Stats & Info: Clemson Tigers

Duke likely to beat UNC, BPI says

March, 7, 2014

AP Photo/Gerry BroomeESPN's Basketball Power Index gives Jabari Parker and the Duke Blue Devils a 77 percent chance of winning against North Carolina Saturday.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index rates teams using a system that takes into account factors such as the pace of a game, margin of victory, game site and absence of key players.

In addition, BPI can be used to make projections of each team’s chance of winning a specific matchup. The team with the higher chance to win according to BPI has won about 73 percent of the time this season.

Here is a preview of five matchups for the final weekend of the regular season, examined using information produced by BPI (through games of March 6):

BPI No. 27 North Carolina at 9 Duke (9 PM Saturday, ESPN)
BPI Projection:
Duke 77 percent likely to win

is coming off its worst performance of the season based on BPI Game Score, a 37 (on a 0-to-100 scale) in its 82-72 loss at Wake Forest on Wednesday. That game was two months after Wake Forest beat North Carolina 73-67.

North Carolina has won 12 games in succession, but the three most recent victories (by one point over North Carolina State, four points over Virginia Tech and two points over Notre Dame) were against opponents outside the BPI Top 70 and earned Game Scores in the high 70s, compared with Game Scores in the 90s for the first nine games of the Tar Heels’ streak.

The Blue Devils have the third-best home-court BPI this season (behind Kansas and Arizona), whereas North Carolina ranks 34th in road BPI.

BPI No. 44 Baylor at 49 Kansas State (1:30 PM Saturday, ESPN3)
BPI Projection
: Kansas State 62 percent likely to win

Kansas State would be the first team out if current BPI ratings determined the NCAA field; Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology has the Wildcats as a No. 8 seed. Baylor, a No. 9 seed in Bracketology, is the fifth-lowest team in BPI currently projected for a tournament spot.

What does home court mean to Kansas State? In their six Big 12 series against opponents in the BPI Top 60, the Wildcats have won at home and lost on the road. These teams played Feb. 15 in Waco, Texas, where Baylor won 87-73 in two overtimes. Since losing to Oklahoma on Feb. 8, Baylor has been 6-1 (six of the games against Top 100 teams) with all six wins earning BPI Game Scores of at least 94.

BPI No. 17 Pittsburgh at 52 Clemson (4 PM Saturday, ESPN3)
BPI Projection:
Pittsburgh 57 percent likely to win

Clemson would be the third team out of the NCAA field, if it were determined solely on current BPI ratings. Although the Tigers have two losses to teams outside the BPI Top 100 (Wake Forest and Auburn), they were by a combined seven points. This game represents a chance for them to improve on their 3-7 record against BPI Top 50 teams.

Pittsburgh, unranked in The Associated Press poll and a projected No. 10 seed in Bracketology, would be a No. 5 seed if the NCAA field were determined by current BPI ratings. The disparity arises in part from factors BPI considers, such as final scoring margin; five of the Panthers’ losses to Top 30 teams have been by a combined 15 points.

BPI No. 10 Kentucky at 2 Florida (12 PM Saturday)
BPI Projection:
Florida 78 percent likely to win

In their first meeting, Florida won by 10 in a relatively slow 59-possession game in Lexington, Ky. That game earned the Gators a 99.3 Game Score, their second-best of the season. Florida has the fourth-best home-court BPI this season.

Although Kentucky is 3-2 since that Feb. 15 loss to Florida, the losses were by a combined nine points. Eight-loss Kentucky is No. 25 in the AP poll and a seven seed in Bracketology. Of the Wildcats’ losses, all but the one to Florida have been by five points or fewer.

BPI No. 14 Michigan State at 16 Ohio State (4:30 PM Sunday)
BPI Projection:
Ohio State 64 percent likely to win

Of its 30 games, Michigan State has been at full strength for 13, the fewest of any BPI Top 75 team.

Considering games when teams have been at full strength (having all five of its top players based on minutes played), the Spartans rank seventh in BPI. Michigan State is first and Ohio State second among BPI Top 20 teams as measured by inconsistency.

In their last six games, the Buckeyes have had three Game Scores of less than 70 and three greater than 93.

