Florida State spent the week doing its best to talk up Duke. This was, after all, a battle of the two division leaders in the ACC. But when the game began Saturday, things didn't look much different than the first 17 times these two teams faced off.
FSU is now a perfect 18-0 against Duke, dominating the Blue Devils on Saturday with a 48-7 victory. In spite of the lopsided score, it wasn't exactly a flawless performance, but it perfectly illustrated just how dominant Florida State can be, even when things aren't all clicking into place.
A few of the best and worst performances from the game:
1. The replacement runners: Devonta Freeman topped 100 yards, James Wilder Jr. scored his 10th touchdown of the season and Lonnie Pryor mixed long runs with some strong blocks at fullback. All told, the trio rushed for 179 yards on 31 carries and accounted for three touchdowns. In its first game without Chris Thompson, Florida State had 261 yards on the ground and averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
2. Christian Jones: The FSU linebacker was all over the field Saturday, recording 11 tackles -- including three for a loss -- in three quarters of action. The three TFLs matched Jones' total for the season, all coming in the first quarter as the Seminoles quickly ended any hopes of an upset bid for Duke.
3. EJ Manuel: It wasn't actually Manuel's finest game. He completed just eight passes and connected on just 50 percent of his targets. Even a few of his big plays came on underthrown passes. But as Duke loaded the box with eight or nine defenders, Manuel was able to make the most of his opportunities, completing five passes of 30 yards or longer and finishing the game having averaged 17.6 yards per attempt.
1. The ball protection: Manuel fumbled in the first half. Freeman, Rodney Smith and Tyler Hunter all had fumbles in the second half. Most weeks, losing the turnover battle 4-0 would cost FSU a win. As it turned out, it didn't matter much Saturday, but Jimbo Fisher was nevertheless livid about the miscues. His anger is well placed. The four turnovers came on the heels of last week's win over Miami when FSU coughed up the football six times, though the Seminoles lost just two.
2. Fisher: OK, there's really no complaints about Fisher's work Saturday. His play calling was aggressive, and he did a nice job keeping Florida State focused against the Blue Devils, despite the upcoming bye week on the horizon. And, of course, Fisher was right to be frustrated by FSU's second-half fumble problems, but keeping Manuel (and other starters) in the game into the fourth quarter was a risky move. Manuel's final play was a scramble on which he took a big hit along the sideline. That was enough to convince Fisher of the folly or keeping his QB in harm's way with a big lead. Sending a message is one thing. Jeopardizing the future to prove a point, however, is a dangerous game.
3. David Cutcliffe: The Duke coach was a bit chippy with Fisher after the game, seemingly upset about Florida State continuing to throw the ball in spite of its big lead in the fourth quarter. Of course, Duke also continued to blitz and put extra defenders in the box to stuff the run. In postgame interviews, however, both coaches downplayed any animosity, and Cutcliffe called FSU "the best team in the country."