Gumbel's Machine: It Is Duke, After All

FSU has played Duke 16 times over the years and won all 16, and this season should be no different. Pay zero attention to the two programs' respective streaks they bring into Wallace Wade Stadium.

Seminole fans, I must apologize for my thoughts. I can't help it. The vibe of the first six weeks of Florida State's football season forces my mind to go back to the struggles we saw in 2009.

Bobby Bowden's final season as head coach was marred by a 2-4 start that began with a loss at Miami. It continued with a three-game losing skid that included defeats to USF, Boston College and Georgia Tech.

That year was the perfect reminder of just how quickly the sweet taste of success can turn sour.

Jimbo Fisher's second season as head coach is nearing that 2-4 mark, but the one saving grace is that this week's ACC opponent is clearly inferior.

It's no secret that the Duke Blue Devils stake their claim to fame in basketball and lacrosse. Football is an afterthought on Tobacco Road -- just don't tell that to the 113 student-athletes that fill up the blue-and-white's pigskin roster.

Those court-rushing victories FSU has had against Coach K and the Cameron Crazies will quickly be countered with visions of Duke football fans rushing the field and tearing down the goal posts should the Blue Devils pull off the upset. This is actually a Duke squad that's riding a three-game win streak. The last time it won three straight in a season was 2004. If you want another instance of streaking, you have to go back to 1994, when Duke won seven straight. There's no doubt that beating FSU in Saturday's 3:00 p.m. kickoff will make ‘94 seem tame by comparison.

While Fisher and Co. hope to avoid giving Duke fans a lifetime memory, Seminole Nation definitely has built a lot of fond memories from its matchups with the Blue Devils over the years.

Duke was the first ACC win registered by FSU back in September of 1992. The 'Noles had just joined the conference, and the debut of Charlie Ward at quarterback turned into a 48-21 garnet-and-gold victory. That same game was highlighted by a 94-yard pick six from safety Leon Fowler.

The victory launched a 19-year Seminole football campaign that has been highlighted by 12 ACC Titles, two national championships and a pair of Heisman Trophy winners -- including the aforementioned Ward.

It was the precursor to other fabulous Florida State flashbacks, like Chris Weinke's career-high 536-yard passing performance that included five touchdown throws in a 63-14 win back in 2000.

Other FSU-Duke highlights drum up visions of a Nick Maddox's 51-yard touchdown run and a blocked punt by Kyler Hall that turned into a Gennaro Jackson touchdown in 2001. Or what about Craphonso Thorpe's 37-yard touchdown grab from Chris Rix, or big Greg Jones capping off the 55-13 victory over the Dukies in that same year.

Speaking of former Seminoles named Greg, the 2005 season was the coming out party for 6-6 freshman wideout Greg Carr. He grabbed three touchdowns catches while Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee combined to throw for 376 yards against Duke. The final score that year was 55-24.

Personally, I think FSU fans are overdue for another E.J. Manuel 300-yard passing performance. This disappointed fan base is in need of another two-sack day from Brandon Jenkins and/or Bjoern Werner. The 'Noles could use a Greg Reid punt return for a touchdown. And I could certainly go for watching a 100-yard output from a running back. Any running back: Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones, Devonta Freeman or James Wilder Jr.

I'm not just grasping at straws here. It could happen against Duke. Despite winning three straight, the Blue Devils have allowed 28 points per game, 612 total rushing yards and 10 total touchdown passes. They've also been sacked eight times this year for 66 yards in losses.

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Duke is pass-happy. The Blue Devils have thrown the ball 50 more times than they've rushed it this season. Having said that, 12 of their 17 offensive touchdowns have come by way of the ground.

For those Florida State fans feeling blue, now isn't a bad time to play the Blue Devils. Sure, FSU is currently 2-3 at this juncture and has been humbled from its preseason praise and national-hampionship expectations. But the season can still be salvaged.

It begins with a victory Saturday at Duke. The 'Noles have suited up against the Blue Devils 16 times over the years and won all 16.

Should history hold true, Fisher will be able to pump the brakes on the losing skid and start driving back into the win column.

Elton Gumbel is a sports anchor and reporter for WCTV in Tallahassee, as well as a regular contributor to

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