All eyes on Watkins at Clemson Pro Day

March, 6, 2014

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsSammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd keyed the Clemson Tigers' success this past season.
Plenty of scouts will put pencil to paper today as they check out Clemson’s Pro Day.

Teams looking for help at wide receiver need look no further than the Tigers’ Sammy Watkins – who was a big-time play-maker during his collegiate career. Of his 27 career receiving touchdowns, 21 came on plays of at least 25 yards.

The average pass thrown to Watkins this past season traveled just 4.7 yards downfield. As his career has gone forward, Watkins has been targeted closer and closer to the line of scrimmage.

In 2013, Clemson did whatever they could to get him the ball, targeting him behind the line of scrimmage 65 times last season, 14 more than any other AQ player.

At the NFL Combine, Watkins measured 6’1” and ran a 4.43 second 40-yard dash. That combined with his production in college was enough for Scouts, Inc. to rank him as the fourth-highest player on the board. Todd McShay and Mel Kiper are in agreement that he is the best wide receiver available – with both projecting him to go at No. 5 to the Oakland Raiders.

Watkins’ quarterback Tajh Boyd was a consistent performer in college as well and finished his career as the ACC leader in 300-yard games, touchdown passes and touchdowns responsible for.

Boyd also showed improvement each season as his yards per attempt and completion percentage climbed in each successive year.

The deep ball was one of Boyd’s specialties as he completed 54.7 percent of passes of at least 20 yards. That ranked highest among all BCS-AQ quarterbacks – nearly five percentage points better than the next two closest: Blake Bortles of UCF and Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Although he was productive in college, Boyd’s height is one reason why he is just the 11th-ranked quarterback according to Scouts Inc. 54 players threw at least 20 passes in the NFL last season, and just seven of them were 6'1" or shorter. Of course one of those was Russell Wilson – who recently won the Super Bowl.

Power runs make Buckeyes go

January, 3, 2014
Two of the top offenses in the country collide in the Discover Orange Bowl tonight (8:30 ET on ESPN), as Ohio State and Clemson look to cap off their seasons with a BCS bowl win.

Yesterday we detailed how Clemson’s dynamic passing attack could dominate a struggling Ohio State pass defense.

Ohio State counters with a similarly prolific offense, built instead around a bruising ground game. How have the Buckeyes been so successful running the ball and can Clemson stop them?

Ground and Pound
The Buckeyes run on over 60 percent of their plays, ranking among the top 15 teams in FBS.

No team has been more efficient on the ground than Ohio State, averaging an FBS-best 7.0 yards per game.

The key to Ohio State’s rushing attack is its ability to gain yards up the middle. The Buckeyes have rushed for 2,432 yards inside the tackles this year, nearly 500 yards more than any other school from a BCS automatic qualifying (AQ) conference entering bowl season.

The offensive line has also been dominant in opening up holes for the Buckeyes, who average 4.5 yards per rush before contact, the highest rate among AQ teams.

Carlos Hyde leads the OSU rushing game, averaging a Big Ten-high 141 yards per game. He has been one of the nation’s most consistent backs, gaining at least five yards on an FBS-best 61 percent of his carries.

Following the Buckeyes’ tendency to pound the ball up the middle, Hyde has done most of his damage inside the tackles. Hyde is averaging 7.4 yards per rush to that location, and has gone for over 100 yards inside the tackles in three of his last four games.

Quarterback Option
Hyde is not the only Buckeye who dominates on the ground. Braxton Miller has proven to be among the best dual-threat quarterbacks this season, as one of four FBS players with at least 1,500 pass yards and 1,000 rush yards this season.

Relying on Miller’s rushing skills and decision-making, the Buckeyes have been one of the most effective teams this season using the read option.

Only three schools have gained more rushing yards on zone-reads than Ohio State, and its average of 7.7 yards per rush is the highest among BCS-AQ schools with at least 100 zone-read rushes this season entering bowl season.

Miller seemed to find his legs during an off week before Ohio State faced Illinois on Nov. 16th. Miller has topped 100 rushing yards in all four games since then, including an average of 75 yards on zone-reads, while averaging more than nine yards per rush.

