Stats & Info: Tajh Boyd

Gruden's QB camp: Tajh Boyd

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22

Robert Mayer/USA Today SportsTajh Boyd brings multiple skills to the quarterback position.

Tajh Boyd entered last season as a Heisman contender, but his stock took a hit following Clemson's 37-point loss to Florida State in October, and his poor showing in the Senior Bowl (7 for 61, 31 yards, interception) didn’t help.

He bounced back with a strong pro day in early March and, though he is not ranked in the top 10 QB prospects according to Mel Kiper Jr. or Todd McShay, he has impressed NFL scouts and could be a late-round pick in the draft.

In preparation for Jon Gruden’s QB Camp show with Boyd, below is an in-depth breakdown of Boyd’s greatest strength, his main area of improvement in 2013 and a cause for concern.

Greatest strength: Arm strength
Over the last two seasons, no other quarterback from a BCS-AQ school has more 30-yard completions than Boyd. And it's not just the high volume of long passes that Boyd throws; he is also the most accurate passer on deep balls of any BCS-AQ quarterback since 2012.

His accuracy might even be understated by those numbers in the chart to the right. Of his 29 incompletions on throws of 20 or more yards downfield last season, three were dropped by the receiver and six in total were deemed "catchable passes" by STATS LLC.

Boyd is able to make these deep throws even when facing pressure. Over the last two seasons, his 24 completions of at least 30 yards when facing the blitz are six more than any other BCS-AQ quarterback.

Biggest improvement: Passing outside the pocket
Boyd is an above-average athlete who has shown the ability to escape the pocket and run since his first season as a starter in 2011. He averaged 12 rushes per game and ran for more than 1,110 yards during his sophomore, junior and senior campaigns combined.

Yet in 2012, he struggled when passing outside the pocket, completing 47 percent of his throws. Although he led a game-winning drive against LSU in the Chick-fil-a Bowl that season, he completed just 1 of 5 passes outside the pocket for seven yards in the game.

Last season he improved his completion percentage when passing outside the pocket to 55 percent, ranking among the top 10 BCS-AQ quarterbacks with at least 50 such throws. He was impressive in the Orange Bowl win over Ohio State, completing 3 of 6 passes outside the pocket, including two touchdowns.

Biggest concern: Not prototypical NFL QB
Although he was productive in college, Boyd's below-average height is one reason he is not ranked among the elite quarterbacks. Only five quarterbacks 6-foot-1 or shorter threw at least 100 passes in the NFL last season – though two of them were Drew Brees and Super Bowl champ Russell Wilson.

There is also concern about his ability to adapt to a pro-style offense after playing in a wide-open scheme at Clemson. Since 2011, no BCS-AQ quarterback threw more passes or had more completions from a shotgun or pistol formation than Boyd.


All eyes on Watkins at Clemson Pro Day

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6

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.

Clemson slices Buckeyes with short passes

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4

Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesOhio State didn't have an answer for Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins Friday
In a game that featured six turnovers and four lead changes, the Clemson Tigers had the last score and also the last takeaway to earn their first BCS bowl victory. The Tigers have now won consecutive bowls for the first time since winning the 2003 Peach Bowl and 2005 Champs Sports Bowl (Clemson did not go to a bowl in 2004).

Record-setting night
Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins was a combination the Tigers went to time after time to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes. Boyd finished with 378 yards passing and 127 rushing yards, which tied an Orange Bowl record. He became the first player in Orange Bowl history to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 more. In addition, Boyd tied a career-high with five touchdown passes.

Watkins set Orange bowl records for both receptions (16) and receiving yards (227). His 16 catches are the most ever for any BCS game, while his receiving yardage is the second most in a BCS game behind only a 239-yard game from Josh Reed in the 2002 Sugar Bowl for LSU.

Watkins also caught two touchdown passes giving him 27 for his career – tying the Clemson school record set by DeAndre Hopkins.

Short, but sweet
Boyd and Watkins connected on 16 of 17 targets due in large part to short passes. Boyd’s average pass traveled 2.9 yards downfield against Ohio State, 4.7 yards shorter than his average pass distance this season. Only five of his passes traveled more than 10 yards downfield, his fewest such attempts in the last three seasons.

Watkins 227 receiving yards, included 202 yards after the catch. His previous career high of 137 yards after catch came against Auburn in 2011.

