The Daily Nole

Q&A With The Herald Sun’s Stephen Wiseman on FSU-Duke

Mike Olivella/FSU athletics

Florida State (1-3, 1-2 ACC) faces Duke (4-2, 1-2 ACC) on Saturday for the first time since Jameis Winston led the Noles to the 2013 ACC Championship Game. The Seminoles are a single-digit favorite after their late collapse against No. 11 Miami.

Joining The Daily Nole to preview Saturday’s noon EST kickoff is The Herald Sun’s Sports Editor, Stephen Wiseman. Below, we discuss how the Blue Devils will attack FSU’s offense, talk about some lesser-known players that could make an impact on Saturday’s outcome, and offer predictions for FSU’s road trip to Durham.

Duke sits at 4-2 after a close loss to Virginia. What were your predictions for the Blue Devils entering 2017?

Wiseman: I had Duke as a fringe bowl team, figuring the Blue Devils could find six wins and get back there after going 4-8 last season. So far, the team is ahead of schedule. Back in August, I didn’t necessarily see three wins from the games against  Northwestern, Baylor and (North Carolina). But I wouldn’t have predicted a loss to Virginia either. Looking at the back half of the schedule, Duke should easily find two more wins in its final six and go bowling for the fifth time in six seasons.

FSU has started off extremely slow in games this season, and has struggled to find the end zone in the first half. How do you expect the Blue Devil defense to attack FSU’s offense?

Wiseman: Duke’s defensive front has been a surprising strength this season. Teams are gaining only 2.85 yards per carry. That’s second in the ACC behind only Clemson’s 2.82. So the Blue Devils need to control the running game because that keys the rest of the defense. Duke already has 50 tackles for loss, also second in the ACC. That includes 19 sacks. They’ll bring pressure to James Blackman and the FSU offense early and often hoping to set a dominant tone and keep the Seminoles on their heels.

Who are some lesser-known players that fans should watch out for on Saturday? Which players do you think will have the most success, whether it be on offense or defense?

Wiseman: Safety Jeremy McDuffie is a converted cornerback now playing the safety position that Jeremy Cash played when he was ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015. McDuffie is also a sprinter on Duke’s track team so he’s a great athlete. Joe Giles-Harris was named the ACC Linebacker of the Week after 15 tackles against Virginia. He’s leading the ACC tackles but I’ll bet most fans don’t know his name. They should. He’s playing like an all-conference player. On offense, redshirt freshman running back Brittain Brown is a future star who gets equal carries to the starter, senior Shaun Wilson. Brown is a sturdy back with good speed and shiftiness.

Which match-ups do you like for Duke’s defense against the Seminole offense, and vice versa? Which ones concern you?

Wiseman: I see Duke getting pressure on Blackman with a variety of exotic blitzes and fronts. Duke defensive coordinator Jim Knowles brings pressure from different areas and that figures to confuse the young quarterback. FSU’s allowed four sacks per game. Duke should reach that total because I’ve grown to trust the front seven to win the battle at the line of scrimmage against both the pass and run. Defensive tackle Mike Ramsay should win his battles in the middle.

As for areas of concern for Duke, cornerbacks Mark Gilbert and Bryon Fields will be left in single coverage plenty. That’s the give and take when you blitz. While they are solid, they’ve been known to give up big plays because that’s the nature of things. Against the kind of athletes Florida State has, those big plays are more likely to turn into six points quick.

Finally, give us a prediction. FSU is a single-digit favorite and has historically struggled in early kickoffs. Who wins on Saturday?

Wiseman: It’s really hard for me to see Duke winning this game. That was the case the preseason. Even though Duke has played better this season and FSU has struggled, I still think the Seminoles have too many weapons for Duke to beat them. I see Duke’s struggles on offense continuing against a good FSU defense. It’d take the under (for entertainment purposes only, of course) with FSU winning, oh, 24-10.

Special thanks to Stephen Wiseman for taking the time to help preview Saturday’s match-up. For all things Duke, be sure to follow him on Twitter @stevewisemanNC and catch his work at The Herald Sun.

Josh Mixon covers Florida State athletics for The Daily Nole and co-hosts the Giving ‘Em The Business Podcast on Soundcloud. You can find him on Twitter @JoshDMixon.

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