Florida State Seminoles: Clemson Tigers


July 1 could be a big day for the Oregon Ducks. After narrowly missing out on five-star quarterback Kyler Murray and then QB Blake Barnett (No. 56 in the ESPN 300), No. 141 Travis Waller is set to announce with the Ducks and Notre Dame considered the top two. After being considered a lean to Notre Dame in recent weeks, a June 21 offer by Oregon is a potential game-changer. With the offer to Waller, Oregon is in position to not get left out of the quarterback sweepstakes in 2015. The Ducks offered No. 89 Sam Darnold on June 16 following Barnett's pledge to Alabama. With the offer to Waller five days later, they have a very good chance to snag one of the two remaining top quarterback prospects on the West Coast.

[+] EnlargeTravis Waller
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTravis Waller, the No. 6 QB-DT in the ESPN 300, is set to decide between Oregon and Notre Dame on July 1.
There are currently four five-star prospects committed in the Class of 2015. On July 2, another will come off the board when No. 13 Justin Hilliard announces his decision. The day should be a great one for either Ohio State or Notre Dame with the Buckeyes having been the team to beat headed into last weekend's unofficial visits to South Bend and Columbus. As decision day closes in, Ohio State remains the team receiving the behind-the-scenes chatter as the most likely destination for the outside linebacker. Should the Buckeyes reel in Hilliard next Wednesday, it will be a huge shot in the arm for Ohio State as he is close with a number of top prospects in the Midwest with the ability to impact a class with more than just his pledge.

ESPN 300 No. 226 Sage Hardin will announce his decision Friday at 6 p.m. via Twitter (@SageHardin75). While the athletic offensive tackle hasn't been tipping his hand in regards to a favorite, he did tell RecruitingNation on Wednesday night that Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, California, Miami (Fla.), Georgia Tech and NC State are in the running. The Georgia offer June 16 was a huge one for the Atlanta-area prospect, as was the offer from Tennessee June 17. The Hurricanes have placed the full court press on Hardin, and a June 7 unofficial visit to NC State impressed more than anticipated. There are family connections to Virginia, but the uncertainty of the Cavaliers' future is cause for concern. This one is likely to come down to the home state Bulldogs, the Volunteers and Cavaliers with Georgia having gained the most mention since offered 11 days ago.

Three-star safety P.J. Locke has announced that he will make his commitment on July 1 at Beaumont Central High. He has a final 10 school list of Arizona State, Baylor, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Stanford, TCU, UCLA and Wake Forest. Since an early June unofficial visit to Eugene, the Ducks have been the team trending with Baylor and TCU working hard to try to keep the physical safety in-state.

ESPN 300 No. 63 Abdul Bello had plans to make a number of summer camps, and for the first time see college programs outside the Sunshine State. The plans changed in early June with Bello taking summer school classes. After only having the time to attend Florida camp in early June, Bello and his coach are currently working to scheduled July trips to LSU and Auburn, along with a trip to Florida State and likely back to Gainesville for Friday Night Lights.

Florida State will hold its annual July camp on the 16th through 18th. Although the Class of 2015 will be the main focus of the Seminoles' camp, the top prospect in attendance may well be 2016 quarterback Malik Henry. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Henry will be in Tallahassee and is scheduled to work out all three days of the camp. Henry is at the top of the quarterback board for Florida State in 2016, and is also at the top of the board for UCLA with the hometown Bruins having had the full court press on Henry for months already.

No. 48 Richard McBryde continues to have Auburn in front with Miami (Fla.), Florida and Alabama in the mix. The Under Armour All-America Game selection said Thursday that Auburn is recruiting him the hardest, and is pushing him to commit. With that said, McBryde said he hopes to make unofficial visits to Miami (Fla.) and/or Florida. McBryde said the pressure from Auburn to commit does not hurt the Tigers, but shows how much they value him as a player.

Four-star athlete Shaquery Wilson continues to have Georgia on top of his list followed closely by Arkansas. The month of July will prove to be impactful in the wide receiver and cornerback prospect's recruitment. Wilson is scheduled to camp at Alabama for three days in July at wide receiver, and an offer would definitely be a game-changer. Wilson will also attend Dawg Night in July, as well as make unofficial visits to Tennessee and Auburn.

In the Class of 2016, cornerback Trayvon Mullen has enjoyed about as impressive of a week as is possible, picking up offers from Alabama and LSU on the same day, as well as getting offers from Wisconsin and Ohio State on Thursday. While the Crimson Tide's offer is a big one, a May offer from Clemson was just as big because the 6-foot-2, long-armed corner has been a Tigers fan for a few years.

