Florida State vs. Duke: 10 Things We Learned in the 2013 ACC Championship Game

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2013

Florida State vs. Duke: 10 Things We Learned in the 2013 ACC Championship Game

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    Florida State overcame a sluggish start against Duke to capture the ACC title in dominating fashion, 45-7.  Despite being held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time all season, the Seminoles, led by ACC Championship Game MVP and Heisman Trophy front-runner Jameis Winston, dismantled a Duke Blue Devils team that simply didn't have the horses to keep up.

    Florida State is now assured a spot in the BCS National Championship Game as the only undefeated team in the FBS, finishing 2013 with a perfect 13-0 record.  While Auburn is widely expected to meet Florida State in Pasadena for the BCS title game, we won't learn the Seminoles' opponent for sure until Sunday night's selection show.

    But in the meantime, here are 10 things we have learned already about the 2013 ACC champions, the Florida State Seminoles.

Jameis Winston Is Human

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    If you only read a box score of the 2013 ACC Championship Game, you might think that it was "business as usual" for Jameis Winston and the Seminoles offense.  The reality, however, wasn't quite so vanilla.

    Winston had a rough first quarter and even encountered some bumps in the road later in the game as well.  For just the second time this season, Winston threw multiple interceptions while being held off the scoreboard in the first quarter for the first time in 2013.

    Sure, Winston and the Seminoles are leaps and bounds better than anything Duke could throw at them.  And maybe there's something to all of the off-field distractions Winston had to deal with this week.  But regardless of the reasons or eventual outcome, it's clear that Winston isn't as infallible as everyone once thought.

    Instead, he's human—and a freshman, at that.

Defense Is Still Inexplicably Overlooked

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    Defense wins championships, right?  Then why is it that all of the credit seems to be directed toward Florida State's offense?

    Here's a number we're going to throw at you: 10.7.  That's the number of average points given up by the nation's best scoring defense this season through 13 games.  And, yes, that stat belongs to the defense of Florida State.

    With so much talent giving up so few points this season, why isn't there more talk about this Seminoles defensive unit?

Florida State Is a Safe Bet

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Las Vegas is a great place for many things: getting married in a hurry, taking in a show, bachelor parties or betting on the Florida State Seminoles, minus the points.

    Florida State has covered the spread—even spreads as ridiculous as Saturday night's 29.5 points—in 11 of 13 games this season, according to VegasInsider.com.

    There aren't a ton of "sure things" in the world these days, but it seems the Seminoles are about as close as it comes.

Karlos Williams Is an Increasingly Important Part of the Offense

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Karlos Williams may not carry the ball as much as players like Devonta Freeman or even Jameis Winston himself, but with his big, muscular, Big Ten-esque running style, it's becoming more and more clear with each passing game that Williams not only is a big part of the run game, but also opens up passing options, too.

    Williams is a really big running back.  His ability to power through a linebacker or juke a corner makes him an extremely potent weapon.  But it's his ability to take pressure off of the Florida State passing game that really makes him dangerous.

    With Williams in the backfield, opposing linebackers aren't free to roam the field, sniffing out passes or crashing down in a pass rush.  Instead, they have to stay home in run coverage, allowing Winston to take advantage of the reduced pressure either up front or in coverage.

Jimbo Is Well Worth the Extra 5 Years

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    As Florida State began to run the score up on Duke, word broke about Jimbo Fisher and Florida State agreeing on a five-year contract extension, per Tom D'Angelo of The Palm Beach Post.

    Great move by FSU, especially given the way Fisher has not only rebuilt the program in a very short span, but also handled adversity and success, seemingly all at the same time.

    With a trip to the BCS National Championship Game, we're pretty confident most FSU fans will agree with this smart move by the Florida State athletic department.

FSU Is Loaded with Young Talent

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Much of the reasoning behind our conviction that the contract extension for Fisher is a good move by Florida State is the fact that he's been able to load the roster with top-notch Florida and Southern talent right from the start.

    While Jameis Winston is the obvious example, it goes beyond the quarterback position, too.  Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is just a sophomore, and there are plenty of freshman prowling the field on defense for the 'Noles.

    ACC title runs and a trip to the BCS National Championship Game will only help recruiting, and with Miami and Florida seemingly on the skids, Fisher may have the talent-oozing state of Florida on lockdown before long.

    Could a new FSU dynasty be brewing in Tallahassee?

Athleticism Allows for Infinite Scheming

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    There are few states in the country—many would argue none—that can produce top-tier college football recruits like Florida.  And there clearly isn't a school in the nation that has a better pick of the litter than Florida State.

    The Seminoles' athleticism and pure, unadulterated talent was on full display against Duke.  While powerful runs, speedy receivers and a ball-hawking secondary are obvious examples of this talent disparity, a more subtle difference also emerged.

    Florida State possesses not only a lot of talent, but also the right mix of the right kinds of talent to alter its game plan and complete style of football on the fly.  While we've seen just how deadly the FSU passing attack can be this season, the Seminoles are clearly capable of running the ball at will with a host of talented running backs who run the spectrum from speedsters to bruising fullbacks.

    If the pass game doesn't kill you, Florida State opponents have all found out that something else surely will; Duke was only the latest victim, and Auburn—or anyone else—could be the next target.

The Biggest Test Is Yet to Come

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    OK, so Duke was a nice little story this season.  The Blue Devils certainly had one of the best, if not the best, season in the 125-year history of Duke football.  And an ACC Coastal Division Championship is nothing to sneeze at.

    But it's plain to even the most casual of observers that Florida State is just on another plane of existence than the rest of the ACC—or anyone else the Seminoles have faced this season.

    Much has been made by SEC fans and BCS pundits about FSU's relative lack of schedule strength this season.  The saving grace for the Seminoles has been the fact that they're simply knocking the teeth out of every team they face.

    But Auburn—the likely opponent for FSU in the BCS National Championship Game—is of a different ilk.  The Tigers aren't a pushover from the ACC's cadre of one-dimensional teams or the various nonconference opponents like Nevada or Bethune-Cookman.  Heck, this won't even be like facing Florida, which, although a member of the SEC, clearly didn't play like an SEC team this season.

    Now is when the going really gets tough, and now is when we'll finally see once and for all if this Seminoles team really measures up to the class of the SEC.

BCS Bound, BCS Ready

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    Almost from the get-go, Florida State seemed to be in the hunt for a BCS berth.  Along the way, we've seen some pretty spectacular play from the Seminoles, and it's clear that they are one of the very best teams in the nation.

    Florida State has done everything asked and more.  The 'Noles don't just beat teams; they demolish them.  The only thing left to do is earn another BCS victory—and this time, it'll be for the coveted crystal football.

National Championship Game Ready?

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    Florida State participated in the first-ever BCS title matchup, so it seems almost fitting that the Seminoles will complete the BCS era as a participant in the final BCS title bout.

    But we're left wondering how well prepared Florida State is for the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.  We've mentioned just how weak Florida State's schedule has been this season.  Sure, the 'Noles have demolished pretty much every team this season, but against that level of competition, would Auburn have done the same?

    Florida State will face one of the nation's top rushing attacks in Auburn, and the Florida State defense will be pushed to the breaking point.  While we're fairly confident Florida State will be able to find a way to score points against the SEC champion—as the SEC decided that defense was optional in 2013—we're wondering just how many points the Seminoles will need to score to stay in front of the Tigers.

    Being the only 13-0 team in the nation has its rewards.  But do you think that Florida State truly has what it takes to go 60 minutes with the best the SEC has to offer?

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