Florida State Seminoles: Phillip Dorsett

ACC's lunch links

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
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Gobble gobble ...

ACC's lunch links

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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Join me for my weekly chat at 4 p.m. ET today!

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 19, 2013
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Cam Newton led a game-winning drive, not Tom Brady? Wow, #flipweek continues.

ACC Saturday setup: Week 11

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
7:00
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Here's one last quick look at what's going on in the ACC this week:

No. 2 Florida State (8-0, 6-0) at Wake Forest (4-5, 2-4), noon, ABC. #FSUvsWAKE

What's at stake: Plenty for both teams. A win gets the Noles into the ACC championship game and keeps their national championship hopes alive. Wake Forest is nearing must-win territory for bowl eligibility. A loss means the Deacs have to beat Duke (6-2) and Vanderbilt (4-4) to get back to a bowl game. The last time Florida State visited Winston-Salem, Wake Forest won. But both coaches insist things are different this time around. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said this Florida State team is the best he has faced in 13 years with the Deacs.

Statistically speaking: According to ESPN Stats & Information, Jameis Winston completes an AQ-high 71.9 percent of his passes on plays in which he is pressured (knockdown or hurried). The AQ average for a quarterback when pressured is 35.8 percent.

Quotable: "You know the situations and the media hype you get. But like we tell them, the only thing you can control is how you play this week. What's important for us is to continue to play well, reach our goals in the games of getting better each week, learning to prepare each week and getting better as a team." -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.

Virginia (2-7, 0-5) at North Carolina (3-5, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #UVAvsUNC

What's at stake: Plenty on the line for the Tar Heels, who are fighting for a bowl berth. Another win would give them three straight after a 1-5 start to the season. A bowl game does not look all that bleak right now, even with Bryn Renner out for the season with a shoulder injury. The Hoos are the only team left on the schedule with a losing record, so getting a win here is critical for bowl hopes. A loss means the Tar Heels have to win at Pittsburgh, then beat Old Dominion and Duke. That is doable, but certainly a win against Virginia gives a tad more margin for error.

Statistically speaking: Virginia safety Anthony Harris is quietly putting together one of the best seasons in the ACC. Harris has six interceptions on the season, tied for second in the nation. Those six interceptions are two more than the entire UVa team had in 2012. They also are the most by a UVa safety since Shernard Newby had five in 2001.

Quotable: "This team has become mature enough to understand the pitfalls of a lack of focus or worrying about what else is going on out there. Now you’ve got people who want to pat you on the back. If you do, you better watch out. Better just stay the course, keep doing what we’re doing, focusing on one game, and let’s try to be 1-0." -- North Carolina coach Larry Fedora.

Syracuse (4-4, 2-2) at Maryland (5-3, 1-3), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #CUSEvsMD

What's at stake: Let's stick with the bowl theme. The Terps become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010 with a win; the Orange inch closer to bowl eligibility for the second straight year with a win. One area to watch with both teams is the running game. The Terps have hit a bit of a dip in their last two losses, rushing for a combined 121 yards. Syracuse, meanwhile, has over 180 yards total rushing in three of four ACC games this year and is facing an injury-depleted Maryland D that gave up 247 yards rushing to Clemson.

Statistically speaking: Talk about extremes with the Syracuse defense. Twice this season, the Orange have shut opponents out, the first time that has happened since 1997. But on the flip side, they have also given up 48 or more points three times this season.

Quotable: "He's a really good leader and he's a guy that knows the offense, understands it and has experience. So that means a lot to us, and like I said hopefully he can continue to stay healthy." -- Maryland coach Randy Edsall on C.J. Brown.

Boston College (4-4) at New Mexico State (1-8), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #BCvsNMSU

What's at stake: Plenty for Boston College. The turnaround in Year 1 under coach Steve Addazio has been impressive. Now the goal he set for his team when the season started is there for the taking -- bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010. Having to travel to Las Cruces, N.M., in the middle of November is not an ideal situation, especially after such an emotional win over Virginia Tech. BC also has been a different team on the road this year, scoring an average of 10.3 points in three losses, so Addazio has to find a way to keep his players focused against a much weaker opponent.

Statistically speaking: Receiver Alex Amidon needs 54 yards to break the school record for career receiving yards. Current BC graduate assistant coach Rich Gunnell set the mark of 2,459 yards from 2006-09.