Running wild
While he kept his passes short, Tajh Boyd ran for a career-high 127 yards, highlighted by a 48-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He gained 116 yards on designed runs, 43 more such yards than any other game in his career.

Jungkyu Lee, Micah Adams and Jason Starrett contributed to this post

BCS player to watch: Tajh Boyd

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2

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.

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.

Heisman favorites exhibit unique skills

October, 15, 2013
Marcus Mariota, Tajh Boyd, and Johnny Manziel make up the top three spots in ESPN’s latest Heisman Watch. All three quarterbacks are off to a strong start, leading their respective teams to a combined 17-1 record and top-seven ranking in the AP Poll.

Mariota leads the nation in opponent-adjusted Total QBR (97.0) and Manziel ranks sixth at 88.3. Boyd ranks 41st in opponent-adjusted QBR, but he has the opportunity to add another signature win to his record when Clemson hosts Florida State on Saturday.

Each quarterback has showcased a unique skill that has given the opposing defensive coordinators fits all season.

What attribute sets each of these quarterbacks apart?

Tajh Boyd – Downfield Passing
Boyd has 138 completions of 20 yards or more since the start of the 2011 season; only Fresno State’s Derek Carr (141) has more such completions. The key to these big plays has been Boyd’s downfield passing

Boyd is one of four AQ quarterbacks that has completed more than half of his passes thrown 20 yards or longer since the start of last season. He has an FBS-high 23 touchdowns on passes of this distance, including 16 touchdowns after a play-action fake. All eight of his touchdowns on passes of 20-plus yards this season came off play action.

After losing his top target, DeAndre Hopkins, to the NFL after last season, Boyd has shown that he can spread the field on these deep passes.

Last season, Hopkins had more than twice as many targets (30) and receptions (18) on passes of 20 yard or longer than any other receiver. This season, Boyd has targeted six different receivers, and no receiver has more than nine targets or four receptions.

Johnny Manziel – Improvisational Skills
Johnny Manziel has demoralized plenty to opposing defenses with his ability to extend plays. Since the start of last season, he leads AQ quarterbacks in every scramble category by a wide margin. He has 548 more scramble yards and six more scramble touchdowns than any other AQ quarterback during that time.

When scrambling, Manziel has also kept his head up to find his receivers. He has completed 58 percent of his attempts while scrambling out of the pocket in the last two seasons, the highest completion percentage among AQ quarterbacks (minimum 20 attempts).

He has 18 more such completion and six more pass touchdowns than any AQ quarterback in that span.

Marcus Mariota – Efficiency
As the anchor to Oregon’s high-octane offense, Mariota leads the nation in opponent-adjusted QBR this season and has yet to commit a turnover. With Mariota under center, the Ducks score a touchdown on 57 percent of their drives, 30 percentage points higher than the FBS average, and average 8.6 yards per play with, second-best behind Baylor with Bryce Petty at quarterback (minimum 100 plays at quarterback).

Mariota efficiency is due in part to his ability to make plays with his arm and legs.

Mariota leads the FBS in yards per rush (10.4) and is tied with Mississippi State’s Dan Prescott for most rush touchdowns (8) by a quarterback.

The Ducks have utilized his running ability in their zone-read scheme. With Mariota at quarterback, the Ducks have called a zone-read play on 44 percent of their carries and have averaged 6.7 yards per rush. Mariota has kept the ball 17 times on such plays, averaging 11.3 yards per rush and scoring five touchdowns.

Mariota is also averaging more than 10 yards per attempt on passes. He throws a touchdown on 10.3 percent of his pass attempts, fifth best in the nation and almost twice the national average of 5.4 percent.

He has a Total QBR of 90.6 on just pass plays, sixth best in the nation and leads the nation in Total QBR (99.6) on rushes.

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.

Elite QBs living up to top billing

October, 6, 2013

AP Photo/Rod AydelotteBaylor’s Bryce Petty is one of many QBs who lived up to high expectations in Week 6.
Below are some storylines from Week 6 of the college football season using ESPN’s new set of analytical storytelling metrics for college football. For more background on these metrics, read Dean Oliver’s primer on all of them and his explanation of college Total QBR. For complete college Total QBR information, go here.

Top QBs continue success on Saturday

The top four players in Total QBR entering the day on Saturday lived up to expectations. All four players posted a Total QBR of at least 90 while leading their teams to dominant victories.

