Devonta Freeman is part of what is now a two-headed running attack for Florida State. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Every week, I do a little bit on Duke's upcoming opponent for the Tuesday paper. Why has it taken me until week nine to post one here? Good question.
No. 11 Florida State (7-1, 4-1 in the ACC)
Last time out: beat Miami 33-20
Name to know: James Wilder Jr. will likely receive the majority of carries at running back on Saturday. The sophomore will take over for Chris Thompson, the Seminoles’ leading rusher who was lost for the season with a torn ACL last week against Miami.
Wilder was the top-rated recruit as a senior at Tampa Plant in 2010. After struggling with the playbook last season, he has rebounded this year and has collected 369 yards on 61 carries (an average of six yards per touch) along with a team-high seven rushing touchdowns.
Wilder is complemented by fellow sophomore Devonta Freeman. Last week against Miami, the dup combined for 119 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
But Thompson, who had a team-leading 687 rushing yards, will be missed.
“You see, a running back, if he has a lot of instincts and sees things, he can clean up a lot of mistakes on edge blocks and help guys and help guys see things,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “There’s a lot a great running back can do that’s really not in his assignment. How he chips on a lineman coming out. How a guy gets beat as he’s going out on a pass and he’ll give a shoulder to a lineman so a lineman can’t get back and get a guy squared up. Those are things no one sees out there in the normal public that I always talk about with Chris.”
This is the second consecutive season-ending injury for Thompson, who broke two vertebrae in his back early last season against Wake Forest.
"Considering the year he’s having, it’s been tough,” quarterback EJ Manuel said. “I felt bad for him. He’s like a brother to me. His locker’s right across from mine, so him and I talk every day. I texted him last night and let him know that I love him and I wish him the best.”
Bottom line: Florida State is ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and has never lost to the Blue Devils in the 17 games the two schools have played. After Duke lost to Virginia Tech, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe talked about how the Blue Devils have to play nearly perfect assignment football and have equally effective execution to beat physically superior teams. The Seminoles are certainly one of those.
And if you can remember back to week two against Stanford, you'll know that the last time Duke beat a ranked opponent on the road was Oct. 2, 1971. The No. 19 Blue Devils beat No. 10 Stanford 9-3 in Palo Alto.