Quotable: "There's a tremendous amount of focus right now with our seniors and everybody in this program about just centering in on trying to get win number five, and I think our kids understand, I certainly hope they understand that it's all hands on deck with us. When we win, it's because we are just scratching and clawing, and we're not turning it over, and we don't have a lot of penalties, and we have that kind of team concept. And that's hard to do week in and week out." -- BC coach Steve Addazio.

NC State (3-5, 0-5) at Duke (6-2, 2-2), 4 p.m., ESPNU. #NCSTvsDUKE

What's at stake: Duke needs to win to stay in the race for the ACC championship game. NC State needs a win to keep its bowl eligibility hopes alive, with games against Boston College, East Carolina and Maryland ahead. The Wolfpack are off to their worst start in ACC play since going 0-6 in 1959. Duke, meanwhile, is off to a 6-2 start for the second straight year, but the Blue Devils hope to avoid the same type of losing streak that dampened the end to the 2012 season. NC State has won 11 of the past 12 meetings, but Duke won the last one in 2009. This is the last meeting between the schools until 2020.

Statistically speaking: In ACC play this season, Duke is 0-2 at home and 2-0 on the road. Duke joins Clemson and Florida State as the only two teams in the league without a loss away from home.

Quotable: "We've been in four of the games we've lost in the fourth quarter, whether it was tied and we were down by a touchdown or less, we know we're close, and we're just going to keep grinding and fighting and find a way to win those close games as we fight down the stretch." -- NC State coach Dave Doeren.

Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) at No. 11 Miami (7-1, 3-1), 7 p.m., ESPN. #VTvsMIA

What's at stake: Simply put, the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech needs a win to stay alive and end a two-game losing streak. Miami needs a win to stay in the driver's seat. Virginia Tech remains stingy on defense, ranking in the top 10 in total defense (No. 3), passing defense (No. 1), rushing defense (No. 9) and scoring defense (No. 8). The problem has been the eight turnovers in the last two losses. Miami, meanwhile, must win this game without two of its best offensive playmakers -- running back Duke Johnson and receiver Phillip Dorsett.

Statistically speaking: While Miami has one of the best rush offenses in the ACC, Virginia Tech has one of the worst. The Hokies are averaging 3.2 yards per carry, on pace to be their lowest in the last 10 seasons. The Hokies have four rushes that gained 20 yards or more, tied for seventh fewest in the FBS.

Quotable: "I think this Miami team is really, really good. If you look at them defensively, they’re maybe the best defensive team we’ve played and we’ve played Alabama." -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.

No. 23 Notre Dame (7-2) at Pitt (4-4, 2-3), 8 p.m., ABC. #NDvsPITT

What's at stake: This is almost a must-win situation for the Panthers, who are trying to become bowl eligible for the sixth straight season. After the Irish, Pitt faces an improving North Carolina, has to travel to Syracuse (where it lost last season) and then closes against No. 11 Miami. The Panthers have played Notre Dame tough, though players have said the triple-overtime loss a season ago is in the past. What Pitt needs to do is find its run game and fast. The offensive line play has deteriorated as the season has gone on, hampering both the run and quarterback Tom Savage. Pitt has given up a league-high 29 sacks, tied for No. 116 in the nation.

Statistically speaking: Pitt is on pace for its worst rushing offense since 2005. Right now, the Panthers are averaging 122.5 rush yards per game. In 2005, Pitt averaged 116.8 rush yards per game.

Quotable: "We haven't been real good running the football. You know, we're certainly working on it, and there are different reasons that have contributed to it. But we need to -- hopefully we can get that squared away because we're a better team if we can do a better job of running the football." -- Pitt coach Paul Chryst.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 9

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
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With only Syracuse on a bye this week, there will be plenty to keep an eye on in the conference. Here’s a look at what to watch in Week 9, in no particular order:

1. Florida State flashback: All eyes will be on the pregame scene in Tallahassee, where former Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden will make his first return to Doak Campbell Stadium since he was ousted following the 2009 season. Bowden will plant the famous spear at midfield, and nearly 400 former players are expected to attend the No. 2-ranked Seminoles’ game against NC State. "There's no nerves," Bowden told ESPN.com’s David Hale. "I'm excited about it, getting to see a lot of people."

