Florida State continues the road trip this weekend to Durham, NC. Unranked and in shambles, the Seminoles hope to rebound and avoid their first 0-3 ACC start in over 20 years. The Seminoles are still licking their wounds, but have much to rally around.
Duke is coming off three victories though, over Boston College, Tulane and FIU - and will have home field advantage, although they have not won four consecutive games since 1994. They rank 107th in rushing yards and 16th overall in passing yards, which sounds very similar to the Wake Forest match up last week. The Demon Deacon running game buried the Seminoles in the third, giving up 124 yards to one player. Despite that, the Seminoles rush defense is still 15th in the country and the Blue Devils rushed only 30 yards against the comparable #6 Stanford Cardinals defense (Duke lost that game), so the Seminole defense may hold up just fine.
Florida State continues to place 13th in passing yards this season, but 112th in rushing yards. With E.J. Manuel still injured, FSU made many attempts at bolstering the running game last week, to little avail; 22 carries for 100 yards, not including quarterbacks. E.J. will likely play again at Duke, despite a third-degree sprain in his non-throwing shoulder, but Jimbo
should give freshman Clint Trickett more chances with the ball - because as much as I could jinx it again, this should be an easy win. Would I be surprised if E.J. plays? No, he wants to and has little pain in his shoulder, but I've got to say: why push it.
In last week's 35-30 loss to Wake Forest, Florida State had 13 penalties for 109 yards and five turnovers. Will turnovers be the downfall again? The blue devils have only forced six this season, with one against Stanford, so FSU's worst enemy could be themselves. Expect them to play it safe in this game, running the ball often to help the ground war find its feet and run down the clock, while keeping the passing game to bubble screens and sweeps prototypical to the FSU offense. They won't be pulling out the stops against Duke.
Unfortunately, injuries have plagued the Seminoles all season, and the bad news keeps coming. Last year's leading rusher Chris Thompson is officially out for the season with two broken vertebrae after his first carry last week. Offensive tackle Andrew Datko won't play either, coach Jimbo Fisher says that the four-year starter needs shoulder surgery. WR Scooter Haggins (broken left hand) worked out lightly with the team Monday, but he is not expected back until November. On the other hand, WR Bert Reed should be able to play, though missing three consecutive games with an ankle injury.
On the bright side, Duke has never beaten the Seminoles. (#Unconquered)
Players to watch for:
- QB E.J. Manuel - who claims he has no pain in his shoulder. If he enters the game, he may be eager to show he's fine. The Seminoles would be smart to keep him from running the ball, but the QB is quite good on his feet. He needs to trust his running game and make things happen in the air to keep himself healthy.
- WR Rashad Greene's 12 catches last week against Wake Forest is the highest total by any freshman receiver this season. His total of 457 receiving yards is the second-best by a freshman after five games in ACC history. Remember that touchdown in double coverage to tie Oklahoma in the third a month ago? That was him. He's crazy good, and a beacon of light on this plagued football team. With a sore ankle he will be a game-time decision.
- PK Dustin Hopkins has made 15 consecutive field goals and needs just three more to tie Graham Gano, now with the Washington Redskins, for the school record. Hopkins has overcome his biggest challenge this season - the short kick - and made 27 consecutive field goals of 35 yards or less, with over 100 consecutive successful point-afters.
- CB Mike Harris, who leads the Seminoles in tackles with 27, is the only cornerback leading his team in stops in the ACC. Combine him with CB Greg Reid and the midsection of the field is looking unstoppable. FSU's pass defense is still 23rd in the FBS (comparable to Duke's 106th).