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Schedule Preview: Duke Blue Devils

Can FSU keep its perfect record vs. Duke intact?

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Don Juan Moore/Character Lines

These are no longer David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils, who in his 14 years as the Duke head coach finished with a 0.443 win/loss record at 77-97.

Second-year coach Mike Elko, who was previously Jimbo Fisher’s DC (2018-2021) at Texas A&M as well as DC at Notre Dame and Wake Forest, lit a fire into the Duke football program in his first outing last season, finishing with a 9-4 record and a 30-13 Military Bowl win against UCF.

While it was impressive considering Duke’s history, one should consider seven of the Blue Devils’ wins came against teams who finished the 2022 season with a sub .500 won/loss record.

By the time Duke arrives in Tallahassee for this game, the season will be eight weeks old. In that span, the Blue Devils will have gotten their fair share of tough games under their belt: Clemson in the season opener, as well as Notre Dame and NC State, with the latter coming the week before Duke and FSU face off.

Florida State vs. Duke Blue Devils

Date: Saturday, October 21, 2023

Location: Doak Campbell Stadium | Tallahassee, Fla.

Previous matchup: 2020 - FSU 56 - Duke 35

All-time series: 21-0

Duke Blue Devils: Team Preview

2022 record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC)

Two things to know:

  • Duke quarterback Riley Leonard’s mother sends him a text message that any athlete would love to receive right before every game they play. With just a very simple, loving message, she texts him “YOU SUCK” in order to motivate him.
  • The Duke Blue Devils have never beaten the Florida State Seminoles in football (21-0). FSU has scored under 41 points just three times, in a 29-7 win in 2004, a 25-6 victory back in 2007 and a 17-10 win in 2017 — the closest-ever contest between the two schools. The ’Noles average 50.29 points per game through 21 matchups — in comparison, Duke averages just over 17 points per game.

Three key players:

  • Returning quarterback Riley Leonard passed for almost 3,000 yards last season completing 250 of 391 passing attempts (63.9%) and 20 touchdowns with only six picks. He was also the teams leading rusher with 699 yards, and 13 of his 20 TDs came on the ground.

For this season, he has been selected to the preseason watch list for the Davey O’Brien Award and the Maxwell Awards. He opens 2023 as one of three returning FBS QBs nationally to amass 2,900+ passing yards and 695+ rushing yards a season ago, joining LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye. In his 14 starts, he has completed 287-of-454 (.632) passes for 3,348 yards with 21 TDs and seven ints, has rushed 171 times for 872 yards (5.09) and 15 TDs, and compiled 4,220 yards of total offense.

  • Wide receiver Jalon Calhoun lead the team with 62 receptions for 873 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2022. Calhoun has finished top two in receiving stats for the past 4 years, leading the team in yards as a freshman, as a sophomore, and junior finishing second, and again leading the team last season. In 48 career games (45 starts) he has 203 receptions for 2,360 yards (11.62) and 13 TDs.
  • Graham Barton is one of the nation’s top offensive linemen and returns for his third season as Duke’s starting left tackle. He has been tabbed a preseason All-America selection by Athlon Sports (2nd team), Phil Steele’s College Football Preview (2nd team) and Walter Camp (Honorable Mention). In 31 career games (30 starts) he has amassed 2,160 snaps. During the 2022 season, Barton anchored an offensive line unit that ranked first in the ACC in sacks allowed (17) and tackles for loss allowed (51). He was selected a first team All-ACC honoree and an honorable mention All-American by Phil Steele Publications.

Florida State vs. Duke: Game Preview

Best Case

The Noles come in this game with a 6-0 record and with no major injuries. The Seminole defense will clamp down on and spy Leonard preventing him from using his legs to convert 3rd downs, and not give him enough time to find his receivers downfield.

Meanwhile, the FSU offense continues to roll along with a productive run game to supplement Travis’ Heisman campaign-worthy season.

Realistic Case

Despite Mike Elko taking Duke to more wins in his first season than they had in the 9 previous years, with mostly the same roster from the 2021 team that only won 3 games, they will still not have the talent level and depth to outlast the Noles. Duke will be able to keep it close for the first half, but FSU’s superior talent and depth will be no match for the Blue Devils.

Worst Case

This could be a trap game for the 6-0 Seminoles if they get complacent and expect the Duke of old.

Duke returns 9 starters on offense including Leonard, as well as receivers Calhoun, Eli Pancol and Jordan Moore who had 60 catches for 656 yards and five touchdowns last season. Their rushing attack scored 31 TDs and averaged 4.95 yards per carry by Leonard (699 yards), along with senior backs Jaylen Coleman and Jordan Waters.

Their secondary might be the team’s biggest strength featuring Chandler Rivers, and portal transfers Al Blades from Miami and Myles Jones from Texas A&M, along with returners Jaylen Stinson and Brandon Johnson. The defensive line returns RJ Oben, Ja’Mion Franklin, DeWayne Carter, and Anthony Nelson, all are experienced and the DLine is expected to be stout.

The Seminoles should take Duke seriously because they are no longer an ACC’s whipping boy in football.