When Duke has the ball:
Duke will try and build on the offensive success they have had the past few games. QB Mike Schneider threw for a career-high 300 yards last week, but will be tested by the athletic FSU secondary. If FSU has a weakness on defense, however, it is against the pass. They are currently ranked 9th in the conference in passing yardage allowed. On the ground, tailback Cedric Dargan has surpassed the 100-yard rushing barrier in 3 of the 4 games he has played this season.
Unfortunately for the Duke running game, FSU has been almost impenetrable on the ground. Led by linebackers Ernie Sims and A.J. Nicholson, the Noles giving up a paltry 66.9 yards per game, best in the ACC by a wide margin. The Duke offense will probably have to do most of their damage through the air this week.
When Florida State has the ball:
After starting Wyatt Sexton the past few weeks, the Seminoles will be re-inserting Duke –killer Chris Rix back into the lineup this weekend. Rix has eaten the Blue Devils' lunch the past three seasons with his rocket arm and excellent running ability. He definitely presents a difficult challenge for the Duke defense. The one saving grace is that Rix is still recovering from severely sprained ankle that sidelined him in the first place. That should limit his mobility this weekend.
The receiver position has suffered some attrition for a different reason. 2003 all-ACC receiver Craphonso Thorpe will not play this weekend due to an academic suspension. FSU still have lots of talent out here, however, and this will most likely be the biggest test of the year for the Duke secondary.
The FSU offensive line is one of the best in the conference so Duke will need to find a way to pressure Rix into making some mistakes. The Noles best offensive weapon this season has been tailback Leon Washington, who leads the conference in rushing and is second in all-purpose yardage.
Matchup to Watch: FSU WR Chauncey Stovall vs. Duke CB John Talley.
With Thorpe out for this weekend's game, Stovall becomes FSU's #1 receiving option. He's another in the long line of talented Seminole receivers. Duke might have an answer for the first time in recent memory. Talley leads the conference in interceptions, passes defended, and defensive touchdowns. He has provided a level of coverage that Duke has rarely seen in recent years, and will be a stern test for Stovall and the FSU passing game.
Duke keys to the game:
The Florida State offensive line is one of the best in the conference and as a result FSU has the conference's leading rusher. The Duke rush defense has been downright bad this year, giving up 235 yards per game. The Devils will need to find a way to force FSU into passing situations, where Duke has a better chance of defensive success.
Make them earn it:
Despite Duke's #10 ACC ranking in total defense, one thing they have done well is minimize the big play. The longest TD they have given up this season is 47 yards, and that was in their opener against Navy. FSU's offense usually has a field day against Duke, scoring multiple touchdowns on long pass plays or on defense. Duke must not allow FSU and defensive or special teams score. They must also not give away any easy points with great field position. The Devil must make FSU sustain drives to score.
It is no secret; FSU has dominated Duke in every conference contest they have played since 1992. Most of the time, Duke hangs tough into the second quarter, but then they make a few mistakes and the games are over by halftime. The Devils must believe they can win this game. They must also maintain this belief even when things go bad. Otherwise we will get yet another halftime blowout.
There is no question that Duke is the decided underdog in this game. FSU has superior skill, and they have the advantage on both sides of the line. Duke will need to create some turnovers and score touchdown when they get down in the FSU red-zone. Duke would also be well served to win the turnover battle by a healthy margin. If all of the above happens, thing might get interesting. FSU has been having problems scoring points the last few weeks. They had to come from behind in the 4th quarter two weeks ago to defeat Wake Forest, a team Duke should have beaten last week.
They are now in the unusual position of playing for a non-BCS bowl birth, so it will be interesting to see how the players react. If they come out uninspired, Duke has the ability to jump on them quickly. Unfortunately, I think FSU will come to play this weekend. Duke will keep it interesting for longer than usual, but FSU will pull away late in the 3rd quarter.
FSU – 38