FSU Football: ACC Championship preview

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Terrence Brooks and Florida State look to top Duke for a 19th straight time. (Thanh-Ha Nguyen)

‘Noles look to lock up spot in BCS title game

Only a single victory now separates Florida State from the BCS National Championship and that victory will be sought in the ACC Championship in Charlotte against an unlikely opponent: Duke.

Florida State will be making its third appearance in the ACC Championship in four years and looking for a second straight conference title. Duke on the other hand, had not had a winning season since 1994 heading into the year.

Ranked first in the country, Florida State will be looking for its 14th ACC title since joining the conference in 1992 and a school-record 13th victory of the season. With a 12-0 record, Florida State is coming off of a 37-7 victory over rival Florida.

With a record of 10-2, Duke has already set a new school record for wins in a season. The Blue Devils come in ranked 20th in the BCS and rallied last week for a 27-25 victory over North Carolina to clinch the ACC Coastal. Duke will be looking for its first outright ACC championship since 1962 and an automatic BCS berth.

All season long, Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback and Heisman Trophy frontrunner, Jameis Winston, has been the talk of college football. Winston set a new Florida State record in last week’s win over Florida throwing his 34th touchdown of the season. Winston now has 35 on the year and has thrown for nearly 3,500 yards in 12 games.

Surrounding Winston will be a loaded arsenal that includes Florida State’s touchdown leader, running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman has 13 total touchdowns on the year while wide receiver Rashad Greene is 86 yards shy of becoming the Seminoles’ first 1,000-yard receiver in more than a decade. Kelvin Benjamin, another wide receiver for the Seminoles, has combined for five touchdown grabs in the last two weeks and leads the ACC with 12 touchdown receptions on the season.

Charged with slowing down the explosive offensive attack of the Seminoles is an opportunistic Duke defense led by safety Jeremy Cash. Cash, an All-ACC performer, leads the Blue Devils with four interceptions. Cash is also third in the ACC in tackles behind only a pair of teammates in linebackers David Helton and Kelby Brown.

The Florida State defense is yielding the fewest points in the country and second fewest yards in the ACC. The Seminoles are led by cornerback and Thorpe Award finalist, Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner has just one interception on the season, but leads Florida State with five sacks. Linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones have also had stellar seasons for Florida State while defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and safety Terrence Brooks were also All-ACC selections.

Looking to test the Florida State secondary will be Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Crowder leads the ACC with 88 receptions and ranks third in the conference with 1,131 yards receiving while leading the Blue Devils with seven touchdown receptions. Crowder will see passes from perhaps two quarterbacks on Saturday as starter Anthony Boone and backup Brandon Connette have shared time this season.

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While one of the ACC’s more talented receivers, Crowder can also make things happen in the return game which could be vital if Duke is to have any chance of pulling the upset. Crowder ranks second in the ACC in punt return average and took a pair of punts to the house this season. Freshman DeVon Edwards is also an explosive special teamer for Duke as Edwards led the ACC with two kickoff returns for scores this season.

Since joining the ACC in 1992, Florida State is a perfect 18-0 against Duke. The last meeting between the teams took place in Tallahassee a season ago. Florida State won that game 48-7 and all-time in the ACC Championship, the Seminoles are 2-1 with their last victory coming a season ago over Georgia Tech, 21-15. With a win, FSU would notch back-to-back ACC titles for the first time since 2002 and 2003. Despite winning 10 games this season, Duke is more than a four-touchdown underdog. Saturday’s contest in Charlotte will kick off just after 8:00 P.M. eastern time and will be shown nationally on ABC.

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