Today Florida State hosts Duke in their homecoming game. While Duke is still a pretty safe bet for a homecoming game, this is not your usual Blue Devils squad. Lead by QB Sean Renfree and receivers Conner Vernon and Jamison Crowder, Duke ranks 23rd in the nation in passing.
Florida State's defense is no slouch either. They're ranked in the top seven in all five major defensive categories, they've got the best tandem of defensive ends in the country and they are more athletic than Duke across the board.
But this is a scrappy, upset-minded Duke team. They went into Blacksburg and forced Virginia Tech to make the biggest comeback in the Frank Beamer era to beat them. And aside from a tough road trip to Stanford, Duke has won out. They're 6-2, currently sitting atop the Atlantic division of the ACC
This could be a preview of the ACC Championship game...
Here are here three things to watch for:
1.) How do the Seminoles play Conner Vernon?
Vernon is one of the most prolific receivers in ACC history. As evidence, he's coming up on Peter Warrick's conference record for receiving yardage, needing less than 100 today against Florida State to accomplish it on the same field that Warrick played on.
“I wouldn’t even say we focus on one guy like that," said Terrence Brooks this week. "We respect him. We know what he can do but we’re not like doubling and doing all these things with him because we have confidence in all our DB’s.”
While that's true to an extent, you know Florida State's defense is aware of how many yards Vernon needs to get to Warrick's mark and– though it's inevitable he reaches it– he's not getting it today.
We'll see if the Seminoles can keep Vernon from getting to Warrick's mark at Doak...
2.) The Florida State RB Rotation
With the loss of Chris Thompson, Florida State finds itself without a senior leader and with a lot of extra touches for James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Lonnie Pryor. But how do those get divided? Jimbo Fisher said this week it would be Wilder at the outset, but that it's 1 and 1a with him and Freeman.
The wildcard is Lonnie Pryor who has been effective carrying the ball this season and will need to be in the game a little more if the two younger guys can't pick up their performance in pass-pro. I really do believe Fisher when he says he's going to go with the hot hand, it's just a question of who that will be. Both Freeman and Wilder improve over the course of a game with more touches. It will be interesting to see who gets more early and who finishes late.
I also expect Lonnie Pryor to have a big final four games of the season.
3.) It's a Trap!
This game has all the classic fixings of a trap game. From the very publicized 0-17 all-time record against Florida State, to the fact that Duke is an easy team to overlook on the schedule all the way on down to the fact this is the Seminoles' ninth game in nine weeks, this could be a trap game.
Aside from UF, this is the last home game Florida State will play. They have played six in the past nine weeks, nine straight games in all, and eventually that can start to wear on a team physically and mentally. FSU gets a break after this when they play just two games over the next 20 days, but as of now, the 'Noles are banged up... though in fairness, Duke is yet to have a bye week too.
But this Duke team would love nothing more than to come in and knock off Florida State. They're already bowl eligible, they're enjoying a dream season just being in the ACC conversation, Duke has nothing to lose today.
That could make them dangerous.
Florida State should win this one handily, but if complacency creeps in it's anyone's game.