Duke vs. Florida State: How the Blue Devils and Seminoles match up

acarter@newsobserver.comDecember 6, 2013 

WHEN FLORIDA STATE HAS THE BALL

Florida State passing offense vs. Duke pass defense

Jameis Winston, the Seminoles’ freshman quarterback, is a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy for a reason. His numbers are the stuff of video games: a 68.8 percent completion percentage, 3,490 yards and 35 passing touchdowns. The Seminoles’ receiving corps of Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw, Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Nick O’Leary is one of the best in the nation. Statistically, Florida State’s passing offense ranks 14th nationally, while Duke’s pass defense is in the middle of the pack. The Blue Devils have some young talent in the secondary, and they’re tied for 17th nationally in interceptions (16), but the Seminoles are on a different level.

Edge: Florida State

Florida State rushing offense vs. Duke rushing defense

Florida State’s rushing offense hasn’t been as explosive as its passing offense, but it’s not far off. The Seminoles are averaging 204.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks 30th nationally. The Seminoles have a deep stable of backs led by Devonta Freeman, who has run for 852 yards and 12 touchdowns. Karlos Williams and James Wilder are next in line, and they both average at least 7 yards per carry. Defensively, Duke ranks 71st nationally against the run. North Carolina ran for 225 yards against Duke a week ago, and the Tar Heels don’t have the caliber of running backs that Duke will be attempting to slow down against Florida State.

Edge: Florida State

WHEN DUKE HAS THE BALL

Duke passing offense vs. Florida State pass defense

Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone is coming off of one of his best performances – a 274-yard, two-touchdown day against UNC last week. Boone is a capable passer and runner, and Jamison Crowder (88 catches for 1,131 yards) has been one of the most productive receivers in the country. Even so, Florida State’s defense has made opposing offenses look bad all season. The Seminoles are allowing an average of 153 passing yards per game – fewest in the nation – and their 23 interceptions are tied for first nationally. Florida State’s defense is loaded, and it might be best of all in the secondary.

Edge: Florida State

Duke rushing offense vs. Florida State rushing defense

For the longest time, Duke wasn’t an effective running team. Now the Blue Devils are. The progression of the running game from what it was to what it is mirrors Duke’s overall improvement. The Blue Devils gashed Miami for 358 rushing yards, and they ran for at least 180 yards in five other games. Again, though, Florida State’s defense is unlike anything Duke has faced. The Seminoles are allowing 3.1 yards per carry, which is tied for seventh nationally.

Edge: Florida State

IN THE TRENCHES

When Florida State has the ball

The Seminoles’ offensive line has paved the way for one of the most productive offenses in the nation – and perhaps the best offense in Florida State history. Cameron Erving, the Seminoles junior left tackle, recently received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is awarded to the ACC’s best offensive lineman. In addition to Erving, two other linemen – guard Tre Jackson and center Bryan Stork – received first-team All-ACC honors. Duke’s defensive front, led by senior defensive end Kenny Anunike, a second-team All-ACC selection, is better than it has been, but the Blue Devils can’t match up physically.

Edge: Florida State

When Duke has the ball

How good is the Seminoles’ defensive line? It might be more talented than four defensive linemen who received first-team All-ACC honors. Somehow, Timmy Jernigan didn’t receive first-team honors, and Florida State’s starting defensive linemen didn’t put up great stats because they were often resting in the second half of lopsided victories. The Seminoles’ entire starting defensive line – ends Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards, Jr., tackles Nile Lawrence-Stample and Jernigan – is likely to play in the NFL. Florida State doesn’t lack for depth here, either. Like its defensive line, Duke’s offensive line has come a long ways. But nowhere is the talent disparity between Florida State and Duke greater than it is up front on both sides.

Edge: Florida State

SPECIAL TEAMS

Both teams rank among the top six nationally in kickoff returns (Duke is No. 3, and has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns), and statistically they’ve been similarly effective in kickoff coverage. Strangely, both teams also rank near the bottom of national rankings in punt coverage. Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo is one of the nation’s best. He has made 18 of his 19 field goal attempts this season, and all 84 of his extra-point attempts. Duke’s Ross Martin is 11-for-15 on field goals. Duke has been the better team on punt returns, though, and Jamison Crowder ranks ninth nationally with an average of 15 yards per return. He has also returned two punts for touchdowns.

Edge: Even

INTANGIBLES

Duke is in the midst of a dream season, and an expected loss against Florida State would do nothing to wipe away the luster of what the Blue Devils have accomplished. Duke’s 10 victories are a school record, and winning the Coastal Division championship is among the most notable accomplishments in school history. The Seminoles, meanwhile, are having their best season since 1999, when they went undefeated and beat Virginia Tech in the BCS national championship game. A loss against Duke would be an unimaginable disappointment for top-ranked Florida State, which to this point has avoided the kind of puzzling performances that plagued Jimbo Fisher’s first three seasons as head coach. A victory against Duke would send the Seminoles to the national championship game.

Edge: Florida State

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