Tajh Boyd

CFT Predicts: Florida State-Clemson

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For the second time this season, and about the fifth or sixth time the past three years, we have yet another Game of the Year/Century/Millennium on tap.

The latest iteration lugging around the “Game of the…” tag that’s enveloped sports in general and college football in particular is, of course, Florida State-Clemson. While taking a jab at the hype surrounding this and other such games, there’s little doubt that this matchup is dripping with ACC and, more importantly, BCS title implications.

Clemson comes into the game in Death Valley ranked No. 3 in the country. Florida State, thanks to Stanford’s upset loss, climbed into the Top Five at No. 5. Simply put, the winner will keep itself squarely in the mix for a spot in the BCS championship game while the loser see its title hopes diminish significantly.

How significantly?  The last 10 BCS title games have featured nine one- or two-loss teams; six of those came from the SEC, and none from the ACC.

A loss won’t end any and all title hopes for either team, but it will make the BCS row tougher to hoe. And force it to not only win out but to rely on the teams above them to stumble down the stretch.

At least statistically, FSU and Clemson are about as even as you can get, even as the oddsmakers are making FSU three-point favorites on the road.  Nationally, the Tigers and Seminoles are ranked in the Top 30 in every major statistical category but two: Clemson’s rush offense and rush defense.  For the statistical Tale of the Tape…

FSU-Clemson Stats

Of course, statistics only scratch the surface and doesn’t even begin take into account intangibles.

The game will be played in Tiger Stadium, one of the most electrifying and, for visitors, hostile environments in college football.

Getting his first start in such an environment is Jameis Winston.  While the redshirt FSU freshman has seen himself injected in the Heisman conversation after just a handful of starts, his only road tests thus far have been at Pittsburgh and Boston College.

On the flip side is Tajh Boyd, a battle-tested three-year starter who is among the best players at his position in the country, even as he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

Hype aside, the game has all of the makings of an instant classic.  How will it play out?  Let us here at CFT peer into our collective crystal balls (stop giggling and grow up, people) and take a shot at it.

KEVIN MCGUIRE
There is no doubt this game is the game of the year in the ACC. A pair of Top-Ten teams and Heisman contenders has all the makings of a conference championship game, but unfortunately we will not get a chance to watch this one again at the end of the season. While I have been impressed by what freshman sensation Jameis Winston has done for Florida State this season, we will finally get the chance to answer one of the few unanswered questions about him: how will he handle leading the offense in an environment that will be pumping the volume up from the start? If Aaron Murray, a seasoned quarterback with plenty of big game experience, failed to get out of Death Valley with a win, why should I bank on Winston being able to do so in his first real road test (sorry Boston College fans). I think Winston gets a bit of an eye-opener on the road at Clemson, but he’ll make his plays.

The big question for me comes down to defense. Can Clemson limit the big plays by Florida State? Can the Seminoles find a way to force Tajh Boyd to make some mistakes? I think Boyd and Sammy Watkins come up with enough plays to get the Tigers one step closer to the ACC championship game, allowing them to begin sniffing around for something a bit more enticing.

Prediction: Clemson 35, Florida State 28

CHRIS HOUSTON
This one should be a shootout on the magnitude of last year’s game, which the Seminoles won, 49-37. However, I think the tables will be turned this time, with Clemson coming out on top. As good as Jameis Winston has been for FSU, he has yet to go up against a quality defense with high-level athletes. I think the game will be won in the first half, with the Tigers and Tajh Boyd coming out sharp and jumping out to a lead while FSU struggles to get rolling.

However, I think Winston adjusts and gets hot in the second half and makes a game of it. But it won’t be enough and the Tigers will stay undefeated by the skin of their teeth.

Prediction:: Clemson 41, Florida State 38

JJ STANKEVITZ
FSU hasn’t really played anyone, but then again neither has Clemson since Week 1. I like the Georgia win, but basing a prediction off one game that happened a month and a half ago doesn’t seem safe.

Mainly, though, I’m drinking the Jameis Winston Kool-Aid. His stats are nuts: 90/123, 1,441 yards and 17 touchdowns in five games. FSU had an extra week to prepare while Clemson underperformed against Boston College. It’ll be close, but ultimately I think Winston makes the plays when it counts, and FSU sneaks out a win.

Prediction: Florida State 31, Clemson 27

JOHN TAYLOR
For every five times I’ve picked Clemson in my head, I’ve picked Florida State the same amount.  Yes, that’s how close this game should be.  FSU has a top-10 defense, while Clemson’s unit is underrated and undervalued.  While I think Boyd will outplay Winston (slightly) based solely on experience, I see the QB position being essentially a wash.

Where the tide will turn in favor of the Seminoles is in the running game.  The Tigers have been susceptible to the run at various points this season, and Clemson has yet to face a three-headed ground-game beast like Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr.  And that’s without even mentioning Winston’s ability to make/keep plays alive with his legs.

This game will be close, as close as most observers expect.  The whole Death Valley aura, especially, has me teetering back and forth on a selection.  I have to pick somebody, though — and if you asked me in two hours the answer might be different — so, based on everything up to and including a flip of the coin, I’m going with…

Prediction: Florida State 38, Clemson 34

Duke dual-threat QB Thomas Sirk suffers ruptured Achilles tendon

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk (1) looks to pass against North Carolina during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk will be out of offseason workouts indefinitely after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon this morning. The school announced via Twitter he is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday.

Sirk led the Blue Devils in passing in 2015 with 2,625 yards and 16 touchdowns while completing 58.8 percent of his pass attempts. Sirk was also intercepted eight times and was a bit of a mobile threat for Duke. Sirk rushed for 803 yards and eight touchdowns, both good for leading Duke’s rushing attack last season.

