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Florida State will travel to Durham to take on the Blue Devils for the first time since 2007 on Saturday.

BDN Previews Duke’s ACC Home Opener vs. Florida State

Florida State will travel to Durham to take on the Blue Devils for the first time since 2007 on Saturday.

The Duke Blue Devils (3-2, 1-0 ACC) will host the preseason ACC favorite Florida State Seminoles (2-3, 0-2 ACC) on Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium. The two teams enter the game on opposing streaks, with the Blue Devils having won 3 games in a row and the Seminoles having dropped 3 in a row. Duke and FSU last met in 2007 in Tallahassee, with the Seminoles gaining a 25-6 victory. FSU is 16-0 all-time against the Blue Devils, having won every contest since the teams first played in 1992.

Both teams feature high-flying offenses, with the ACC’s top two passing units facing off in Wallace Wade on Saturday afternoon at 3PM on the ACC Network. The two squads also rank at the bottom of the conference in pass defense, which means that fans should be ready for a probable shootout.

KEYS FOR DUKE

1. Keep the Seminoles grounded

It’s easier said than done. With E.J. Manuel’s mobility limited by injury and the Seminoles struggling to run the ball, FSU has racked up an average of 325 yards per game through the air. Freshman Rashad Greene is the Seminoles’ top target, averaging 91 yards and over 5 catches per game. He’s already found the end zone 6 times through the first 5 games. While FSU has been effective through the air, they have struggled on the ground. Florida State ranks last in the ACC with just 85 yards per game rushing and a 3.2 yards per carry average. The Blue Devils will have a big challenge in front of them as they look to continue the Seminoles’ struggles on the ground while limiting big plays through the air. With injuries to Matt Daniels, Johnny Williams, August Campbell, and Lee Butler, the Blue Devils’ secondary will have to matchup with an explosive FSU receiving corps. Can young players like Zach Greene, Jordon Byas, and Walt Canty continue to step up in their teammates‘ absence?

2. Keep Sean Renfree upright

We mentioned this as a key last week against an athletic FIU pass rush. The Blue Devils’ offensive line will face another stiff challenge this week as the Seminoles feature an NFL-caliber pass rush led by 6’3” 265 pound junior DE Brandon Jenkins and 6’4” 273 pound sophomore DE Bjoern Werner. If Duke is to have any success on offense, they will have to protect their quarterback, who has thrown for over 300 yards in 2 of the past 3 games. Expect the Blue Devils to utilize various blocking schemes and quick throws to limit the FSU pass rush. If FSU is able to put Renfree on the ground, it may be a long day for the Duke offense.

3.       Keep the momentum

It’s not often that Duke has had the better record and the momentum heading into a matchup with a national power like Florida State, but that’s the case this year. While the Seminoles are still favored by nearly two touchdowns, the Blue Devils are the team with a 3 game winning streak and an unbeaten record in ACC play, while the Seminoles are searching for answers after an 0-2 conference start. The Seminoles will likely have some success moving the football, but the Blue Devils’ offense has been playing well enough to keep up. Duke must maintain their aggressive style of play and the confident determination they displayed in their 4th quarter comeback against FIU. If Renfree and his receivers continue their rhythm and the Duke defense remains opportunistic, the Blue Devils are capable of pulling off a big upset in Wallace Wade Stadium.

GAME ANALYSIS

Turnovers

Duke -2, FSU -7

What a difference a year makes. The Blue Devils have significantly cut down on their turnovers from a year ago and find themselves playing better football as a result. The Duke defense is still struggling to turn opponents over, but have come up with the football in crunch time, including the forced fumble late against FIU. The Seminoles have thrown 10 interceptions through 5 games, and the Blue Devil secondary should be looking to make a few big plays in this one.

Sacks

FSU 14, Duke 7

The Duke offensive line will have its hands full as they try to protect Sean Renfree against yet another tough pass rush. Jenkins and Werner have totaled 6 sacks between them. With Brian Moore still sidelined and Dave Harding bruised, Duke will need another strong effort from redshirt-freshmen Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield.

