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(20) Duke (10-2) vs. (1) Florida State (12-0)



Saturday, December 7, 8 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

GAME NOTES: Unlikely foes will collide in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte this weekend, as the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles take on the 20th-ranked Duke Blue Devils at Bank of America Stadium.

Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles completed a dominant regular season with a 37-7 blasting of the Florida Gators last weekend to finish up at 12-0. Florida State's spot in the ACC title game was secured several weeks ago with an Atlantic Division crown, but the team was able to ascend the Top 25 and move into the number one overall slot in the BCS rankings thanks to Alabama's stunning loss at Auburn last weekend.

Stunning is an appropriate word to describe Duke's magical season. David Cutcliffe's Blue Devils closed out the year with eight straight wins and captured the Coastal Division title with a thrilling 27-25 victory at North Carolina in the regular-season finale. Overall, Duke finished at 10-2, setting a school record for wins in a season. Cutcliffe was named the ACC Coach of the Year as a result.

It's awfully humbling," Cutcliffe said. "I've said it time and time again, we've got a terrific group of coaches in this league. But this is not an individual award -- this is a program honor because of the young men who prepared each and every week to the best of their abilities, and then played the games on Saturdays with tremendous effort. And certainly a great deal of credit goes to our staff, which has come to work each and every day with the desire to help make our program the best it can possibly be."

While a BCS bowl bid is up for grabs in this game, the outcome could mean far more to the Seminoles with a victory, as they will go on to play for a national title. Duke is fighting an obvious uphill battle, as the Blue Devils have never beaten the Seminoles in 18 previous encounters.

The key to the Blue Devils' attack this season is an unprecedented balance that has certainly not been the norm in Durham in the recent past. Duke comes into this title game averaging 33.7 ppg, with a great mix of the run (179.9 ypg) and the pass (242.4 ypg).

Duke is a flawless 9-0 with Anthony Boone as the starter under center this season. However, that doesn't mean that Cutcliffe is set on one player leading Duke's offense. On the contrary, the Blue Devils have excelled this season thanks to a two-headed monster at quarterback, with both Boone and Brandon Connette making plays.

Boone has completed an efficient 66.2 percent of his passes this season, for 1,695 yards, with 10 TD passes. Connette comes in at 61.8 percent accuracy, for 1,210 yards and 13 TD strikes, while adding another dimension with his legs, which have accounted for another 13 scores on the ground.

Regardless of who is throwing the ball for Duke, the likely target is junior wideout Jamison Crowder, who leads the Blue Devils by a wide margin in most statistics, with 88 catches, for 1,131 yards and seven TDs. He was named to the All-ACC First-Team.

The team lacks a workhorse in the backfield, but the combination of Jela Duncan (5.1 ypc, three TDs), Josh Snead (6.4 ypc), Juwan Thompson (5.0 ypc) and Connette has gotten the job done and kept foes from keying solely on the pass.

The offense is a notch or two above the defense in terms of productivity this season, although Duke has shown flashes of strong play on that side of the football in 2013. The team is allowing a decent 23.0 ppg and just under 400 yards of offense per outing (395.2).

The Blue Devils have been extremely active on defense and boast three players that have eclipsed the century mark in tackles in linebackers David Helton (114 stops) and Kelby Brown (101 tackles, 8.5 TFL, two INTs) and safety Jeremy Cash (109 tackles, four INTs). Cash and Brown were both All-ACC First-Team honorees. Senior end Kenny Anunike (64 tackles), is a force up front, leading the team in both TFL (13.5) and sacks (6).

FSU comes in as one of the nation's most productive offenses, averaging 53.7 ppg (second nationally) on 526.1 ypg (seventh nationally).

The Seminoles have raised the bar offensively this season thanks to the play of Heisman front-runner Jameis Winston. The redshirt freshman has played like a seasoned veteran under center, having completed 68.8 percent of his passes, for 3,490 yards, with 35 TD passes against eight interceptions. he was recently named the ACC Rookie of the Year, as well as an All-ACC First-Team selection.

Fisher has enjoyed watching Winston develop this season.

"His competitiveness is ridiculous," Fisher said of Winston. "He's a competitor. Nothing fazes that guy. He thrives on that...The guy's ability to learn and process information is what puts him over the top. He can think. He understands what he's doing at all times. And when he makes a mistake, he can come off and tell you exactly why he did it, what he did or didn't do right."

It has definitely been a huge bonus to have one of the nation's premier offensive lines in front of him and perhaps the nation's top receiving corps to throw to. Wideouts Rashad Greene (61 catches, 914 yards, 9 TDs), Kenny Shaw (48 catches, 855 yards, 5 TDs) and Kelvin Benjamin (45 catches, 838 yards, 12 TDs) all have the ability to take over games, as evidenced by Benjamin's three-TD performance against Florida last week.

"Tremendous," Fisher said of Benjamin. "KB has real advantages with his size, speed and athleticism. He can be a very, very special player, and he's starting to develop into that guy."