Below is a breakdown of these top performances:

• Bryce Petty posted a 97.1 Total QBR in Baylor’s 73-42 win over West Virginia, his fourth straight game with a Total QBR of at least 93. Petty has thrown for at least 300 yards, two touchdowns and averaged 13 yards per attempt in every game this season.

• Marcus Mariota was responsible for a career-high seven touchdowns as he led the Ducks to a 57-16 victory against Colorado. Mariota has posted a Total QBR of 90 or more in four of five games this season.

• Teddy Bridgewater posted his fifth straight game with a Total QBR of 80 or higher in Louisville’s 30-7 win over Temple. Bridgewater was 15-of-17 for 228 yards in the first half and did not have a Total QBR lower than 94 after the Cardinals’ first drive.

• Jameis Winston threw for a career-high 393 yards and five touchdowns against Maryland. Winston had seven completions of 20 yards or longer, including two 21-yard touchdown passes. He now has 27 completions of at least 20 yards, fifth most in the FBS.

Other Notable QBs:

• AJ McCarron posted a 97.0 Total QBR in fewer than two quarters against Georgia State. McCarron completed 15-of-16 passes, including his first 12 attempts. Overall, 12 of his 16 attempts (75%) went for a first down or touchdown, the highest percentage by a quarterback in a game this season.

• Tajh Boyd had a season-high 94.0 Total QBR in Clemson’s 49-14 win over Syracuse. Boyd threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns in the first half, the most yards by an ACC player in the last 10 seasons. Despite taking three sacks, Boyd posted a 96.5 Total QBR in the first half.

• Zach Mettenberger completed 86% of his passes and posted a 92.1 Total QBR in LSU’s 59-26 win against Mississippi State. Mettenberger now has a 88.6 Total QBR through six games in 2013 after having a 27.2 Total QBR through his first six games of last season.

• Aaron Murray had an 84.7 Total QBR in Georgia’s come-from-behind victory over Tennessee. Murray was 5-of-9 with a touchdown on Georgia’s final drive. Murray has a 96.5 Total QBR when trailing this season, highest in the FBS (min 20 action plays).

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.

Week 1: Top things to know about top 10

August, 29, 2013
As we celebrate the commencement of the 2013 college football season, here are the stats to know about the top 10 teams in action this week (No. 4 Stanford is off).

1. Alabama (vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m. ET, Saturday)
Senior AJ McCarron completed 65 percent of his passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield, with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions on those throws last season. He completed 39 percent of such passes, with six touchdowns, as a sophomore.

McCarron posted an above-average opponent-adjusted Total QBR in all 14 games last season (average is 50.0). He was one of three FBS quarterbacks to play in at least 10 games without having at least one below-average game. The other two were Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron.

2. Ohio State (vs. Buffalo, noon ET, Saturday)
Junior Braxton Miller led all quarterbacks from BCS-AQ schools with 1,214 yards on designed running plays last season. He averaged 14 designed runs per game, an increase of more than seven per game from his freshman season.

Miller finished with 10 rushes that gained at least 30 yards, tied for fifth-most in FBS. Five of those 10 rushes went for touchdowns.

3. Oregon (vs. Nicholls State, 4 p.m. ET, Saturday)
Oregon averaged more points in the first half (30.5) than 67 FBS teams averaged per game last season. The Ducks' average halftime lead was 21.5 points, but they generally milked their lead, averaging nearly five more seconds of possession per play in the second half compared to the first.

5. Georgia (at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m. ET, Saturday)
Georgia had 24 offensive touchdowns that were 25 yards or longer last season, tied with Baylor for the most in FBS. The Bulldogs and Alabama are the only FBS teams that had at least 15 such passing touchdowns and five such rushing touchdowns.

6. South Carolina (vs. North Carolina, 6 p.m. ET, Thursday)
Jadeveon Clowney had 23.5 tackles for loss last season, tied for the second-most in FBS. Clowney finished the season with 28 total pressures (hurries and knockdowns), tied for the second-most by an SEC player.

7. Texas A&M (vs. Rice, 1 p.m. ET, Saturday)
Johnny Manziel had the highest opponent-adjusted Total QBR (91) in FBS last season. In nine years of historical Total QBR data, only Andrew Luck in 2010 (95), Russell Wilson in 2011 (94), Sam Bradford in 2008 (92), Pat White in 2006 (91) and Kellen Moore in 2010 (91) had a higher or equal single-season opponent-adjusted QBR.