[+] EnlargeBrandon Mitchell
Lance King/Getty ImagesBrandon Mitchell has been out since the opener for NC State.
2. Brandon Mitchell's return: While Florida State will be celebrating the return of its legendary coach, the Wolfpack will be celebrating the return of its injured starting quarterback. Mitchell broke his left foot in the season opener and hasn’t played since. He won the job over Pete Thomas this preseason, and his athleticism seemed to fit first-year coach Dave Doeren’s no-huddle offense well. He’ll face one of the toughest defenses in the country, though, on Saturday.

3. Wake’s hopes at an upset: The Demon Deacons are on a roll, having won back-to-back Atlantic Division games, and while the Canes lead the series 7-3, all three of Wake’s wins have come at Miami. Wake is looking to snap a six-game losing streak against ranked teams -- and Saturday is the 67th anniversary of the program’s win over No. 4 Tennessee, the highest-ranked team Wake has ever defeated. If the Deacs can continue to get the ball to receiver Michael Campanaro and play stingy defense, they could have a chance. Especially considering …

4. Miami’s ball security: You’ve heard it a million times this week. Miami has turned it over 12 times in the past three weeks. The Hurricanes the only team in the country to have at least four turnovers in three consecutive games this season and the first since East Carolina in 2011. Miami has also had four red-zone turnovers in its past three games. Meanwhile, Wake’s defense forced three turnovers in the Deacs’ victory over Maryland last week. Speaking of the Terps, watch out for …

5. Maryland’s quarterback controversy: It’s C.J. Brown OR Caleb Rowe listed as the starter on this week’s depth chart for Saturday’s game against Clemson, and coach Randy Edsall has played coy about Brown’s status since last week. Edsall said the indecision on his starter is health-related, not performance-related, but wouldn’t specify what’s wrong with Brown. Brown struggled in last week’s loss at Wake Forest, and Edsall said it was because of an injury unrelated to the concussion Brown suffered against Florida State. Stay tuned for which QB will be leading the Terps’ offense against a stingy Clemson D.

6. UNC’s run defense: Miami gashed the Tar Heels for 234 yards on the ground last week -- and that was with their leading rusher, Duke Johnson, sidelined for three quarters and four turnovers from the Canes. Boston College makes its living on the running game, led by senior Andre Williams, who leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards per game (139.7).

7. Clemson’s rebound: Last week’s 51-14 home loss to Florida State was humbling and devastating to the Tigers. It knocked them out of the national championship picture, all but ruined quarterback Tajh Boyd's chances at winning the Heisman Trophy, and put them behind the Seminoles in the ACC race. How will the Tigers respond on the road? They’ve got more talent than the depleted Terps, but emotion could be a factor early.

8. Virginia Tech’s secondary: Veteran cornerback Antone Exum is expected to finally return for Saturday’s home game against Duke, more than eight months after he had offseason surgery to repair his ACL and a bone fracture. Exum was cleared Sept. 30, but he and the staff have played it cautious. Senior CB Kyle Fuller has broken up 10 passes in seven games and ranks fourth in the nation in passes defended (1.71 per game). They will come in handy against quarterback Duke, which is averaging 269 passing yards per game.

9. Replacement receivers: The ACC will be missing three of its top receivers, with Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and Deon Long and Miami’s Phillip Dorsett all out with injuries. Levern Jacobs will step in at the slot position in place of Diggs, and redshirt freshman Amba Etta-Tawo will take over Long’s spot. With Dorsett out at Miami, that likely means an increased role for Malcolm Lewis, who is listed as a backup at two spots, and true freshman Stacy Coley, who is listed as a co-starter at wide receiver, a starting kick returner and co-starter at punt returner.

10. BC WR Alex Amidon: The Eagles can do more than just run the ball, and Amidon needs just 144 receiving yards to become BC’s all-time leading pass receiver. He has three 100-plus yard receiving games this season and a school-record 10 for his 39-game collegiate career.

ACC's lunchtime links

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
12:00
PM ET
Will Florida State run the table?

ACC weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
11:00
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Well that was quite a weekend, huh? And after all of that ... the ACC still has three top-10 teams going into Week 9. But before we look ahead, let's take one last look back at the week that was in the conference.