Clemson's Challenge
Clemson will be challenged to stop Ohio State’s punishing rushing attack, despite the fact that it has generally been effective stopping the run, allowing 3.7 yards per rush (fourth-best in ACC).

The Tigers struggled to contain two of the league’s best rushing teams, giving up a combined 571 yards against Syracuse and Georgia Tech. Clemson showed its vulnerability up the middle against those squads, with 304 of those 571 yards coming inside the tackles.

Clemson also was no match for one of the nation’s most read-option-heavy teams in Syracuse. The Orange torched them for 205 yards on 21 zone-read rushes, an average of 9.8 yards per rush.

BCS player to watch: Tajh Boyd

January, 2, 2014

Tyler Smith/Getty ImagesTajh Boyd is looking for one more celebratory moment in his college career.
In the final game of his record-setting career, Tajh Boyd will face Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl. Boyd currently holds the ACC career records for passing touchdowns (102) and touchdowns responsible for (127). He ranks second behind NC State’s Philip Rivers (13,484) in passing yardage. He is 31-8 as a starter and has led Clemson to three straight 10-win seasons for the first time since 1990.

In the Orange Bowl, Boyd is a player to watch not only because it is the final game of his storied career, but also because he could put up big numbers against an Ohio State defense that has struggled to stop the pass.

Ohio State’s pass defense ranked 102nd in the FBS entering bowl season, allowing 259.5 yards per game. Each of Ohio State’s past three opponents have thrown for at least 300 yards, combining for nine touchdowns and one interception.

The Buckeyes have been especially vulnerable against the deep ball. In conference games, opponents completed 39 percent of their passes thrown 20 yards or longer against Ohio State, seven percentage points higher than the Big Ten average. Connor Cook completed 3-of-5 such passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the Big Ten Championship.

Boyd leads all quarterbacks from BCS automatic-qualifying conferences in completion percentage on throws of 20 yards or longer and has thrown 14 touchdowns and two interceptions on such passes. Since the start of last season, Boyd’s 29 touchdowns on 20-yard throws are seven more than any other BCS-AQ quarterback.

Sammy Watkins is another reason that Boyd may have a big game. Watkins has 1,237 receiving yards and is averaging 14.6 yards per reception this season. He leads all AQ receivers with 836 yards after the catch and 30 receptions with at least 10 yards after the catch.

Ohio State has allowed the most yards after the catch in the Big Ten (1,875), and 10 different teams have gained at least 100 yards after the catch against the Buckeyes.

Look for Boyd to target Watkins on screen passes; the Buckeyes are allowing a Big Ten-worst 7.5 yards per reception on screens.

The mixture of downfield efficiency and yards after the catch have led to big passing plays against Ohio State, particularly late in the season. In their past four games, the Buckeyes have allowed 7.8 completions per game of 15 yards or longer.

That would have been the worst average in the FBS if sustained over an entire season. Boyd is averaging 6.8 completions of 15 yards or longer this season, and only Fresno State’s Derek Carr (280) has more total 15-yard completions than Boyd (263) over the past three seasons.

Boyd is looking to become the fourth different quarterback to throw for 300 yards against the Buckeyes this season. In the previous seven seasons combined, Ohio State allowed just three 300-yard passers. If Boyd can reach the 300-yard mark, it will give him 18 for his career, tying Philip Rivers for the most such games in ACC history.

There is one more record that Boyd can set in the Orange Bowl. With a win against Ohio State, Boyd will have 32 wins as a starting quarterback. That would tie the Clemson record set by Rodney Williams from 1985 to 1988.

The bowl winners will be ...

December, 19, 2013
With bowl season upon us, we can project the winners of the 35 Football Bowl Subdivision bowl games using the Football Power Index.

FPI is a predictive measure of team strength that uses the elements of team offensive, defensive and special-teams performance (adjusted for opponent) that correlate most with future results.

We can use each team’s FPI and the site of the game (all bowl games are treated as neutral) to calculate the expected point differential in a matchup and the percentage chance of each team winning.

In prior years, FPI has done reasonably well in projecting bowl winners (taking the team with the higher chance as the “winner”), getting about 65 percent of games right since 2004.

