Florida State Seminoles football preview: at Duke Blue Devils

The Florida State Seminoles take on the Duke Blue Devils for the first time since 2007. FSU has never lost to Duke, leading the series 16-0. It should be 17-0 tomorrow.

The records and streaks indicate that these are two programs heading in different directions. Duke has won three in a row, while FSU has dropped three consecutive. Duke is very healthy and coming off a bye week, while FSU is perhaps the most injured team in the conference.

Line: FSU -13.5

How To Watch

FOX Sports South FS South foxsportssouth.com
FOX Sports Carolinas FS Carolinas foxsportscarolinas.com
SUN Sports SUN foxsportsflorida.com
Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic Plus CSN-MA + csnwashington.com
New England Sports Network Plus NESN + nesn.com
FOX Sports Tennessee FS Tennessee foxsportstennessee.com
FOX Sports West FS West foxsportswest.com
FOX Sports Southwest Plus FS Southwest + foxsportssouthwest.com
FOX Sports Houston Plus FS Houston + foxsportshouston.com
ESPN3* ESPN3 espn3.com

I think most should be able to catch this game. 

FSU Defense v. Duke Offense

Duke Offense
QB 19 Sean Renfree 6-5 225 R-Jr.
RB 23 Juwan Thompson 5-11 215 So.
33 Desmond Scott 5-9 190 Jr.
or 27 Jay Hollingsworth 5-10 200 Sr.
WR 2 Conner Vernon 6-1 195 Jr.
WR 26 Donovan Varner 5-9 175 Sr.
3 Jamison Crowder 5-9 175 Fr.
WR 5 Brandon Braxton 6-1 190 So.
TE 81 Cooper Helfet 6-4 240 Sr.
LT 79 Kyle Hill 6-6 290 R-Sr.
LG 70 John Coleman 6-4 290 R-So.
C 74 Dave Harding 6-4 285 R-So.
RG 77 Laken Tomlinson 6-3 310 R-Fr.
RT 72 Perry Simmons 6-5 300 R-So.

Duke runs a pass-happy offensive attack in the classic mold of David Clutcliffe. What does that mean? You're going to see a lot of the dig route. and I mean a lot. 

This puts pressure on the linebackers and safeties. Duke runs a lot of three receiver sets. FSU can defend this with the 4-3 or 3-4 looks, but if Duke goes to a 4-wide look, I would think FSU should go nickel. I expect FSU to give Duke throws to the sidelines and to to clog the middle of the field with defenders.

This game isn't as much about Duke's offense, as it is about getting back to what made FSU's defense very good against Oklahoma: limiting the big play and forcing teams to execute in the red zone. 

Duke is a decent, but not great offense. They can move the football, but they are traditionally not a very good red zone team (2nd worst TD% 2010, dead last 2009) because of all the passing and no run threat at quarterback. I have no doubts that Duke will move the ball some on Florida State. And as long as they move it in small chunks and not big plays, I have no problem with that. FSU's advantage with its great size is in the red zone. FSU's defense must make Duke earn its touchdowns in the red zone and not via the long score. Additionally, Duke has run some wildcat in the red zone, but the wildcat QB (Connette) is likely out for this game. Just another reason to make Duke play FSU's game and challenge the Blue Devils to win in the red zone.

FSU must be aware of the trick play and some different offensive tactics as Duke is coming off a bye week. That scenario dictates a more conservative defensive strategy. Duke won't beat FSU with field goals, and if FSU can force Duke into kicking more field goals than touchdowns, the defense will have done its job. 

Duke has a nice collection of competent, smart skill guys. The top three receivers are definitely good, and Crowder is not a bad #4. Helfet at tight end gets a lot of looks, and Duke has been throwing more to the backs this season.

The run game is probably the worst in the ACC and the only way Duke can run on FSU is if FSU is out of position. Duke's run game doesn't have the ability to move FSU if the 'Noles are in the right position.

Third down should be interesting in this game. Duke almost never runs on third down and 5+, so the draw threat shouldn't be there. If Duke breaks tendency, then FSU should adjust, but they should disregard the draw until Duke proves otherwise.

FSU's defensive line should be able to dominate Duke's offensive line and cause trouble all day. I don't see much reason to blitz here, and would prefer to be conservative on third down. I expect FSU to get some turnovers here off of balls thrown under pressure. 

FSU's defensive goals for this game should be:

-hold Duke under 5 yards/play before garbage time: 

55 Plays - 275 Yards
60 Plays - 300 Yards
65 Plays - 325 Yards
70 Plays - 350 Yards
75 Plays - 375 Yards
80 Plays - 400 Yards

- No scores of more than 20 yards

- Red Zone TD % of less than 50%

- Play unselfish team defense and let the plays come to you. Don't get out of position because you are too aggressive.

