RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — No. 4 Florida State hopes to start the second half of its season just like it did the first: by beating a ranked team.
Seven weeks after upsetting then-fifth-ranked LSU in the opener, the Seminoles face their second Top 25 opponent of the season when 16th-ranked Duke visits Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night for an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown between two of the three remaining unbeatens in league play.
“At the end of this, someone’s going to have a clearer path to (the ACC title game in) Charlotte than the other one,” Duke coach Mike Elko said. “That’s something that’s critical and that’s not lost on anybody in our locker room. It is an in-league, big stage, big opportunity for our guys to go kind of rise up to and take advantage of.”
The Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0 ACC) upset Clemson in their opener and nearly knocked off Notre Dame three weeks ago. They’re coming off a 24-3 drubbing of North Carolina State and could get quarterback Riley Leonard back from a sprained right ankle.
But the program that’s winless in 21 tries against powerhouse FSU is a 14 1/2-point underdog in this primetime matchup, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“At the end of the day, we can’t worry about maybe the line or what people are saying, what analysts are saying,” Duke defensive tackle DeWayne Carter said. “Maybe it’s not same old Duke, which we hear all the time, too. But you can’t really worry about that.
“We know the standard we have to play to to win and we expect to play at that standard no matter who we’re against. No matter what the odds are, stacked against us, that’s kind of how we’re trained in this Elko era. It’s the underdog mentality with the chip on our shoulder. Honestly, it’s nothing new.”
Florida State (6-0, 4-0) has been the favorite in each of its last five games, facing rising expectations at the midway point of the regular season. Anything shy of an ACC championship and the team’s first College Football Playoff berth since 2014 would be a disappointment at this point.
“You get one opportunity, one chance,” Seminoles coach Mike Norvell said. “Do I think there’s players that feel the pressure? ‘Oh, man, we’re 6-0, here we go, we got to do this.’ Yeah, it’s human nature to want to continue.
“But ultimately it’s still about you can’t get focused on the outside and the exterior. If you’re willing to give your attention to that, the pressure that comes with that, you’re going to miss out on the opportunity to grow and get better throughout the journey, the week, the game.”
After playing five of its first six games at home, Duke seems eager to hit the road. The Blue Devils have ventured outside Durham, North Carolina, just once this season — a 41-7 victory at UConn.
“Let’s go see something new,” Carter said.
But this will be a challenge unlike many others Duke has faced in recent years. The Blue Devils are in Tallahassee for a night game on ABC, in front of a sellout crowd for homecoming and playing a team that’s won 12 consecutive games.
“There’s no hiding from it, it’s a big game,” Duke left tackle Graham Barton said. “Everyone knows that. Both sides know that. … We’ve come a long way from when I was younger. It’s awesome to see. We’re excited for the opportunity and we’re going to go show the country what we’ve got.”
Florida State’s winning streak is the third longest in the country, behind two-time defending national champion Georgia (24) and Washington (13). The Seminoles also have scored at least 30 points in each of those victories, the second-longest 30-point streak in ACC history.
The Seminoles expect to be close to full strength offensively.
Receiver Johnny Wilson and quarterback Jordan Travis practiced this week without limitations, and left tackle Bless Harris is set to return after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury.
Wilson left FSU’s game against Virginia Tech on Oct. 7 after he was sandwiched by two defenders and sat out last week’s 41-3 blowout against Syracuse.
Travis injured his left hand just before halftime against the Orange, but he returned to play in the second half.
“I’m a competitor at the end of the day,” Travis said. “When we walk out of the quarterback room, I want to be the first guy that walks out. Everything is a competition to me. I think it’s a great thing to have playing quarterback; I’ll never lose that.”
No. 16 Duke (5-1, 2-0 ACC) at No. 4 Florida State (6-0, 4-0), Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC).
Line: Florida State by 14 ½, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: Florida State leads 21-0, including 10-0 in Tallahassee.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
An unblemished record in Atlantic Coast Conference play. Duke and Florida State are two of three remaining unbeatens in league play, along with 10th-ranked North Carolina. The Seminoles have won 12 in a row overall, the third-longest streak in the country, and have scored at least 30 points in each of those. That’s the second-longest 30-point streak in ACC history.
Duke CBs Al Blades Jr. and Porter Wilson versus Florida State WRs Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson. Blades and Wilson, both experienced starters, have a combined 42 tackles this season. They should have their hands full with Coleman and Wilson. Coleman has 29 receptions for 418 yards and seven TDs. Wilson, returning from a one-game absence, has 20 catches for 357 yards and two scores.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Duke: QB Riley Leonard, who missed last week’s victory against North Carolina State, could return three weeks after spraining his right ankle in a heartbreaking loss to Notre Dame. Coach Mike Elko says the Blue Devils won’t put Leonard at risk but adds “there is a chance we’re able to get him back healthy and able to be playing at the level he’s capable of playing.” Leonard has thrown for 912 yards, with three TDs and an interception. He also has run for 326 yards and four scores.
Florida State: QB Jordan Travis is the heart and soul of coach Mike Norvell’s offense and arguably the most integral part of the program’s rebuild. Travis has 13 TD passes and one INT this season. He’s also has four rushing scores. His starting offensive line should be intact for the second time this season, with LT Bless Harris expected to return after missing consecutive games.
FACTS & FIGURES
The primetime matchup marks the third time the programs have met with both being nationally ranked (1994 and 2013). … The Blue Devils are 5-1 to start a season for the first time since 2018. … Duke ranks in the top half of the ACC in both scoring offense (sixth at 31.17 ppg) and defense (first at 9.83 ppg). The Blue Devils are the only ACC school scoring more than 30 points a game and allowing less than 15 points a game. … Florida State is averaging 42.2 points, which leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally. … Travis has completed 169 consecutive passes without an interception. It’s the fifth-longest streak in school history. … The Seminoles have never lost to Duke in 21 prior meetings.