Duke-Florida St. Preview
Florida State was voted the No. 1 team in the nation Sunday for
the first time since Oct. 1, 2000, is heavily favored against Duke
in Saturday night’s ACC championship game in Charlotte and is 60
minutes from a berth in the BCS title game.
The 20th-ranked Blue Devils, though, have made believers out of
the Seminoles, even though they have never lost to Duke in 18
What doesn’t play into the Blue Devils’ favor is the fact that
Florida State will no longer face the distraction of whether
quarterback Jameis Winston will face charges in a sexual assault
The redshirt freshman, who has completed 68.8 percent of his
passes for 3,490 yards with 35 touchdowns and eight interceptions,
won’t be charged in the investigation stemming from an incident
with a female student last December.
Winston was accused of raping the student, but State Attorney
Willie Meggs said Thursday there is not enough evidence for the
case to go forward.
“It hasn’t altered (our preparation) in any way,” Fisher said of
the case before Meggs’ announcement. “Our team is not insulated
from it. We deal with it. We address those issues.
“We control what we can control and that’s how we prepare and
how we play. That’s how they go about it.”
Fisher has benefited from a team with the ability to ignore
outside distractions and focus on the immediate task each week. The
Seminoles (12-0, 8-0) will stick to a script that has worked all
season, but there tends to be a different feel in the air when a
program is considered the best in the nation.
Fisher disagreed that there’s a difference.
“Not one bit,” Fisher said Sunday afternoon.
For its part, Florida State thinks the feel of facing Duke is
different now, too.
“Just as Florida State has bought into coach (Jimbo) Fisher’s
coaching, I think those guys have bought into their team,”
Seminoles safety Lamarcus Joyner said. “You just see a group of
guys that believe in each other, and when you have a belief you can
do a lot of wonders. … I just see a team that believes in each
other and has a great coach and some smart players.
“They’re on a roll.”
So is Florida State, which climbed from a No. 11 preseason
ranking as the Seminoles chased other programs all season. Clemson
was the preseason favorite to win the conference and ranked No. 3
when the two teams met Oct. 19. Florida State won 51-14.
The eyes of Florida State fans turned toward then-No. 2 Oregon.
The Ducks lost to Stanford 26-20 on Nov. 7, five days after the
Seminoles beat then-No. 7 Miami 41-14.
The “We want ‘Bama” cheers began to float out of the stands
during Florida State home games after the Seminoles moved to No. 2.
Then two-time defending champion Alabama lost 34-28 to No. 3 Auburn
The regular season ended with Florida State ranked the top team
in the country.
Fisher said the only thing those rankings show is their
“Hopefully we can do it one more week until the bowl season
starts,” Fisher said. “We’ve been able to focus and do that and not
pay attention to the outside things and worry about anything.
“We can’t worry about where we’re ranked and what goes on. We
just have to worry about preparing and playing and that’s all we
tell our guys.”
Top 10 rankings and national championship implications were the
least of the Blue Devils’ concerns. They needed a 27-25 win against
North Carolina last Saturday, their eighth in a row, to reach the
conference championship. Florida State was ranked No. 10 at the end
of 2012, but Duke (10-2, 6-2) hasn’t had a winning season since
going 8-4 in 1994. The program has had four winless seasons during
“These guys deserve more respect than what people have given
them, really, overall,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We’re not
just fortunate. We’re a good football team. We wouldn’t be where we
are if weren’t good.
“We were a good football team a year ago. We lost some games
that got away from us. I’m very excited about what’s happening to
this team because it’s going to help our program. Our guys have
Picked in the preseason to finish last in the Coastal Division,
Duke has already set a school record for victories, captured its
first division title and sewn up the first consecutive bowl berths
in school history.
“Our entire season has been based on people telling us what we
can’t do,” tight end Braxton Deaver said. “‘You’re last in the ACC’
– oh, that’s funny, now we’re first in the Coastal.”
Fisher said the Blue Devils caught his eye as a possible
opponent about three weeks ago.
“You see highlights and you see the numbers and what’s going
on,” Fisher said. “I knew if they got hot, they could be
Florida State has scored fewer than 40 points in just two of the
18 meetings between these schools, and the Seminoles are second in
the FBS with an average of 53.7 points while ranking first with
11.0 allowed per game.
The Blue Devils rank fifth in the ACC in both scoring offense
(33.7) and scoring defense (23.0).