ACC: NCF

Numbers back Winston winning Heisman

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
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Heading into Saturday’s 2013 Heisman Trophy ceremony, it’s seemingly a foregone conclusion that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will take home the award. The advanced metrics support Winston as a winner, and recent precedent based on these metrics shows it should be pretty lopsided.

College football Total QBR data goes back to 2004 (as far back as we have play-by-play data), and there have been seven Heisman-winning quarterbacks since that year. All of those ranked in the Top-8 in opponent-adjusted QBR prior to the Heisman ceremony (i.e. not including the bowl games), with each of the last five quarterbacks winners ranked in the Top 3.

But there’s actually another QBR-related statistic that correlates more strongly with winning the Heisman in that span – points above average (QB PAA, or just PAA).

While QBR is designed to measure per-play efficiency, PAA – which is calculated from QBR – measures total production above an average quarterback (QBR of 50), taking into account both efficiency and overall usage.

The relationship between PAA and QBR is similar to that between yards and yards per attempt, where one is a cumulative total and the other is on a per-play basis.

To simplify, QBR measures how efficient a quarterback is, while PAA measures how productive a quarterback is relative to an average quarterback with the same amount of action. It makes sense that the more productive players, in terms of points added, should get preference for end-of-season awards based on the total value provided to the team over the course of the year.

A quarterback with a lower QBR than someone else but more action plays could have contributed more points above average than his counterpart because he was involved in more of the offense. For example, Johnny Manziel ranks sixth this year in opponent-adjusted QBR, but moves to third in opponent-adjusted PAA because he had many more action plays than three of the guys ranked above him in QBR.

Of those seven Heisman-winning quarterbacks since 2004, each ranked in the top seven in Opp Adj PAA entering the bowl season, with four of the last five winners being tops in that category.

The only exception was Robert Griffin III, who trailed Russell Wilson in PAA prior to the Heisman ceremony in 2011.

Winston ranks No. 1 in FBS with +102.9 Opp Adj PAA to go along with his top ranking in opponent-adjusted QBR.

The three previous quarterbacks to rate as both the “most efficient” and “most productive” quarterback going into the Heisman ceremony since 2004 all won the trophy by a fairly wide margin, so it’s reasonable to think Winston will do the same.

Williams breaking tackles, records for BC

November, 26, 2013
11/26/13
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Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsAndre Williams has been a dominant running back this season.
Boston College is in midst of a resurgent season. It is one of four FBS teams that have already won five more games than last season and is bowl-eligible for the first time since the 2010 season.

After last season, the Eagles had nowhere to go but up. They finished 2012 with a 2-10 record, their worst winning percentage since losing a school-record 11 games in 1978.

To right the ship, Boston College hired Steve Addazio as their new head coach. Addazio has implemented a power-running scheme that heavily features senior running back Andre Williams.

With 263 yards Saturday against Maryland, Williams became the 16th player in FBS history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season and the first since Connecticut’s Donald Brown in 2008.

With two games to go -- against Syracuse and a bowl game -- Williams has already set Boston College’s single-season rushing record, eclipsing Mike Cloud’s 1,726 yard season in 1998.

What makes him so good
Williams has gained 958 of his FBS-leading 2,079 yards after contact, 254 more such yards than any other running backs from a BCS automatic-qualifying (AQ) conference. Only 35 FBS players have more total rushing yards than Williams has after contact. Williams has broken 28 tackles this season, seven more than any other AQ running backs.

Williams has accomplished this despite opposing defenses focusing on stopping him. Boston College’s opponents have put an average of 7.9 players in the box on Williams’ carries, the most among any AQ running back with at least 75 rushes.

Williams has 41 more rushes against eight or more defenders in the box than any other AQ running back. In such situations, he has gained 7.0 yards per rush and scored 15 of his 16 touchdowns, the most such touchdowns by any AQ running back.

Accolades abound
Williams's 263 rushing yards last week against Maryland was his lowest output in his last three games. Three weeks ago, he set the school-record for rushing yards in a game with 295 against New Mexico State and then broke it a week later with an ACC-record 339 against North Carolina State.

He is the only player in the last 10 seasons to have three straight games with at least 250 rushing yards. In fact, there have only been five other occurrences in which a player has had three straight 200-yard games during the last 10 seasons.

Williams has accounted for 51 percent of BC’s total yards this season, the highest rate for any FBS running back in the last 10 seasons. It is also almost 20 percentage points higher than any other FBS running backs this season.

