CHARLOTTE — It was a long, emotional week for Florida State players, so you could understand why it took the Seminoles a little time to warm up on a chilly evening.
The team didn't know until Thursday whether quarterback Jameis Winston would be able to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.
The program cloud was lifted when State Attorney Willie Meggs ruled charges would not be filed against Winston in a sexual assault complaint filed last December.
Winston was clearly off his game in a scoreless first quarter but rallied top-ranked Florida State for a 45-7 victory that all but assured the Seminoles a trip to the Bowl Championship Series title game on Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl.
The Seminoles completed the regular season with a 13-0 record.
Winston started the game completing one of his six passes for 42 yards. By the end of the third quarter he had completed 17 of 29 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
This will be Florida State's first BCS championship appearance since its 13-2 loss to Oklahoma after the 2000 season.
Florida State won the second BCS title in 1999 with a thrilling win over Virginia Tech.
Duke did its best to play the spoiler but simply could not hold up against a physically superior team.
Duke actually had the first scoring chance but missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter.
Florida State took a 7-0 lead with 12:36 left in the half on Winston's 14-yard scoring pass to Kelvin Benjamin.
The Seminoles made it 14-0 later in the second quarter on Carlos Williams' 12-yard run.
Roberto Aguayo added a 45-yard field goal late in the quarter to give Florida State at 17-0 lead at the half.
Duke made things more difficult than most people expected, but the result was predictable.
The Seminoles added three more touchdowns in the third quarter, the last on a 17-yard run by Winston during which he hurdled over a Duke player into the end zone.
Florida State was a four-touchdown favorite and ran its all-time record against Duke to 19-0.
These Blue Devils were not the pushovers they have been in the past, but still it did not matter. Duke fell to 10-3 but has already secured its first 10-win season in school history.
Florida State moves on to play in the last BCS title game. Winston, in the meantime, will head next week to New York, where he is the leading-candidate to win the Heisman Trophy.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times