The 16th-ranked Blue Devils will hit the road to Tallahassee, Fla., to take on the fourth-ranked Seminoles in a marquee matchup. The Blue Zone brings you three keys to a Duke victory:
Absorb the noise
The Blue Devils will meet their most formidable opponent this season in the fourth-ranked Seminoles Saturday on the road. It’s homecoming weekend. The stadium holds 79,560 — almost double Wallace Wade. The game is prime time at 7:30. Bright lights will beam down and the Florida State war chant will roar throughout Doak Campbell Stadium and the city of Tallahassee, Fla. This is the biggest game of the season thus far for Duke, but to Florida State, this is just a Saturday night. After feeling the pressure and nerves from the noise and hype of Notre Dame and College GameDay, the Blue Devils need to find a way to block everything out and play their brand of football. Run the football. Win the turnover margin. Play with grit, tenacity and confidence. In order for even the basics to flow smoothly, Duke needs to understand the situation, but not let the pressure prevent it from playing its best.
Against N.C. State, the Blue Devils played well with redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV as their signal caller. However, Belin had a 33.3% completion rate and was heavily carried by the run game as well as the defense. In addition, the Seminoles hold opponents to a 51.7% completion rate. Belin also has not played in any big games his college career, and Duke will certainly need experience under center in order to hold a candle to Florida State. Junior Riley Leonard simply brings more to the table than Belin as of right now, with great pocket awareness that can turn some losses into miraculous gains. Leonard led the Blue Devils to a top-10 victory against Clemson earlier this season, and if Duke hopes to leave Tallahassee, Fla., with a win, he needs to play.
Bend don’t break
The Seminoles’ offense is absolutely loaded. The matchup that will dictate the game is the Florida State offense against the Blue Devil defense. On the offensive side, quarterback Jordan Travis is making a great case for the Heisman trophy in his absolutely dominating performances. Travis has 1,482 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air and four scores on the ground. His two favorite targets, Johnny Wilson and Keon Coleman, are matchup nightmares, with Wilson being 6-foot-7, 238 pounds and Coleman at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. The Seminoles also have only turned the ball over three times this year and possess a better turnover margin than Duke.
All of this might sound scary, but just like against Clemson, the Blue Devils can bend without breaking. Duke allows just 9.83 points per game — the fourth-best mark in the country — and has a great pass defense. Making crucial plays, holding Florida State to field goals in the red zone and keeping the game close will spark the offense to do well. Under head coach Mike Elko, the Blue Devils have played with an underdog mentality and will put up a fight. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain — including a chance at the ACC championship game with a victory.
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