3rd Down

FSU 47%, Duke 43%

Both teams have been efficient on 3rd down, and if that trend continues, it should make for a high-scoring contest. The Blue Devils have been able to control the clock throughout this season, mostly due to their success on 3rd and 4th down. The Blue Devils will have to continue to move the chains and minimize E.J. Manuel’s impact on the game. With a banged up defense, the Blue Devils will need to control the clock in this one. A healthier Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson should help the Blue Devils move the ball more effectively on the ground, and the emergence of freshman Jamison Crowder gives Sean Renfree yet another weapon to work with.

Explosives

The Seminoles feature 7 players who average over 10 yards per reception. The Blue Devils feature 7 players who average over 10 yards per reception. With two top passing offenses, explosive plays are going to be the norm in this game, but it is likely to be the team who is able to come up with an explosive play on defense or special teams that will leave Wallace Wade with a win. Neither team has a kick or punt return for a touchdown yet this season, though both have the athletes to make it happen. The Blue Devils’ secondary should look to capitalize on errant throws against a team that averages 2 interceptions per game.

Rushing TDs

Duke 12, FSU 5

Coach Cut says, “When you run out of room to throw the football, find a way to run the ball in.” Despite the loss of QB Brandon Connette, RB Desmond Scott, and RB Josh Snead, the Blue Devils have been successful rushing the football in the red zone during their three game winning streak. With both offenses likely to move the ball at will, red zone efficiency will be crucial to staying in the game. This is an area where the Blue Devils will have to continue to be successful if they hope to pull of the upset.

Field Goals

FSU 8/8, Duke 3/9

FSUs Dustin Hopkins is one of the top placekicker in college football, and the Blue Devils are excited to have their own All-American kicker back near 100% after a week off. After a dismal start, Snyderwine has been solid over the past two contests, converting FGs of 40 and 27 yards. Coach Cutcliffe has been especially enthusiastic about Duke’s work in the kicking game during the off week, and a key special teams play could be the difference in this game.

Penalties

Duke 22-193 yards, FSU 47-406 yards

If you were to wonder why the Seminoles are on a 3 game losing streak, there are two statistics that should jump out at you. A turnover margin of -7 and an average of over 80 yards in penalties per game. FSU has not played good fundamental football, while the Blue Devils have played nearly mistake-free football over their past two games. Duke will have to continue that trend this week against a talented FSU team. If the Seminoles continue to make costly mistakes, the Blue Devils will have to be ready to capitalize.

PREDICTION

The Blue Devils have won 3 games in a row, but are 0-16 all-time against the Seminoles. One of those streaks is destined to end on Saturday. Florida State has struggled with turnovers this season, but the Blue Devil defense has struggled to consistently create turnovers. If Duke is able to force a few costly turnovers, there could be an upset brewing in Wallace Wade Stadium. After three straight losses and with a healthier E.J. Manuel, expect the Seminoles to have a strong bounce-back performance against Duke. Both teams will have success on offense, and the opportunistic defense will emerge the victor.

FSU 31, Duke 24

Florida State will travel to Durham to take on the Blue Devils for the first time since 2007 on Saturday.

ChantRant helps preview Florida State

Florida State will travel to Durham to take on the Blue Devils for the first time since 2007 on Saturday.

After a week off to rest and heal, the Blue Devils will ride their three-game winning streak into the heart of their ACC schedule. Preseason favorite Florida State will travel to Durham on Saturday, and while things are looking up for the Blue Devils, the Seminoles’ season took a turn for the worse after an injury to QB E.J. Manuel. FSU will enter Saturday’s matchup in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but with a healthy Manuel, they will be a stiff test for the young Blue Devils.

To give us additional insight into the Seminoles’ recent struggles, BDN welcomes in Rich from ChantRant.com. Be sure to check out BDN’s half of the Q&A Exchange on their site as well. Thanks for your help, Rich!

BDN: As the consensus preseason pick for ACC Champion, expectations were obviously high for the Seminoles in 2011. What is the mood in Tallahassee after three straight tough losses to Oklahoma, Clemson, and Wake Forest?
 You know about the five stages of grief? It’s been something like that. After the final gun last Saturday, the mood was appropriate to the opponent: a Wake. A day later it had turned to anger (“How could this happen!?” “What’s up with our well paid coaching staff!?,” etc.). Depression was mixed in there somewhere. Then a grudging acceptance of the Seminole’s swan dive from the Top Ten. Now FSU’s faithful (at least the majority) are rallying behind the team, remembering the Noles have been down before and bounced back, while looking ahead to a better 2012 with a more experienced corps of young talent.