There have been some lean years in the past, but FPI has been quite good in the three most recent bowl seasons, accurately projecting 70 percent of winners in those games.

FPI takes into account only a team’s on-field performance to date in the given season. It doesn’t explicitly take into account players who are out with injuries or for other reasons, coaching movement before the bowls or differing levels of motivation that are sometimes thought to exist in bowl games.

In the 2013 regular season, starting with games on Sept. 26, FPI accurately projected 74 percent of winners.

FPI believes there to be a very clear favorite (80 percent or more to win) in four of the five BCS matchups, with Ohio State and Clemson as the most evenly matched BCS opponents.

The projections for all 35 bowl games this season are below. A couple of things that stand out:

The two most-lopsided matchups, according to FPI, involve a Pac-12 team facing a Big 12 opponent from Texas. FPI has Oregon as 91 percent likely to defeat Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl and Arizona State as 91 percent likely to beat Texas Tech in the National University Holiday Bowl.

The most-even matchup, according to FPI, is Kansas State versus Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, with the teams separated by a little more than a point in FPI (the Wildcats are 53 percent favorites). The closest “high-profile” bowl game is the AT&T Cotton Bowl between Oklahoma State and Missouri, with the Cowboys 54 percent likely to win, according to FPI.

The Vizio BCS National Championship is the only bowl game with both teams ranked in the top 10 in FPI. Three other games involve two FPI top-20 teams: Wisconsin-South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl; Oklahoma State-Missouri in the Cotton Bowl and Ohio State-Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.

BCS bowl games at a glance

December, 8, 2013
The final BCS standings were released Sunday along with matchups for all of the remaining bowl games. Here are some tidbits to prepare you for the five BCS games.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
4 Michigan State Spartans vs 5 Stanford Cardinal
January 1, 2014, at 5 ET on ESPN

Michigan State: First Rose Bowl appearance since the 1987 season and its first appearance in a BCS bowl. The Spartans have reached a bowl game in all seven seasons under head coach Mark Dantonio after making no bowl appearances from 2004-06.

Stanford: Second consecutive appearance in the Rose Bowl (def. Wisconsin 20-14 last season). The Cardinal are making back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances for the first time since 1970-71. Stanford has reached a BCS bowl in four straight seasons after making just one from 1998-2009.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
15 UCF Knights vs 6 Baylor Bears
January 1, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN

UCF: First BCS bowl berth in school history. Won 11 games this season, tied for the most in school history (also won 11 in 2010).

Baylor: Like their opponents in the Fiesta Bowl, the Bears receive their first BCS bowl berth in school history. Baylor looks to extend a school-record 11 wins this season to 12 in this game.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
11 Oklahoma Sooners vs 3 Alabama Crimson Tide
January 2, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN

Oklahoma: Ninth BCS bowl appearance, second-most all-time. The Sooners are 3-5 in BCS bowl games, snapping a five-game losing streak with a win in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl vs Connecticut.

Alabama: Third straight BCS bowl appearance and fifth in the last seven seasons under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide will make their first Sugar Bowl appearance since the 2008 season (lost to Utah in that game).

Discover Orange Bowl
12 Clemson Tigers vs 7 Ohio State Buckeyes
January 3, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN

Clemson: First BCS bowl appearance since 2011, when the Tigers played in the Orange Bowl. Those two games mark the only BCS bowls in school history. Speaking of history for the Tigers, they will make a school-record ninth straight appearance in a bowl game.

Ohio State: Tenth BCS bowl appearance, most all-time. The Buckeyes will make their first Orange Bowl appearance since the 1976 season against Colorado. Their last BCS appearance came in a 2011 Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas.

Vizio BCS National Championship Game
1 Florida State Seminoles vs 2 Auburn Tigers
January 6, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN

Florida State: After beating Northern Illinois in last year’s Orange Bowl, the Seminoles return to a BCS bowl game. It marks their first back-to-back BCS bowl appearances since 2002-03. This will be their first BCS Championship Game appearance since 2000 and fourth overall.

Auburn: Second BCS Championship Game appearance, first since winning the national title over Oregon in the 2010 season. This marks the third BCS bowl appearance for the Tigers, who are unbeaten in such games thus far.

