ACC Football Championship Game Preview with Stuart Barefoot

Courtesy of Stuart Barefoot,….

Sometimes there’s a lot of parity in sports and Duke playing in the ACC Championship games exemplifies that pretty well. Go ahead and add the 20th-Ranked Blue Devils into the mix of surprise teams in 2013. On Saturday they’ll be facing top-ranked Florida State and the recently exonerated Jameis Winston in the ACC title game.

Duke, who was picked to finish last in the Coastal Division, comes into the game with a 10-2 record and stand atop their Division in the ACC at 6-2. They’re currently in the midst of an eight game winning streak, most recently beating UNC 27-25 in an exciting game in Chapel Hill. Duke lost their opening conference games to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, the latter of which marked the low point of their season when they gave up 58 points to the Panthers on September 21.

Suffice to say the Blue Devils have come along ways since then. They would go on to limit then 14th-ranked Virginia Tech to just 10 points in a 13-10 upset and scored 48 points against then 23rd-ranked Miami in a 48-20 win. Whatever David Cutcliffe is doing in Durham, it appears to be working. The Blue Devils earned their first wining season since they finished 8-4 in 1994, their 10 wins are the best in school history and their first shot at a conference title since 1989. Defensively they rank fifth in the ACC in points allowed at just 23 points per game and fifth in points scored at 27.

Florida State has had juggernaut of a season. At 12-0 overall and 8-0 in the conference, the Seminoles are the nation’s top-ranked team and should they beat Duke, they will earn a trip to the final BCS title game. But most importantly, they can put the ambiguity of Jameis Winston’s status behind them and focus on football (if they weren’t already focused.)

On September 28 they beat Boston College 48-34, and it was their most challenging game of the season. Since then, they have not trailed at any point and no team has come within 28 points of beating them. Defensively they rank first in the nation in points against and second in scoring at 53.7 points per game.

Florida State is favored to win not just this game, but are likely favorites in the BCS Title Game regardless of who they play. But they aren’t looking beyond Saturday yet. “You see highlights and you see the numbers and what’s going on,” Fisher said of Duke. “I knew if they got hot, they could be there.”

While Duke may have their hands full on Saturday, this is a turning point in their program. They won’t be thought of as just a basketball school anymore. As for Florida State, it’s a chance for the school to regain some of its glory from the 90’s. When they were voted the nation’s top-ranked team this past Sunday, it was the first time they held that distinction since 2000. Like Duke, it’s just the start of what’s on the horizon for these guys.