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December 7, 2013

With investigation circus done, FSU moves on to ACC title game


CHARLOTTE - The circus is over. Now there's just a game to play.

Jameis Winston took an exam at 1 p.m. Thursday, found out he won't be charged in a sexual assault investigation at 2 p.m., and boarded a plane for Charlotte on a few hours later.

All the national media that flooded Tallahassee on Thursday is gone home. Now it's just a plain old ACC title game - and seemingly the final step towards Winston winning the Heisman and leading No. 1 FSU back to the national title game for the first time since 2000.

It seems anticlimactic and many have already written the script: Top-ranked FSU is a four-touchdown favorite against Duke in the ACC title game. Winston is an overwhelming favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Tickets to the ACC title game are cheaper than they were for Duke's last football game. Even the Blue Devil's head coach David Cutcliffe said his team doesn't match up well with FSU.

"They're difficult," Cutcliffe said regarding FSU's offensive weaponry. "They're very difficult to match up with. I've been looking at that all morning, and they cause everyone problems in that regard, just the match-ups, because like I said, it's not just speed and quickness, it's also size that's such an issue."

According to FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, FSU's focus hasn't wavered in the weeks leading up to the game and it certainly hasn't wavered recently, even as the media firestorm around the investigation involving Winston intensified.

"I think they handled it tremendously," Fisher said. "I think it's because they believe in each other they trust one another. They want to play for one another."

It's not completely a shock that Fisher has maintained that line through the past three weeks - so far, he's used all of his go-to cliché's to describe Florida State and they all work. The Seminoles are 60 minutes away from playing for a national title and so far have strung together the most dominant season in FSU history. They're 72 points away from finishing with the highest point total in NCAA history. They lead the nation in interceptions. FSU could be just the third team in NCAA history to win all of its games by 14 or more points.

And while Saturday's game would seem a perfect opportunity for a slip-up against a Duke team that's shown a propensity for gutting out close games, FSU seems to have put that trend to bed. Even though Duke has knocked off Miami and Virginia Tech, again and again this season, FSU has dominated opponents - including the less-ballyhooed ones that have plagued the Seminoles in recent years.

This is what we prepared for," senior linebacker Telvin Smith said. "This is where we knew we'd be. I've been a part of this team a few years now and a lot of times you say this and that and it doesn't end up happening. … This time I feel there's no lack of confidence in any one person. Even the managers and the trainers."

If that consistency holds true Saturday, FSU will be going to a national title game. Winston will win the Heisman. And the circus of the past three weeks will be just a footnote. All FSU has to do is win the game Saturday.



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