Top stats to know: BCS standings Week 3

November, 3, 2013
A look at the most significant notes to come from this week’s BCS Rankings:

Alabama, what more can it do?
Alabama is No. 1 in the first three BCS standings for the second straight year. The only other teams to be ranked No. 1 in the first three releases in back-to-back years were Oklahoma in 2002-03 and Ohio State in 2006-07.

Looking ahead to next week, only Ohio State in 2006-07 was ranked No. 1 in the first four standings in back-to-back years.

Florida State moves up
Florida State moved up from No. 3 to No. 2. The only other time Florida State was ranked in the top 2 in at least two of the first three BCS releases was in 1999, when they were No. 1 in every standings en route to their national championship.

This is the 14th time Florida State has been in the top 2. All other ACC schools have combined for three top-2 weeks. The 17 weeks in the top-2 by ACC teams is by far the fewest among automatic-qualifier conferences.

Big Pac-12 matchup to come
Oregon fell from No. 2 to No. 3 but faces a big test this coming week in No. 5 Stanford on Thursday night (9 pm ET, ESPN). This will be the second BCS top-5 matchup between Pac-12 teams. The other was on October 28, 2007 when fifth-ranked Oregon beat fourth-ranked Arizona State, 35-23

A big win, but no gain for Ohio State
Ohio State is the first team to be ranked exactly No. 4 in each of the first three BCS standings.

The Buckeyes are ranked in the top 5 in three straight weeks for the first time since the final three standings of 2007.

Saturday's 56-0 win over Purdue was the largest shutout win by any BCS-ranked Big Ten team since the BCS began in 1998, and the second-largest win of any kind by a BCS-ranked Big Ten team, behind only Wisconsin’s 83-20 win over Indiana in 2010.

Another matchup of note: Baylor vs. Oklahoma
Oklahoma becomes the first school to be ranked in the BCS top 10 in 70 different weeks.

Thursday night’s matchup with No. 6 Baylor will be just the second time the Big 12 rivals will meet as BCS ranked teams. The only other time came in 2011 when No. 22 Baylor upset No. 5 Oklahoma, 45-38. That was also the last time the two teams met in Waco and is Baylor’s only win in 22 all-time meetings with Oklahoma.

A first for the Tigers
Clemson moved up from No. 8 to No.7. This is the first time in school history that the Tigers have been in the top 10 in three straight weeks.

Top stats to know: FSU at Clemson

October, 18, 2013

Jeff Gammons/Getty Images
This is the first meeting among 27 in their history where Clemson and Florida State are top-five teams.

Saturday will be the 27th meeting between Clemson and Florida State dating back to their inaugural meeting in 1970, and the first where both teams are ranked in the top five.

The last six times they’ve met as ranked teams, Florida State has been the higher-ranked team, and FSU is 5-1 in those games.

You have to go back to before Florida State joined the ACC in 1992 to find the last time they met as ranked teams and Clemson was ranked higher: it was 1989 and Danny Ford’s Tigers beat Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles.

Our first top-5 matchup

Across the college football landscape, this game marks our first AP top-five matchup of the season. Last year we didn’t have our first top-five matchup until November 3 (Week 10) when No. 1 Alabama defeated No. 5 LSU.

Since the ACC added Florida State as a member in 1992, the conference has seen four top-five matchups:
  • 1997: No. 3 Florida State beats No. 5 North Carolina on the road, 20-3
  • 2004: No. 5 Miami (FL) beats No. 4 Florida State at home, 16-10
  • 2005: No. 5 Miami (FL) beats No. 3 Virginia Tech on the road, 27-7
Winston vs. Boyd
FSU’s Jameis Winston has posted an opponent-adjusted QBR of 91.7 this season, the third-best among FBS quarterbacks. He is the only quarterback in the FBS to rank among the top five in Total QBR, completion percentage, and passing yards per attempt.

But this will only be the third road game of Winston's young career, and it will be his first career game against a team ranked higher than 25th in the AP poll. He's up against a much more experience QB for Clemson.

