Here’s a look at three things we learned from the ACC championship game in no particular order:
1. The No. 1 team in the country didn’t slip, trip or even stumble: The Noles can’t control the computers or what happens in the rest of the country, but Florida State did its job and beat Duke 45-7 for the program’s 14th ACC title. The ACC wasn’t its own worst enemy, there wasn’t any epic upset, and the magic ended for Duke, which means it hasn’t quite ended yet for Florida State. For weeks, FSU has been projected to play in the BCS national championship game, and the Seminoles haven’t done anything to derail their hopes. The final BCS standings and bowl pairings will be announced at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, but Florida State hasn’t given any reason to doubt it belongs in Pasadena.
2. Reality set in for Duke: Duke knew it was the underdog going into this game, and it embraced that role, the whole time truly believing it could accomplish the unthinkable. Duke went to Charlotte not just happy to be there, but legitimately trying to win. The Blue Devils, though, were completely overmatched by the abundance of elite talent on Florida State’s roster -- just as they were a year ago. Duke had no answer for Florida State’s defense, which was all over quarterback Anthony Boone and pressured him into two interceptions and no touchdowns. Duke struggled on third downs (7-of-20), and couldn’t capitalize on Florida State’s three turnovers. The best team in the Coastal Division was once again no match for the ACC’s top-ranked team.
3. Jameis Winston has put the off-field allegations behind him and still has Heisman hopes in front of him: With last week’s news that no charges would be filed against Winston for allegations of rape, Saturday’s title game was the first time since mid-November that he played free of any off-field legal distractions. It was also the first time in four games that Heisman voters, whose ballots are due on Monday, had a chance to see Winston play knowing he would not be charged. While it wasn’t a flawless performance (two interceptions), Winston still had remarkable numbers, throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns, and running for another 59 yards and a touchdown. It was enough to earn game MVP honors. With a poor performance by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch in a 47-27 loss to Bowling Green in the MAC championship, the Heisman race further narrowed. The only question remaining is how many Heisman voters will continue to question Winston’s character. Saturday’s performance against Duke, though, wasn’t any reason to question his resume.