Finally, consider this: Williams has more rushing yards than 78 FBS programs have as a team.

Looking ahead
If Williams gains his average in the next two games, 188.5 rushing yards per game, he would total 2,450 rush yards for the season. That would rank third in FBS history behind Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State in 1988 and Kevin Smith of UCF in 2007.

Williams jumped from 11th to second in the latest ESPN Heisman Watch. He will look to be the sixth 2,000-yard rusher to win the Heisman trophy and first since Ricky Williams won it in 1998.

Florida State, Hundley among best of week

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
1:30
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Getty ImagesBrett Hundley (left), Jordan Lynch (middle) and Taylor Kelly (right) all starred last week.

Week 10 featured an impressive offensive performance by Florida State, a dominant defensive outing by Michigan State and a Hail-Mary touchdown as time expired for Nebraska.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best individual and team performances of Week 10.

Best Individual Performances
Brett Hundley posted a Week 10-high 97.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in UCLA’s 45-23 win against Colorado. He completed 19-of-24 passes (79 percent) and was responsible for four touchdowns. In his previous two games combined, both losses, Hundley completed 64 percent of his passes and had more turnovers (4) than touchdowns (3).

Jordan Lynch had a 96.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in Northern Illinois’ blowout victory over Massachusetts. He had 279 yards of total offense and was responsible for five touchdowns in the win. In the last three weeks, Lynch leads the FBS in rush yards (534), 15-yard rushes (15) and expected points added (31.1 EPA) by a quarterback.

Taylor Kelly posted a 95.6 opponent-adjusted QBR in Arizona State’s 55-21 win at Washington State on Thursday. He was responsible for seven touchdowns in the win, tied for the most by a player this season. In addition to his scoring, Kelly converted 6-of-11 third-down chances.

Jameis Winston had a 94.6 opponent-adjusted QBR in Florida State’s 41-14 win against Miami (FL). He converted 6-of-8 on third-down plays and had seven completions of 20 yards or longer. In his three games against top-25 opponents, Winston has a 95.6 opponent-adjusted QBR and has led Florida State to three wins by an average margin of 42.3 points per game.

Explaining Connor Shaw’s Total QBR:
Connor Shaw threw for four touchdowns and had no interceptions in South Carolina’s 34-16 win against Mississippi State but had an opponent-adjusted QBR of only 44.0. Why? Shaw did not convert any of his seven third-down pass attempts and took a 13-yard sack when the game was tied. He also completed only 1-of-7 passes in the second quarter when the game was still close.

Best Team Performances
Offense-- Florida State added 23 expected points on offense towards its 27-point victory over Miami (FL).

The Seminoles gained 517 total yards of offense and scored 41 points against a Miami defense that ranked in the top 12 in scoring defense entering the game. Florida State converted 11-of-15 third downs, including 9-of-10 chances in the first three quarters.

Defense-- Michigan State added 23 expected points towards its 23-point victory over Michigan on defense.

That means that if the Spartans had an average defense (EPA of 0), and all else remained the same, the two teams would have been equal. The Spartans held the Wolverines to -48 rushing yards, their fewest in school history, and had seven sacks in the game.

Special Teams--UCLA added seven expected points on special teams by controlling field position and recovering an on-side kick.

UCLA kick returner Devin Fuller had three kickoff returns that gained least 30 yards. As a result, the Bruins’ average drive started on their own 41, 16 yards closer to the goal line than Colorado’s average drive started.

For a look at the teams with the best EPAs in 2013, check our Football Power Index page here

Looking at Nebraska’s Hail-Mary TD
Nebraska QB Ron Kellogg III threw a 49-yard Hail-Mary touchdown to Jordan Westerkamp as time expired to give Nebraska a 27-24 victory over Northwestern on Saturday.

According to ESPN’s win probability model, Nebraska had a 2.8 percent chance of winning before the touchdown, meaning that the play increased Nebraska's win probability by 97.2 percentage points. That is the largest increase in win probability for any play this season.

The chart below shows the massive jump in win probability from that play.

Next week features three matchups of top 15 opponents as No. 10 Oklahoma heads to No. 6 Baylor on Thursday, No. 5 Stanford hosts No. 3 Oregon (9 ET, ESPN) on Thursday and No. 13 LSU travels to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. There's the potential for more last-second finishes, as all three of these matchups finished within eight points last season.

Is Miami this year’s Notre Dame?

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
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Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsMiami has needed 4th quarter comebacks in its last two wins to remain unbeaten.

