Clemson Football: the ACC Championship and other musings

Get your tomahawk chop ready IPTAY, we are all Florida State fans tomorrow night.  Most bowl projections predict that Clemson will face Alabama in the Orange Bowl.  Although a tall task, the opportunity to play the Crimson Tide would be a great showcase for Clemson football and the ACC at large.   These are the kinds of games that make college football great and attract top recruits to your school.

Of course, Clemson needs FSU to beat Duke in the conference championship in order to receive the BCS bid.  Only two teams from a conference are permitted to play in the BCS and the Orange Bowl would surely jump at the chance to take the ‘Noles should Duke pull the upset.  Florida State enters the game a 29 point favorite.

It’s hard to imagine FSU losing given the immense talent disparity between the two teams.  I will say this, Duke may be the most mentally strong team in the country.  The Blue Devils are the best fourth quarter team in the nation; if they can somehow stay within striking distance in the second half, things will get interesting.  I believe FSU blows the game open early and then cruises to a 47-21 win.

Tajh Boyd’s Legacy

You have to feel for quarterback Tajh Boyd.  He’s had a remarkable career.  Boyd ranks first in ACC history in terms of touchdown passes (102) and passing efficiency (154.24).  He owns basically every Clemson passing record.  And his record is tremendous (31-8).

Yet there is no way to ignore his record versus the University of South Carolina.  In three starts, he’s winless against the Gamecocks.  And his overall numbers are downright awful: 51 completions on 98 attempts (52%) with 5 interceptions and only two touchdowns.  Traditionally, CU owns the rivalry, but, unfortunately for Boyd, he has gone up against the apex of the USC program.

I hope Clemson fans appreciate how good Boyd has been; he’s undoubtedly the best QB in Tiger history.  Luckily he has one more game to get the bad taste out of his mouth left by USC.

Who’s Staying?

Over the next month, a few Tigers will face tough decisions on whether to return to Clemson or enter the NFL draft.  Given wide receiver Sammy Watkins status as a consensus top 10 pick, nearly everyone, including Dabo Swinney, expects the playmaker to depart.

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Other decisions will be more interesting, notably defensive end Vic Beasley, who many consider a first-round pick as well.  Beasley has had an outstanding season, leading the ACC in sacks with 12; however, he weighs only 235, slender even for a 3-4 OLB, the position most see him playing at the next level.  Bulking up and having another great season in college would likely do wonders for his draft stock.

Keep an eye on LB Stephone Anthony.  He tallied 78 tackles, 14.5 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks and was recently named a third-team All-ACC member.  Anthony possess the size (6’2”/245) and athleticism that NFL teams covet.  He projects as a mid-round pick.  Also, watch out for WR Martavis Bryant.  The freakishly talented wide out finally produced this season, catching 39 balls for 800 yards.  He needs to become more a more consistent, polished route runner.  Moreover, he faced off the field problems in the past that could affect his draft status.  It would be a mistake for Bryant to leave, but he has the talent to play in the NFL.

Lastly, and most importantly, will offensive coordinator Chad Morris get a head coaching job this off-season?  He interviewed at NC State and Texas Tech last year and will likely be a hot commodity once again.  The coaching carousel is turning quickly now, so it will be interesting to see who has interest in Morris.  I anticipate that Wake Forest will at least want to interview him.

No one knows exactly how things will unfold for Clemson over the next month, but there should be no shortage of drama regarding players and bowl possibilities.  I didn’t even mention recruiting…