ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #1, Tajh Boyd

Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is #1 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is #1 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 1, Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (Last Season: 1)

Was there any surprise about who inhabited this top spot? Boyd’s actually been the only player to hold the title of “top player in the ACC” since this blog’s inception back in 2011, and we fully expect things to stay that way come season’s end. Following a sophomore season that saw plenty or promise but still left critics with some fodder as well, Boyd’s junior year was about everything he (and Clemson) could’ve asked for. Improved accuracy (from 59 percent up to 67), yards per attempt (7.67 to 9.12), touchdown throws — all of that was praise-worthy, though what really set him apart was his newfound mobility. Losing 20 pounds between 2011 and 2012, Boyd turned himself into a dual-threat, adding 500 rushing yards and 10 scores to his already sterling resume. Seasons like that put you in the same conversation with the likes of most recent Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, which brings us to Boyd’s mission this season.

Previously flying under the radar, Boyd no longer has the luxury of avoiding the conference or national spotlight anymore. When you account for 46 touchdowns in one season, it’s understandable, but there’s so much more on the senior quarterback’s mind this year. In what’s likely the last rodeo in Clemson for offensive coordinator Chad Morris as well, the two understand what’s at stake. They’ve largely built their legacies on each other, and now are looking to walk away with the one team honor that’s alluded them to this point: a national championship. It’s the main reason he decided to return for his final season of eligibility, and as a result, this team’s got all the hype that comes with that. So can he deliver?

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Discover Orange Bowl Preview: Florida State Seminoles vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

Which EJ Manuel Will Show Up in the Orange Bowl -- the Elite Playmaker, or the Struggling Veteran?

Which EJ Manuel Will Show Up in the Orange Bowl — the Elite Playmaker, or the Struggling Veteran?

While Florida State reached the Orange Bowl, just as many expected, there’s also an air of lost potential about the ‘Noles this season. It’s why, despite never playing in a game of this caliber, many think that Northern Illinois has a shot at an upset. So do they? We take a look at how the matchup shakes out.

Bowl Game: Discover Orange Bowl

Location: Miami Gardens, Fla.

First Year: 1935

2012 Participants: Florida State Seminoles (11-2) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1)

Last Meeting: None

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Florida State (previous bowl game: 18-14 win vs. Notre Dame in 2011 Champs Sports Bowl)

On paper, Florida State was one of the country’s most dominant teams. Conference champions, 12th in scoring in the country (39.9 points per game) and sixth in scoring defense (15.1 points allowed per game). Yet, what will stand out most is how they struggled in key moments. Up 16-0 against NC State early in the season, the team began showing its deficiencies on offense. Then in the regular season finale, the defense showed its own issues, letting rival Florida rack up 24 points in the fourth quarter of an FSU loss. The common thread when they struggled most? EJ Manuel‘s consistency, or lack thereof. In four of their closest games, Manuel put up just two scores to five picks — not exactly the type of performances a championship-caliber team wants out of its senior quarterback. While all of their games certainly weren’t against “elite” competition, NIU’s defense did manage to force 15 interceptions and allow just 10 scores (seventh-best in the country), so that’s certainly something the ‘Noles should be prepared for. On defense, Florida State showed some holes without star defensive end Tank Carradine during the ACC title game, and it’s unlikely the team’s front-seven will be as aggressive without him in this matchup either. The Huskies allowed just 14 sacks all season — in part due to an elite offensive line, and also due to quarterback Jordan Lynch‘s elusiveness. It’s not impossible, but FSU will have to crack the code on containing Lynch if they hope to pull out a win.

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Hypothetical College Football Playoffs 2012: Week 12

Oregon May Not Be No. 1 in the BCS Rankings Right Now, But They Come Out On Top In Our Playoff Scenarios

Now that the dream of a playoff has turned into a reality (following the 2014 season), this realistic-but-still-hypothetical-for-two-years feature actually has some outside guidelines to follow: four teams, two semifinal spots and then a championship game. We currently have no clue how teams will be determined, how polls will be released, or who will put them together. So with that in mind, we’re going with the BCS rankings (courtesy of BCSGuru for teams outside of top 25), for lack of an on-hand committee to spit out a detailed list. We’ll also fill in the major bowl games also slated to be part of the playoff structure. Additionally, for our own enjoyment, you’ll find a 16-team hypothetical tournament below, too. Just because it’s too much fun not to think about.

If the Four-Team Playoff Started This Year…

Sugar Bowl (semifinal): #1 Kansas State vs. #4 Alabama

Rose Bowl (semifinal): #2 Oregon vs. #3 Notre Dame

National Championship: #2 Oregon over #4 Alabama

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Texas A&M

Cotton Bowl: Georgia vs. Nebraska

Fiesta Bowl: LSU vs. Louisville

Chick-fil-a Bowl: Florida vs. Clemson

While Alabama’s fallen from the top spot, I’m still tempted to believe they’re among the two best teams in the nation, which is how they get to a championship game matchup with Oregon. With a similar attack to that of Texas A&M (who just felled ‘Bama last weekend), I have the Ducks beating the Tide for the title.

In the major bowl games, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and Clemson were handed at-large bids (skipping over South Carolina to avoid any SEC vs. SEC games), with Florida State (ACC), Nebraska (B1G) and Louisville (“Group of Five”) receiving automatic bids.

If There Was a 16 Team Playoff…

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Tajh Boyd’s Progress and Clemson’s Success Should Be Given More Credit

Despite Clemson and Tajh Boyd’s Respective Success, Neither Get the Respect They Deserve

Clemson’s offensive resurgence over the past two years is due to the influence of Chad Morris, the highest-paid coordinator in college football for a reason. But Morris has an impressive set of tools to work with, and none has been more essential than quarterback Tajh Boyd.

Although he came to Clemson as a highly-touted recruit, Boyd’s redshirt year was followed by an unimpressive showing in garbage time in 2010 (33 of 63, four touchdowns, three interceptions) capped by a disastrous appearance in the final minutes of the Meineke Car Care Bowl to replace graduating starter Kyle Parker.

Benefiting from Morris’s tutelage and system, Boyd grew into one of the nation’s best in 2011. Even with the Tigers’ late-season implosion, he finished 20th in passing yards per game at 273.4. Boyd is on track for an even better finish this year; he’s currently 14th at 292 yards per game, above big names like Landry Jones, Matt Barkley and Johnny “Football” Manziel. His passer rating of 163.92 is good for tenth in the nation.

Most people could look like a decent quarterback with Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins catching their passes, but Boyd truly is one of the best. His development from last year has been very encouraging, and he’s making better decisions. There have been a few moments that looked uncomfortably like this pick against Florida State, or his attempted throw out of bounds against Virginia Tech that went backwards and was only saved when the officials ruled his knee down. But for the most part he’s kept a good head on his shoulders.

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