END DEMARCUS WALKER
Florida’s struggling offensive line is in for a challenge with Walker. His 12 tackles for a loss and eight sacks both lead the Seminoles, and the defensive end can beat offensive linemen with speed or power. Regardless of which side Walker lines up at, he’ll face a Florida offensive tackle that needs to have a better week. Left tackle David Sharpe has been battling an ankle injury in recent weeks and isn’t playing well while right tackle Mason Halter has been inconsistent.
The Seminoles have multiple defensive linemen that can stuff the run or provide a pass rush, but Walker is the one to watch on Saturday.
SAFETY DERWIN JAMES
One of the best freshmen in the country regardless of position, James is special. He’s already second on the Florida State defense with 68 tackles despite starting only six games this season. He has led the Seminoles or tied for the lead in tackles three times this season.
The scary thing for the Florida offense is that James is only getting better. In his first seven games, he had just 17 tackles. Over the last four games, he has 41. He’ll be all over the field Saturday night, making things difficult for an already struggling Florida offense.