Week 8: A sight to behold

October, 22, 2013
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Kenny ShawStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesFlorida State's Kenny Shaw celebrates after defeating the Tigers 51-14.
For four months, ESPN The Magazine will follow the march to the Vizio BCS National Championship, moment by moment, culminating in our Story of the Season double issue Dec. 27. Every Tuesday, Mag senior writer Ryan McGee will pick the previous week’s biggest moments and tell you why they’ll have the most impact on potential BCS title matchups. If you disagree, send a tweet to @ESPNMag and tell us why your moment matters more, using the hashtag #StoryoftheSeason. Who knows? Your moment (and tweet) might just end up in our issue.

THERE IS NO greater entrance -- perhaps moment -- in all of college football than when the Clemson Tigers emerge at the base of the big scoreboard in Memorial Stadium's open end zone. The team gathers around Howard's Rock, and the sound that gathers with it is unsurpassed, especially on a night like Saturday night, the gemstone matchup with Florida State, when greatness is anticipated.

It is equally awe-inspiring to watch someone silence Death Valley just as quickly as it has been riled up.

"Tonight was an amazing environment," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Saturday night, looking just as shocked as everyone else that his team had rolled over the Tigers to the tune of 51-44. "This is a tremendous place to play."

It truly is. And that begins in the east end zone. Some old-timers still refer to it as the Green Grass Section. The rest of the world calls it The Hill. A knoll covered in Clemson students, parted to form a narrow ribbon of turf upon which the Tigers run into Death Valley. To soak that up, one must get out of the press box and take their place among them. (Without a hillside ticket, don't even try from the gate. With a media credential, you can sneak your way from the bottom if you catch a South Carolina state trooper looking the other way.)

As the noise level grew, it was impossible not to think of these same two teams 25 years earlier. On Sept. 17, 1988, the No. 3 Tigers hosted the No. 10 Seminoles. What most remember about that day was Bobby Bowden's fabled Puntrooskie, a fake botched punt deep in the Noles' own territory that was gathered up by FSU's LeRoy Butler, who ran 78 yards to set up the game-winning score. The images of that play still make older Clemson loyalists shake their head in anger. They did the same on Saturday morning when ESPN's "College GameDay" ran a Puntrooskie feature that echoed off the buildings throughout campus.

"Damned disrespectful!" an orange-clad tailgater yelled toward the giant TV screens on Bowman Field in the center of campus.

But the Puntrooskie isn't the first image that pops into the heads of many who were there that day. That group includes me (I was a high school senior in nearby Travelers Rest, S.C.) and Clemson tailback Terry Allen, who went on to play 11 years in the NFL. "I remember coming down The Hill and the place was rocking and all the sudden it was like, Who is this fool down there standing at the bottom of The Hill telling us to bring it?"

It was FSU's Deion Sanders, hitting himself in the numbers and screaming at the Tigers as they ran into their own house. No doubt the gentleman from the quad was somewhere in the stadium that day shouting "Damned disrespectful!"

No opponent stood at the base of The Hill pounding on his chest plate Saturday night. But FSU quarterback Jameis Winston might as well have. Not even 90 seconds into the game, Winston flicked a 22-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin, directly toward The Hill crowd, and it was 7-0 Florida State. Not even 10 minutes later, the Noles were laying siege to The Hill again as a field goal sailed toward them and through the uprights for a 10-0 FSU lead. The next score they saw was FSU defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. rumbling into their end zone after recovering QB Tajh Boyd’s fumble and returning it 37 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-0 with 3 minutes, 7 seconds still to play in the first quarter. At game's end, FSU would have 565 yards of offense. Winston had 444 yards passing with three touchdowns, officially launching him into the Heisman Trophy hunt and catapulting Florida State to second in the initial BCS standings.

Clemson fell out of the realm of the unbeatens, down to ninth in the BCS, and Boyd likely lost his invitation to New York this December.

By the end of the first quarter, the feeling on The Hill was more like being in The Library. By the end of the third quarter, it looked as though that's where everyone who had started the game on The Hill had gone.

"My granddad and dad were here for the Puntrooskie game," one student explained (she asked that her name not be included because she was supposed to be on a church mission trip). "We have a rule in the house that we don't talk about it. I was always like, well, it couldn't have really been that bad. But now I feel for them. This sucks."

It could have been worse. The Tigers' locker room is located on the opposite end of the stadium, 100 yards from The Hill. As the clock hit zeroes and the home team slowly walked toward that refuge, they were serenaded by a swath of garnet-and-gold fans doing the FSU war chant, right by the field house entrance.

