FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — There was no question whether or not Dalvin Cook would play in the Orange Bowl.
He wasn’t about to miss this. Friday night’s bowl game is being played right outside the Florida State running back’s hometown of Miami. It also probably will be the unanimous All-American’s final college game.
Cook wasn’t about to join the trend of skipping bowl games to focus on preparing to play professional football — even though he hasn’t officially declared for the NFL Draft. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft is Jan. 16, and CBSSports.com ranks Cook as the No. 2 running back in this year’s draft, behind LSU’s Leonard Fournette.
“Not at all,” Cook said Wednesday morning about not playing. “This is another football game. I’m going to be out there for my team and for my brothers. It’s always another opportunity for us to go out there and show how we got better. Another opportunity to win a football game for Florida State.”
No. 11 Florida State (9-3) faces No. 6 Michigan (10-2) in the Orange Bowl at 8 p.m. ET Friday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Cook’s presence could complicate things for Michigan, though the Wolverines boast the nation’s No. 2 defense (252.7 yards) and have allowed an average of 116.75 rushing yards a game. The 5-foot-11, 213-pound Cook is eighth in the nation with 1,620 rushing yards in 12 games and has scored 18 touchdowns.
"Every time four (Dalvin Cook) gets his hands on the ball, I can’t breathe. I’m 61-years old and I just (hyperventilates)." -UM DC Don Brown
— Andrew Miller (@Andrew_Miller36) December 28, 2016
“Dalvin Cook is probably the best running back in the country,” Michigan defensive lineman Chris Wormley said. “He’s big and fast and shifty, and all those things cause problems for us. If we don’t tackle him, it could be a long day for us.”
Michigan linebacker Ben Gedeon said Joe Hewlett and Drake Johnson have simulated Cook on the scout team, but Gedeon also labeled Cook as one of the best running backs Michigan will face this season.
“We’re going to have to tackle really well,” Gedeon said. “It’s going to take being really sound in our run fits. Detail-wise, being exactly where we need to be. They do a good job with their run plays and how they block their run plays.
“But he’s definitely up there. We’ve played great running backs.”
Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton discusses preparing to defend against Florida State running back Dalvin Cook