Much of the information in this post is provided by Pro Football Focus.
So, yeah, that guy might be a problem.
Personnel. Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
While FSU's most serious injury issues are on defense, they're making some adjustments on offense, too. Senior left guard Kareem Are is expected back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a concussion. His replacement in those games, redshirt freshman Cole Minshew, is now locked in a battle at the other guard spot with redshirt junior Wilson Bell, who's also dealing with some legal issues. Minshew grades out as the best of the three, albeit in a much smaller sample size, so we have him projected to start over Bell.
The other injury situation to keep an eye on is at receiver. Funchess-like jumbo wideout Auden Tate was spotted in a non-contact jersey at Monday's practice. They're also likely to make a change at kicker. Logan Tyler, who's 1/2 on the year, is taking first-team reps over Ricky Aguayo (brother of Roberto), who's 17/24 but looked awful against Florida, missing well short on a 49-yarder and getting a low live-drive 44-yarder blocked.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Hybrid that leans pro-style. FSU spent a lot of snaps in the gun with three wideouts on the field, but they also go under center and play a fullback on about a quarter of their snaps.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? FSU has a pretty diverse running game. They like getting Dalvin Cook to the edge and they'll do it in a variety of ways: zone stretch, toss sweeps, and counters, along with a couple screens, got him into plenty of space against Florida.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Right in the middle; FSU is 55th in adjusted pace.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Deandre Francois has some good straight-line speed, though he's selective in using it. According to PFF, he's scrambled 20 times at 7.8 yards per carry, and he generally takes what the defense gives him before getting down; he's forced only one missed tackle. He's at his best as a runner when he can step through the pocket and go straight upfield:
FSU features him on some occasional designed runs, mostly lead sweeps that act as counters to Cook runs going the opposite direction. The Noles ran several plays that looked like read-options but I'm not sure they were true reads; Francois always gave.
I'm giving Francois a 7 on the dilithium scale. While he doesn't utilize his legs often and isn't likely to make a guy miss in the open field, he can pick up healthy chunks of yardage when he takes off.
Dangerman: Take Akrum Wadley, add 30 pounds, make him a faster and more instinctive runner, put him in an offense designed to maximize his usage, and you have Dalvin Cook. This is no knock on Wadley. Cook is the best back Michigan has faced this year. Nobody, not Saquon Barkley or LJ Scott or Wadley, combines the speed, power, patience, and vision of Cook.
Cook is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, which is quite a feat behind this FSU offensive line, which has one reliably good player: left tackle Roderick Johnson. Johnson is steady in pass protection—not elite, but solid—and he looked excellent as a run blocker. Most of FSU's best run plays come off the left side and it's not hard to see why; the announcers are focused on the tight end here, but watch Johnson (#77) chip Florida DT Caleb Brantley—a legit early entry candidate—hard enough to move him over a full gap, then slide out to the playside linebacker to seal off a huge hole:
Johnson will be a good test for Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton as they try to make a final impression on NFL scouts. He can only block one of them at a time, however, and that'll spell trouble for FSU.
Zook Factor: Nothing egregious to note here.
HenneChart: Francois is in a tough spot as a redshirt freshman behind a bad offensive line. He makes some NFL-level throws in the face of pressure; his mechanics sometimes break down even in clean pockets leading to missed throws; he makes the occasional freshman error. FSU protects him by calling a lot of short, quick throws to the perimeter. Even with a lot of easy completions built into the offense, Francois didn't have an impressive game statistically against Florida: 15/26, 138 yards (5.3 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT. The Hennechart reflects his boom-or-bust nature:
|Florida||3+||7 (5)||2 (1)||4||3xx||1||1||--||1||55%|
Francois has no shortage of arm strength. Florida may not have tight coverage here, but this is still an NFL-level throw in the face of a free rusher:
His interception, on the other hand, was both a terrible read and terribly inaccurate:
Francois nearly threw another pick into the end zone because of another freshman mistake: he had nobody open and tried to thread the needle instead of throwing it away and living to fight another down—Jalen Tabor would've had an easy interception if a linebacker hadn't tipped the pass on the way through. While his talent is apparent, he still has plenty of growth left, and his offensive line exascerbates many of his issues. He's going to make a couple throws that leave you tipping your cap; he's going to make a couple throws that give Michigan defensive backs an opportunity to make a game-changing play.
FSU runs the bulk of their offense from a shotgun three-wide set. When they go under center, usually on early downs, it's a clear tip for run or the occasional very surprising waggle:
Their clear preference is to run until it's absolutely necessary to throw. This doesn't even fully represent the conservative nature of FSU's approach; a big chunk of these throws were within five yards of the line of scrimmage:
After acknowledging that Cook will be an NFL feature back for a long time, the discussion of FSU's offense has to start with the offensive line, which is 85th in adjusted sack rate and grades out poorly in all facets on PFF. They're usually competent in the run game, at least, though the non-Johnson linemen are prone to getting blown out. Here's Wilson Bell, who's trying to hold onto his starting job at right guard, getting knocked back to completely blow up a play:
Center Alec Eberle was the most freqent culprit on stuffed running plays. In pass protection, FSU didn't allow a sack, but the effects of Florida's pressure were still obvious. FSU utilized designed rollouts on a high percentage of their throws, yet Francois still had pressure in his face on several of them:
That second screencap was a hold on tight end Ryan Izzo, who didn't look good as a blocker, that negated a dead-on completion by Francois into a tight window. When not rolling out, Francois sometimes makes the job harder on his offensive linemen by dropping way back; this pressure was half on the OL for losing their blocks and half on Francois for doing the Madden dropback instead of stepping up:
He did get the throw off there but couldn't make a completion into a hittable window between zones.
The offensive line isn't the only thing holding FSU's passing game back. Against a Florida secondary that's a good facsimile of Michigan's, FSU's receivers struggled to create separation. Travis Rudolph caught a long touchdown when FSU hit a deep dig against a soft Cover 2; Rudolph had a nice catch-and-run but that was more an RPS win than him beating a defensive back. Slot-types Kermit Whitfield and Nyqwan Murray combined for three catches for 11 yards.
While he only had two catches, I thought Auden Tate was the best bet to produce against Michigan. The one-time Michigan recruit looks every bit of his listed 6'5", 225, and while he doesn't get a ton of separation he knows how to use his big frame to box out defensive backs, even the likes of Jalen Tabor:
If Michigan wants to shadow receivers, I'd guess they'd put Jourdan Lewis on Rudolph—the most dangerous big-play threat—and Channing Stribling on Tate. The guy Michigan may most need to worry about in the passing game is Dalvin Cook, who averages 10.7 yards per target despite getting the vast majority of his catches near the line of scrimmage. Jabrill Peppers will be watching him closely.
I clipped a fullback dive touchdown mostly to show that FSU has their own version of the Hammering Panda:
Freddie Stevenson has 90 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries this year; he's athletic enough to hit big plays when opponents overplay Cook in short-yardage situations and he's also a solid lead blocker.
This matchup comes down to two things: Michigan's ability to keep Cook from gashing them for too many big plays and their ability to offset the inevitable big Cook plays by harrassing Francois into mistakes. Given FSU's way of taking the pressure off Francois was to call a lot of rollouts that are susceptible to creative blitzes, I like Don Brown's chances of finding a way to get his front seven to hit home on a regular basis.