Over where the Clemson players had started their night, there was no one left to hear it.




On Saturday night and again on Sunday afternoon, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was understandably in damage-control mode. He reminded the room that his team has only one loss, is still ranked in the top 10, still has a chance to win an ACC championship, and at the very least will lock up a great bowl game.

A similar speech was being repeated on practice fields and in pressrooms throughout the country after a Week 8 full of bloodletting. It started Friday night when No. 8 Louisville fell to unranked UCF. It continued Saturday afternoon when No. 9 UCLA lost to No. 13 Stanford. Throw in a bushel of second SEC losses by Texas A&M (to Auburn), Georgia (to Vanderbilt), LSU (to Ole Miss), South Carolina (to Tennessee) and Florida (to Missouri).

Just two weeks ago, there were 14 undefeated teams across the BCS conferences. Now there are only eight. For some high-profile one-loss teams, such as Stanford, and yes, perhaps Clemson, the season might still come back to them. But as Swinney was quick to emphasize on Sunday, they are all walking on the thinnest sheets of ice ... in cleats.

"We're at that 'elimination game' phase of the season when it comes to championships," former Oregon coach-turned-ESPN analyst Mike Bellotti explained as he sifted through the wreckage of the weekend. "You don't want to lose any games. But from here on out, you really can't lose again. One loss and you're in trouble -- how much trouble depends on who you lost to and who you are still going to play. But two losses? You're done.”


Who has the edge at QB in FSU-Clemson?

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

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Who has the edge at QB on Saturday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACC Power Rankings: Week 2

September, 9, 2013
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It's time for a fresh set of power rankings with another week in the books. The top four teams remain the same from last week, but there was some shuffling the rest of the way down.

1. Clemson (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 1): The Tigers did what we all expected in a 52-13 win over South Carolina State. They also ended up moving up one spot in the AP poll to No. 3. Their big win over Georgia in Week 1 remains the crown jewel in the ACC crown after two weeks.

2. Florida State (1-0, 1-0 ACC; last week: 2): The Seminoles were off this past week after beating Pittsburgh in the opener. Let's see what Game 2 has in store for Jameis Winston this weekend against Nevada.

3. Miami (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 3): The Hurricanes had the most impressive win in Week 2, over No. 12 Florida, which vaults them to No. 15 in the latest AP poll. But that win does nothing to change their standing in the ACC. There remains a clear gap between Clemson, Florida State and the rest of the league. Miami looks like it is starting to close the gap, but the Canes still have a long way to go -- especially after their offense struggled for most of the day against the Gators.

4. Georgia Tech (1-0 0-0 ACC; last week: 4): The Jackets were also off in Week 2, so all we have to judge them on is a blowout win over FCS Elon. The next five weeks will tell us what we need to know about this team, as the Jackets prepare to play at Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, at Miami and at BYU. That is one of the most brutal stretches any ACC team has to play this season.

5. North Carolina (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 7): The truth is, you could flip flop the Tar Heels and Virginia Tech at this point. Despite their victories over the weekend, both have problems that must be addressed. For starters, North Carolina has to get the coin toss figured out. The defense was once again up and down. They need a more consistent, better effort out of that group.

6. Virginia Tech (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 5): North Carolina gets the nod ahead of Virginia Tech for this week based on the quality of opponent it just played. The Tar Heels beat an FBS team, Virginia Tech an FCS team. I think we can all agree the Hokies have a formidable defense -- better than North Carolina's -- but the offense still has a ways to go to be respectable. Logan Thomas now has one touchdown pass and three interceptions on the season.

7. Virginia (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 6): No. 2 Oregon boatraced the Hoos on Saturday, but the truth is, nobody really expected them to win the game. They stay in the top half of the rankings this week based on their win over BYU in the opener. That win looks a lot better today after BYU clobbered No. 15 Texas. Virginia enters a five-game stretch now with winnable games. If the Hoos can take advantage, they will be looking good for a bowl spot.

8. Maryland (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 8): The Terps have beaten their first two opponents by a combined 90-20 and have not faced much of a test. The opponents' strength has been really weak, hence their spot here. Still, this is a team that has showed off its talent on offense in the first two weeks. C.J. Brown, in his return from a knee injury, ranks No. 3 in the nation in total QBR to lead all ACC quarterbacks. Chew on that one for a while.

9. Duke (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 10): Give the Blue Devils credit for pulling out a road win in Memphis with backup quarterback Brandon Connette this past Saturday. You can write the win off by saying it was "only Memphis," but the Tigers are a rapidly improving team and Duke was on the ropes. Any road win is a good win for a team that won only once away from home last season.

