CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jameis Winston and No. 1 Florida State made it look easy again.
The Seminoles are headed to the BCS national championship game after one of the most dominant regular seasons in college football history.
“This whole week has been very high emotion,” Winston said. “We wanted to win this championship so bad. We were looking forward to having an undefeated season.”
Two days after prosecutors decided not to press charges against him in a sexual assault case, the 19-year-old redshirt freshman threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score, and Florida State stormed into the title game with a 45-7 victory over No. 20 Duke on Saturday night in the ACC championship game.
The Seminoles (13-0) are expected to face Auburn in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 6 after No. 2 Ohio State lost to Michigan State.
The Heisman Trophy favorite was 19 of 32 for 330 yards and set FBS freshman records for TD passes (38) and yards passing (3,820) in a season.
Winston threw two touchdown passes to 6-foot-5, 234-pound receiver Kelvin Benjamin and ran for a 17-yard score to overcome two interceptions.
“The football field is our sanctuary,” Winston said. “Every time I stepped on the field, every time we stepped on that field, everything that happened outside of our family, it was just zoned out.”
As Queen’s “We Are the Champions” was playing as a backdrop on the celebration, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said: “We’re not champs yet.”
Florida State’s defense was dominant, holding Duke (10-3) to 239 yards and forcing three turnovers to help the Seminoles win their second straight ACC title. The Blue Devils had eight possessions in the first half and failed to pick up a first down on seven of them.
“Offensively we were out of sync early,” Fisher said. “Our defense was the key tonight and they were absolutely outstanding.”
It was Florida State’s 12th win by at least 27 points. The Seminoles entered as 29-point favorites after outscoring its opponents by an average of 43 points.
Florida State outgained Duke 569-239.
Winston struggled early with overthrowing receivers and the Seminoles failed to score in the first quarter for the first time this season.
Florida State’s first scoring opportunity ended when Devonta Freeman coughed up the ball at the Duke 3 following a 22-yard run.
But it wouldn’t matter.
Florida State slowly took charge in the second quarter and built a 17-0 halftime lead behind a stifling defense.