Florida State football is finally going to be back today.
It’s been 28 days since the Seminoles’ last game at NC State Nov. 14. They’ve been unable to play their last three games due to COVID-related issues both within their own program and Clemson’s.
After this long layoff, FSU (2-6, 1-6 in ACC) is finally set to begin the final stretch of its 2020 season today at 4 p.m. on ACC Network when it hosts Duke (2-8, 1-8) at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The bonus for the Seminoles is that they’re returning with a game in which they’re favored for the first time in over two months. FSU opened as a three-point favorite over the Blue Devils and that line has been bet up to five points. It’s the first time FSU has been favored since its game against FCS opponent Jacksonville State on Oct. 3.
There’s also a bit of history on the line for the Seminoles. FSU has never lost to Duke in 20 games. Since joining the ACC in 1992, the Seminoles have won all 20 games against the Blue Devils by an average margin of 33.4 points.
The last game between the two teams in 2017 was by far the closest in the history of the series. The Seminoles escaped Durham with a 17-10 win over Duke in Jimbo Fisher’s final season, the first time FSU has beaten Duke by less than 19 points.
Why Florida State will win
Outside of the upset win over North Carolina, FSU hasn’t found much success this season against even middling ACC opponents. That being said, Duke will be the worst FBS team the Seminoles have faced this season.
The Blue Devils have allowed 48-plus points in each of their last three games against North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami. Duke’s 36.3 points allowed per game this season are marginally more than FSU’s 36.1.
Duke’s offense is also near the bottom of the ACC in both points and yards per game, but the Blue Devils’ biggest offensive weakness is their proclivity for turning the ball over. Duke has committed 35 turnovers in 10 games this season, 10 more than any other FBS team this season.
Additionally, the one silver lining of such a long break between games was that it allowed FSU’s depleted roster to heal up. The biggest of these situations applies to quarterback Jordan Travis.
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FSU’s offense has been at its best this season when Travis has been fully healthy and the buzz about him in practice recently has been overwhelmingly positive. The opportunity should be there for a rejuvenated Travis to overwhelm a struggling Duke defense.
Why Duke will win
While Duke turns the ball over a lot, FSU may not be the team to take advantage of this. The Seminoles have forced just 10 turnovers in eight games this season.
Complicating this, FSU will be without the player who created four of those 10 turnovers this season in junior cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. Samuel had three of the team’s five interceptions this season and forced one of the five fumbles FSU recovered, but opted out of the remainder of the season Nov. 29.
While Duke’s defense has struggled of late, the Blue Devils do have a pair of defensive ends that could create havoc for the FSU offensive line. Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje have combined to account for 15.5 of Duke’s 30 sacks this season.
If this duo is able to make things tough for the FSU offense and the FSU defense is unable to create turnovers, it could be a long day for the Seminoles and a historic one for the Blue Devils.
The game is being broadcast on ACC Network at 4 p.m. The radio broadcast will be available on 94.9 FM in Tallahassee and on FSU radio affiliates across the state.
The path is definitely there for FSU’s return to be a triumphant one. Despite the attrition to FSU’s roster of late, the Seminoles are rightly favored to beat Duke.
It’s weird to be mildly confident in a team that has given little reason to be that way of late, but Duke, as evidenced by last week’s 48-0 home drubbing by Miami, is also in rough shape right now.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said before he found out his team would be playing at FSU this week that he would prefer his team’s season end after the Miami game. That doesn’t exactly portend of a team that is poised to play this game.
I think a healthy Travis makes a world of difference for the Seminoles’ offense. If the defense is able to make the plays (turnovers) it will likely be given the chance to make, I think it could be an FSU win it doesn’t have to sweat out into the closing minutes.
FSU 37, Duke 28
It has been a long time since we’ve been able to say FSU has an opportunity to win this game, but that is indeed the case on Saturday.
Duke’s defense has given up 56, 56, and 48 points in its last three games. The Blue Devils are also giving up 437.1 yards per game. Only two ACC teams give up more points per game than Florida State, and Duke is one of them.
The Blue Devils are allowing 36.3 points per contest, which is 108th in the nation.
With Travis back under center after his injury, that should help reenergize the Seminoles offense. Even with the absence of La’Damian Webb due to him opting out, the duo of Jashaun Corbin and Lawrance Toafili are undoubtedly capable of picking up the slack.
Between the two defenses, there could be a ton of points scored at Doak Campbell Stadium. But I expect a motivated FSU team after the long layoff, which should help carry the Seminoles to the victory.
FSU 34, Duke 27
Reach Curt Weiler at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.
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