DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Florida State believes it’s better than its record — and so does Duke.
The Seminoles (1-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) look to avoid their worst start since 1975 on Saturday when they visit a Duke team that has lost two straight since starting 4-0.
The Blue Devils (4-2, 1-2) refuse to allow themselves to be swayed by Florida State’s poor record.
“Coaches don’t underestimate how good they are,” Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said. “Get on the field with them. It ain’t tape anymore. It’s real. Don’t underestimate how good they are.”
As close as the Seminoles are to having a winning record — losing a pair of one-possession games to Top-25 teams , North Carolina State and Miami — they’re just as close to being winless. Florida State needed a 40-yard touchdown pass in the final minute two weeks ago to beat Wake Forest.
As a result, the Seminoles have their worst start since 1976 — Bobby Bowden’s first season in Tallahassee. A loss to Duke will make them 1-4 for the first time since the year before Bowden’s arrival.
“Ain’t nobody cares what happens to people in the past,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “They’re looking at what’s going on in the future, and that’s what these kids are. That’s why I always tell our guys your windshield is ten times bigger than your rear view mirror. What matters is in your future.”
The Blue Devils are also trying to reverse their recent results. After opening with four wins to match its total from 2016, Duke has lost consecutive Coastal Division games to No. 11 Miami and Virginia.
Some things to know about Florida State’s first visit to Duke since 2011:
THE SERIES: The Seminoles are 19-0 against Duke and have won the last three meetings by a combined 134-30. That includes a 45-7 rout in the 2013 ACC championship game for a Florida State team that went on to win the BCS title against Auburn. Also of note, FSU is 12-4 in 16 road games against Coastal Division opponents while Duke is 3-12 at home against the Atlantic Division.
HAPPY RETURNS: These two teams have the best kickoff return units in the ACC. Florida State averages a league-best 29.4 yards with Duke ranking second at 27.2 yards.
FASTER STARTS ON OFFENSE: James Blackman has three touchdowns and two interceptions in his first three starts, but the offense has struggled for the better part of three quarters. He has thrown three fourth-quarter touchdowns the past two weeks, but the offense needs to find more consistency, especially in the passing game. “We drive the ball down the field on every team we played. We always get to the red zone. Once we get to the red zone, we always have a penalty or anything little that causes us to go backwards. Got to minus those little mistakes,” receiver Nyqwan Murray said.
GETTING PRESSURE ON DEFENSE: Florida State’s defense is next to last in sacks (8.0) and last in forcing turnovers (3). That has led to opponents cashing in on third downs and the team off to its worst start since 1976. Defensive coordinator Charles Kelly is under increasing pressure to turn things around after his unit has struggled for the second straight season. Coach Jimbo Fisher gave him a vote of confidence earlier this week, but will he at the end of the year?
PASSING PROBLEMS: Duke’s passing offense has sputtered lately. The Blue Devils have completed just 41.6 percent of their passes in two losses after connecting on 63 percent during the four-game winning streak. Duke is 4-0 when completing more than half its passes but was held to season lows in passing yardage (124), rushing yardage (131) and, not surprisingly, total yardage (255) in the loss to Virginia.
Associated Press Writer Joe Reedy in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.
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