At over 200 yards rushing per game, the ground attack is every bit as lethal as the passing attack for FSU. The Seminoles have a three-pronged rushing attack, with Devonta Freeman (852 yards, 5.9 ypc, 12 TDs), Karlos Williams (650 yards, 8.2 ypc, 10 TDs) and James Wilder Jr. (517 yards, 7.1 ypc, 8 TDs) all making plays as they rotate in and out of the backfield.

To say that Florida State has excelled on defense would be an understatement. FSU currently leads the nation in scoring defense (11.0), pass defense (153.0), interceptions (23), rushing touchdowns allowed (four) and defensive touchdowns (eight), ranks second in pass defense efficiency (93.53), third in third-down conversion defense (.295) and fourth in total defense (271.0).

There are playmakers throughout the FSU defense, although it is linebacker Telvin Smith (team-high 67 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INTs and 2 fumble recoveries) and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (60 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 5,0 sacks, 1 INT and three forced fumbles) who have played at an All-American level this season. Joyner was an All-ACC First-Team selection.

The Blue Devils are huge underdogs in this contest, and although they have defied the odds all season long, getting past the Seminoles here isn't likely. Florida State has a trip to Pasadena in its future and will punch its ticket to the BCS Championship with a big win here.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida State 36, Duke 10

12/04 10:44:34 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
Final
CHI 103
NYK 97
Final
HOU 90
NOP 99
Final
SAC 107
MIL 108
Final
GSW 114
OKC 109
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
UTA
7:30pm Tonight
CLE
BRK
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
MIN
7:30pm Tonight
DET
TOR
7:30pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
CHI
8:00pm Tonight
SAN
POR
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
LAC
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
OKC
Final
RICE 72
STTHOMASTX 61
 
Final
UVA 70
CLST 54
Final
LIU 69
FIU 58
 
Final
STET 67
GSOUT 76
 
Final
QUIN 80
LEH 65
 
Final
SFLA 69
SHU 89
Final
RICH 65
SALA 54
Final
CAN 60
USB 59
 
Final
DEL 62
TEMPL 82
Final
WCU 56
WRST 69
 
Final
VERM 56
YALE 57
 
Final
SDKST 75
IDST 72
 
Final
RIDE 62
MRGST 48
 
Final
LATU 79
NICST 54
 
Final
CHAR 75
APP 65
Final
MISS 71
CCAR 68
 
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
Final
BRAD 80
EUREK 38
 
Final
PEAY 76
OAKC 52
 
Final
JST 66
SMISS 46
 
Final
SD 55
MNTST 53
 
Final
UAB 70
LSU 79
Final
EVAN 81
OHIO 69
 
Final
CSFU 72
CSDH 50
 
Final
ORST 90
DEP 59
Final
PAC 69
NEV 65
Final
USF 77
PORST 40
 
Final
IDAHO 86
WALLA 39
 
Final
UTST 57
CALST 56
 
1:30pm Today
YOUNG
WILB
 
2:00pm Today
TULA
JST
 
6:00pm Tonight
RAD
SIENA
 
7:00pm Tonight
MERC
COOK
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUCK
CASEWEST
 
7:00pm Tonight
LIB
CPNC
 
7:00pm Tonight
SCAR
CLEM
7:00pm Tonight
CMICH
CONC
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIAMI
EKENT
7:00pm Tonight
GWEBB
HIWASSEE
 
7:00pm Tonight
ODU
MDES
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
NIAG
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
NCAT
 
7:00pm Tonight
FAM
UNF
 
7:00pm Tonight
NORST
NARZ
 
7:00pm Tonight
DART
NILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
MORE
NKENTUCKY
 
7:00pm Tonight
UCSB
SDCHR
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJ
GAELS
7:00pm Tonight
ALA
STILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
HAMP
TENST
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENN
TENT
7:00pm Tonight
WMARY
WSHMD
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLGC
FUR
 
7:30pm Tonight
CALST
SDKST
 
8:00pm Tonight
MTST
CHAT
8:00pm Tonight
NDAK
DICKINSON
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAMON
LSUALEX
 
8:00pm Tonight
PRIN
LIP
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
MLGN
 
8:00pm Tonight
MINN
SEAT
 
8:00pm Tonight
LOYC
SUTAH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
WINT
 
8:05pm Tonight
SILL
NO
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
ALAAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
TTU
ARKPB
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
COLST
9:00pm Tonight
CREI
TXPA
 
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
EWASH
10:05pm Tonight
UTST
IDST
 
11:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ARZ
11:59pm Tonight
CHAM
HAW
 
Final
PIT 1
COL 0
Final
PHI 1
FLA 2
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
CLB 4
WAS 5
Final
MON 1
ANA 2
Final
SJS 4
EDM 3
Final
LOS 6
STL 4
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
TAM
 
7:30pm Tonight
OTT
ANA
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
NYI
8:00pm Tonight
WIN
BOS
 
9:00pm Tonight
CAL
DAL
 
Final
JAC 21
TEN 13