Now that quarterback Jameis Winston won’t face sexual assault charges, the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles can focus their sole attention on the No. 20 Duke Blue Devils and Saturday night’s ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
On Thursday afternoon, the Florida State Attorney’s office announced the Heisman hopeful Winston will not be charged with sexual assault, almost a year after the complaint was first filed. The news means Winston will be available to play on Saturday and in any future bowl game.
Duke earned their first ever appearance in the ACC title game with a narrow 27-25 win over North Carolina last week, containing the rival Tar Heels to two third-down conversions and forcing two interceptions, including the third interception of the year by freshman cornerback DeVon Edwards in the closing seconds.
In 12 games this year, Winston’s hogged the national spotlight with 3,490 passing yards and 35 touchdowns to eight interceptions, and has guided Florida State to a perfect 12-0 record and their first No. 1 ranking in 13 years.
While Winston’s contributions have received the most adulation this year, the Seminoles phenomenal defense has put together a terrific season. Overall, the Seminoles are allowing a miniscule 153 passing yards and 11 points per game. Freshman defensive back Nate Andrews headlines the country’s top-ranked pass defense with four of the team’s 23 interceptions, and sophomore P.J. Williams leads the team with eight passes defended and another two picks.
The Seminoles are also third in the country on third down with opponents converting a mere 29.5 percent of the time. One more victory will clinch Florida State’s first national title game berth since 2001, when the school fell to Oklahoma 13-2. It was the last of three consecutive championship trips for the Seminoles.
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams have combined for 1,502 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns behind Winston, and receiver Kelvin Benjamin leads the Seminoles with 12 receiving touchdowns.
At 10-2 thanks to an eight-game win streak, including victories over ranked Virginia Tech and Miami, the Blue Devils have posted their best season in nearly 20 years. Back in 1994, Duke finished 8-4, earning a trip to the Wisconsin Hall of Fame Bowl.
After missing a month with a broken collar bone, junior quarterback Anthony Boone returned in October and led Duke to seven of their eight straight wins. In nine games this year Boone’s completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 1,695 yards and 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
After Boone went down, junior Brandon Connette took over under center tossing 13 touchdowns to six picks. But Connette has proven just as effective rushing the ball, scoring 13 of the Blue Devils 24 rushing touchdowns.
Boone will take on the nation’s best secondary with the ACC’s best receiver lining up beside him. Junior Jamison Crowder hauled in 88 receptions for 1,131 yards and seven touchdowns, four of which came in the Blue Devils last two wins.
The Duke defense has also put up a solid year, ranking 37th in the country giving up 23 points per game. Senior defensive end Kenny Anunike leads the squad with six sacks, sophomore safety Jeremy Cash has recorded four interceptions, and senior corner Ross Cockrell is second in the ACC with 15 passes defended.
Betting Odds: Florida State favored by 28.5 points
Over/Under: 62 points
Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Prediction: Florida State 40, Duke 17