Tajh Boyd has the luxury of being in this position already this season after Clemson beat No. 5 Georgia at home to open the season. He's shown his strength in downfield passing this season.

Boyd has an AQ-high 23 touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer since the start of last season. He's also completing 51.5 percent of those passes, good for fourth among BCS-AQ quarterbacks.

Barring injury, Boyd will pass Chris Weinke for third place on the all-time ACC passing yardage list this week. He also needs just three more touchdowns, passing or rushing, to tie Philip Rivers for the ACC career record. Rivers had 112 in his North Carolina State career, Boyd has 109.

Offenses and defenses measured per drive
Florida State is arguably college football's most efficient offense so far this season, leading FBS with 4.2 points per drive. That's just ahead of the Baylor Bears and Oregon Ducks, who rank second and third.

But Clemson's defense has been up to the task this season, allowing only 1.08 points per drive. That ranks 11th across the country, an improvement from last season's defense that ranked 49th in yielding 1.81 points per drive.

Who has the edge at QB in Clemson-FSU?

October, 15, 2013
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.


Who has the edge at QB on Saturday?


Discuss (Total votes: 16,926)

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.

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.

Play action key to Tajh Boyd's success

September, 1, 2013

Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports
Clemson’s Tajh Boyd runs in for one of his two rushing touchdowns in Saturday’s win against Georgia.
If you take out an 0-4 mark against South Carolina, Clemson has actually been pretty good against the SEC since Dabo Swinney took over as head coach in 2009, going 5-1 against all others.

Saturday’s win made it two straight games where Clemson beat a top-10 SEC team, following a win over No. 8 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season.

Tajh Boyd, in a performance that could kickstart a Heisman Trophy campaign, passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more. It was only the second time in his career he had multiple passing and rushing touchdowns.

Boyd completed 67 percent of his passes off play action, including all three of his touchdowns. Since the start of the 2011 season, more than half (35) of Boyd’s touchdown passes (69) have come off play action.

As for the Clemson receiving corps, Sammy Watkins led the way with six receptions for 127 yards, with much of that total coming on his 77-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

Like on that play, he did much of his work after the catch, racking up 102 YAC. It was the third time he topped 100 yards after the catch in his career, also doing so on consecutive weeks in September 2011 against Auburn and Florida State.

Watkins’ big-play potential was evident after his freshman season when he averaged 56.5 YAC per game, but his production dipped last season to 46.9 YAC per game. Saturday’s performance was a step toward erasing concerns about regaining his previous explosiveness.

Georgia-Clemson features elite QB matchup

August, 30, 2013
Getty Images Getty ImagesAaron Murray (left) and Tajh Boyd (right) are two of the top returning quarterbacks in college football.
Two of the nation’s top offensive teams will face off Saturday night, with the Georgia Bulldogs and Clemson Tigers matched up in the season’s first top-10 game (8 p.m. ET on ABC).

Fans will also get an early look at two of the nation’s top quarterbacks and Heisman candidates, Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd.

Georgia returns nine starters from an offense that averaged an FBS-best 7.1 yards per play last season, thanks in part to Murray, who was the only FBS quarterback to average more than 10 yards per pass attempt last year.

While most of Murray’s weapons return, he will need to adjust to playing without his best deep threat, Tavarres King. King caught more than 25 percent of Murray’s passes that went for 20-plus yards, and his 22.6 yards per reception was the highest among BCS-AQ players last season.

Without King, Malcolm Mitchell becomes a full-time receiver after splitting time between receiver and cornerback his first two seasons. Mitchell, Georgia’s second-leading receiver last season, did most of his damage on underneath passes, catching a team-high 16 of Murray’s completions that went fewer than 10 yards.

Wide Receiver Michael Bennett also returns from a torn ACL. Through five games prior to his injury, Bennett led the Bulldogs in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

Murray also needs to prove he can play well against quality competition.

In five starts against top-10 teams since 2011, Murray posted a QBR of just 17.2, 60 points worse than his mark against other opponents. In his only win - last season against Florida - Murray threw for just 150 yards with three interceptions.

Boyd needs to make big plays of his own to snap Clemson’s five-game losing streak against Georgia.