No. 7 Miami (FL) enters its Week 10 matchups with No. 3 Florida State undefeated and looking to jump into the BCS National Championship conversation.

The Hurricanes needed two fourth-quarter comebacks in their last two games in order to remain undefeated. In both of those games, they had less than a 25 percent chance of winning at one point in the fourth quarter, according to ESPN’s win probability model.

Miami’s win against Wake Forest was its third win by seven or fewer points, which brings up the question, “Could Miami be this year’s Notre Dame?”

Last season, Notre Dame won five games by seven points or fewer en route to its 12-0 record entering the BCS National Championship.

The Fighting Irish had a difficult schedule, but also failed to dominate some of their lesser opponents. Notre Dame’s average margin of victory against its unranked FBS opponents was 18.6 points compared to 35.9 for Alabama last season.

Further, their average in-game win probability ranked ninth in the FBS entering the BCS National Championship, meaning that despite winning all of their games they were not dominant in those wins. In-game win probability measures the chance that a team has of winning across all of its plays.

Miami currently has the 18th-best average in-game win probability, but has faced only one ranked opponent. Adjusting for strength of schedule, Miami’s in-game win probability rank falls to 34th, according to ESPN’s win probability model.

Another potential similarity upcoming
Arguably, Notre Dame’s biggest win of last season came at No. 8 Oklahoma in its eighth game of the season. The Irish entered the game as double-digit underdogs, and, like Miami, they needed fourth-quarter comebacks in their previous two games against Stanford and BYU to remain undefeated.

Miami enters its eighth game of the season as more than a three-touchdown underdog at Florida State. The Hurricanes’ offense was slowed in its last two games, and it will face a Florida State defense that has held its last two ranked opponents to 14 combined points.

One of the keys to Notre Dame’s win against Oklahoma was its run game. The Irish gained 179 yards and all three of their touchdowns on designed runs. They were able to control the clock and keep Landry Jones off the field.

Look for Miami to employ a similar plan Saturday. In the fourth quarter of its past two games, Miami ran the ball on 76 percent of its plays and averaged 99.5 rush yards.

They scored all four of their fourth-quarter touchdowns on the ground in those two comebacks. If Florida State has a weakness, it is its run defense; the Seminoles lead the nation in pass defense, but rank 29th in rush defense.

Florida State has scored a touchdown on 52 percent of its drives, second best in the FBS. If Miami is able to keep them off the field, the Hurricanes might be able to continue their unbeaten season.

FSU domination goes beyond final score

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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Earlier today, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher discussed how voters should judge the Seminoles’ blowout of North Carolina State last Saturday.

In the 49-17 win, Fisher sat his starters for nearly all of the second half after Florida State ran up a 42-0 halftime lead. Asked after the game if he'd missed a chance to earn some style points in the eyes of voters, Fisher said he refused to coach based on the polls.

"I'm not going to go out there and embarrass this game and the integrity of how you've got to play," Fisher said. "If that's the way they're going to do it, they need to reevaluate. If they can't tell we dominated that game early and put it away -- I just think that's bad for college football, in my opinion."

Fisher has a point. Florida State scored touchdowns on its first five possessions and was up 35-0 just 13 minutes into the game, never looking back on the way to an easy victory.

Though the Seminoles were technically outscored 17-7 in the second half, at no point was victory even remotely threatened. Would running up the score to earn “style points” and impress voters really have said anything more about Fisher’s team than the dominating first half already did?

This is where using the final score to evaluate a team’s performance can break down. As anyone can tell you from watching games, not all seven-point wins are created equally. In the case of Florida State against NC State, a 32-point blowout actually understates how dominant the Seminoles were in the game.

A better way to look a team’s dominance or control over an opponent is to look at how their chances to win evolve throughout the game.

Based on play-by-play data from FBS games going back to 2004, ESPN Stats & Information has a win probability model that can do exactly that: take into account the situational factors (time, score, field position, down, distance, etc.) and determine the percentage chance each team has of winning the game at that point.

As the touchdowns piled up early on, Florida State’s chance of winning quickly rose to 80 percent, then 90 percent, then 95 percent, and never really dropped from there. The graph of their average win probability on each play in the game shows just how quickly it got out of hand.



Florida State’s average win probability for that game was 94.9 percent, meaning that on an average play in that game, the Seminoles had about a 95 percent chance of winning. That value is not only the highest average win probability by any team in any game this year, but the second-highest in the more than 7,500 FBS games play-by-play data exists for over the past 10 years.

