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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 7:00 AM

We’re going to devote most of our midweek coverage here in the NOTEBOOK to the upcoming conference championship games to be played this weekend in the major conferences. We’ll run the full schedule for you down at the bottom. Today’s report looks at the #1 team in the country Florida State, as they try to stay focused as huge favorites against undersized Duke in the ACC Championship game that will be played Saturday Night and nationally televised by ABC.

To call this a David vs. Goliath matchup may actually understate the talent differences. Duke is a feisty team who lacks size and athleticism…and is only here because they figuring out ways to win close games in a lame division in a fading conference. Yes, the ACC has a lot of bowl eligible teams this year. That’s because they schedule so softly! Most Power Ratings systems don’t have a lot of respect for the ACC once you get past potent Florida State. FSU has size, speed, athleticism, and the best quarterback in the country.

The ONLY hope Duke has to spring an upset would be triggered by distractions that FSU is currently dealing with:

*Everyone has already penciled in FSU for the BCS Championship game

*Quarterback Jameis Winston has nasty off-the-field drama hanging over his head

*FSU may have forgotten how to play close games!

How do you get sky high for Duke when you’ve scored nothing but double digit victories all season, and your last eight victory margins have been 63, 37, 32, 27, 56, 56, 66, and 30 points against teams who…as a composite…aren’t all that much different than Duke?

Duke can’t beat Florida State. Florida State can beat Florida State while Duke happily takes advantage of a distracted team…if FSU does fall pretty to those distractions.

Let’s review how both of these teams have performed this season against bowl caliber competition…



Duke (+8) lost to Georgia Tech 38-14 (losing yardage 254-469)

Duke (+3.5) lost to Pittsburgh 58-55 (losing yardage 532-598)

Duke (-11) beat Troy 38-31 (winning yardage 514-512)

Duke (-4) beat Navy 35-7 (winning yardage 435-319)

Duke (+13) won at Virginia Tech 13-10 (losing yardage 198-387)

Duke (+3) beat Miami 48-30 (losing yardage 543-565)

Duke (+5) beat North Carolina 27-25 (winning yardage 461-448)

Given the recent history of the Duke program, that’s a fantastic performance. They went 5-2 against teams who are bowl eligible…even if they managed to miss both Clemson and FSU in the rotation (the only really good teams in the league this year). The problem is, they would have gone 3-4 if wins were based on yardage. And, yardage differential is a much better indicator of what’s going to happen when a team like this steps up in class.

Or…if you allow more than 500 yards to the likes of Pittsburgh, Troy, and Miami…what’s an extremely potent offense like Florida State going to do?! Here’s what FSU did this year vs. opponents you’ll be watching in bowls this year…



Florida State (-11) won at Pittsburgh 41-13 (winning yardage 533-297)

Florida State (-23) won at Boston College 48-34 (winning yardage 489-398)

Florida State (-16) beat Maryland 63-0 (winning yardage 614-334)

Florida State (-3) won at Clemson 51-14 (winning yardage 566-326)

Florida State (-22) beat Miami 41-14 (winning yardage 517-275)

Florida State (-38) beat Syracuse 59-3 (winning yardage 523-247)

Scary results against a schedule that actually wasn’t very scary. Clemson rates well above Duke in Vegas Power Ratings yet FSU squashed them like a bug in Death Valley To this point, FSU has been able to name the score against this caliber of team. There may be some mystery as to how they’d perform against a national power in the BCS title tilt. Remember how mortal Oregon and Baylor suddenly looked when they started facing real teams? For now, FSU doesn’t appear to be threatened prior to their potential date with destiny.


Current Vegas Line: Florida State by 29


Of course…we saw a few underdogs at prices like that put scares into flat favorites last week (Oregon State vs. Oregon and South Florida vs. Central Florida in near upsets, and Penn State over Wisconsin in a real shocker). Does Duke have what it takes to cover the spread…and maybe pull off a miracle that creates even more BCS Chaos?


Why Duke can cover:

*The offense will keep firing away, even against backups

*There’s legitimate backdoor potential even if they fall behind

*Florida State is long overdue for a nervous performance

*FSU only beat Miami by 27, and Duke outplayed Miami

Handicappers must determine if the market is giving Goliath too much credit for dominating the likes of Maryland, Wake Forest, and Syracuse, when little David has what it takes to score enough to hang within that very tall number.

JIM HURLEY won’t be releasing his conference championship selections until later this week. In the meantime, you can build your bankrolls with nightly basketball right here at the website with your credit card (highlighted by the Big 10/ACC Challenge!). If you want to talk to a representative about putting together a combination package for football and basketball that will take you through the bowls and playoffs, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Our championship previews continue this week (with a one-day break to preview the NFL Thursday Night game) with this schedule:


Wednesday: Pac 12 Championship matching Stanford at Arizona State

Thursday: Houston at Jacksonville in the NFL

Friday: SEC Championship matching Auburn vs. Missouri

Saturday: Big 10 Championship matching Ohio State vs. Michigan State


We’ll be reminding you quite often through the coming weeks…when championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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