QB E.J. Manuel is expected to start for the Seminoles on Saturday

BDN: Redshirt-freshman Clint Trickett stepped in after E.J. Manuel was injured against Oklahoma. Trickett started the past two games, but Manuel replaced him last week at Wake Forest. Can you give us a brief scouting report on Trickett and Manuel? How do you expect them to be used against Duke on Saturday?
 Jimbo Fisher had made it clear that E.J. Manuel is his starting QB — and that was even before Clint Trickett had a poor start at Wake. So unless E.J. is injured against Duke, I doubt you’ll see Trickett. The scary part, though, is that doctors had told Jimbo before the Wake game that E.J. was not completely healed from a shoulder injury against Oklahoma. And if E.J. takes a nasty hit, he could be out for up to six weeks. For that reason, E.J. was one dimensional against the Deacs: all pass, no designed runs. I’d expect the same against Duke. And FYI, if Trickett DOES enter the game for whatever reason, FSU also becomes one dimensional. The redshirt freshman QB, who’s the son of FSU’s offensive line coach Rick Trickett, is not physical or fast enough to present a run threat — at least not this season.

BDN: After finishing 2nd in the ACC a year ago, FSU has really struggled to run the ball consistently this season, ranking last in the ACC at just over 85 yards per game. What has been the source of the Seminoles’ struggles on the ground and how can they get back on track?
Blame it mostly on the offensive line. FSU graduated two excellent linemen — both on last year’s Outland Trophy watch list. Since the 2011 season kicked off, one senior OL (Datko) is out with a shoulder injury; another (Spurlock) is limited by lingering effects of a concussion. Quality depth that should be filling those spots was lost due to various issues over the past few years. That leaves little continuity, with one senior tackle surrounded by underclassmen — including true freshmen — and one junior, a JC transfer. Given all that chaos, the OL is a work in progress from week to week. And that’s a nice way to put it.  

BDN: Mark Stoops took over the FSU defense for Mickey Andrews last season, and though there were some growing pains, the unit performed well, finishing 1st in the ACC in scoring defense. After a promising start, the defense has allowed 70 points over the last two games. What are the areas of concern and how do you expect the Seminoles will try to stop the Blue Devils’ potent passing attack?
There are concerns at linebacker and in the secondary. No doubt Jimbo Fisher is wrestling with how much of a youth movement to employ to address those concerns. My guess is he’ll go mostly with experienced guys rather than experiment. That’s especially true for the secondary, where two upper classmen have underperformed since a strong showing against no. 1 Oklahoma. In fact, I expect Coach Cutliffe to pick on that duo all day with the pass ’n catch combo of Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon. But you can be sure FSU will attempt to do the same. Both teams top the ACC in passing (FSU is first with 325.4 ypg; Duke 2nd with 311.6), while the Noles and Devils are at the bottom of the league in run yards. Fans of the aerial game should get their money’s worth on Saturday.

BDN: Florida State and Duke last met in 2007, and the Blue Devils are 0-16 all-time against the Seminoles. This will be the teams’ first meeting in the David Cutcliffe and Jimbo Fisher eras. Duke is riding a 3-game winning streak, while FSU has dropped 3 in a row. What do you expect to see from this matchup Saturday afternoon in Wallace Wade Stadium?
It all depends on which FSU team shows up. We don’t know how much player confidence is shaken after the Wake upset. If the Noles have been able to rebound emotionally and physically, fired up to make a statement and turn their season around — AND reduce the number of dumb penalties and careless turnovers — expect a team that will battle til the end. But if the guys in garnet and gold come out tight and tentative, and worst of all not playing as a team, it could be a long afternoon.

BDN: Thanks for your insight, Rich!

