Duke's title test is No. 1 Seminoles

Dec. 01, 2013 @ 11:28 PM

In a season spent reversing ugly trends and making happy history of it own, Duke’s football team has yet another first available for the taking.

Following Alabama’s loss to Auburn Saturday night, Florida State ascended to the No. 1 spot in the new Associated Press top 25 poll on Sunday.

That means, No. 20 Duke has a shot at its first-ever win over a No. 1-ranked team when the Seminoles and Blue Devils meet in the ACC championship game Saturday night at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

Riding an eight-game winning streak that brought them their first ACC Coastal Division championship, Duke (9-2, 6-2 in ACC) seeks its first outright ACC championship since 1962. The Blue Devils last shared the ACC championship in 1989.

But Duke has yet to beat a team ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. The Blue Devils are 0-11 in those situations, with Duke last opportunity coming in 2010 when Alabama posted a 62-13 win at Wallace Wade Stadium.

This will be Duke’s fourth time facing a No. 1-ranked Florida State team, all coming since the Seminoles entered the ACC. Florida State beat Duke while No. 1 in 1993, 1995 and 1999.

But Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said this year’s Duke team is different and better than those Blue Devils teams of the past.

“Duke right now is playing tremendous football,” Fisher said. “They’re on a great hot streak. They’ve won, I think, eight games in a row. Very balanced as an offense, can throw it, can run it. Quarterback does a great job. Defensively creating pressure, creating a lot of sacks, creating different problems on defense. Special teams doing a great job, returning kicks, kicking the ball.”

Experiencing their first winning season since 1994, Duke realizes the challenge it faces against the Seminoles. Florida State needs only to beat Duke to claim a spot in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6, 2014 at the Rose Bowl.

Florida State and Ohio State are the top two teams in the latest BCS standings, which were announced Sunday night.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe has already reviewed video of last year’s Duke-Florida State game, which the Seminoles won 48-7 at Tallahassee, Fla. Despite that lopsided score, he found hope.

“If we can correct a few things on both sides of the ball, which are correctable, not dreaming, very correctable, we have a chance to play better,” Cutcliffe said. “We can’t play like we did a year ago and think we’re going to be competitive in this game. But we’re very capable of playing better, and we just have to — it’s a game where you’ve got to play every snap, and we didn’t do that a year ago. We played intermittently pretty darned well, but you can’t do that against the No. 1 team in the country.”

One situation surrounding Florida State is the status of quarterback Jameis Winston, a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. Winston is under investigation in a sexual battery case by a Florida states attorney. The incident in question occurred on Dec. 7, 2012 but wasn’t made public until media requests for Tallahassee police records were made last month.

Fisher said Sunday that, while the situation hasn’t affected the team’s preparation, it is something that the coaches and players are dealing with.

“Our team is not insulated from it,” Fisher said. “We deal with it. We address those issues. We control what we can control - how we prepare and how we play. That’s how we go about it.”