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Duke is playing in the ACC Championship Game for football. Let that sink in. Competing against teams like Virginia Tech, Miami (FL) and North Carolina, who saw this coming? The Blue Devils will have their hands full with the No. 1 team in the country, Florida State. The Seminoles are -29 point favorites at betonline for the game being played at Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers. The total is 62.
Florida State has now been at least a 21-point favorite in seven straight games. They covered in five of the last six, including last weekend's 37-7 win at in-state rival Florida. No one has really come close to the Seminoles this year en route to an undefeated regular season. In their biggest games against then-ranked top ten teams, they destroyed Clemson 51-14 and Miami 41-14.
Not only is quarterback Jameis Winston a Heisman candidate, but their defense is one of the best in the nation, giving up 11 points per game. They have given up more than 17 points just once this year, in a road game at Boston College back in September, when the Eagles started with a 14-3 lead.
In this matchup last year, the Seminoles won easily 48-7. There's no question Duke is better this season, but so is Florida State.
That starts with Freshman Jameis Winston, who has 3,490 yards, 35 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He has a ridiculous 11.01 yards per pass attempt which is good for second in the country. Passing to receivers like Rashad Greene (leads team in receptions and yards) and Kelvin Benjamin (212 yards, three TDs last week) makes it easier. Throw in a top running game that has put in 38 rushing touchdowns through the season and they're almost unstoppable. Devonta Freeman leads the RBs with 852 yards and has scored in eight straight games.
Duke hasn't had quite as smooth sailing this season, but they are on an eight-game winning streak. After giving up 96 points and losing back-to-back games to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, it's been a different story for the Blue Devils. On their winning streak, four of the wins have come as underdogs if that says anything.
Duke beat Virginia Tech at its own game, handled Miami (FL) and in their biggest game of the season last weekend, beat the Tar Heels on the road 27-25. This is a team that deserves to be in the conference title game. Unfortunately, it may not end that well.
The offense has been rolling lately, but none of those defenses were as good as the speedy Seminoles. Their QB situation hasn't been great, but Anthony Boone has been the go-to guy on this winning streak. Despite tossing seven interceptions in wins against Virginia Tech and NC State, Boone has come through lately. In big road games at Wake Forest and UNC, he has five touchdowns and zero interceptions, a big step up. Expect him to look to his favorite WR, Jamison Crowder as much as possible. Crowder has 88 catches for 1,131 yards and seven TDs on the year. The running game hasn't done much all year and that will be a problem in this game in efforts to keep FSU's offense off the field. RBs Jela Duncan and Josh Snead are inconsistent and you never know what to get from them. Backup QB Brandon Connette is used mainly on the goal line to siphon TDs as he has 13 for the season.
It's unlikely Duke will win this game, but there is a chance the Blue Devils keep this game respectable. It starts with the defense, but also extends to the offense and Boone. He needs to be able to move the ball consistently if the run game doesn't help.
The Blue Devils have covered in seven straight games, being underrated almost every week. The Seminoles are 11-2-1 ATS in their last 14 neutral site games and have covered in five straight overall. The favorite (Florida State) has covered in five straight meetings between these schools.
We took a look at Duke-Fla State games going back to 1992. Fla State won every game and we couldn't find a margin of less than 3 TD's. In fact the average margin of victory for Fla State was 35 points with the average score being 50-15.
Florida State's schedule has been incredibly weak. Doesn't mean they aren't good. Hell, they have blown the doors off of every team they have played. But it makes you wonder how they might fare against several other of the top teams out there.
The problem with this game is that Dukes schedule has been even weaker. Duke has had a fantastic year. It's been one of those special seasons where everything has gone their way. They have gotten all the bounces, which most times is what it takes to go 10-2. Anyone remember the year Auburn won the National Championship a few years back? Remember all the bounces they got during the season? A play here and a play there is the difference often times between great and good seasons.
Expect a monumental effort from the Blue Devils. In games like this, emotion can make a good team great. All it takes is a turnover here, a deep ball there, next thing you know, you have a game on your hands. Getting the bounces aside, you don't get to be 10-2 by accident. You have to have some talent. Expect Duke to have a game plan in place going in that hopes to keep them in earshot heading into the 2nd half. That combined with the emotion involved makes Duke a very attractive play in the 1st quarter as well as the 1st half. Often times, it's the depth of a team like Florida State that simply wears teams without that depth down by the time the 2nd half rolls around.
Also keep in mind that Florida State no longer needs to impress the pollsters. All they need to do, is win this game and they are going to be playing for a National Title. If they are up by 3 touchdowns late in the 2nd half, you're not going to see any deep balls or attempts to score. You're going to see the Seminoles run the ball every down, get the game over with and move on to the Title game as quickly as possible.
For those reasons, we'll also take Duke +29 for the game. The thinking here is that Duke will earn a measure of respect here when all is said and done. An upset? Not likely. A closer game than the posted line? We think so. So, 3 plays here:
Duke + for the 1st qtr
Duke + for the first half
Duke +29 for the game
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