Boyd led FBS with 48 completions of at least 25 yards last season. But he will need to adjust to life without DeAndre Hopkins, who caught 20 of those passes. In fact, 28 of Boyd’s 36 touchdown passes were caught by players who will not suit up against Georgia.

Boyd will need to reconnect with Sammy Watkins. After a breakout freshman season, Watkins’s numbers dipped last year, particularly against top opponents. Watkins had a total of 61 receiving yards in two full games against ranked opponents (Florida State and South Carolina).

Those teams were successful because they limited Watkins after the catch. He averaged nearly six fewer yards after the catch against ranked teams compared to unranked foes.

Against Florida State, Boyd’s six completions to Watkins traveled a combined one yard behind the line of scrimmage and Watkins finished with just 24 receiving yards.

Can Georgia, which finished eighth in pass defense last season, stop Boyd this weekend? The unit must undergo an overhaul this season with seven starters lost and the team’s defensive MVP this spring, Josh Harvey-Clemons, suspended for Saturday’s game.

Tajh Boyd leads Clemson with efficiency

June, 24, 2013

Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTajh Boyd could be first Heisman winner in Tigers history.
The 2013 college football season has the potential to be one of the greatest quarterback classes ever. Eight of the top 10 teams in last year’s final AP Poll return their starting quarterbacks, and every conference except the Big 12 returns either their first- or second-team quarterbacks from last season.

In preparation for the 2013 season, ESPN Stats & Info will take a deeper look at the top QBs entering the fall. The list is built off of Phil Steele’s list of top QB units. Today we will look at Clemson’s senior QB Tajh Boyd.

A Look Back at 2012
Tajh Boyd broke his own school records last season with 3,896 passing yards and 36 passing touchdowns, leading Clemson to its most wins (11) since the 1981 championship season. He was responsible for 46 touchdowns, seven more than the previous ACC record. Over the past two seasons, no player has been responsible for more touchdowns than Boyd’s 84.

Boyd’s passing totals last season were similar to his 2011 numbers, but he was much more efficient. His completion percentage rose 7.5 percentage points to 67.2 percent and he led the ACC in passing efficiency.

A big reason why Boyd was more efficient in his junior season was he was responsible for an FBS-high 48 passes of 25 yards or more, 18 more than he threw as a sophomore.

Another area in which Boyd made strides was the running game. Boyd ran for 514 yards, an increase of 296 from 2011, and he doubled his rushing touchdowns in 2012.

Boyd’s legs played a critical role in extending Clemson’s offensive drives. The Tigers finished fifth in the nation in third down conversion rate at 51.5 percent, an increase of 8.2 percentage points from 2011. Boyd converted 28 of his 58 third-down rushing attempts into first downs (48.3%), as opposed to 9 of 39 in the previous year (23.0%).

What’s Ahead for 2013?
Boyd will have a chance to become the most established passer in ACC history. However, Boyd will be without DeAndre Hopkins, who was his favorite target last season. Hopkins ranked fourth in the nation in receiving yards (1,405) and set an ACC record for receiving touchdowns (18).

Boyd threw 130 of his 427 pass attempts in Hopkins’ direction. Sammy Watkins, the 2011 ACC Rookie of the Year, was second on the team with 79 targets.

When targeting Hopkins, Boyd had an 18-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In comparison, he threw three touchdowns and three interceptions when targeting Watkins in 2012.

Watkins missed three games at the beginning of the last season, but his lack of production in key situations was alarming.

DeAndre Hopkins is not the only receiver that will not be back. His top TE Brandon Ford and top RB Andre Ellington will both be in the NFL next season. Those three players combined for almost half of Boyd’s targets and three-quarters of his touchdowns.

The loss of this talent makes it even more important that Boyd re-establish a rapport with Watkins. Additionally, he must improve his ball control after turning the ball over 16 times last season.

His 16 turnovers were more than all but 14 players, and his 3.0 percent interception rate was 76th out of 111 quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts.

If Clemson is able to restock its skill position players and Boyd can take care of the ball, the Tigers could have their first ever Heisman winner.

