This is all very strange and confusing for me so I've enlisted the help of noted Tomahawk Nation basketball analyst Michael Rogner who probably knows more about Duke than anybody on this site.
8:00 | ABC | FSU -29
Evenflow58 (EF): Can Duke defend FSU's fast break offense? How will they contend with the Noles size?
Michael Rogner (MR): Duke has struggled against big teams this year, so I like the Noles match up there. But they also do a good job of getting back on defense and making teams beat them with solid execution. So they'll probably try and slow FSU's offense down and get them into a grinding type of game. If FSU scores more than 60 or 65 then I really like our chances.
MR: But how do we slow down Duke? That offense might be the best in the country and they can score from anywhere.
Good points on Duke's defense! You have to really like FSU's chances if they can get north of 60 but I don't know if FSU will have the needed number of possessions. I have to think Duke will do everything they can to slow this game down and hope for a few bounces to go their way. I expect Duke to continue to run their no huddle but not the hurry up part. If FSU hits 60 that means Duke has turned it over a ton, something they haven't done this year.
When most people think of a 4-2-5 they think of good pass defense but Duke has wisely decided to run a base cover-4 look out of that package which allows it's safeties to get closer to the line and assist in run support. Duke also does a good job of disguising its cover just before the snap count and will move players around to confuse QBs.
However, the quarters look is susceptible to vertically attacking routes like posts, seams, and 4-verts. These are routes and concepts that FSU runs very well and will look to exploit. It would not be a surprise to see Duke run more cover-2 or cover-3 type looks early to try and force some mistakes by FSU. If Duke decides to run their cover-4 look they could get blown out very quickly as FSU's WRs should easily win one on one match ups that exist outside.
Duke doesn't get much out of its line although DE Kenny Anunike is a nice player. Duke lacks the size to present much of a problem in the run game but the LBs and safeties do a nice job of filling holes limiting the effectiveness of most teams run games. FSU struggled a bit with stunts against UF and Duke could try and mimic a similar game plan up front.
Duke's offense is better than years past but I'm not sure they're that good, Micheal. When Cutcliffe came into Duke he brought a potent passing attack that was easy to learn and replicate and found smart kids to teach it to. Coach Cut and staff have had to adjust their offense this year to account for the talent they put on the field and it has worked great. While Anthony Boone is the starting QB Brandon Connette will see ample time at the same position.
No matter which QB is the play calling remains relatively consistent. Duke will base their offense on zone reads and quick passes to keep defenders off Boone and Connette. Expect to see a lot of WR screens and arrow routes packaged with zone read actions to try and keep FSU honest and spread out. While Connette can certainly sling the ball (he threw for over 300 yards against Pitt and Troy) he tends to be a bit turnover prone (4 INTs against Pitt) and is asked to run more than Boone. Boone is a very accurate passer and offsets his lack of arm strength with a tendency towards short and intermediate throws in the middle of the field.
No matter who's throwing the ball they'll mostly look for WR Jamison Crowder and TE Braxton Deaver. Crowder is Duke's do everything player on offense. Most of the time he'll get the ball on screens, quick slants, and 5-10 yard ins and has the speed and agility to make a few players miss for a big play. However, he's also good enough as a route runner to get deep and make teams pay for sitting on the quick hitters. Deaver does most of his damage on curl routes to the middle of the field and arrow and crossing routes off the zone read play action.
EF: Duke's coaches seem to dislike the way some FSU coaches go about their business. Is there a chance this game gets chippy at all?
MR: Frankly, I'd like it if it did get a bit chippy. Our coaching staff does such a great job of teaching the kids to be mentally tough, so an emotional game would likely have more of a detrimental effect on Duke. Besides, that's just a sign of a good rivalry, and if you're viewed nationally as one of Duke's rivals, then you know you've made it as a program.
MR: Speaking of their program, it really starts with recruiting, and their next class is just insanely stacked. Do you get the feeling that if FSU is going to beat Duke it has to happen this year, or will FSU somehow be able to compete with Duke in the future?
EF: I'm assuming you mean insanely stacked for Duke? Coach Cutcliffe and his staff have done an excellent job of recruiting and doing so close to home. When most people think of Duke they think of a school that doesn't even try at football but that's certainly not the case under Cutcliffe. While Duke cannot compete for the same athletes that FSU does they have improved their talent profile and look more like a football team that hands out scholarships than an intramural flag football team.
That has shown out on the field also. Duke has made it to its first ACC Championship Game and has an opportunity to win its first outright ACC title since 1962 and it hasn't been all smoke and mirrors. Duke beat rival UNC to win its second straight Victory Bell, something it hasn't done since the late 80's and also took down expected ACC Coastal powers Virginia Tech and Miami. This has certainly been Duke's year and Cutcliffe has led them to their first 10 win season ever.
MR: The biggest rivalry moment in recent memory is obviously two years ago when FSU scored on the final possession to break Duke's multi-year home winning streak. So many great moments in this rivalry! What are a couple of your favorites?
EF: Well, I'm a bit confused now. Duke has never beaten FSU in football. In fact the closest margin was 19 points in 2007. I guess I'd have to go with 1995 when FSU put up 70 on Duke. Putting up 70 on any team is very impressive no matter who they are.
EF: Ok, prediction time. Who you got and by how much? I'll go with FSU 55 Duke 7. Duke is certainly improving as a program and has some very nice skins on their wall this year but this FSU might be the best team to ever play football.
MR: I really think FSU is just outclassed here. But not being able to match talent with Duke isn't anything to hang our heads about. I think Duke opens a big lead early, but then FSU chips away but too little too late. 70-63 bad guys.
EF: Wait, you realize this is the ACC FOOTBALL Championship, right?
MR: Duke has a football team?