10. NC State (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 9): The Wolfpack get downgraded slightly for struggling to beat Richmond. While it is true the Spiders have caused FBS opponents fits, the Wolfpack nearly handed the game away with their own miscues. NC State had four turnovers, including three inside Richmond territory. Quarterback Pete Thomas struggled, throwing two interceptions. While he did lead the team into field goal range for the game winner, he has some work to do to improve.

11. Boston College (2-0, 1-0 ACC; last week: 14): The Eagles climb out of the cellar for the first time in a long time after their 24-10 win over Wake Forest. You can already see the difference new coach Steve Addazio has made in the program. His team is playing a lot more physically and with a lot more energy. That is best illustrated in Andre Williams, who is now averaging 5.5 yards per carry -- one full yard better than last season. The BC run game has gone from awful to respectable in a matter of weeks. The Eagles have now matched their win total from 2012.

12. Pittsburgh (0-1, 0-1 ACC; last week: 12): The Panthers were off last week, so they stay put here. The good news is they will not have to play a team as strong as Florida State the rest of the way in the ACC. They get New Mexico this week.

13. Wake Forest (1-1, 0-1 ACC; last week: 11): The Deacs were supposed to be better this season with so many veterans returning, but they looked completely lost against BC. The defense got gashed on the ground. The offense could not run, nor could it execute the option effectively. Not sure why coaches insisted on sticking with it when it was not working. Their inability to run the ball was a bugaboo last season, and it looks to be the same this season.

14. Syracuse (0-2, 0-0 ACC; last week: 13): The Orange have been the biggest disappointment in the ACC so far based on the first two games. No doubt they played a tough schedule to start against two Big Ten teams, but they were not even competitive in a loss to Northwestern this past weekend in which Drew Allen got benched after throwing four interceptions and the defense gave up 581 yards of total offense. Scott Shafer has some serious questions to answer before the season gets away from him.

OT Damian Prince slims down, speeds up 

April, 23, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- At an event that featured three of the top 11 defensive prospects in the ESPN 150, third-rated offensive tackle Damian Prince of Forestville (Md.) Bishop McNamara impressed every bit as much as any of them Sunday at the Nike Football Training Camp outside of Washington, D.C.

Prince showed off a slimmed down frame -- he’s lost more than 30 pounds, he said, to reach about 285 -- and dominated in blocking drills against a stout group of defensive linemen.

Prince, No. 33 in the ESPN 150, put himself in position to rise over the upcoming months.

Halftime Analysis: Clemson 21, FSU 14

September, 22, 2012
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Tajh Boyd needed just five plays to solve Florida State's vaunted defense, hitting DeAndre Hopkins with a 60-yard touchdown pass on third down in what set the precedent for a high-scoring first half, with Clemson holding a 21-14 halftime lead.

The two teams combined for 564 yards of offense in the first half, with EJ Manuel carving up the Clemson defense as easily as Boyd moved the Tigers' offense, but two missed field goals and a fumbled punt doomed Florida State through the first 30 minutes.

Stat of the half: 8.1 That's Florida State's average gain per rush in the first half, and it's the Seminoles' best hope for a turnaround in the second half. Manuel and Chris Thompson have done their share of damage on the ground, and Clemson hasn't had an answer. Both of the Seminoles' touchdowns came on the ground, too -- a 13-yard run by Lonnie Pryor and a 5-yard run by James Wilder Jr.

Player of the half: Boyd. The Clemson quarterback was 12-of-17 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, including the 60-yard bomb to Hopkins on the Tigers' opening drive that quieted a raucous crowd. Boyd has hit six different receivers in the first half. Manuel nearly matched him -- 15 of 20 for 181 yards -- but two FSU drives stalled thanks to penalties, forcing field-goal tries.

What's working for FSU: Manuel's legs. There's been plenty of room underneath for the FSU offense, and when the big plays haven't developed down field, Manuel has made his mark on the ground, picking up 53 yards on six carries.

What's not working for FSU: Clemson has done its share of damage, which was to be expected. But the self-inflicted wounds are the difference right now for FSU. Dustin Hopkins' two missed field goals, four penalties and, most importantly, Rashad Greene's fumbled punt return have squandered scoring chances and bolstered an already potent Tigers' attack.

Noteworthy: FSU defensive end Cornellius Carradine has two sacks in the first half. ... Clemson's Sammy Watkins has five touches but just 35 yards through the first half. He ha been matched against Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby throughout. ... The 21 first-half points by Clemson snaps a streak of 11 consecutive games in which the FSU defense had held opponents to 19 or fewer points.

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