No. 16 Duke shoots for first-ever win over No. 4 Florida St.

Field Level Media

October 17, 2023 at 11:55 am.

On the way to returning to prominence — and hoping to stay there — Florida State is bound to encounter hurdles.

Duke could be one of those roadblocks, as the fourth-ranked Seminoles oppose the 16th-ranked Blue Devils on Saturday night in Tallahassee, Fla.

The belief is growing at Florida State (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).

“You can feel the energy and the sense of urgency,” Seminoles coach Mike Norvell said. “It’s a team that’s excited to get better.”

Duke (5-1, 2-0) is one of the surprise teams in the country. The Blue Devils have split prime-time matchups this season, beating Clemson and falling to Notre Dame, and now they get a chance to spoil Florida State’s homecoming.

The Blue Devils have never defeated Florida State in 21 previous meetings, but the contest still looms huge for the Seminoles.

“These are the games you love to be a part of,” Norvell said.

Florida State rolled past Virginia Tech and Syracuse after an overtime escape at Clemson on Sept. 23. Duke recovered from a last-minute loss to the Fighting Irish to deck North Carolina State 24-3 last week.

“They’re one play away from being undefeated,” Norvell said of the Blue Devils. “You see the mindset of how they play and what they do, it’s impressive. They done a great job with what they’re doing.”

The big question facing Duke is the status of quarterback Riley Leonard, who missed the NC State game because of a high ankle sprain sustained two weeks earlier vs. Notre Dame. Coach Mike Elko gave no hints whether Leonard would be ready to return this week.

Redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV filled in for Leonard against the Wolfpack, and he completed only 4 of 12 passes in his first career start.

“I think getting that composure and getting that under his belt, now he’s one game further along from a maturity standpoint, which will pay huge dividends I think for him moving forward,” Elko said.

Norvell said quarterback Jordan Travis was fine after sustaining a hand injury in the first half against Syracuse. That should be a relief to the Seminoles, who have racked up at least 30 points in 12 consecutive games — all wins — dating back to last year.

Travis is second all-time at Florida State with 9,218 yards of total offense, just 255 yards behind former quarterback Chris Weinke’s record.

“You can see him have complete command of the offense not only as a quarterback but also as a leader,” Elko said. “It’s really impressive to see. They’ve got skill players all over the place.”

The Seminoles also could receive boosts on offense from the returns of receiver Johnny Wilson, who didn’t play against Syracuse, and tackle Bless Harris, who missed the past two games with an injury.

Florida State’s defense shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Our guys have really grown in their confidence,” Norvell said. “They’ve really taken some positive strides through their ownership.”

Florida State holds a top-five national ranking for the seventh week in a row. That’s the longest streak for the Seminoles in nearly a decade.

Duke is set to face a third nationally ranked opponent within its first seven games for the first time since 2016.

“Anytime you get on a stage again, it’s better. And then this stage again presents a different type of challenge, right?” Elko said. “There’s a challenge of being on the road that creates a whole different type of atmosphere and environment and level of emotions that you’ve got to push through.”