While the final score wasn’t indicative of one of the biggest blowouts of the year, watching the progression of the game in Tallahassee shows that Florida State “dominated that game early and put it away" about as much as any team has in any game.

In the near future, ESPN Stats & Information will be releasing a team rating system that goes beyond wins and losses to judge teams’ résumés. But it does not explicitly incorporate the final score, instead using this measure of average in-game win probability as a more thorough way to judge how well a team performed on every play in every game.

With the emphasis on how a team approaches winning or losing on every single play, there’s very little incentive to run up the score when the game is already in hand.

So Coach Fisher can rest easy knowing that he won’t have to worry about extra style points to get his team its due for a truly dominant performance like last Saturday.

NC State a trap game for Florida State?

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
10:55
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Getty Images, AP PhotosJameis Winston (left) will try to succeed where E.J. Manuel (middle) and Christian Ponder (right) failed.

On Saturday, Florida State had arguably the best win of any team this season, routing then-No. 3 Clemson 51-14. The Seminoles are 6-0 for the first time since 1999, when they went 12-0 and won the national championship.

Coming off its win over Clemson in Death Valley, Florida State returns home to face what appears to be an easy game against a North Carolina State team that is winless in ACC play. Not so fast...

The Wolfpack have given the Seminoles trouble in recent years. The last four times an AP-ranked Florida State team played an unranked NC State team, the Wolfpack have pulled off the upset.

2012: NC State def. 3 Florida State 17-16
Florida State was 5-0 entering the game in Raleigh last season. The Seminoles jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead, but were shut out after halftime. Mike Glennon passed for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. EJ Manuel finished with a 33.2 Total QBR, his lowest in any ACC start in his career.

2010: NC State def. 16 Florida State 28-24
Florida State entered the 2010 game 6-1, with its only loss coming at Oklahoma. The Seminoles led 21-7 at halftime, but were unable to contain Russell Wilson in the second half. Wilson had two of his career-high three rushing touchdowns after halftime. Christian Ponder, like Manuel last season, struggled in the second half, committing two turnovers and completing less than half of his passes.

2006: NC State def. 17 Florida State 24-20
Florida State had won three of its first four games when it traveled to Raleigh for a Thursday night game in 2006. Daniel Evans, making his second career start for the Wolfpack, threw three touchdowns and his Total QBR of 69.3 was his highest in any game. Drew Weatherford struggled in the fourth quarter for the Seminoles, completing 4 of 8 attempts for 32 yards with an interception on the final play.

2005: NC State def. 9 Florida State 20-15
Florida State was 7-1 when unranked NC State arrived in Tallahassee in 2005. NC State dominated this game on the ground, outrushing the Seminoles 196-43, including 179 rush yards by Andre Brown.

Weatherford had one of the worst games of his career, throwing three interceptions, two of which were on Florida State’s final two drives. He finished with a 9.3 Total QBR.

The common theme for the Seminoles in those four losses was below-average quarterback play. Their combined Total QBR was 29.7 and they had the same number of interceptions (5) as touchdown passes (5).

Quarterback play should not be an issue for the Seminoles this time around with Jameis Winston under center.

Winston is third in the nation in opponent-adjusted QBR (92.5) and is one of three FBS players who have had a Total QBR of at least 75 in all of their games this season. NC State has allowed an opponent-adjusted total QBR of 64.3 this season, the second-worst among ACC teams.

In other words: the challenge may be greater for NC State this time around.

Winston, Florida State among best of week

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
1:10
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Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY Sports
Jameis Winston threw for a career-high 444 yards in Florida State's blowout win over Clemson.
Week 8 featured upsets and surprises as nine ranked teams lost, including five at the hands of an unranked opponent. Louisville, Texas A&M and Georgia all had more than a 90 percent chance of winning midway through the third quarter before blowing double-digit leads. Conversely, Clemson, LSU, UCLA and Florida never held a lead Saturday.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the Week 8 action.

Best individual performances
Marcus Mariota had a 97.4 opponent-adjusted QBR in Oregon’s 63-28 win against Washington State. He completed 10-of-12 passes and ran for a touchdown in the first quarter. As a result, his Total QBR never fell below 95 in the game. Mariota leads the nation with a 96.6 opponent-adjusted Total QBR this season.

