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Fisher won't talk investigation, praises Winston with ACC on line

CHARLOTTE, NC -- It was suggested to Jimbo Fisher his own quarterback has obscured a rather underreported story in Tallahassee this week.

You know, the football thing.

Florida State is No. 1.

With a bullet, actually. First time in 13 years.

"Kind of makes it peaceful," Florida State's coach said.

Amid the info-carnage of the week that was, that fact absolutely has been lost. If not forgotten. And maybe it should have been. But between Saturday's upset of Alabama, the reshuffling of the BCS and the ongoing drama regarding that quarterback, one football fundamental remains.

FSU is the best team in the country. You might not have noticed. But that's clear now. It leads the nation in scoring defense (replacing Alabama). It hasn't trailed in a game at any point since Sept. 28. The opponent that day, Boston College, is the only to finish within two touchdowns of the Noles.

Barring what now we know would be a football-related upset, Jameis Winston is going to win the Heisman. The ACC championship game here Saturday night almost serves as a template for analyzing the national landscape.

It's Florida State vs. Whoever Comes Out Of The BCS Mess. The ACC title game almost seems like an inconvenience for those not invested in either of the two participants. The Noles are 29-point favorites.

"As long as it's not the people on our team predicting that," Duke coach David Cutcliffe joked.

The Noles are such prohibitive favorites that health is almost even with victory as primary objectives. Winston and those Heisman hopes to depart Bank of America Stadium -- intact -- as soon as possible.

The BCS title game was exactly a month away as of Friday.

"This team," Fisher said, "only has a one-year life expectancy so they better hurry up."

Despite warning from a media proctor about "football questions only," FSU's coach was surprisingly expansive about his quarterback. When he took the podium at a Friday press conference, it had been 23 hours since a Florida state attorney decided not to bring charges in Winston's sexual assault case.

"I won't bite," he told reporters during a lull in the questioning.

Jimbo spoke of Winston's "remarkable maturity level" and ability to "compartmentalize" these few weeks. The coach quickly followed by saying, "not that anything was [taken] lightly or he didn't take it seriously."

Since the accusations became public last month, Winston has played some of his best football, completing 67.5 percent of his passes to go along with nine touchdowns and one interception.

"He did not let his individual situation affect his team," Fisher said. "and to me, that's what a man does. Just like when people have issues in life and you're the head of the family … I always tell our kids, 'You want to be treated like a man, act like a man.'"

The manhood thing will go back to be tested in the comparatively unimportant -- considering recent events -- football field.

In the 18 previous meetings -- all won by FSU -- Duke has been within 20 points once (a 25-6 loss in 2007). The only place where Coach Cut seemingly has the advantage is in ACC coach of the year voting. More than 60 media members participated. The coach of the nation's No. 1 team got one vote.

The result seems so preordained that, at one point Fisher was asked Friday how he keeps his team focused for this game.

"To win your own conference championship," he said, "if you can't get focused on that, we have an issue."

Yeah, well, there's that. The Seminoles are dominant. They've got All-Americans all over the field. The receivers alone might be the best set in the country.

Saturday is about not screwing up a sure thing. Las Vegas has deemed that FSU would be a clear favorite in any championship game matchup except with Alabama. And the Noles would have to lose for the Tide to get in.

It's seldom been about the ACC with them. The Seminoles always expect to play for something higher. Yes, those 13 previous conference titles are nice but the claim can be made: Florida State is an ACC member but considers itself a national program.

They'll be expected to prove it again Saturday night.

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