Pac-12 rises to 2nd despite Oregon loss

November, 19, 2012
Despite two of its top five teams losing on Saturday, the Pac-12 has passed the Big 12 in the Stats & Info Conference Power Rankings.

The biggest difference between the Pac-12’s losses and Kansas State’s loss to Baylor is that Kansas State lost to an unranked opponent. As a result, Baylor did not pick up any of the 387 AP votes that Kansas State lost. In comparison, Stanford and UCLA gained a combined 308 AP votes and rose five spots in the AP poll with their victories. Those numbers cancel out Oregon’s fall from 1st to 5th in the AP Poll.

The Big 12 continues to be ranked first by the computers, but its lack of top-level teams has hurt the conference in the AP Poll. Both the Big 12 and Pac-12 have four teams ranked in the AP Poll, but the Pac-12’s teams are ranked comparatively higher.

Whether it is a matter of parity or a lack of top-level talent is unknown, but many of the Big-12’s top teams have been wildly inconsistent throughout the season.

West Virginia began the season 5-0 and ranked in the AP Top 5 before losing its next five games. Texas Tech began the season 6-1 before losing three of its next four games. Finally, Texas struggled at the start of conference play and has now won four straight games. This lack of consistency has led to fluctuations in the polls and the conference rankings.

Elsewhere in the conference power rankings, the SEC remains in first place after wins over seven FCS teams this week. The SEC now has five teams ranked in the AP Top 10 and six teams with two or fewer losses. No other conference has more than one team ranked in the AP Top 10 or four teams with two or fewer losses.

The WAC lost 5.9 points in the rankings after its top team, Louisiana Tech, lost on Saturday. Louisiana Tech was 9-1 entering the game and had a chance to represent the conference in a BCS Bowl game. The MAC, led by 10-1 Kent State and 10-1 Northern Illinois, has pulled within 1.9 points of the WAC for the top non AQ conference in the country.

Rivalry week begins on Thursday as nonconference foes face off with bragging rights on the line. Florida takes on Florida State, Notre Dame heads to USC, South Carolina faces Clemson and Georgia takes on Georgia Tech in notable nonconference matchups with BCS Bowl implications.

Tigers' big plays test FSU streak of no TDs

September, 20, 2012
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.

Clemson's deep options without Watkins

August, 24, 2012
The Clemson Tigers will be without standout sophomore wide receiver Sammy Watkins for their season opener against the Auburn Tigers at the Georgia Dome due to a suspension. Watkins burst on the scene as a freshman last season, leading the Tigers in receptions (82), receiving yards (1,219) and receiving touchdowns (12). Will the Tigers be able to overcome this loss in a tough opening test?

Led by Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd, Clemson’s high-powered passing attack finished 12th in the nation last season with 3,952 passing yards.

As the duo went, so did the Tigers. Boyd had 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions when targeting Watkins in Clemson’s 10 wins, but just two touchdowns and three picks when throwing to Watkins in the team’s four losses. (Watkins also missed one game, a loss to NC State.)
Watkins was sensational in Clemson’s matchup against Auburn last season. He hauled in 10 of 12 passes thrown to him for 155 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard touchdown reception.

He was Boyd’s best deep threat all season, targeted 25 times on Boyd's throws of at least 20 yards. One out of every five of those targets resulted in a touchdown.

Who steps in?
The numbers show Clemson will have a big hole to fill in the passing game, but the Tigers may have the depth to do so. Junior DeAndre Hopkins was second on the team last season with 70 receptions and finished just shy of 1,000 yards (952). Hopkins was also a downfield threat as he and Watkins combined for 16 catches on throws of 20 yards or more.

Another name to keep an eye on is 6-foot-5-inch sophomore Martavis Bryant. As a freshman Bryant had just nine catches, but showed big-play ability averaging 24.6 yards per catch with two touchdowns. Three of his nine catches were on throws of 20 yards or more from Boyd, including both of his touchdowns.

Other names to watch at wide receiver are Jaron Brown and Charone Peake. The senior Brown was a reliable receiver for Boyd last season, finishing fourth on the Tigers with 31 receptions. Peake had just four catches for 71 yards last season as a freshman, but the former No. 2 overall wide receiver recruit in 2011 may see more action.