Jameis Winston posted a 97.0 opponent-adjusted QBR after throwing for a career-high 444 pass yards and accounting for four touchdowns in Florida State’s 51-14 win at Clemson. Entering the game, Clemson’s opponents had a Total QBR of 27, ninth-best in the FBS. Winston is the first player in the last 10 seasons to throw for at least 300 pass yards and three touchdowns in each of his first four conference games.

Bryce Petty had a 96.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Baylor’s 71-7 win against Iowa State. He has posted an opponent-adjusted Total QBR of 75 or higher in all of his games this season. No other player in the FBS can make that claim (minimum five games played).

AJ McCarron posted a season-high 95.3 opponent-adjusted QBR in Alabama’s 52-0 rout of Arkansas. McCarron completed 71 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and his Total QBR never dipped below 85 in the game.

Explaining Jordan Lynch’s Total QBR:
Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch set the FBS single-game record for rush yards by a quarterback (316), but his Total QBR was ONLY a 85.5. Why? QBR is a rate stat, meaning it measures efficiency.

Lynch gained 471 yards of total offense, but he was involved in 62 passing or rushing plays (7.6 yards per play).

To put that into perspective, Mariota, the nation’s leader in opponent-adjusted QBR, is averaging 10.3 yards per play this season. Furthermore, Lynch threw a costly interception from the Central Michigan 15-yard line with the score tied. That interception decreased Northern Illinois’ win probability by 12 percentage points and took 3.5 expected points off the board.

For a full list of Total QBR leaders for the season and Week 8, click here.

Best team performances
Offense-- Florida State gained 565 yards of total offense and scored 51 points Saturday against Clemson. The Seminoles’ offense added 25.3 expected points in the game, meaning they contributed about 26 net points towards their 37-point victory. Adjusted for the strength of Clemson’s defense, which had allowed 16.2 points per game entering Saturday, Florida State had the highest opponent-adjusted offensive EPA of Week 8.

Defense—Baylor’s average margin of victory this season is a ridiculous 48.5 points per game, and both its offense and defense deserves credit. On Saturday, Baylor held Iowa State to seven points and 174 total yards (2.9 yards per play). As a result, its defense added 27.5 expected points, the most for any defense in Week 8. Overall, the Bears lead the nation in both offensive and defensive expected points added this season.

Special Teams—Alabama blocked a field goal and forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half of its 52-0 win against Arkansas. The Tide’s special teams unit contributed 12.1 expected points, the most of any team in Week 8. Alabama is averaging 5.8 expected points added per game on special teams this season, most of any team in the FBS.

Looking ahead to Week 9

Oregon hosts UCLA (7 PM ET, ESPN) on Saturday in a game that will feature one of the top offenses in the nation looking to continue its success against one of the Pac-12’s best defensive units.

Oregon has scored at least 45 points in each of its first seven games of the season. They are the first major college football program to do that since Harvard in 1887. UCLA, which has the second-best scoring defense in the Pac-12 (19.2 PPG), hasn’t allowed more than 27 points in a game this season.

Tune in on Saturday to see of the Bruins can slow the Ducks offensive pace and jump back into the BCS discussion.

Stat your case: Mariota or Winston?

October, 22, 2013
10/22/13
11:15
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AP Photo, Getty ImagesMarcus Mariota and Jameis Winston have been nearly flawless in 2013.
With his dominant performance against Clemson, Jameis Winston has jumped into Heisman contention.
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After 8 weeks, which QB deserves to win the Heisman more?

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In the latest ESPN Heisman Watch, Winston and Marcus Mariota are the top two Heisman candidates.

After eight weeks, who deserves to win the Heisman?

Why Mariota should win the Heisman
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is averaging 363 yards of total offense and has accounted for 28 touchdowns this season. He ranks in the top five of most statistical categories without even attempting a pass in the fourth quarter in five of Oregon’s seven games.

Mariota is a threat on the ground and through the air; he is the only player in the FBS that is averaging at least 10 yards per rush and 10 yards per pass attempt. Similarly, he is the only player that has at least 15 pass touchdowns and seven rush touchdowns.

When passing the ball, Mariota does not turn the ball over. He has an FBS-high 197 pass attempts without an interception. In comparison, Winston has thrown three interceptions in 157 attempts. Dating back to last season, Mariota has thrown a Pac-12-record 265 passes without an interception.

When running, Mariota implements the zone read to perfection. The Ducks have called a zone-read play on 56% of their carries and have averaged 7.5 yards per rush on such plays. When Mariota keeps the ball, Oregon averages 13.7 yards per rush and has six touchdowns. It is unfair to compare Winston to Mariota on this type of play because Florida State rarely runs a zone read. However, it is important to note that Winston is averaging 3.1 yards per rush and has three rush touchdowns compared to 10.1 yards per rush and nine rush touchdowns for Mariota.