Duke will host another top ten opponent in Florida State on October 15

BDN previews Duke Football’s week 7 game with ACC favorite Florida State

Duke will host another top ten opponent in Florida State on October 15

After their week 6 off week, Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils will host yet another top 10 opponent in Wallace Wade Stadium on October 15th, as the Florida State Seminoles travel to Durham. Despite the loss of starting QB Christian Ponder, the Seminoles are the consensus favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference  in 2011. In Jimbo Fisher’s second season in charge in Tallahassee, FSU returns 18 starters from last year’s Chick-fil-a Bowl Championship team that finished with a 10-4 overall record. Expectations are high for this fall, and with a win against top-ranked Oklahoma in September, the Seminoles could vault themselves into the national championship picture.

The Seminoles have always been a tough opponent for the Blue Devils, as Duke is 0-16 all-time against Florida State. This year will be no exception; Duke will certainly have their hands full against an experienced and confident FSU team on October 15th.

For Duke’s week 7 match up against FSU, we are fortunate to have the insight of onebarrelrum from Tomahawk Nation. 

BDN: In his first year as Head Coach in Tallahassee, Jimbo Fisher led the Seminoles to their first 9-win season since 2003. What were the biggest changes seen on the field and within the program?

Expectations are high for Jimbo Fisher's second season as Head Coach at FSU

We’ll start with program changes because that is what dictates and influences what happens on the field. Bobby Bowden’s approach to the FSU program was that of CEO of a company much like Mack Brown at Texas. He delegated many responsibilities to other coaches. Fisher, however, is much more hands on with every facet of the program. Sure, his assistant coaches have their own responsibilities, but Fisher doesn’t watch practice from a tower. He is on the practice field, managing and coaching, utilizing direct interaction with coaches and players.

Beyond Fisher’s approach to coaching, there have been vast improvements in numerous areas including weight training, player tutoring, psychology, and nutrition. An army of support staff was brought on board to help boost all of these areas in an effort to improve the quality of play on the field. Under the waning years of Bowden, these areas had not kept up, or come close to matching other elite programs. Fisher has done an admirable job reorganizing and retooling the program so that it can compete with modern day elite teams.

On the field, the largest changes in x’s and o’s is most noticeable in the transition from Micky Andrew’s man heavy scheme to Stoops’ balanced defense that utilizes much more zone. FSU fans would like to all but forget the 2009 defense. It was the worst defense fielded by a Bowden coached team. In 2009 FSU was starting a 225 pound walk-on at defensive end. This year, the first and second string DE position will feature 4 players all over 265 pounds. It was also revealed that the defense was not provided playbooks in 2009. To say the least, Stoops had a lot of issues to address when he stepped on campus.

BDN: Florida State is the consensus top pick in the ACC in 2011, and will almost certainly receive a top-10 preseason ranking. With a win against Oklahoma on September 17th, many expect the Seminoles to vault towards the top of the BCS rankings. What does this team need to do to beat the Sooners, and is FSU ready to return to college football’s elite and compete for a National Championship?

Last year, many ‘Nole fans did not expect to win in Norman against the Sooners. They also didn’t expect FSU to get absolutely destroyed. It was a learning year for the Florida State defense, and the first exam was against OU. They obviously failed miserably as OU scored on its first five possessions. The FSU offense was in shock and could not come close to offering enough points to help as they dealt with their own struggles. This year, the defense has got to get at least a few stops. The offense has to manage the clock and keep OU’s offense off the field and out of rhythm. Last year, the OU no huddle decimated FSU’s young, learning defense and that can’t happen again if they want a chance to win. The plan should be to shorten the game with long drives and converting on 3rd down (easier said than done, I know). If FSU is successful at limiting OU’s offensive snaps, it will have a shot at winning in the 4th.

As for the second part, time will tell. If FSU can keep the game at least close with OU, it will have shown major strides since 2009. While competing for a title is extremely difficult for any team, I think FSU has the structure, players, and coaching staff to once again start competing with and beating the nation’s elite.

QB E.J. Manuel has already led the Seminoles to two bowl victories

BDN: While most of the ACC will be breaking in a new quarterback in 2011, Florida State and Duke have to feel pretty good about their QB situation. E.J. Manuel filled in admirably for Christian Ponder over the past two seasons, leading the Seminoles to bowl victories over West Virginia and South Carolina. What do you expect to see from Manuel in his first year as a starter? With three explosive backs and top receiver Bert Reed returning, what questions remain for the FSU offense?

