I-A College Football
         === Top-ranked FSU takes on 20th-ranked Duke for ACC title ===
 Charlotte, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Unlikely foes will collide in the ACC
 Championship Game in Charlotte this weekend, as the top-ranked Florida State
 Seminoles take on the 20th-ranked Duke Blue Devils at Bank of America Stadium.
 Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles completed a dominant regular season with a 37-7
 blasting of the Florida Gators last weekend to finish up at 12-0. Florida
 State's spot in the ACC title game was secured several weeks ago with an
 Atlantic Division crown, but the team was able to ascend the Top 25 and move
 into the number one overall slot in the BCS rankings thanks to Alabama's
 stunning loss at Auburn last weekend.
 Stunning is an appropriate word to describe Duke's magical season. David
 Cutcliffe's Blue Devils closed out the year with eight straight wins and
 captured the Coastal Division title with a thrilling 27-25 victory at North
 Carolina in the regular-season finale. Overall, Duke finished at 10-2, setting
 a school record for wins in a season. Cutcliffe was named the ACC Coach of the
 Year as a result.
 It's awfully humbling," Cutcliffe said. "I've said it time and time again,
 we've got a terrific group of coaches in this league. But this is not an
 individual award -- this is a program honor because of the young men who
 prepared each and every week to the best of their abilities, and then played
 the games on Saturdays with tremendous effort. And certainly a great deal of
 credit goes to our staff, which has come to work each and every day with the
 desire to help make our program the best it can possibly be."
 While a BCS bowl bid is up for grabs in this game, the outcome could mean far
 more to the Seminoles with a victory, as they will go on to play for  a
 national title. Duke is fighting an obvious uphill battle, as the Blue Devils
 have never beaten the Seminoles in 18 previous encounters.
 The key to the Blue Devils' attack this season is an unprecedented balance
 that has certainly not been the norm in Durham in the recent past. Duke comes
 into this title game averaging 33.7 ppg, with a great mix of the run (179.9
 ypg) and the pass (242.4 ypg).
 Duke is a flawless 9-0 with Anthony Boone as the starter under center this
 season. However, that doesn't mean that Cutcliffe is set on one player leading
 Duke's offense. On the contrary, the Blue Devils have excelled this season
 thanks to a two-headed monster at quarterback, with both Boone and Brandon
 Connette making plays.
 Boone has completed an efficient 66.2 percent of his passes this season, for
 1,695 yards, with 10 TD passes. Connette comes in at 61.8 percent accuracy,
 for 1,210 yards and 13 TD strikes, while adding another dimension with
 his legs, which have accounted for another 13 scores on the ground.
 Regardless of who is throwing the ball for Duke, the likely target is junior
 wideout Jamison Crowder, who leads the Blue Devils by a wide margin in most
 statistics, with 88 catches, for 1,131 yards and seven TDs. He was named to
 the All-ACC First-Team.
 The team lacks a workhorse in the backfield, but the combination of Jela
 Duncan (5.1 ypc, three TDs), Josh Snead (6.4 ypc), Juwan Thompson (5.0 ypc)
 and Connette has gotten the job done and kept foes from keying solely on the
 The offense is a notch or two above the defense in terms of productivity this
 season, although Duke has shown flashes of strong play on that side of the
 football in 2013. The team is allowing a decent 23.0 ppg and just under 400
 yards of offense per outing (395.2).
 The Blue Devils have been extremely active on defense and boast three players
 that have eclipsed the century mark in tackles in linebackers David Helton
 (114 stops) and Kelby Brown (101 tackles, 8.5 TFL, two INTs) and safety Jeremy
 Cash (109 tackles, four INTs). Cash and Brown were both All-ACC First-Team
 honorees. Senior end Kenny Anunike (64 tackles), is a force up front, leading
 the team in both TFL (13.5) and sacks (6).
 FSU comes in as one of the nation's most productive offenses, averaging 53.7
 ppg (second nationally) on 526.1 ypg (seventh nationally).
 The Seminoles have raised the bar offensively this season thanks to the play
 of Heisman front-runner Jameis Winston. The redshirt freshman has played like
 a seasoned veteran under center, having completed 68.8 percent of his passes,
 for 3,490 yards, with 35 TD passes against eight interceptions. he was
 recently named the ACC Rookie of the Year, as well as an All-ACC First-Team
 Fisher has enjoyed watching Winston develop this season.
 "His competitiveness is ridiculous," Fisher said of Winston. "He's a
 competitor. Nothing fazes that guy. He thrives on that...The guy's ability to
 learn and process information is what puts him over the top. He can think. He
 understands what he's doing at all times. And when he makes a mistake, he can
 come off and tell you exactly why he did it, what he did or didn't do right."
 It has definitely been a huge bonus to have one of the nation's premier
 offensive lines in front of him and perhaps the nation's top receiving corps
 to throw to. Wideouts Rashad Greene (61 catches, 914 yards, 9 TDs), Kenny Shaw
 (48 catches, 855 yards, 5 TDs) and Kelvin Benjamin (45 catches, 838 yards, 12
 TDs) all have the ability to take over games, as evidenced by Benjamin's
 three-TD performance against Florida last week.
 "Tremendous," Fisher said of Benjamin. "KB has real advantages with his size,
 speed and athleticism. He can be a very, very special player, and he's
 starting to develop into that guy."
 At over 200 yards rushing per game, the ground attack is every bit as lethal
 as the passing attack for FSU. The Seminoles have a three-pronged rushing
 attack, with Devonta Freeman (852 yards, 5.9 ypc, 12 TDs), Karlos Williams
 (650 yards, 8.2 ypc, 10 TDs) and James Wilder Jr. (517 yards, 7.1 ypc, 8 TDs)
 all making plays as they rotate in and out of the backfield.
 To say that Florida State has excelled on defense would be an understatement.
 FSU currently leads the nation in scoring defense (11.0), pass defense
 (153.0), interceptions (23), rushing touchdowns allowed (four) and defensive
 touchdowns (eight), ranks second in pass defense efficiency (93.53), third in
 third-down conversion defense (.295) and fourth in total defense (271.0).
 There are playmakers throughout the FSU defense, although it is linebacker
 Telvin Smith (team-high 67 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INTs and 2 fumble
 recoveries) and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (60 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 5,0 sacks, 1
 INT and three forced fumbles) who have played at an All-American level this
 season. Joyner was an All-ACC First-Team selection.
 12/04 10:54:19 ET

Powered by The Sports Network.

Sports Plus - Ruidoso News