8. Clemson (vs. No. 5 Georgia, 8 p.m. ET, Saturday)
Tajh Boyd completed an FBS-high 48 passes that gained 25 or more yards. Overall, 11 percent of his pass attempts gained at least 25 yards, the highest percentage in the nation (minimum 150 attempts).

9. Louisville (vs. Ohio, 3:30 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Teddy Bridgewater converted a first down on 51 percent of his third-down passes last season, second-best in FBS behind Manziel (52 percent).

10. Florida (vs. Toledo, 12:21 p.m. ET, Saturday)
Florida allowed just 13 plays of 25 yards or longer last season, seven fewer than any other FBS team. The Gators did not allow one rush of at least 25 yards until the fourth quarter of the Sugar Bowl.

Top 5 returning college QBs based on QBR

August, 15, 2013
As an earlier post on our blog noted, the 2013 college football season has the potential to produce one of the top quarterback classes ever.

Either the first or second-team quarterbacks from every conference (prior to conference realignment) except the Big 12 are back this season, including Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and two-time BCS National Champion AJ McCarron.

From the perspective of ESPN’s new Total QBR metric (details on the NFL version, with the same principles as the college version, here), which quarterbacks are the best of this talented group?

1. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (90.5 Total QBR)

Manziel accounted for an SEC-record 5,116 total yards en route to becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel led the nation in Total QBR on third down (98.6), in the first half (90.1) and on rushing plays (94.0). All of these factors contributed to his FBS-leading 90.5 Total QBR.

2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (87.8)

Mariota led Oregon to its fifth-straight 10-win season as a redshirt freshman. He was one of two players in FBS to average seven yards per rush and seven yards per pass attempts last season (min 200 attempts). The other was Manziel.

3. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (81.8)

Boyd was one of the top big-play quarterbacks in the nation last season, completing an FBS-high 48 passes of 25 yards or more. As a result, Boyd posted the highest single-season Total QBR of any ACC quarterback since 2004 (as far back as QBR goes).

4. AJ McCarron, Alabama (81.5)

McCarron won his second-straight BCS Championship last season, and he was much more than a game manager. McCarron posted an above average QBR (above 50) in all 14 of his games last season, and two of the top four games of his career by QBR were his two BCS Championship games. He posted a 90.3 and 95.6 Opponent Adjusted QBR in the 2012 and 2013 BCS Championships, respectively.

5. David Fales, San Jose State (78.3)

Fales led the nation in completion percentage while leading the Spartans to their first 11-win season since 1940. Fales’ accuracy and precision were rewarded by Total QBR, as he had the highest unadjusted Total QBR on pass plays in the nation last season.

Total QBR measures all quarterback contributions to scoring accounting for game context and adjusted for opponent strength. It is based on a 0-100 scale, and 50 is average.

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.

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.

US Presswire, Getty ImagesDynamic quarterbacks Geno Smith (left) and Tajh Boyd (right) meet in the Discover Orange Bowl.
Tonight’s Discover Orange Bowl (8:30 ET on ESPN) between No. 23 West Virginia and No. 15 Clemson should continue the trend of strong offensive performances during the bowl season.

West Virginia Offense
Geno Smith broke the West Virginia school record with 3,978 passing yards this season. Smith ranks ninth nationally in total offense and has completed 65 percent of his passes this season.

West Virginia’s success hinges on Smith’s ability to throw the ball downfield. Since the start of last season, the Mountaineers are 13-0 when he completes at least half of his passes thrown 15-or-more yards downfield.

The Mountaineers offense has transitioned from run-based under Rich Rodriguez to pass-centric under new head coach Dana Holgorsen. From 2005-07, West Virginia ranked in the top four in rushing offense and the bottom 20 in passing offense each season. This year, the Mountaineers are seventh in passing and 98th in rushing.

Clemson Offense
Clemson is led by the dynamic duo of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Watkins set ACC freshman records with 77 receptions, 1,153 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions. Boyd has thrown for at least three touchdowns seven times this season.

As the Tigers ran out to an 8-0 start, Boyd was great in the red zone, but over the last five games he has struggled to complete passes.

In Clemson’s 10 wins, he has thrown 15 touchdowns without an interception. In three losses, Boyd has more interceptions than completions.