As a result of his offensive efficiency noted above, Mariota leads the nation in opponent-adjusted QBR (96.6). The leader in opponent-adjusted QBR in three of the last six seasons went on to win the Heisman, including Johnny Manziel last year.

-Sharon Katz

Why Winston should win the Heisman
Heisman winners generally play well in their teams’ most important games, and Jameis Winston has had his two best games of the season against top-25 opponents.

Against No. 3 Clemson and No. 25 Maryland, Winston averaged 418.5 pass yards per game and accounted for nine total touchdowns. Florida State won by a combined 100 points in those games.

He is averaging 380.8 pass yards in four career ACC games with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions. He is the first player in the last 10 seasons to pass for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns in each of his first four conference games.

Winston makes crowd-pleasing plays. He averages 5.7 completions per game of at least 20 yards, the fourth most in the FBS. He completes an AQ-high 61.8 percent of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer. That is about 12 percentage points higher than Mariota and at least 11 percentage points higher than each of the last three Heisman winners during their Heisman-winning seasons.

Winston also does not get rattled by pressure. He is completing 71.2 percent of his passes when opponents send five or more pass rushers, the fourth-highest percentage among BCS AQ quarterbacks. Winston ranks second among AQ quarterbacks in yards per attempt (12.5) and touchdowns (9) on passes against the blitz.

-- Rob Nelson

These quarterbacks will have several chances to separate themselves the rest of the season. Mariota will face back-to-back top-15 opponents as Oregon faces No. 12 UCLA and No. 6 Stanford in its next two games. Winston will take on North Carolina State, which handed the Seminoles their first loss of the season last year, followed by No. 7 Miami.

Who has the edge at QB in FSU-Clemson?

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
9:53
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Getty Images, AP Photo
Jameis Winston (left) and Tajh Boyd (right) will go head-to-head this Saturday.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd entered the season as one of the Heisman favorites after being named ACC player of the year last season. He broke his own school records in pass yards (3,896) and pass touchdowns (36) while leading the Tigers to their first 11-win season in more than three decades.

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Boyd was responsible for 46 touchdowns last season, seven more than the previous ACC record. He finished with the fourth-highest opponent-adjusted Total QBR (81.8) in the FBS.

Boyd has picked up right where he left off last season. In six games, he is responsible for an ACC-high 20 touchdowns and has just two turnovers.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was a bit of an unknown to start the season. He was the former No. 1 recruit in the ESPN 150, but the redshirt freshman had yet to take a snap on the FBS level. It did not take Winston long to adjust.

He started his career by completing 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in a nationally televised win against Pittsburgh and has not slowed down since.

Winston is the only quarterback in the FBS to rank among the top five in Total QBR (91.7 Total QBR), completion percentage (73.2), and passing yards per attempt (11.7). He has been responsible for 19 touchdowns, which is one more than Boyd had through five games this season.

Entering this top-5 matchup between Clemson and Florida State, which team has the edge at quarterback?

Downfield passing
Winston is completing 68.3 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer, best among BCS AQ quarterbacks (min. 15 attempts).

Winston has at least six completions and has completed at least half of his passes of this distance against every FBS opponent that he has faced.

In comparison, Boyd is completing a lower percentage of his passes, but leads all AQ quarterbacks with 10 touchdowns on passes of this distance. He now has 27 touchdowns on passes thrown 15 yards or longer since the start of last season, four more than any other AQ player.

Handling pressure
Winston is completing 69.6 percent of his passes when opposing teams bring five-or-more pass rushers this season, the fifth-highest percentage among BCS AQ quarterbacks (min. 30 attempts).

Boyd has struggled against added pressure, completing 57 percent of passes against five-or-more rushers, which is five percentage points lower than last season and one point below the AQ average.

Both of his interceptions this season have come against the blitz.

Dual-Threat rushing
Boyd has rushed for 187 yards and five touchdowns this season after rushing for 514 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. Boyd has been hard to bring down. He has gained the fourth-most yards after contact (449) and has the second-most third down conversions (37) of any AQ quarterback since the start of last season.

