Florida State Football: 10 Things You Should Know About Duke
When Florida State fans first glanced at the 2011 schedule, the matchup with Duke was probably a mere afterthought.
After all, Florida State has never lost to the Blue Devils on the gridiron.
To no one’s surprise, this matchup features one team winless in conference play, while the other has yet to suffer an ACC loss.
To everyone’s surprise, the Seminoles have lost three consecutive games, with the last two being road contests to Atlantic Division foes Clemson and Wake Forest.
Duke enters the game on a three-game winning streak, including knocking of Boston College 20-19 in their ACC opener.
Will both teams continue their shocking streaks?
Here are 10 things you need to know about Duke.
10. Series History
Since FSU joined the ACC in 1992, the Seminoles are 16-0 against Duke.
However, the schools haven’t met since a 25-6 Seminole triumph over the Blue Devils in 2007.
Considering the fortunes of both schools right now, it would not be a stretch to say that this is the best opportunity for Duke to finally knock off Florida State—in football.
9. Sean Renfree
As with Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price last week, the Seminoles defense will face another signal-caller who has vastly improved from last season.
Renfree has completed 71 percent of his passes this season while throwing 1,361 yards with five touchdowns and only two interceptions.
He’s coming off of one of his better performances, where he threw for 335 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers in a 31-27 comeback win over FIU.
8. Dynamic Duo
Another week brings another daunting task for Florida State’s beleaguered secondary.
Duke enters this game with a pair of game-breaking wide receivers that may be the best pass-catching duo in the ACC.
Senior Donovan Varner and junior Connor Vernon both topped a 100 yards in last week’s win over FIU, and both are among the conference leaders in yards and receptions per game.
Duke’s best chance to pull off the upset is to get the ball in the hands of these two play makers early and often.
7. Connor Vernon
The Seminoles have already been victimized by the ACC’s top two receivers in Wake Forest’s Chris Givens and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins.
This weekend, they face the third leading pass-catcher in the conference in Duke’s Vernon, who is averaging 101 yards receiving per game.
Florida State has a trio of talented corners who have grossly underperformed this season, but they have a chance to redeem themselves against the talented Blue Devils receiving unit this weekend.
6. High Powered Offense
Florida State’s defense has given up 35 points in each of their last two games.
Considering the firepower that Duke brings into this weekend’s game, things will not get any easier for Mark Stoops’ bunch.
The Blue Devils are averaging over 400 yards of total offense per contest this season, with 311 yards coming via their passing game.
5. Cutcliffe: QB Guru
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has a reputation for being one of the best quarterback coaches in the game.
Duke’s Cutcliffe is one of the few coaches who can match resumes with Fisher.
Among the quarterbacks mentored by Cutcliffe are Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Erik Ainge, Thaddeus Lewis and now Renfree.
All of these quarterbacks had 3,000-yard passing seasons under Cutcliffe’s guidance.
4. Opportunistic Secondary
Although the Blue Devils are not known for being a defensive powerhouse, this year’s unit features more skill in their back end than they have had since David Cutcliffe took over in Durham.
Three different starters have recorded interceptions this season, and another, safety Matt Daniels, is among the conference leaders in tackles.
With Florida State quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Clint Trickett struggling last week throwing two interceptions apiece, Duke’s secondary is capable of making them pay for their mistakes.
3. Battle of Elite Kickers
Coming into the season, the only comparison that was being made between Duke and Florida State was arguing over which team had the better placekicker.
Duke’s Will Snyderwine and Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins are among the nation’s best, but Snyderwine has struggled early in the 2011 season.
He’s only made two of his six attempts this season, with two of his misses coming from under 30 yards.
Coming into the season, Snyderwine had connected on 38-of-44 attempts with a long of 52 yards.
2. Red Zone Issues
If there is any area where Duke’s offense has faltered, it has been in the red zone.
In 20 trips there this season, Duke has only converted 14 of those drives into points, and only 12 touchdowns.
For a defense struggling to stop teams, the Seminoles must make the Blue Devils kick field goals instead of extra points.
10. Fourth Quarter
Duke has had three of their games go down to the wire this season, including comeback wins over Boston College and FIU.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles have fell short in the fourth quarter in three consecutive games, and are in desperation mode to get a much-needed victory.
If Duke is in the game in the fourth, then based on the results for both teams this season, you have to give them the edge to pull out a victory.
For FSU, their main focus should be making sure that the game is decided in their favor before the final 15 minutes are played.