Before every football game this year, The Blue Zone is going to sit down with a football writer from the opposing school’s student newspaper to get the scoop on their team and season.
This week, The Chronicle’s Daniel Carp spoke to FSView & Florida Flambeau's Sports Editor Perry Kostidakis about this weekend’s ACC championship matchup between Duke and Florida State.
The Chronicle: Let's be honest, nobody in the country is really giving Duke much of a chance this weekend. How seriously is Florida State taking this Duke team?
Perry Kostidakis: Florida State is definitely taking it seriously. Nobody else in the country is, obviously, which might be a bad thing, because that is plenty of bulletin board material. The mantra for Florida State this year has been you have to treat every opponent the same. They treated Clemson the same way they treated Bethune-Cookman, and I think that's the main difference about this team from last year, when they might have had more talent.
TC: You look at that Florida State defense—11 points per game. What is it that makes them so good on the defensive side of the football?
PK: Jeremy Pruitt came in there this year and switched up the scheme. The players like doing it because they get to force a lot more interceptions. They get to establish themselves way more last year than when they were under Mark Stoops. They had to adjust way more often and that created matchup problems, that's why you had games like N.C. State, like Virginia Tech, like Florida. This year they've just managed to prepare well enough.
TC: Boston College is the only team this year that has given Florida State any sort of a competitive game. What is it that they did to keep that game tight and put the Seminoles back on their heels?
PK: Andre Williams is a Heisman candidate. That kid is just great. Earlier in the season, Florida State's run defense was actually its biggest weakness. They just pounded the rock and they got Florida State off that game. Any other year, I say FSU loses that game, but for some reason they managed to pull it off.
TC: Speaking of Heisman candidates, Florida State has one of its own in quarterback Jameis Winston. Everybody's seen highlights of him, everybody understands the hype, but for someone who's gotten to watch him in person all year, what is it about him that makes him so electrifying?
PK: The way he approaches the game. He's 19 years old, and he acts like a kid when you talk to him, but the way he approaches it, he is 23 years old out on that field. Kelvin Benjamin this week called him like "a baby Jimbo" because of how he approaches everything.
TC: With Winston's off-field situation, is that still hanging over the team at all right now? Is that posing any sort of distraction?
PK: They've had their troubles in the past. James Wilder had a couple run-ins with the law, and they're a family. They're a team. They've been trying to eliminate the clutter all year. It's definitely the elephant in the room, but they're not letting it get in the way of what they're ultimately trying to do.
TC: What does Duke have to do to have a chance at winning this game on Saturday?
PK: They have to embrace the underdog role. They're 29-point underdogs in North Carolina, which is their home state. In order to disrupt the offense, you have to find a way to put pressure on Jameis without blitzing. When you pressure him, he's going to try to force the deep ball because he doesn't check down as much as he should. When you blitz him, it gives him the opportunity to make the big play. So if you can find the happy medium, you can disrupt the offense a little bit.
TC: Can you remember the last time Florida State's starters played a full game?
PK: No I can't. Maybe Boston College?
TC: Are they gearing up to play a full 60 minutes on Saturday?
PK: They always approach it like that. I'm sure Jimbo will never be like, 'Oh, the starters will only have to play half the game.' I'm sure they always want to keep playing, but the reality of it is, in every game but one this year, they've been pulled before the game has ended.
TC: Looking at it that way, could that pose a disadvantage if Duke can keep it close and hang around deep into the second half. If it's competitive, and you're talking about a Florida State team that hasn't played a complete game this year, do you see that as a disadvantage at this late stage?
PK: It sure would definitely be interesting to see, because the only time they've had adversity has really been last week against Florida for one quarter and Boston College for the first half. It will be really interesting to see going into the fourth quarter if FSU can respond to that well. Because they haven't had that and Duke has come up with tons of big play late in games, so I'd be really excited to see that.
TC: And finally, give me your score prediction for Saturday.
PK: I think it will be close for a little bit, maybe for the first half. I don't know too much about Duke football but this may be their best team ever. I'm going to say Florida State wins this one 48-17.