Previewing Duke vs. Florida State

After a crushing 28-10 loss to Northwestern last Saturday, the Duke Blue Devils now must face the unenviable task of taking on the 6th ranked Florida State Seminoles. The recent meetings have all been very lopsided in favor of FSU. The Noles have won every contest against Duke since entering the ACC in 1991. Lets take a look at the match-ups and see if anything will change this time.

When Duke has the ball:

Dukes best chance against the quick FSU defense is running the ball. The Devils are big up front, but not overly athletic. The offensive line must be allowed to get their hands on the FSU defensive line and turn the trench war into a game of strength rather than speed. RB Alex Wade had a great game against the Noles last year in Tallahassee, rushing for nearly 100 yards in the opening half. Chris Douglas has also been successful against FSU in the past. The Devils will need a great effort from these two plus the offensive line to stay close. The FSU defense has been very stingy this season, allowing a meager 7 points per game in their 4 contests. Their front 7 is arguably the best in the country. DT Darnell Dockett leads the defensive line, while Michael Boulware and Kendyll Pope anchor the conferences best linebacking corps. The depth of these units is astounding as they have at least 2 quality players at every position, with little dropoff in performance with the subs. The Duke passing game must also be much more efficient than in previous weeks. QB Mike Schneider will be facing the biggest on-field challenge of his life. The FSU secondary is very aggressive, and all are talented athletes. Because of their aggressiveness, however, they do make mistakes in coverage. Duke must exploit these miscues to have a chance this week.

When Florida State has the ball:

The Seminole offense really found its stride last week, putting up 47 points in a blowout of Colorado. QB Chris Rix is incredibly talented both running and passing the ball. He continues to have off the field issues dogging him, however, he is expected to play on Saturday. The core of the FSU offense, however, is RB Greg Jones. He is the best back Duke will face the season. Most NFL experts project him to be the first RB taken in the 2004 draft. Hes big (240 lbs), fast, and very difficult to bring down. Duke did a great job last season, holding him to about 70 yards. However, The Devil defense has not been able to stop any 1-A opponent from running the ball. It is not looking good for the men in blue. The Duke pass defense has been fairly solid so far in 2003, but the FSU receivers are completely unlike anything Duke has seen this year. They have size, speed and athleticism to score at any given time. The Blue Devil secondary cannot get beaten deep, or the game will get out of hand quickly.

Keys to the game:

Turnovers Quite simply, Duke must win the turnover battle to stay with FSU. The aggressive Seminole defense excels at creating havoc for the opposing offenses. The offense must play mistake-free football and not allow FSU to force them into bad decisions. On the other side of the ball, the defense has to create a couple turnovers of their own.

Big plays In their recent meetings, FSU has consistently produced big plays through the course of their games against Duke, which has basically put the games out of reach. They have come in many forms: the long TD passes, the break away run, and the always demoralizing blocked punt. Duke will not stop FSU from scoring. What the Devils must do, however, is make them earn every point they score by sustaining long drives. If Duke can eliminate the quick score, they have a better chance of keeping the game close.

Just play In recent weeks, Duke has seemed to outthink themselves on the field, especially on offense. The QBs are changing plays at the line of scrimmage at the last second, and this seems to be causing discontinuity in the offensive flow. Against FSU, the offense needs to be decisive about what they are doing. The Seminole defense will confuse you if you let it. The key is to call your play and make them stop it. Sure, they are pretty good at doing just that. It is better, however, to force their defense to adjust to the offense than the other way around. Just line up, play ball, and stop trying to be too fancy.

Final Analysis:

I would be lying to you if I said that Duke has much of a shot in this game. Actually, it will be a minor miracle if this game isnt a blowout. FSU is big, strong, fast, and mean. They usually handily defeat teams with less talent, like the Blue Devils. The way to attack superior talent is to play with discipline and not get rattled when things arent going your way. On offense, Duke must play with an even keel. Dont get too hyped up when something is going well, and most definitely dont get too down when it isnt. FSU thrives on frustrating the opponent, which leads to mental mistakes. The gametime temperature should be in the 60s and the sun will be down. That should work in Dukes favor as fatigue wont be as big an issue.

Unfortunately for the Devils, they have done nothing in recent weeks to convince anyone that this game will be close. The FSU running game should control the action, although Bobby Bowden has been known to air it out early against Duke. Offensively, the Devils are really struggling right now. They are trying to do too much, and are not taking advantage of their strengths at running back and tight ends. Expect FSU to get up early and play a lot of players. Duke will score a few times as the game progresses, but it will be way too little, way too late.

Final Score:

FSU 52 Duke 17

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