Florida State maintained its undefeated record on Saturday with a 41-21 win over Louisville. The victory was the Seminoles’ sixth of the season, as Jimbo Fisher’s group is still very much in the hunt for earning its fourth straight ACC Championship.
Despite the 6-0 start, FSU has been far from perfect this season. However, the team played its best game of the year against the Cardinals, which could be a promising sign looking ahead.
Quarterback Everett Golson led the way, completing 26 of 38 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore running back Dalvin Cook also chipped in, finishing with 163 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
Despite battling a nagging hamstring injury, Cook has stood out all year for the Seminoles and is clearly a Heisman candidate. That said, Florida State has looked sloppy for much of the season, and Cook appeared to be the only consistent threat on the team’s offense.
After playing somewhat conservatively in FSU’s first five games, Golson was turned loose against the Cardinals. His favorite target throughout the day was wide receiver Kermit Whitfield, who hauled in nine passes for 172 yards and a touchdown (he nearly found the end zone again in the fourth quarter on a big gain but was knocked out of bounds at the 2-yard line). Going into the contest, Whitfield had just 20 catches for 225 yards and one score.
The Seminoles weren’t perfect. The offensive line struggled once again and was a big reason why Florida State racked up 75 yards in penalties. Golson was also sacked twice and hit several other times.
But the way FSU played overall was a perfect illustration of what could be the difference between this team being a legitimate playoff contender or just simply competing to finish second in the Atlantic Division. Particularly in the second half, the offense shined while the defense — which has actually improved significantly since last season — did what it needed to do to get the win.
With a struggling Georgia Tech team and Syracuse rounding out the October slate, there’s no excuse for Florida State to suffer its first loss before traveling to Clemson on Nov. 7. The winner of the FSU-Clemson matchup has gone on to win the ACC title in each of the last four seasons, and that will likely be the case once again this year.
Whether or not Florida State has a shot in that contest will be determined by which team shows up. Last month, Fisher’s team had trouble putting away Boston College, and just two weeks ago, it left Winston-Salem with an underwhelming 24-16 win over Wake Forest. That type of play isn’t going to give FSU a chance at winning the Atlantic.
But if the Seminoles continue to play the way they did against Louisville, they’re not a team that can be completely left out of the College Football Playoff conversation.
On Saturday, it wasn’t just the Dalvin Cook show. Sure, Cook was fantastic, but Golson and Whitfield stepped up as well. The offense as a whole ended the game with 510 yards of offense, which was nearly 80 more than its average going into the matchup.
If that continues, look for Florida State to seriously challenge Clemson as it pushes for yet another league championship.