In the absence of Sirk, that should give Parker Boehme, a redshirt sophomore, and Nicodem Pierre, a freshman in 2015, a chance to get some extra reps in spring football practices. Duke is scheduled to open spring football practices on March 5, which is later than the team has typically opened spring practices. Duke is not scheduled to have a traditional spring game but will have a spring football event on April 9.

Stanford DL coach Randy Hart steps into retirement

Stanford coach David Shaw prepares to lead his team onto the field for an NCAA college football game against Oregon State, in Corvallis, Ore., Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
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With the assistant coaching carousel continuing to spin rapidly, one key position has just opened up out west. Stanford announced the retirement of defensive line coach Randy Hart Tuesday morning.

“I am honored and blessed to have been at so many great places with so many fantastic coaches, student-athletes and fans,” Hart said in a released statement. “And for that, I’m one of the luckiest coaches ever. I have loved each one of my players, and have enjoyed working with every staff member throughout the years. Everyone has to make this decision at some point in time, and this was the right time for me and my family.”

Hart spent the final six years of his coaching career with Stanford during a highly successful run for the program. With Hart on the staff, Stanford’s defense was one of the top defensive units on an annual basis. Hart also spent time coaching at Ohio State, Notre Dame, Washington, Purdue, Iowa State, and Tampa. Hart played for Ohio State under the legendary head coach Woody Hayes. It was with Hayes and the Buckeyes that Hart got his coaching career started as a graduate assistant in 1970 and 1971. He later rejoined the Buckeyes staff in 1982 and stayed there until 1987 when he left for Washington and later took on a role as defensive coordinator.

“Randy’s career speaks for itself when you look at a national championship, Rose Bowls and all of the players he helped get to the NFL,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “It has been a privilege for me to watch him push young men to be their best athletically, as well as academically, and prepare them for life.

NFL banning college players with domestic violence, sexual assault convictions from combine

FILE - This Oct. 25, 2014, file photo shows Michigan defensive end Frank Clark (57) breaking through the Michigan State line during the first half of an NCAA college football game in East Lansing, Mich. Defensive end Frank Clark has been dismissed from the Michigan football team after being accused of domestic violence in Ohio over the weekend. The 21-year-old Clark pleaded not guilty Monday, Nov. 17, 2014,  to charges of assault and domestic violence. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File
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A new NFL rule will prevent college football players turning pro from attending the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft if they have been convicted of domestic violence or sexual assault. The NFL will also refuse opening the doors for any NFL-sanctioned event if a player chooses not to submit to a background check.

“It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent wrote in a memo to all NFL teams last month, according to USA Today.

The number of players each year affected by the rules should be minimal on a year-to-year basis, but it is interesting to see how that could impact the draft outlook of prospects moving forward if they get mixed in some legal trouble off the college football field. As noted by USA Today, the rule would have prevented Michigan linebacker Frank Clark, a second-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks, from attending the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Clark pleaded guilty to a domestic violence incident while at Michigan.

The policy adopted by the NFL will be intended to add further consequence for players getting in trouble in college with the hope of changing the image of the NFL player moving forward. As mentioned, this is expected to have minimal impact as only a select percentage of players are invited to the combine, and an even smaller percentage are invited to the NFL Draft. If nothing else though, it is one more consequence that will come from any involvement from a domestic or sexual assault in college.

It would be interesting to see if the NCAA or conferences will be inspired to build off this NFL policy. The NFL policy does not prevent players with a checkered past from attending pro day events or other private workouts. There is no indication whether any conference or the NCAA would consider such a policy on top of existing rules and policies related to domestic violence or sexual assaults. Would a conference adopt a policy that could extend the policy on their campuses to pro day events? Would that even be fair? Or is that going too far?

Tennessee self-reports minor NCAA violations in football program

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones watches as his team warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
AP Photo/Wade Payne
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The Tennessee football program committed three recruiting violations between 2014 and January 2016, but do not expect the Vols to be having any NCAA hammer dropped on them. The NCAA has already accepted the school’s self-imposed sanctions and is moving on. The four minor violations were among 18 NCAA violations submitted to the NCAA according to The Knoxville News Sentinel.

One violation that was self-reported resulted in a one-game suspension for secondary coach Willie Martinez. Martinez served his one-game suspension during Tennessee’s season-opener last fall against Bowling Green. Green was found to have had impermissible contact with a junior recruit during a spring evaluation period in 2014. That violation was discovered by the NCAA offices.

Two other violations reported by Tennessee involved the publicity of recruits making visits to the school. In one, a recruit and his family entered a Tennessee behind football head coach Butch Jones. As Jones waved to the applauding crowd, Tennessee admitted this may have been construed as an acknowledgment of the unnamed recruit. As a result, Tennessee was cut off from having contact with the recruit until the eve of signing day. Another violation came when a mid-year enrollee posted a picture of himself on Twitter. A recruit on an official visit was also in the picture. Tennessee asked for light punishment for the violation as that player was not properly educated on the policies regarding recruits on visits.

The fourth violation from the football program involved complimentary tickets. A walk-on player was given a full allotment of tickets for a home game against Chattanooga despite that player’s certification expiring. That unnamed player was thus ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season.

These types of violations tend to be ticky-tack penalties according to the NCAA rule book, and can sometimes happen without even thinking. The sEC and NCAA accepted the self-imposed sanctions implemented by Tennessee for the football violations and the violations in other sports, and no further action is expected. In the end, Tennessee gets a light slap on the wrist and moves on.