After a huge sophomore season, what does FSU running back Dalvin Cook have to do to win the 2016 Heisman Trophy?
Dalvin Cook had a rocky season off the field before the 2015 season began, but that blew over and it was business as usual on the field after coming up with an impressive 1,691-yard, 19 score sophomore season. However, he was never really in the Heisman race last season after getting held to 54 yards against Boston College in the third game of the season. This year, he’s one of the favorites.
It takes something special to be a Heisman finalist, much less win the thing, but the right mix of things are there to pull it off and give Florida State its second Heisman winner in four years. So how can it happen? How can Dalvin Cook win the Heisman?
Step One: Destroy Ole Miss
The Heisman campaign goes poof right away if Cook doesn’t start out with a bang. Florida State plays Ole Miss in front of the world on Monday night of the opening weekend, and he’s going to be the featured superstar. The Seminoles are better than the Rebels, but if Cook can’t do something impressive against the retooled Land Shark defense, it doesn’t really matter what he does the rest of the year. Run for 100 yards, and its game on.
Step Two: Come out of September at least 500 yards
The Ole Miss defense is nasty, but it shouldn’t take more than a half against Charleston Southern to come up with a big day. The ACC opener at Louisville will get its share of national attention, and the strong South Florida run defense will be amped up to come up with something special at home. FSU not only has to be 4-0 going into October, but Cook also has to put up the numbers to generate the Heisman buzz just as the conference season ramps up.
Step Three: Blow through the Hurricanes
If Mark Richt does what he’s supposed to do, Miami should be 4-0 with a chance to make a gigantic statement in the ACC season with a home date with the Noles. Cook went – sorry, for this, but it fits – deuces wild in last year’s 29-24 win, running 22 times for 222 yards and two scores. Again, like the dates with Ole Miss and Louisville, the national attention will be there, but not like it will be against …
Step Four: Clemson
For Cook to truly be in the chase, Florida State must be 7-0 before Clemson comes to Tallahassee. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if Deshaun Watson is the headliner, and if the game is billed as an elimination game for both the ACC Atlantic and the Heisman. Last year Cook ran for 194 yards and a score on 21 carries, but the Noles lost. This is the make-or-break moment when Cook can become the favorite with one gigantic performance and a win.
But even if Cook cranks on Clemson, and even if he rips up Miami, and even if FSU is unbeaten going into the final month of the regular season, he still has to …
Step Five: Survive the November run defenses
NC State finished last season 39th in the nation against the run, but Cook ran for 138 yards and a score in the win. Syracuse didn’t have a great run defense, and FSU didn’t need Cook – who didn’t play against the Orange – in a 45-21 win, but Boston College was second in the nation and held Cook to just 54 yards on 15 carries in a gut-check 14-0 Seminole win. And then there’s the Florida run defense, which should be strong again after allowing 128 rushing yards per game despite giving up 183 yards and two touchdowns to Cook.
This season, if Cook starts out November as the Heisman favorite, he’ll have to deal with the Wolfpack, Orange, Eagle and Gator run defenses that’ll all be good-to-amazing, and will all be laser-focused on stopping him. Even if Florida State rolls through the month, Cook could lose the Heisman with a few rough days.
Step Six: Win the ACC championship and go to the College Football Playoff
Unless the numbers are ridiculous, in a year with so many amazing running backs throughout college football, and with so many fantastic candidates, Cook’s Heisman campaign doesn’t have a chance without an ACC title. Only three running backs have won since Ron Dayne got it in 1999, and Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry all played for – and in the case of the Bama backs, won – the national title.
Will Dalvin Cook win the Heisman?
No. He’ll be outstanding, but with too many tremendous run defenses to get through the numbers won’t be quite good enough to pull it off. He has the potential, the talent, and the team around him to get close and be a finalist, but that’s it.