by Mike Potter
Tonight at Bank of America Stadium, the No. 20 Blue Devils (10-2) will take on No. 1 Florida State (12-0) for the ACC championship and a guaranteed spot in the Orange Bowl.
If FSU wins, of course, it will play either Ohio State or Auburn for the National Championship.
The Blue Devils have their best team since at least 1941 and David Cutcliffe has built a quality program, but they’re 0-for-Florida State lifetime and come into the contest as 30-point underdogs.
Only Boston College, which lost 48-34 at home on Sept. 28, has finished within 27 points of the Seminoles. And FSU will have starting quarterback Jameis Winston, who was cleared of possible rape l charges earlier in the week.
Game-time temperature will be in the upper 40s with a chance of rain.
Duke plays an awesome first quarter but it all goes downhill from there, as the Seminoles roll 45-7.
Duke gets a big break when Devonte Edwards fumbles at the Blue Devil 3 and Jeremy Cash recovers. The Blue Devils go on a 15-play, 67-yard drive, but Ross Martin’s 48-yard field-goal attempt is wide right.
And the first stanza marks the first time this season FSU has gone into the second period without a point.
FSU gets on the board first at 12:36 of the second when Winston hits Kelvin Benjamin on a 14-yard pass to finish a nine-play, 64-yard drive. Roberto Aguayo adds the boot. It’s Winston’s 36th TD pass of the season.
The Seminoles tack on another with 3:37 left in the half on a bruising 12-yard run from Karlos Williams to end an 11-play, 73-yard drive. Aguayo converts.
FSU makes it 17-0 with 25 seconds left in the half on a 45-yard Aguayo field goal, ending a seven-play, 53-yard march.
The Seminoles strike a huge blow with 9:52 left in the third on Winston’s 12-yard pass to Kenny Shaw and Aguayo’s boot to make it 24-0. The drive starts when Terrence Smith intercepts an Anthony Boone pass at the Duke 27.
And it’s a certain knockout at 6:31, as Winston hits Benjamin about 30 yards downfield for a 54-yard TD connection. Aguayo’s try is good and it’s 31-0.
It goes to 38-0 with 2:38 left in the third on a 17-yard Winston sprint with Aguayo converting again. And to 45-0 on a seven-yard run from Devonta Freeman with 7:25 to go.
Duke finally gets on the board with 1:01 to play, as Josh Snead goes in from five yards out to prevent the shutout and Ross Martin adds the kick.
They said it …
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher: “I'm very happy for our team and for our university. This championship means a lot to us. This is where we want to be every year. We have to get here to keep achieving and going to BCS games, but the ultimate goal is to always win your conference. This is a great conference. We have 11 bowl teams this year, so the competition has been wonderful.”
Cutcliffe: “We’re obviously disappointed in the result of the game. Not disappointed in our preparation, not disappointed in our effort. The inability to make 1st downs on offense, stay on the field, I think our defense wore down a little bit as it went on, but we'll look at it and see what we can do better. We've got a bowl game to prepare for. We'll find out where that is, and that's about it. It's one of those games you going to look at the tape closely to evaluate a little more closely what we need to do better.”
Boone: “Florida State may be the best team in the country. They have all the talent, all the athletes and everything a football team needs. I wish them all the best.”
Duke TE Braxton Deaver: “With a team like that you can’t get down. You can’t let them get points and then try to come back. I couldn’t pinpoint when things went wrong, but we weren’t getting third downs and weren’t executing and it kind of snowballed from there.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke will go lick its wounds in a well-deserved bowl game. And that the Seminoles are just that good.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Winston’s pass to Shaw to make it 24-0.
Duke: Lost 1.
FSU: Won 15.
FSU leads 19-0.
Duke vs. SEC opponent in Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, Dec. 31, 8 p.m. (?)
FSU vs. Auburn in National Championship Game in Pasadena, Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m.