Dec 7, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Karlos Williams (9) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Duke Blue Devils at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
CHARLOTTE - Next stop: Pasadena.
After No. 1 Florida State blitzed Duke 45-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship Saturday night, the Seminoles' attention - and the nation's - will turn west.
In less than a month, Florida State will compete for a national championship at the Rose Bowl for the first time since Jan. 3, 2001, when it lost to Oklahoma. The Seminoles won it all a year earlier, their last undefeated season.
Now, they'll have a chance to win their first national title of the post-Bobby Bowden era. Their opponent presumably will be No. 3 Auburn, who defeated Missouri 59-42 in the SEC championship game. In the Big Ten title game, No. 2 Ohio State fell to No. 9 Michigan State 34-24 to end a 24-game winning streak.
It has certainly looked easy to get to this point. The unbeaten Seminoles had only one opponent come within 14 points (Boston College, 48-34) - the next closest was 27 points - and they covered the spread against Duke as a 29-point favorite. Though the Blue Devils' defense posed more of a challenge than Florida State had seen recently, it was ultimately no match for the nation's most potent offense.
Florida State redshirt freshman quarterback Winston appeared unsettled early, two days after prosecutors decided not to press charges against him in a sexual battery case. His first two passes of the night fell incomplete, and Florida State went three-and-out on its opening drive. For the first time all season, the Seminoles did not score in the first quarter - and credit goes to the surprisingly staunch Duke defense, which forced a fumble early.
But by the middle of the second quarter, Winston righted himself on the biggest stage of his career to date and the Heisman Trophy front-runner returned. By game's end, he'd completed 19 of 32 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns (as well as two interceptions). He also had 10 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Winston's 11-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Shaw early in the third quarter was his 37th passing touchdown of the season, setting a Football Bowl Subdivision record for a freshman. Later, on a 54-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin, Winston set an FBS record for passing yards in a season for a freshman.
Duke is nearing the end of its most successful season in program history. Under sixth-year head coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils won 10 games for the first time and also the ACC Coastal Division for the first time.
Saturday's win marked Florida State's second consecutive ACC title.