AA put some distance between herself and HD with the picks last week. HD admits she choked with the vaunted predictions trophy on the line, going 4-5 in Week 14. AA kept chugging, going 7-2 to open up a four-game lead on HD in the overall standings. AA stands at 85-23 as we head into the postseason. Seems like a pretty insurmountable lead at this point.
No headway to be made this week, either -- not when the easy choice to win the ACC championship game is Florida State. Here is how we both see the game playing out.
AA picks: Exactly zero media prognosticators had Florida State playing Duke in the ACC championship game when the season began. Of the 120 ballots tabulated, only 15 declared the Seminoles their preseason choice to win the ACC. That handful of voters will turn out to be right after Saturday comes to a close. Florida State is too talented and too deep to have much of a problem with the Blue Devils. Duke has been such a terrific story to watch unfold throughout the course of the season, and the Blue Devils do have some rising stars in Jamison Crowder, Kelby Brown, DeVon Edwards and Jeremy Cash. They deserve an inordinate amount of credit for turning around a moribund program. But they still have a ways to go to match the upper echelon not just in the ACC, but in the nation. Florida State lost 11 NFL draft picks off last season's team; Duke has had eight players drafted in the last 20 years. So you see the talent disparity. Duke has never beaten Florida State and has lost by an average margin of 34.5 points per game. The Blue Devils are a much better team than they were the last time these teams played last season. But the problem for Duke? Florida State is a much better team, too. Florida State 48, Duke 10.
HD picks: The magic ends here, where good meets great. Duke will play better than many expect, as it has an opportunistic defense and the ACC’s coach of the year, but it won’t be enough to overcome the matchup problems the Noles’ elite talent will create. This won’t be as ugly as it was last year during the regular season, but it won’t be pretty, either. Duke has recruited talent and speed, but not enough to match the likes of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin or quarterback Jameis Winston. Florida State will win the turnover battle, and Duke’s defense will give up too may big plays and struggle to get FSU off the field on third down. FSU has given up more than 17 points just once this season (to Boston College). Duke’s preparation, discipline and determination will get it to 20, but it will only be good enough for a moral victory. Florida State 45, Duke 20.
After Saturday’s ACC championship game, Joyner’s Florida State team will either be preparing to win a national championship or looking for explanations about how they let it all slip away in one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.
That, Joyner said, is a frightening proposition.
“Very scary, very intimidating,” Joyner said. “That’s so much pressure. And you have a Duke team that the whole country might be overlooking. But we can’t do that.”
For the seventh straight week, Florida State will take the field Saturday favored by at least three touchdowns. In each of the previous six, the Seminoles covered that spread with room to spare.
Few games have been close, and that’s now the knock from critics eager to find fault in Florida State’s easy schedule. But if the Seminoles learned anything in the past few seasons, it’s that those easy games are often the biggest traps, and this season has been a case study in how to avoid those distractions.
“This is what we’ve prepared for,” linebacker Telvin Smith said. “This is where we knew we’d be.”
Of course, there are ample distractions, the latest of which is the new No. 1 ranking beside Florida State’s name. It’s the first time the Seminoles have held the top spot in the BCS standings since 1999.
That means something, Joyner said. It just doesn’t mean they’ve arrived.
“It’s a great feeling to get what we earned, and I feel like we earned that,” Joyner said. “It feels good, but it’s not something you keep taking a glimpse at. You hear about it, you smile, and you keep going about your business.”
Business has been good for Florida State all season. Twelve games, 12 wins, all by at least 14 points -- the Seminoles have dominated each team they’ve encountered.
So what if those teams were overmatched from the outset, quarterback Jameis Winston said. All season, Florida State has preached that its biggest opponent is itself. The other team has no face, and the scope of the challenge is determined solely within Florida State’s locker room.
“When your team has the same goal in your mind, you become hungry for it,” Winston said. “You don’t become lackadaisical, like, oh, we’re almost there. It’s easier because we’re hungry. We’re like ‘Man, let’s get it.’ It’s a two-game season now. We’ve got to eat. We’ve got to work every day.”
For Winston, it’s about finishing a job he’s just begun. For Joyner and Smith, it’s the culmination of four years of tough lessons.
They’ve learned the hard way what underdogs can do, and they’re not interested in giving Duke a window to pull the upset.
“I know there’s a lot of people around the country with their fingers crossed waiting for us to fall,” Joyner said. “A lot of people can be riding on cloud nine and be overlooking these guys, but we’ve got to stay focused.”
Focus could’ve waned at any moment this season. There were plenty of opportunities. But through 12 games, Florida State has approached its business with a singular goal.
In the last 60 minutes before a potential berth in the BCS title game, that mindset hasn’t changed a bit.
“I’m not worried about what we're ranked and what we're doing. That'll all take care of itself,” Jimbo Fisher said. “What we need to focus on is preparing for a great game this week and playing a great game against Duke.”
2. The Big Ten Championship Game is a classic matchup of strength against strength, Michigan State’s old-school defense and Ohio State’s explosive offense (when the Spartans have the ball, make a fridge run). The Buckeyes rank in the top 10 in seven offensive categories. Michigan State ranks first or second in five defensive categories. Ohio State has played only one top-30 defense: Wisconsin. But the Buckeyes played well against the Badgers, scoring 31 points with a balanced attack. I don’t think Ohio State needs to score 31 to win Saturday night.