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesRashad Greene and the Seminoles, who are ranked No. 2 in the first BCS standings, dominated Clemson, 51-14.
The good: The ACC has a clear national title contender, and that is what is needed most for this conference to establish itself as a legitimate force atop college football. Looking for someone to dethrone Alabama and the mighty SEC? You might need to look no further than Saturday night's game at Clemson, when Florida State punched the Tigers in the mouth early and dominated from start to finish, deflating a much-hyped game in a way that had not been seen in this sport since the Crimson Tide did the same to Notre Dame in last season's BCS title game. The ACC has not had so much as a one-loss conference champion since the Seminoles' 12-0 national title campaign in 1999, and it is extremely difficult to see an outfit as talented as the one that owned Death Valley this weekend dropping two contests, based on its schedule. One loss will be hard enough for any other conference foe to deliver, as Florida State checked in at No. 2 in the first BCS standings and now has every reason to believe it can compete for a national title. (Its quarterback could be pretty busy come awards time, too.)

The bad: No, this was not "pulling a Clemson." The Tigers simply got beat, badly, by a better team. And you can very well make the argument that they could and would beat every other ACC team outside of Florida State. But this was their moment, complete with a second visit from "College GameDay" and another prime-time showcase for a program with national title aspirations. Instead, this game was over shortly after it started, with Tajh Boyd not performing up to expectations and the highly touted, improved defense proving to be no match for the Seminoles' skill players. This has to be, in some ways, disheartening, considering this was Clemson's shot at home with a senior quarterback against a Seminoles team that had lost 11 NFL draft picks and will only get better moving forward. Clemson, currently ranked ninth, can still have a very strong season, so long as it doesn't reel from Saturday's rude awakening.

The ugly: Syracuse went into Atlanta with a bit of momentum after registering its first ACC win, at NC State. Instead a Georgia Tech team that had lost three in a row smacked the Orange from start to finish, winning 56-0 for its second shutout of the season, marking the first time the Yellow Jackets had shut out two opponents in a season since defensive coordinator Ted Roof was a team captain in 1985. Terrel Hunt struggled in his third conference game, failing again to reach the 100-yard passing mark and this time getting pulled for Drew Allen. Defensive tackle John Raymon was lost for the season as well with a right knee injury. The Orange could use the bye to regroup before hosting Wake Forest on Nov. 2.

The walking wounded: It was bad enough that Maryland struggled throughout a 34-10 loss to Wake Forest. But the Terrapins also lost two of their top offensive weapons, with receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long suffering season-ending leg injuries. Diggs broke his fibula and Long broke his fibula and tibia. Maryland had started 4-0 before losing 63-0 at Florida State, barely beating Virginia and then getting routed by the Demon Deacons. It had already suffered a handful of defensive injuries before Saturday, and things won't get any easier this coming Saturday as it hosts No. 9 Clemson, which is coming off its first loss.

[+] EnlargeDabo Swinney, DeShawn Williams
AP Photo/Mike StewartCan Dabo Swinney's Clemson team bounce back from its big loss to Florida State?
The history: On the other end of that matchup in Winston-Salem, N.C., Wake Forest saw a new receiver etch his name to the top of the school record book. Michael Campanaro had 11 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown, becoming the Demon Deacons' career leader in receptions with 217, passing Desmond Clark. He is second in the ACC in both catches (55) and receiving yards (704) on the season, and he also threw a touchdown pass for good measure against the Terrapins.

The second-half charge: Duke finds itself on the cusp of bowl eligibility for the second straight year after overcoming a 22-point deficit at Virginia and pulling out a 35-22 win to improve to 5-2. The Blue Devils got a boost from both quarterbacks as Anthony Boone threw two touchdown passes and Brandon Connette ran one in for a score. Duke converted four fourth-down second-half plays as it scored the game's final 35 points and delivered the reeling Cavaliers another blow as they fell to 2-5 overall and 0-3 in conference play. Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage publicly backed coach Mike London last week, but questions will continue to mount if the Cavaliers continues to struggle.

The anomaly: Miami is No. 7 in the BCS standings after eking out a victory Thursday at one-win North Carolina. Stephen Morris struggled, throwing four interceptions, which marked the third straight game the Hurricanes had turned the ball over four times (Miami somehow won all three games). The Canes are 6-0 and host Wake Forest this weekend before traveling to Florida State on Nov. 2, but they lost Duke Johnson (head) and Phillip Dorsett (knee) to injuries in Chapel Hill. Johnson is expected to be fine, but Dorsett will miss four to six weeks with an MCL tear.

