Halloween must have come early to college football this year.
No. 7 Georgia handed Florida its third loss in four games Saturday. Just hours later, Maryland knocked off the Gators’ intrastate rival No. 13 Florida State on a last-minute defensive stand. And that evening, North Carolina, a team that had never in 38 tries beaten a top-five team, knocked off No. 3 Miami to cap a quirky week of upsets for the Sunshine State. So quirky, in fact, that it marks the first time since Oct. 14, 1978 that all three teams lost on the same day.
Add that to the Red Sox’ first World Series championship in 86 years, and it becomes easier to believe that almost anything could happen in the sports world in the next few weeks. Almost enough to believe that the Blue Devils could beat the Seminoles next weekend in Tallahassee.
Almost. I’m not crazy enough to predict that Duke will beat Florida State next weekend. But I do think that head coach Ted Roof and the Blue Devils have a chance to make their Saturday tilt in Tallahassee an interesting one, and here are a few reasons why:
• Duke’s offense is clicking — For a while, the Blue Devils had the worst offense in Division I football. In fact, statistically they still have the worst offense in the ACC. Consider that it wasn’t until the Virginia game that the Blue Devils played a full contest with any kind of stability at quarterback and running back. Since then, the Blue Devils have racked up an average of 373 yards a game against ACC defenses, a respectable figure that would put them ahead of three ACC teams and within 10 yards of Miami, Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Florida State and Wake Forest.
Statistics aside, the return of Cedric Dargan is forcing opposing defenses to respect Duke’s running game. Additionally, Mike Schneider’s confidence and decision-making has improved by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the season, allowing the Blue Devils to implement more of Marty Galbraith’s short-pass-happy offensive scheme.
• FSU is not invincible — The Seminoles are still a tremendously talented team, and they still deserve to be ranked in the top 10 nationally. But outside of a 36-3 romp over Virginia, the ‘Noles have looked surprisingly beatable in their past four games. The Seminoles needed last-minute heroics to beat Syracuse and Wake Forest, two teams that aren’t exactly world-beaters. Additionally, a possible hangover from last week’s loss against Maryland, coupled with the uncertainty shrouding Florida State’s most important skill positions, might just be enough to make Duke competitive.
• It’s about time — Twelve times we’ve played them, 12 times we’ve lost. Badly, too—Duke has yet to come within 24 points of Florida State. But if the Red Sox, the RED SOX, of all teams, can win the World Series, the Blue Devils can beat the Seminoles. After all, one would figure that it would happen eventually, and why not this year? Starting running back Leon Washington may miss the game with a separated right shoulder, and the Seminoles currently suffer from the same quarterback carousel that plagued Duke’s offense earlier this year.
Neither Seminole signal-caller is a particularly imposing threat, either. Wyatt Sexton has not looked impressive against the blitz, and Chris Rix is a tremendous athlete who reads opposing defenses about as well as I read Esperanto. With N.C. State looming just five days after their game with Duke, it’s not entirely impossible for the Seminoles to overlook the Blue Devils.
I’m not crazy enough to predict that Duke will beat FSU. On paper, the Seminoles are so athletic and talented that the Blue Devils might be hard-pressed to hang with them for a half, much less a game. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Duke could give the Seminoles a game and give its fans everywhere a glimmer of hope for years to come.
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