Plant The Spear is a weekly column previewing the upcoming matchup for the Florida State Seminoles. Opponent strengths and weaknesses are discussed, a plan of attack is formed, and an honest prediction by yours truly is given.
*Author’s Note* Regardless of my membership with the Seminole Boosters, or my being an FSU fan since I was 10 (I’m 31 now), or  the fact that my wife is finishing her master’s degree from Florida State, this is still a No Homer Zone. Always has been, always will be. I’m a college football fan above all else, and you-the fans, deserve a voice of the people. With all that being said…..Go Noles!
Both teams are fresh off of emotional victories over hated rivals. The Noles went down south to Miami and took care of business against the Hurricanes (with no help from the refs, mind you) 33-20, while the Blue Devils became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 by knocking off North Carolina 33-30. Thanks to that victory, Duke is 3-1 in conference play and holds the top spot in the ACC Coastal division. The Seminoles come into Saturday with a 7-1 mark on the year and a 17-0 record all-time against the Blue Devils. Duke is the only ACC team to not beat the Seminoles, and as good of a season that they are having so far (best since ’94), that streak will more than likely continue on Saturday in Tallahassee.
One doesn’t think of the word “strength” when it comes to Duke football. That attitude may be slowly changing across the world of college football. Slowly. Coach David Cutcliffe has been head man at the program for five seasons, and in that short time Duke has gone from cellar dweller to top of the Coastal division. He has done wonders with the talent (or lack thereof) that he has had at Duke, his teams fight with a sense of pride that Duke football hasn’t seen in who knows how long. This could very well be a preview of the 2012 ACC Championship Game. Hey, stranger things have happened.
Redshirt senior QB Sean Renfree is the undisputed leader of this Blue Devil squad. Duke is averaging 289.4 yards passing per game and ranks second in the ACC, behind Clemson. Renfree is having a very accurate and impressive senior campaign, completing 69.2 percent of his passes.
Here’s a fun fact: It is possible that on Saturday in Doak Campbell Stadium, Seminole great Peter Warrick’s record for most receiving yards in ACC history could be broken – except not by a Seminole. Duke’s Conner Vernon is the school’s all-time leading receiver, and needs just 94 yards to pass Warrick. Interesting that it could happen on the field where Warrick made so many memorable plays for the Noles, but with Vernon going up against this Seminole defense, I think P-Dub’s record is safe for at least one more week. This season Vernon has hauled in 51 receptions for 749 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 14.7 yards per catch.
The Duke defense has been, well, like you would expect a Duke defense to be. A few weeks back against Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils jumped out to a 20-0 first quarter lead on the road against the Hokies. The defense then decided to give up 41-straight points to the Hokies and the Blue Devils were drubbed out of Blacksburg to the tune of 41-20. Duke gives up nearly 400 yards per game – 243 through the air and 153 on the ground. We know the Noles can put up a ton of yards in a variety of ways, so I look for Jimbo Fisher to be balanced (as he has been all season) and mix up the run/pass combo with some reverses mixed in here and there. Attack from all angles to exploit the obvious talent advantage the Noles have over the Blue Devils. Thinking positively, Duke has caused some disruption in opposing backfields, racking up 44 tackles for loss and 19 sacks on the season.
The Seminoles have never lost a football game to Duke, and that streak will continue on Saturday. The Blue Devils are having their best season in 18 years and became bowl eligible last week with a win over bitter rival North Carolina. This isn’t your typical Duke football team but let’s face it, they just don’t have the horses to run with the Noles for four quarters in Doak Campbell Stadium. Just isn’t happening. David Cutcliffe is doing a hell of a job in Durham with the talent that he has, and expect his team to play hard for the entire 60 minutes. They will fight and claw and leave everything out on the field, but it just won’t be nearly enough to beat the Noles. I almost feel bad in a way, because they just try so hard but it just isn’t going to happen. It’s almost like the captain of the chess club going after the head cheerleader back in high school. I respect his courage for making a move like that, but come on, dude. Noles win big on Homecoming weekend, and head into their much needed bye week at a respectable 8-1.
FSU 45 Duke 13