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Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Who has the edge at QB in Clemson-FSU?

By Sharon Katz & Tobin Petipas, ESPN Stats & Info

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.

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-five 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 rushing 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 8 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.