ACC Championship: Keys to Seminole success

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Florida State will aim for a second straight ACC crown on Saturday as the Seminoles face Duke. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

‘Noles look to claim second straight ACC crown

At 12-0 and ranked first in the country for the first time since 2000, Florida State will be gunning for a second straight ACC championship and a school-record 13th victory on Saturday. The Seminoles will be facing an unlikely opponent in Charlotte in the ACC Coastal champion Duke Blue Devils. While Florida State blew out rival Florida 37-7 last week to remain undefeated, Duke pulled off a 27-25 come-from-behind victory to down rival North Carolina for its eighth straight victory which clinched a spot in the ACC Championship.

Duke is 10-2 and will be looking for its first outright ACC title since 1962. Last season, Duke made its first bowl appearance since 1994 and have clinched its first winning season in 19 years already this season. The Blue Devils now sit just a victory away from the BCS.

The teams did not meet in the regular season this year, but Florida State topped the Blue Devils in Tallahassee a season ago. FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel passed for 282 yards and a pair of scores in last season’s 48-7 victory. Since the Seminoles joined the ACC, Florida State is a perfect 18-0 against Duke with none of the contests being decided by fewer than 19 points. For Florida State to make it 19 straight against Duke and to claim a second straight ACC championship, here are Saturday’s keys to Seminole success:

No “Cash”ing in on mistakes

All season long, Duke has had an opportunistic defense and leading that defense is All-ACC safety Jeremy Cash. Cash leads Duke with four interceptions on the season and for the four-touchdown underdog Blue Devils to have a chance on Saturday, they will need to find ways to create easy scoring opportunities. Florida State has taken care of the football for the most part this season as starting quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown only eight picks all season long. If the Seminoles can avoid turning the ball over and giving Duke easy scoring opportunities, it will be very difficult for the Blue Devils to find the end zone.

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Wild and Freewill

While Duke has been opportunistic this season when it comes to forcing turnovers, the one area where the Duke defense has struggled is against the run. The Blue Devils rank just 10th in the ACC in stopping the run allowing more than 170 yards-per-game on the ground. Florida State averages about 205 yards-per-game rushing and should look to gash Duke up front on Saturday. The three-headed monster at tailback of Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams make for one of the best backfields in the ACC and perhaps the country. While Winston certainly has had a stellar year throwing the ball for Florida State, the FSU ground game has been solid as well and should be able to tear off chunks of yardage against the Blue Devils on Saturday.

Can’t spell BCS National Championship without “ACC”

While many have already penciled Florida State into the BCS National Championship in Pasadena, the Seminoles cannot afford to look past a 10-win Duke in the ACC Championship. Florida State has had no problem showing up focused this season and that once again will need to be the case in Charlotte on Saturday. FSU is beating opponents by more than six touchdowns per-contest and cannot assume that Duke will be just another casualty. If the Seminoles show up ready to play, they certainly hold big edges in speed and talent and should be able to claim the conference crown and a spot in the BCS title game.

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