For the second straight season, Florida State is the ACC champion, but unlike 2012, there are still bigger goals on the horizon. After a 45-7 win over Duke, the Seminoles are poised for a trip to Pasadena for the final BCS championship game. Here’s what we learned along the way:
Winston won’t be rattled: The VIZIO BCS National Championship will be in Pasadena on Jan. 6, Jameis Winston’s 20th birthday. On the field this season, he’s looked far more mature than his redshirt freshman status would suggest. Winston certainly wasn’t sharp early against Duke, completing just one of his first six passes, and he struggled with a few bad throws throughout, notably the two interceptions. But if that was Winston struggling, Auburn could be in trouble. In spite of all the off-field distractions, Winston turned in yet another stellar performance, throwing for 330 yards and accounting for four TDs. He set the FBS freshman record for both passing yards and touchdown throws in the process, and in six days, he’s likely to win the Heisman Trophy.
FSU leaves no room to run: Auburn certainly figures to be the biggest challenge Florida State’s defense will face this season, but when the two teams square off in Pasadena, it will be strength against strength. Florida State’s run defense, which struggled early this year, is clicking on all cylinders now. In its past six games, FSU is surrendering just 2.8 yards per carry on the ground and just 20 more yards (565) total than Auburn ran for in the SEC title game (545). FSU’s first-team defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season. Auburn had seven on Saturday and has 46 for the season, tops in the nation.
BCS test would be a first: The knock -- if you can call it that -- on Florida State over the next month will be simple: The team hasn’t been tested. It’s tough to argue. The Seminoles have won every game by at least 14 points, and Winston and the starters have played every snap on just three occasions this season. So, how will Florida State respond if Auburn keeps it close on Jan. 6? It’s certainly possible it’s a question that won’t need to be answered, but it’s worth noting that Florida State was pushed physically (and on the scoreboard) in the first halves of each of the past two games and never appeared rattled. On Saturday, the Seminoles wrapped up the first quarter without scoring for the first time this season. The end result was yet another 40-plus point game.