No. 5 Florida State will take on No. 3 Clemson in a battle of undefeated teams with solid defenses and championship aspirations. Make no mistake, however, the focus will be squarely on Jameis Winston and Tajh Boyd once the opening whistle sounds.
Both quarterbacks are off to awe-inspiring starts. For Boyd, that doesn't come as much of a surprise. The senior has made steady progress during his time with the Tigers. Winston, on the other hand, has managed to exceed expectations in a major way for the Seminoles.
How each of them play on Saturday is going to have a huge impact on the outcome of what's developed into a truly marquee matchup. Let's take a closer look at each quarterback before determining which team has the edge under center in the ACC battle.
Winston's talent level was never in question. His combination of size, athletic ability and track record coming out of high school when he was the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback by 247 Sports, showed he had the tools to succeed at the collegiate level.
Exactly how long it would take for the redshirt freshman to adapt was the biggest question mark. It turned out the answer was about two quarters, as the dynamic quarterback had little trouble picking apart the Pittsburgh defense in an impressive debut display.
What has stood out most in the first half of the season is his decision-making ability. Plenty of quarterbacks arrive with terrific tools, but it usually takes time before those skills translate into success. There's usually a learning curve.
Instead, Winston has been able to avoid the usual first-year quarterback mistakes en route to 19 total touchdowns and just two interceptions through five games. Two weeks ago against then No. 25 Maryland he racked up nearly 400 yards and five TDs.
Last season, Boyd made great strides in terms of accuracy, especially on the short and intermediate routes. His completion rate jumped by more than seven points as he continued to develop into a well-rounded quarterback.
He still struggled to protect the ball, though, tossing 13 interceptions. As a senior, he's cut down on those mistakes drastically. He's only been picked off twice through six games, and both of those came in the same game against Syracuse.
Without those issues, Boyd is really the complete package at this point. He can beat defenses over the top or take the underneath routes if the opposing secondary is playing conservative. And he can escape from the pocket to make plays with his legs when necessary.
Unlike Winston, who's come flying out of the gate, Boyd has gone through a more traditional development process. That's not necessarily a negative, though. Learning from the previous errors can help him in big games like the one on Saturday.
Verdict and Game Prediction
Winston possesses an incredible amount of upside. Yet, in a massive encounter like this, the unknown factor of how he'll respond to the pressure is tough to overlook. On the flip side, Boyd has gained a lot of big-game experience over the past three seasons.
The two other key factors in play will probably cancel out. Florida State's defense ranks third in points allowed and is coming off a dominant showing against Maryland. But Clemson also ranks inside the top 10 in scoring defense and has the benefit of playing at home.
The Tigers, led by Boyd, should be able to make enough key drives in the second half to make the fans inside Memorial Stadium very happy.
Clemson 34, Florida State 31
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