The ground boost: Pitt finally got the lift it needed from its rushing game, as Isaac Bennett carried the ball 30 times for 240 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-24 win over Old Dominion. The Panthers improved from 105th to 91st nationally in rushing yards per game (141.67). For a program that had tallied just 8 and 23 yards rushing in its previous two games, the timing could not have been better.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 8

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
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There was a definite shake-up in the ACC hierarchy this weekend, as No. 5-ranked Florida State went to Death Valley and humbled No. 3-ranked Clemson 51-14 on Saturday night. The Seminoles, led by their unflappable 19-year-old quarterback, Jameis Winston, dominated the Tigers from start to finish. For the first time this season, the ACC has a new No. 1:

1. Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC, last week: 2): The defense was the storyline, as the Seminoles flustered veteran quarterback Tajh Boyd into what was easily the worst outing of his career. He threw two picks and just one touchdown and completed only 46 percent of his passes. Florida State converted two turnovers into touchdowns early and never looked back. The Noles host NC State this weekend, but this Florida State team is light years better than the one that was upset by the Wolfpack a season ago. There’s not even a hint of an upset brewing in Tallahassee.

2. Miami (6-0, 2-0, LW: 3): The Hurricanes didn’t look like a top-10 team on Thursday night in Chapel Hill, N.C., where they needed a game-winning touchdown from backup running back Dallas Crawford with 16 seconds left to beat a North Carolina team that has now sunk to 1-5. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris threw four interceptions and the Canes lost two of their top playmakers -- receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Duke Johnson -- to injuries. Miami found a way to win, though, and only Wake Forest stands between the Canes and their showdown with the rival Noles in two weeks. Expect both to be undefeated for that game.

3. Clemson (6-1, 4-1, LW: 1) : If Clemson had lost to FSU in a close, hard-fought game, it wouldn’t have taken so much criticism, but because the Tigers lost so convincingly, it’s clear the gap between Florida State and Clemson was as wide as the lopsided score indicated. Clemson’s chances at a national title were devastated, along with Boyd’s Heisman Trophy hopes, all in four quarters. The spotlight has shifted to Florida State while the Tigers try to regroup on Saturday at Maryland.

4. Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0, LW: 4): The Hokies had a bye week to prepare for Duke on Saturday, but they have quietly continued to work their way up the conference standings this fall. Quarterback Logan Thomas has made significant strides and cut down on his interceptions, and the defense continues to look like one of the best in the country. The matchup in Miami should determine the Coastal division winner this fall, and if the Canes continue to turn it over at this disconcerting rate, it’s the Hokies’ title to lose.

5. Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-2, LW: 11): The Yellow Jackets played as if they had something to prove on Saturday, ending a three-game losing streak with a complete pummeling of Syracuse. Georgia Tech scored seven rushing touchdowns in a 56-0 rout of the Orange. It was the program’s biggest margin of victory in an ACC game. The Jackets need to win three of their next five to become bowl eligible, and a road trip to struggling Virginia is up next.

6. Pittsburgh (4-2, 2-2, LW: 6): It wasn’t exactly a flawless performance in a 35-24 win against Old Dominion, but the Panthers took care of business, and their only two losses are to Florida State and Virginia Tech, two of the top teams in the ACC right now. The Panthers got what they needed from Isaac Bennett, who ran for a career-high 240 yards and three touchdowns. They’re going to have to sharpen their game, though, for back-to-back road trips to Navy and Georgia Tech.

7. Duke (5-2, 1-2, LW: 7): The Blue Devils didn’t quit on the road, and they’re just one win away from bowl eligibility for the second straight season under coach David Cutcliffe. Duke overcame a 22-0 deficit at Virginia to scrape its way back to a 35-22 win. It was a remarkable comeback by Duke and an utter meltdown by the Hoos. Duke has now won three straight heading into Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech.

8. Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2, LW: 10): The Deacs have hit their stride offensively, and receiver Michael Campanaro continues to be the face of the team. Wake’s defense, though, was a highlight in the its win over Maryland, and the team has helped keep its bowl hopes alive. Wake Forest will face a tough test this week, as it has to travel to undefeated Miami.

9. Maryland (5-2, 1-2, LW: 5): Not only do the Terps seem to have a quarterback controversy between starter C.J. Brown and backup Caleb Rowe, but they’ve also got injuries to two of their top receivers in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Brown was benched in the loss to Wake Forest and replaced by Rowe, but neither of them could overcome a gritty performance by the Deacs’ veteran defense. What once seemed like a guaranteed return to the postseason has now become a shrinking window with no margin for error.