Winston has gained 135 yards on the ground, but has only once gained more than 25 yards in a game. On third down, Winston has more taken four sacks and converted just two rush first downs. However, Winston has the advantage scrambling. He has 34 more scramble yards than Boyd despite attempting 10 fewer scrambles. Overall, Winston has scrambled for 128 yards and is averaging an ACC-high eight yards per scramble this season.

Third down
Winston has converted a first down on 67 percent of his pass attempts this season, tied with Johnny Manziel for the highest percentage in the FBS. Winston ranks third in both Total QBR (99.1) and yards per attempt (12.4) on third down this season.

Boyd has a 77.0 Total QBR on third down, and he is converting a first down on 38 percent of his pass attempts. He is responsible for an ACC-high five touchdowns on third down and has not turned the ball over in 68 third-down passing or rushing plays.

Conclusion
The numbers seem to favor Winston. He has the fourth-highest opponent adjusted QBR (91.3) in the FBS this season. That is 17.4 points higher than Boyd, who ranks 40th.

Yet, one thing that the numbers cannot account for is how Winston will react in the biggest game of his life thus far. Clemson will be the first team ranked in the top 20 that he has faced. Boyd had been here before, most recently in wins against Georgia in the season opener and against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Who do you think has the edge at quarterback? Vote in our poll and share your thoughts in the comments.

Winston's hot start has FSU among elite

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
10:39
PM ET
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJameis Winston had five passing touchdowns against Maryland.
Jameis Winston has Florida State on its way possibly to its best season of the 21st century.

The redshirt freshman has been quite impressive in his first five games as the Seminoles' starting quarterback.

Winston had five passing touchdowns against Maryland, the most by a Florida State quarterback since Christian Ponder had five in 2009 against Georgia Tech.

Winston now has 17 passing touchdowns, the most by anyone in a player's first five career games over the past 10 seasons.

Winston joins Boise State’s Kellen Moore as the only FBS players over the past 10 seasons with a QBR of at least 75 in each of their first five career games.

In three ACC games, Winston has a 93.6 Total QBR, has completed 76 percent of his passes, and is averaging 360 passing yards per game with 13 passing touchdowns and one interception.

Heisman hopeful
How does Winston compare to past Heisman winners in their first five games of the season? He has more touchdowns responsible for (passing and rushing touchdowns) than Johnny Manziel (2012) and Cam Newton (2010). And he has fewer turnovers (two) than any of the past three Heisman winners –- Manziel, Robert Griffin III (2011) and Newton.

The rout was on
Winston’s superb play led the Seminoles to a dominant victory over No. 25 Maryland 63-0.

Florida State's 63-0 win over Maryland is tied for the largest margin of victory over a ranked team since the AP Poll began in 1936. In 1997, UCLA beat No. 11 Texas, 66-3.

It’s the largest margin of victory by any team in an ACC conference game.

It’s also the largest shutout win ever by Florida State over a ranked team.

The 5-0 Seminoles are idle next week before clashing with undefeated No. 3 Clemson on Oct. 19 at Death Valley.

Live chat: GameDay Thursday

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
11:00
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com college football experts as they preview Week 7.

Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

Don't forget to send us your best tailgate pictures of your food, friends and family all week long @ESPNCFB and get your photos in our GameDay Live chat Saturday morning. Here are our previous tailgates.

Tigers' big plays test FSU streak of no TDs

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
5:30
PM ET
College GameDay travels to Tallahassee this weekend for the second top-10 showdown of the season, when the fourth-ranked Florida State Seminoles host the 10th-ranked Clemson Tigers at 8 ET Saturday night on ABC.

This is the ACC’s chance to take center stage on national television. The winner of this game likely emerges as the conference’s best (and only) threat to play in the BCS National Championship Game, as Virginia Tech’s loss last week to Pittsburgh took the Hokies out of contention.

These teams have met every year since 1992 -- the year Florida State joined the ACC. What started as a lopsided affair has turned in Clemson’s favor. Starting in 1992, Florida State won 11 straight meetings. Since then, Clemson has won six of the nine meetings, including a 35-30 victory last year.

Seminoles dominating ‘D’
Florida State has outscored its three opponents this season 176-3, by far the best point differential in FBS this season. The Seminoles are the first team since Texas Tech in 2005 to win three straight games by at least 50 points each.

Florida State’s defense has been absolutely dominant. Among teams that have played three games, FSU is the only one to not allow a touchdown this season. The Seminoles have also forced 22 “3 and Outs” in 42 opponent drives, the most of any team.