FSU Offense v. Duke Defense

Duke Defense
DE 94 Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo 6-4 225 R-Fr.
42 Dezmond Johnson 6-4 230 R-Fr.
NG 93 Charlie Hatcher 6-3 300 R-Sr.
58 Curtis Hazelton 6-2 280 R-Jr.
DT 82 Sydney Sarmiento 6-4 285 R-So.
91 Jamal Bruce 6-1 270 R-Fr.
DE 92 Justin Foxx 6-3 240 R-So.
95 Jamal Wallace 6-4 245 R-Fr.
LB 59 Kelby Brown 6-2 220 So.
LB 45 Austin Gamble 6-1 235 Jr.
CB 6 Ross Cockrell 6-0 175 R-So.
31 Tony Foster 6-1 180 R-Jr.
or 24 Garrett Patterson 6-1 190 R-So.
CB 37 Johnny Williams 5-10 190 Sr. questionable
1 Zach Greene 5-10 170 Jr.
S 32 August Campbell 6-3 225 R-So. doubtful
S 40 Matt Daniels 6-1 210 Sr.questionable
S 4 Walt Canty 6-0 215 Jr.
20 Lee Butler 5-11 185 Sr.
Note: Butler has been injured 

Duke runs a 4-2-5 defense, featuring three safeties. They rely on trickery and positioning to get the job done, as most of the talent isn't special.

Florida State will likely be operating from multi-receiver sets in this game, as EJ Manuel is comfortable doing so. This somewhat plays into Duke’s hands, but this game is about FSU and not about Duke, meaning that FSU is not going to change up its offensive strategy just to gain a bigger advantage on Duke. FSU plans to play a wide open offense for the rest of the year, and it needs to rep it against all defenses.

From that 4-2-5 alignment, Duke will use a lot of different blitzes and stunts to confuse the offense. This is a concern for FSU because there have been so many guys in and out of the lineup, creating little to no cohesion.

Speaking of guys out of the lineup, FSU will be without starting LT Andrew Datko, starting WR Rashad Greene, starting RG David Spurlock, starting WR Willie Haulstead, starting RB Chris Thompson and perhaps a few other guys. The cohesion problem definitely exists, but it should start to improve from here on out, as most of the guys listed will be done for the year (Greene and Spurlock excepted).

I’d like to see more playing time for freshman runners Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr, but with the amount of blitzing and stunting Duke does, they’ll need to be sound in the blitz pick-up game, as FSU knows QB EJ Manuel is one good shot from being done for the year.

Bobby Hart will again be in at tackle, and Garrett Faircloth is likely to fill in for David Spurlock. Duke’s defensive line is nothing special, but they do have a pretty good nose guard in Charlie Hatcher. One of Duke’s better pass rushers (Anuzzi) was lost for the year. The key to pass protection this week will be teamwork and communication, as Duke’s players aren’t good enough to pressure FSU individually. Knowing that, Duke will attempt to confuse FSU’s offensive line and free up a blitzer or stunter unblocked.

Despite the blitzing and stunting, Duke still plays bend-but-don’t break defense, and one of the fascinating matchups of the game will be how much single coverage Duke plays against FSU’s surprisingly good receiving corps. With freshman sensation Rashad Greene out, Manuel will look more to veteran Rodney Smith, and perhaps Bert Reed, who should play. Jarred Haggins also comes back this week, shockingly, after breaking his hand just three weeks ago.

Manuel must use his head in this game. He has not been as good as he needs to be with the mental side of the game this year, and we’ve pointed out several instances in which he failed to get FSU into the correct play via check or audible. Duke is all about confusion. If FSU executes and doesn’t beat itself, it will be just fine. Manuel needs to consistently get FSU into the right play. I don’t expect him to be perfect in doing so like Christian Ponder, but he needs to not be a hindrance to the offense.

Manuel needs to identify what the defense is giving and then take what the defense is giving. If he does, the ball will be in the hands of FSU's playmakers and it is up to them to make plays after that point. 


- At least 6.5 yards/play before garbage time:

55 Plays - 358 Yards
60 Plays - 390 Yards
65 Plays - 423 Yards
70 Plays - 455 Yards
75 Plays - 488 Yards
80 Plays - 520 Yards

- No more than 1 turnover

- Less than two operational penalties (false starts, delay of game, motion)

- Red Zone TD % of 66% or better.

A note on special teams: Duke has only put three of 25 kickoffs into the end zone. FSU has a great chance for a big return in this game. The Duke field goal team has been shaky this year due to injury, and though they'll be improved, this still lends itself to the no big play strategy.


FSU outgains Duke by 35% per-play (6.7-4.8), and wins 41-20. The game goes into garbage time and Duke gets a late score. FSU's reserves get a bit of playing time.

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