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Rapid Reaction: ACC Championship Game -- FSU 45 Duke 7

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Florida State is headed to Pasadena.

Credit Duke for being scrappy and having a great gameplan. Unfortunately, they just aren't in Florida State's class. Even without playing their best game, the Seminoles stomped the Blue Devils 45-7 on Saturday night.

In the process Florida State won its 14th ACC title, punched its ticket to its fourth BCS championship game and won 13 games in a season for the first time in school history.

Now the Seminoles will play for a BCS Championship on January 6th -- likely against Auburn.

Jameis Winston took home MVP honors on Saturday night for a 19/32, 330 yard performance. Winston tossed three touchdowns on the night but also had two picks. He admitted after the game that he had just been a little bit too amped. 

"I came out too amped for the Miami game too," said Winston. "As you saw, I also threw two picks [in that game]."

Fortunately for Winston and his offensive teammates the Florida State defense was more than capable of carrying the team on Saturday night. Duke managed just 239 yards and didn't score until the second team defense had taken the field. FSU's defense was superb.

When Duke drove the ball following Devonta Freeman's first quarter fumble, the defense held and forced a long field goal. Duke missed it. FSU never fell behind (In fact, FSU still hasn't trailed in a game since they played Boston College back in late September).

When Jamison Crowder returned a punt inside the Florida State 40, Lamarcus Joyner grabbed an interception to snuff out the Blue Devils' drive. 

Everytime Duke made a play on offense, FSU's defense answered. 

"We like to go out there [and] force our will on them. So that's what we try to go out there and do," said LB Telvin Smith.

By the time Florida State's offense got rolling, the Seminoles had the game well in hand. Duke came in to the evening with a very good gameplan and knew most of FSU's tendencies based on formations and packages. Early on that threw Winston and the Seminole offense for a loop.

But Fisher was smart enough to pull out a few previously unseen wrinkles to toss the Duke defense off the scent. Once Florida State introduced the threat of the option, the run game opened up. Florida State ended up rolling up 239 rushing yards -- including three touchdowns -- and Duke never really looked comfortable once they had to account for Winston running the ball too.

That in turn opened up the passing game, Kelvin Benjamin in particular. Benjamin caught two touchdown passes, giving him 14 on the year. He's now second all-time at FSU for the most TD receptions in a season. He's caught more in a single year than Ron Sellers, Peter Warrick, Anquan Boldin or Fred Biletnikoff ever did at FSU in a single year. That's an impressive group, and Benjamin has shown the potential this year to be as talented as any of them.

Benjamin's first touchdown grab put FSU up 7-0. He was double covered and caught a ball that frankly shouldn't have been thrown by jumping over and out-muscling the two defenders.

Later in the game he scored from 54 yards out thanks to his ability to break tackles and stay on his feet. The season may have started with Rashad Greene as the team's most dangerous receiver -- and he still is every bit as dynamic -- but Benjamin has passed him as this team's alpha receiver. 

Now Florida State gets the next month to prepare for Auburn and the BCS title game.

FSU played in the first ever BCS title game and they will play in the last one too. In between the program has fallen on hard times and risen again. A win on January 6th would bring the Seminoles full circle.

All that stands between Florida State and its goal now is Auburn. But don't expect FSU to get wide-eyed about playing an SEC team for a national championship though.

"We're not going to get involved in this SEC/ACC stuff because we done made it to where we are and we're not done yet," said Winston. "We fear no one. Our opponent has no face, so we don't care."

 

(Photo courtesy of Travis Register)

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