10. Boston College (3-3, 1-2, LW: 9): The Eagles have lost three of their past four but have developed a reputation as one of the toughest teams in the ACC nonetheless. Two of those losses have come to Atlantic division leaders FSU and Clemson. The Eagles had a bye week to prepare for their road trip to North Carolina, and, considering how poorly UNC has played this season, the Eagles have a good shot at their second league win.

11. Syracuse (3-4, 1-2, LW: 8): It’s been an unpleasant introduction into the ACC for the Orange, to say the least. Georgia Tech put on a clinic against Cuse on Saturday, and the defense went into shutdown mode. Terrel Hunt has struggled, completing 43.1 percent of his passes against league opponents. The Orange have a much-needed bye week before facing Wake Forest on Nov. 2.

12. NC State (3-3, 0-3, LW: 12): Like BC, the Pack has lost three of its past four. The difference is that NC State is still winless in conference play under first-year coach Dave Doeren. Starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell is expected to return for Saturday’s game at Florida State, his first time playing since he broke a bone in his left foot in the season opener.

13. North Carolina (1-5, 0-3, LW: 13): The Tar Heels got their best defensive performance of the season on Thursday night against Miami, and tight end Eric Ebron put on quite an audition for the NFL scouts in attendance, but the Tar Heels couldn’t stop the run and are now off to their worst start since 2006. UNC has lost four straight and will try to rebound on Saturday at home against BC.

14. Virginia (2-5, 0-3, LW: 14): After squandering a 22-point lead at home against Duke on Saturday, Mike London’s career is seemingly hanging by a thread. Whether the Hoos can win another game is a legitimate question, and, despite the administration’s continued support for London, there doesn’t seem to be any way he could survive a 2-10 season.

By the Numbers: FSU 48, Duke 7 

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
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On paper, the scenario simply doesn't add up. Florida State lost the turnover battle 4-0. Its star quarterback completed just eight passes. It was without its starting running back, and it was playing a division leader.

Most of the time, that adds up to a bad loss. On Saturday against Duke, it was a formula for a blowout win.

But while the 48-7 final score hardly tells the story of all that happened, these five numbers do.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The intention was never for the trash talk to be kept secret.

Miami freshman Duke Johnson boasted to his high school coach, then made sure his coach knew to pass along the comments to former Norland teammate Xavier Rhodes.

"Duke knows I'm gonna kill him," Rhodes joked this week. "He's talking a lot of trash, and [our coach] comes back and tells me what he's been saying."

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMiami is 3-0 in games in which freshman Duke Johnson rushes for at least 70 yards.
Of course, Johnson's confidence -- and his talent -- has never been much of a secret.

The freshman tailback burst onto the scene this season by racking up 100 yards from scrimmage in three of his first four games and displaying a few fireworks on special teams to boot.

Miami might lack the stockpile of NFL talent it once boasted, but Johnson has the potential to be as electric as any player to wear a Hurricanes jersey in the last decade. He's definitely got Florida State's attention.

"If it was me last season, I would've been like, 'He's a freshman,' " safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "But after experiencing the nightmare that is Sammy Watkins, we're definitely going to prepare for him and treat him like a man."

Watkins, a freshman receiver at Clemson last season, torched Florida State for 141 yards and two touchdowns last season, but for Joyner to even put Johnson in the same class offers some indication of the dangers presented by the Miami running back.

"He was a heck of a player in high school," Jimbo Fisher said. "He's bright guy, and I'm not surprised. What he's doing, he's a big-play guy."

Rhodes and Johnson alternated at tailback in high school -- Rhodes as a senior, Johnson as a freshman.

"Man, he was good as a freshman in high school," Rhodes said. "Real good."

Miami has its share of offensive weapons this season, and the Hurricanes have averaged nearly 300 yards per game. Johnson's numbers have dwindled a bit in the past three weeks, too, as defenses have become aware of his big-play ability.

But with Miami quarterback Stephen Morris nursing an ankle injury, Johnson will need to be a significant piece in the Miami offense this week, and while Florida State's defense is stout, it was just one week ago that Boston College's Andre Williams ran for 104 yards against the Seminoles. It was the first time in more than a year FSU's defense had allowed a running back to top 100.

"You got our attention. You came in, you're highly recruited, and you're doing well," Joyner said of Johnson. "So we're going to treat him like a man. We're going to come at him, we're going to game plan, we know he's a threat so we're going to go hard."

(Read full post)

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