clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

X-factors: What matchups could decide winner of FSU-Duke

Maybe you already knew a couple of these — but a refresher never hurts

Peyton Baker/Tomahawk Nation

No. 4 Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC) is set to take on the No. 16 Duke Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0 ACC) in the Seminoles’ second-ranked matchup of the season.

It’s just the third time ever the two have met as ranked opponents (1994, 2013).

Before FSU takes on Duke in primetime under the lights on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, these three things will likely be the determining factor in the winner of the top-20 ACC clash.

Can Duke’s offensive line limit Florida State’s all-angles pass rush?

Duke’s left tackle Graham Barton looks like a future first-round pick but he and the entire unit haven’t exactly played up to expectations so far.

Take a look at this chart:

Duke’s sack numbers are low because Riley Leonard is really good at avoiding sacks. In terms of protection, they really haven’t played that well this year and the yards per play are not great either.

Enter Florida State under the lights and a raucous home crowd.

Can FSU establish its running game earlier?

In its last two games, FSU has rushed for 473 yards with the majority of it coming in the second half. Akin to a boxer winning in overtime via the body blow effect, those hits add up and then FSU pulls out something like this:

That’s the backup running back hitting 20.5 MPH on a touchdown after the 220-pound starter hit 22 MPH last week. That said — FSU’s offensive line, while better in recent weeks, has not run blocked well vs. a good front this year and you better believe that Duke’s front is very good.

Which team will win the hidden yardage battle?

Field position, penalties, you hear it during every game but not often before. Florida State and Duke field two special teams unit that don’t beat themselves. Alex Mastromanno is averaging 47.57 yards per punt; good for No. 8 overall, and a net team average of 44.54; good for No. 3 overall in the nation. Duke is not far behind with a net average of 43.48 good for No. 6 overall.

Duke averages 4.67 penalties per game which is tied with Clemson for 21st overall. Duke is a very well-coached football team that doesn’t beat itself. The team that gives the game away via hidden yardage is probably the team that loses the game.