TALLAHASSEE — Duke coach David Cutcliffe has been saying all along that he believes Florida State is the best team in the country.
He didn't change his mind Saturday after watching the 11th-ranked Seminoles mangle his Blue Devils 48-7 to regain control of their fortunes in the Atlantic Coast Conference — with a tip of the cap to North Carolina.
"I don't think they have a weakness," Cutcliffe said. "It's all in front of them as to what they can do."
Cutcliffe had probably seen enough within the opening 20 minutes as the Seminoles raced to a 31-0 lead and halftime nowhere in sight.
"I was proud with the way we came out of the gate," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "The thing that we were able to do was to hit those deep balls."
The Seminoles (8-1, 5-1 ACC) scored on their third play of the game when EJ Manuel hit Rashad Greene in stride for a 71-yard touchdown and didn't let up.
Manuel tossed two touchdown passes and Devonta Freeman ran for two more scores, while kicker Dustin Hopkins became the ACC's career leader when he drilled his 81st field goal to eclipse former Maryland kicker Nick Novak's mark. Hopkins did it in style as well with a career best 56-yard kick, seconds after he had made a 51-yard try that was nullified by a delay of game penalty.
"There was no doubt about 5 yards or anything," said Hopkins, who kicked a 55-yarder as the game ended to beat Clemson two years ago. "I just knew I had to kick a good clean ball."
He is six shy of former Georgia kicker Billy Bennett's NCAA mark of 87.
Duke quarterback Sean Renfree completed 13 of 21 passes for 92 yards before being knocked out of the game in the second quarter with an unspecified head injury. Anthony Boone was 3 of 15 for 37 yards against a Florida State defense that leads the ACC in virtually all categories.
Cutcliffe said after the game that Renfree would be further evaluated by medical personnel, but still wasn't feeling very good after the game.
"It's a circumstance for the doctors to handle," he said.
Despite losing by a big margin for the third time this season, Duke isn't out of the running in the Coastal Division albeit it has a rugged road ahead with visits to Clemson and Miami sandwiching a Nov. 17 home date with Georgia Tech.
"We have to move on," Duke wide receiver Desmond Scott said. "We're going to show the young fellows how you bounce back from a loss like that."
Florida State's win coupled with North Carolina State's 42-35 loss at North Carolina puts the Seminoles back in control of the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division while Duke (6-3, 3-2) dropped out of the undisputed lead in the league's muddled Coastal Division.
"It's like starting a new season," Florida State's James Wilder Jr. said. "I'm definitely happy now that I know it's in our hands."
North Carolina State (5-3, 2-2) had previously controlled its destiny in the Atlantic Division on the strength of a 17-16 win over the Seminoles earlier.
"That's all good, but all we've got to do is beat Virginia Tech," Fisher said. "They'll be waiting on us."
Despite their lopsided win, the Seminoles were again far from perfect, losing four fumbles a week after coughing up the ball five times, albeit recovering three of those in a 33-20 win at Miami.
"We need to get that fixed," said Fisher, who has 12 days to get ready for the Nov. 8 visit to Virginia Tech after a much welcomed open date.
Florida State is unbeaten in 18 games against Duke and has won by 19 or more points in each of those games. It became clear quickly Saturday that things weren't going to change.
But after adding two quick touchdowns in the first five minutes of the third quarter to take a 45-7 lead on Manuel's 35-yard scoring pass to Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State bogged down with mistakes and managed just Hopkins' record-breaking field goal in the final 25 minutes.
Freeman, who finished with 105 yards rushing, scored on runs of 9 and 14 yards and Wilder, the former Plant High star, chipped in with 70 yards and a 1-yard TD run. The two sophomores have taken over for leading rusher, Chris Thompson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week's 33-20 win at Miami.
Duke's Conner Vernon caught three passes to extend his nation's best string to 44 consecutive games with at least one catch.