Watkins became the second Clemson receiver in the last eight seasons to gain at least 1,000 yards. Over 60 percent of his yards have come after the catch, including two games where he gained over 100 yards after catching passes.

Numbers to Know
Clemson is playing in its first BCS bowl game since the system began in 1998. The last time the Tigers played in the Orange Bowl was in 1982, when they beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers to claim the national championship.

The schools have met once before, with the Tigers beating the Mountaineers 27-7 in the 1989 Gator Bowl. That is Clemson’s only win in four games against current Big East members. West Virginia is more familiar with the ACC, posting a 97-97-5 record against current conference members.

With Virginia Tech’s Sugar Bowl loss, the ACC has the fewest wins of any automatic qualifying conference in BCS games. The ACC is 2-12 in BCS bowls, and every other AQ conference has at least six wins.

West Virginia has won at least nine games in each of the past seven seasons. During that stretch, the Mountaineers are 2-0 in BCS bowl games, beating the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2006 Sugar Bowl and the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.

The 10 plays that shaped the CFB season

December, 6, 2011
There were 770 games played in the 2011 college football season. We give you the 10 plays that shaped the BCS Championship race.

1. Tyrann Mathieu returns fumble for TD
LSU 40, Oregon 27
Significance: These top-five teams were locked in a 6-3 game. The Tigers went three-and-out and punted, but Kenjon Barner fumbled the return at the three and LSU's playmaker snapped it up and went into the end zone for a momentum-shifting score.

2. Kirk Cousins completes 44-yard Hail Mary to Keith Nichol
Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31
Significance: Wisconsin had its eyes on a perfect regular season and a spot in the title game. But after a last-second heave, ricochet, catch and then video review, that dream was dashed.

3. Oklahoma misses 28-yard field goal vs Texas Tech
Texas Tech 41, Oklahoma 38
Significance: The Sooners were preseason No. 1 and still undefeated, but trailed 31-7 at home. They mounted a comeback, but after Michael Hunnicutt's missed FG from 28 yards out there wasn't enough time left to overcome a 10-point deficit.

4. Tajh Boyd gets intercepted in the end zone
Georgia Tech 31, Clemson 17
Significance: Down 14 points, Clemson had just intercepted Georgia Tech, getting the ball at Georgia Tech's nine-yard line. But on the first play, Boyd was picked by Jemea Thomas, ending the Tigers' comeback and dashing their national-title hopes.

5. LSU’s Eric Reid intercepts Alabama at the 1-yard line
LSU 9, Alabama 6 (OT)
Significance: In a 6-6 game in the fourth quarter, LSU's Eric Reid wrestled the ball away from Alabama TE Michael Williams at the one-yard line for an interception, preventing what could have been the winning score. LSU would win it in overtime.

6. Boseko Lokombo picks off Andrew Luck and returns it for TD
Oregon 53, Stanford 30
Significance: This was Stanford’s last major obstacle to a perfect regular season. Down 16 points, Luck had Stanford driving. But the pick ended those hopes, putting the game out of reach and handing the Cardinal its only loss of the season.

7. Boise State misses 39-yard field goal as time expires
TCU 36, Boise State 35
Significance: Playing on the home turf where they had been dominant for so long, the Broncos went down a point after TCU made the gutsy call to go for two. But Boise drove down the field before Dan Goodale sailed his kick wide right as time expired and the Broncos were no longer unbeaten.

8. Brandon Weeden's pass intercepted in first play of second overtime
Iowa State 37, Oklahoma State 31 (2 OT)
Significance: The Cyclones came back from a 24-7 deficit to tie the game at 24 heading into overtime. But on the first play of the second overtime, Brandon Weeden was intercepted. Three plays later Iowa State scored to end Oklahoma State's dream.

9. Oregon misses 37-yard field goal as time expires
USC 38, Oregon 35
Significance: Even after their season-opening loss, the Ducks still had a shot at the BCS Championship. But USC, ineligible for postseason play, gave the Ducks a battle at Autzen Stadium. Down three, Oregon had the chance to send it into overtime. But Alejandro Maldonado missed a 37-yarder.

10. Robert Griffin III completes 34-yard TD pass with :08 left
Baylor 45, Oklahoma 38
Significance: Just like Oregon, Oklahoma still had a chance to sneak back into the title picture despite a loss. But Baylor's Heisman candidate Griffin shocked the Sooners with a game-winning touchdown pass with eight seconds left.

To see images of these plays, click here.