You are right about EJ, fans have been very pleased with his effort filling in when Ponder was injured. EJ is an extremely talented QB with smarts to boot. Though this year FSU fans hope he is even better. He had a mechanics problem in his throwing motion which eventually lead to needing shoulder surgery. The surgery and improved mechanics have helped him with velocity and hopefully accuracy. He is excellent in the option game and keeping his eyes downfield when flushed from the pocket. I look for Fisher to utilize him in the running game quite a bit on designed runs this year to make defenses account for all 11 offensive players. EJ has bulked up to over 240 pounds, hopefully preparing his body for the long season. Outside of his talents EJ is a vocal leader on the team. He also has great chemistry with a lot of the receivers having thrown to some of them for years in practice. Hopefully all those reps will pay off this season.

As of right now, going into fall camp, the biggest question mark for the offense is the offensive line. There are returning players with experience but it is a question of how healthy they will be for the season. Both tackles, Zebrie Sanders and Andrew Datko had to go under the knife and miss spring ball. Guard David Spurlock had multiple concussions last year keeping him out of a number of games and also missed spring ball. Fisher says that they are all healed up and should be fine. If they are really 100 percent then there is a lot less to worry about for the FSU offense, but I’d wait until fall practice gets going before I breathe a sigh of relief. At the beginning of last season receivers Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith struggled. They had route issues, timing issues, and just needed quite a bit of time to get used to the college game. FSU needs them to continue their maturation and be ready to become major contributors. They will be counted on more than ever with the departure of WR Taiwan Easterling (left for pro baseball).

BDN: Mark Stoops did a nice job with a young FSU defense in 2010, though the group was inconsistent at times. With 8 starters returning in 2011, what improvements need to be made defensively for the Seminoles to compete for an ACC and National Championship?

For the defense, the most improvement should come from being in the new system for another year. While 2010 was a year to learn the basics, this year should show the grasp the players have of the different schemes and the understanding of their roles on any given play. Another issue last year was depth along the front. With so many young players, fatigue became an issue by the NC State game. FSU did not force a single punt in the second half of that game. Russell Wilson, time and again, was able to use his legs and arm to convert on 3rd and long. This year, there should be some serious depth along the front, along with another year of strength training, maturity, and familiarity with a new scheme. Same goes for the linebackers and secondary. With the way FSU is recruiting on the defensive side of the ball and Stoops’ scheme, I have no doubt that FSU will field an elite defense in the not so distant future. A defense that can be leaned on to win games and perhaps a championship. There is some hope among fans that this defense won’t have to wait another year to be special. Of course, we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

BDN: Florida State is 16-0 all-time against the Blue Devils, and the series hasn’t been competitive, with the Seminoles winning each game by at least three scores. Having last met in 2007, the two programs will have to get reacquainted in 2011. Duke has made strides under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, but will still be a significant underdog at home on October 15th. What have you heard about Coach Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils and what will they need to do to compete with the Seminoles?

From what I understand Duke has made very good strides under Coach Cutcliffe. After this season it wouldn’t be surprising to see a program offer Cutcliffe a pay increase. Duke was a scrappy team last year and proved to be much better than an annual speed bump in a number of ACC games. I look for that same level of play or even better from Duke this year. I can say it’s a good thing FSU’s defense has been tuned up since the 2007 match up. If these two teams faced off in 2009 I could have easily seen a Virgnia/Duke 2010 type shootout.

I know Duke likes to throw, but if they want to stay in it with the ‘Noles this year, they need to shorten the game. They will have to eat up some clock with runs. Duke needs to seize some momentum early and hope for the best. If FSU puts up 2 or 3 quick TD’s all hope may be lost as the revamped defense will be looking for pass. It will be the 3rd road game in a row for FSU, perhaps impacting how much time FSU spends on studying Duke’s offense and defense. Best thing to do would be break tendencies and do the unexpected. For heavens sake, don’t kick field goals on 4th and 3 inside the 25 or even 30 yard line. Duke will have to maximize every chance it has at TDs, as FG’s just won’t get it done.

BDN: Thanks so much for your help! We look forward to hosting the Seminoles on October 15th!

 

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