3. Marques Tuiasosopo is a 34-year-old assistant coach with a pedigree as a Huskies hero. He led Washington to a Rose Bowl victory in the 2000 season. He has done good work with current quarterback Keith Price. Under different circumstances, it’s conceivable that Tuiasosopo, whom Washington named as interim coach, could be seen as a genuine candidate to replace Steve Sarkisian. But the Huskies have closed a huge gap in the Pac-12 North. It seems as if athletic director Steve Woodward would want a veteran to help Washington catch Stanford and Oregon.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The prosecutor overseeing the investigation of sexual assault allegations against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston said Wednesday his office is ready to deliver its findings.
State Attorney Willie Meggs has scheduled a news conference at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday in his office to make the announcement. Meggs said investigators have learned as much as they can about the December 2012 incident.
"We think we have exhausted all investigative tools," he said.
Winston, who was named the ACC Player of the Year on Wednesday, has led the Seminoles to the No. 1 ranking, and they will play for a conference title Saturday, with a shot at the national crown.
The quarterback also is the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, and many voters are waiting to see whether Winston will be charged with a crime before casting their ballots. The deadline for Heisman ballots to be turned in is Monday.
ESPN has previously reported that DNA belonging to Winston was found in the underwear of the accuser. A lawyer for Winston has suggested that the star quarterback and the accuser had consensual sex. But the family of the victim has accused the 19-year-old of rape.
Meggs has said he wanted to make sure prosecutors completed a thorough investigation before making a final decision. He has also said several times that it's up to prosecutors to determine whether there is a "reasonable" chance of conviction.
The fact that Meggs has scheduled a news conference -- as opposed to getting a warrant for Winston's arrest -- could be seen as a sign that he will not file charges.
It’s championship week in college football, and the ACC could have what is considered to be the most lopsided contest of the weekend. No. 1 Florida State and No. 20 Duke meet in Charlotte for the ACC title.
In a few more seasons, this game might not have a 29-point spread in favor of the Seminoles. Coach David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils on the rise after leading them to their first double-digit win season in school history. Duke’s ACC Championship Game appearance coupled with Cutcliffe’s desire to finish his career in Durham has the Blue Devils poised to make a future splash in recruiting.
Before we take a look at the latest from the ACC, here's the most recent class rankings and BCS conference class rankings.
Trending up: A successful season usually impacts the next cycle of recruiting more than the current one as a large number of BCS schools have at least half of their spots filled by December. So Duke’s best season in school history should pay dividends in 2015 more so than 2014. After talking with several 2015 recruits from the state of North Carolina, many are looking at Duke more seriously. Three-star Corey Bell (Cornelius, N.C./Hough), who has offers from Duke, NC State and UNC, already has Duke as his No. 1 school. He won’t be the last North Carolina prospect to place Duke at the top in the coming months. Cutcliffe has a lifetime contract at Duke essentially, and his job security is on the level of Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. He’s not going anywhere. If the Blue Devils do not crack the top 40 in the class rankings in 2014, there is a very good chance it will happen in 2015.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
From the release:
Winston, a native of Bessemer, Ala., was the choice of 47 of the 65 ACSMA members casting ballots. Boston College running back Andre Williams placed second with 13 votes. Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald was named on four ballots, while Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, the 2012 ACC Player of the Year, received one vote.
Donald was voted the 2013 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, while Winston picked up the ACC Offensive Player of the Year award in addition to his overall honor.
Clemson, however, has been known to go out-of-state and land top receiver prospects such as Sammy Watkins. The Tigers might have lost out on Malone, but it’s not like they were left empty-handed.
Clemson already has commitments from ESPN 300 wide receivers Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), as well as Kyrin Priester (Snellville, Ga/Fork Union Military Academy).
The Tigers are also targeting another ESPN 300 prospect Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside) and they are considered, by many, to be the favorite for the talented pass-catcher.
In addition to Clemson, Malone was also heavily considering Georgia and Florida State before narrowing down his choices to Clemson and Tennessee late in the process.
For Georgia, the Bulldogs already have commitments from Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland) and Gilbert Johnson (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and they are limited on scholarships. Unless something changes on its recruiting board, Georgia might not take another receiver in this class.
Florida State, meanwhile, is still in heavy contention for ESPN 300 wide receiver Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) and Florida commit Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead). If FSU continues to have success on the field and happens to win the national championship, the Seminoles will likely see new names appear on their board.
The ACC on Wednesday selected Winston as both its overall and offensive player of the year one day after he was picked as rookie of the year.
Winston is the first redshirt freshman in the 61-year history of the league to win the overall award. He received 47 of 65 votes from members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Boston College running back Andre Williams had 13 votes, and Donald had four.
Winston has led the Seminoles (12-0, 8-0) to the top spot in the BCS standings and a berth in Saturday's ACC title game opposite No. 20 Duke (10-2, 6-2). He is the first Florida State player to win the overall award since Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke in 2000.
He leads the nation with a 192.6 pass efficiency rating and a 91.9 Total QBR. Winston also is tops in the ACC with 3,490 passing yards and 35 touchdown throws, and he's emerged as a leading Heisman candidate despite being embroiled in a high-profile investigation into an alleged sexual assault last December.