The Tigers powerful offense will be the toughest test yet for the Seminoles defense. Clemson is averaging nearly 40 points per game and has had 17 plays that gained 25 yards or more this season, tied for the most in FBS.

Andre Ellington is averaging an ACC-best 109 rush yards per game and has gained more yards after contact (199) than Florida State has allowed total rush yards (101) this season. Ellington has also broken for seven runs of 10 yards or longer this season, which is five more than Florida State has given up in three games.

Clemson’s dynamic duo
Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins have combined for more than 2,500 yards receiving and 21 touchdown catches since the start of last season. Hopkins stepped up in the absence of Watkins at the start of this season, catching 26-of-29 targets for 319 yards and four touchdowns.

Since 2011, Watkins has been dynamic after the catch, gaining more than 60 percent of his yards after the catch, including 105 against Florida State last season. Hopkins has been more reliable moving the chains, converting 20 more first downs than Watkins.

Stats of the game
Florida State is looking for its first 4-0 start since 2005, when it went on to win the ACC and play in the Orange Bowl. Winning their first four games used to be common for the Seminoles. From 1990-2005, they had a 4-0 start 13 times. They haven’t done it since.

Clemson is looking to start 4-0 in back-to-back seasons. The last time Clemson started 4-0 in back-to-back seasons was more than 70 years ago – in 1940 and 1941.

Live chat: GameDay Live

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
8:00
AM ET
Join our ESPN.com college football experts for a Saturday morning tailgate party. Where are you watching the game today? Who's joining you and, most importantly, what's on the menu? Tweet at @ESPNCFB with your Saturday morning gameday pictures and we'll publish the best ones while we talk all things college football.

Send your pictures, thoughts and comments starting at 10 a.m. ET. See you there.

Blitz could be key vs. Hokies QB

September, 3, 2012
9/03/12
3:00
PM ET
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesVirginia Tech QB Logan Thomas accumulated 3,482 yards of total offense last season.
When Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech face off tonight at 8 ET on ESPN, it will be all about the quarterbacks.

QUARTERBACKS

This game showcases two of the premier dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington. Both players accounted for double-digit touchdowns passing and rushing last season, a feat accomplished by only 11 players in FBS in 2011.

Thomas became only the second quarterback in Virginia Tech history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season and broke the school record with 3,482 yards of total offense.

But Thomas struggled throwing downfield early last season. In the first five games, he completed 22.9 percent of his passes that traveled 15 yards or more and he didn’t have a touchdown. During the last nine games, Thomas more than doubled his completion percentage on passes of this length, and he threw at least one touchdown in six of eight games.

Blitzing could be a key for the Georgia Tech defense. Thomas completed fewer than half of his passes when opponents sent five or more pass-rushers last season. In Virginia Tech’s three losses, Thomas threw two interceptions in 23 attempts when blitzed.

Thomas’ biggest strength is his running. He rushed for a first down on 51.8 percent of his third-down attempts last season, the highest percentage for a quarterback with at least 30 rushes. On third-and-2 or fewer, Thomas converted 20 of 21 rush attempts, which also led FBS.

Washington led FBS with 11.0 yards per pass attempt in 2011. Ten of his 11 touchdown passes last season were for 25 yards or more and seven of them were for at least 50 yards. He’ll need to get acquainted with completely new targets this year though, because there are no receivers on the roster with a single catch in their college career.

Georgia Tech’s success is highly dependent on Washington’s success as a passer. During the team’s 6-0 start last season, Washington threw for 175.3 yards per game, 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The team then went 2-5 in its last seven games, and Washington threw for 85.7 yards per game, one touchdown and six interceptions.

BIG PLAYS FOR GEORGIA TECH

Since Paul Johnson’s first year as head coach in 2008, no team has been more effective in the running game than Georgia Tech. Running Johnson’s triple-option offense, the Yellow Jackets have averaged an FBS-best 302.0 rushing yards per game over the past four seasons. Last year, they ranked second in FBS with 316.5 yards per game on the ground.

Georgia Tech gained 20 or more yards on 35 of 167 pass plays last season, the highest percentage in FBS. Over the past eight seasons, no team passed for 20 yards or more at a higher rate than the Yellow Jackets. Overall, they gained 20 or more yards on 9.3 percent of their plays, the fourth-highest percentage in FBS.

Live chat: GameDay Thursday

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
11:00
AM ET
Take a look back at what our ESPN.com college football experts had to say as they examined the top 25, the Heisman darkhorses, conference power rankings and what to watch this opening weekend of college football.



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