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

Arizona State hires former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 07:  Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs out with teammates before the Pac 12 Championship game against the Stanford Cardinal at Sun Devil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona. The Carindal defeated the Sun Devils 38-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Arizona State has hired former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson to coach its offensive line, the Sun Devils announced Tuesday.

Henson spent seven seasons on staff in Columbia, the last three as offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and/or tight ends coach. His offenses helped the Tigers win the 2013 and ’14 SEC East championships, but their yards per play ranks plummeted from 13th to 125th in yards per play over his three years at the helm. Missouri rebounded to rank 31st in the first year under new coordinator Josh Heupel.

He spent the 2016 season as an offensive analyst at Oklahoma State.

“Josh brings a tremendous background of winning championships at the highest levels,” says Graham.  “He was the offensive coordinator at Missouri and won back-to-back SEC East Championships.  He was the recruiting coordinator at LSU and was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters for his accomplishments there.  He helped LSU win the 2008 BCS National Championship.  Josh brings a wealth of knowledge of our system to our staff, in addition to being one of the finest recruiters in the country.  He will blend well with Chip Lindsey and Rob Likens.”

In addition to coaching the offensive line, Henson will serve as assistant head coach and run game coordinator. Former offensive line coach Chris Thomsen left for a position at TCU earlier this week.

“I am so happy to be at Arizona State University,” Henson said in a statement.  “One of the things that attracted me to ASU is that Coach Graham has a track record of winning wherever he’s been.  And he has a track record of developing young men.  Winning is important, but being involved in their lives is also what appeals to me.  I know a lot of members of the current staff and they have great things to say about the university and about the Phoenix area.  I came out here years ago as a guest of former ASU assistant football coach Johnny Barr and found it to be one of the best places in the country to live.  I am very excited to get started.”

Arizona State finished 112th in rushing, 119th in yards per carry and sacks allowed, and tied for 105th in tackles for loss allowed en route to a 5-7 campaign in 2016.

Oregon hires Mario Cristobal away from Alabama

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Assistant Head Coach/Tackles and Tight Ends/Recruiting Coordinator Mario Cristobal of the Alabama Crimson Tide cheers in the first half while taking on the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Oregon has hired Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal to serve as the Ducks’ co-offensive coordinator and run game coordinator, the Ducks announced Tuesday.

Though it was just announced today, this is a move that has been in the works for a while.

Cristobal enjoyed considerable success at Alabama, helping the Tide win the 2015 national title and finish as a runner-up in 2016. The Tide’s offensive line won the inaugural Joe Moore Award — given to the best offensive line unit — in 2015, and left tackle Cam Robinson took home the Outland Trophy this fall.

Cristobal is also known for his 6-year run as head coach at Florida International and is regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football.

The question, beyond if he can quote-unqoute fix a running game that ranked 27th this season after recording top-10 finishes seven of the past eight seasons, is if Cristobal can help Willie Taggart and a staff with a long track record of successfully recruiting Florida and either:

A) translate that success to the West Coast, where Oregon traditionally recruits, or

B) pull Sunshine State kids all the way across the country to Eugene.

Cristobal is listed as a co-offensive coordinator, which assumes Oregon will hire another co-offensive coordinator (and quarterbacks coach) to join Taggart’s staff.

Tuesday’s announcement did not indicate that Cristobal will call plays for the Ducks.

Frank Beamer headlines class of new CFP selection committee members

SHREVEPORT, LA - DECEMBER 26:  Head coach Frank Beamer of the Virginia Tech Hokies takes the field for pregame warmups prior to the Camping World Independence Bowl against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on December 26, 2015 in Shreveport, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Now three years into the new system, the College Football Playoff’s selection committee roster is beginning change.

Gone are Barry AlvarezCondoleezza Rice and Lloyd Carr (Carr had already stepped down for health reasons), and in are Ohio State AD Gene Smith, Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard and former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer, which the CFP made official on Tuesday.

Additionally, Kirby Hocutt had his 2-year stay on the committee extended through the 2017 season, and Bobby Johnson will stay through 2018. Hocutt and Johnson stepped in when Oliver Luck stepped away after taking a job with the NCAA and Archie Manning stepped down due to health reasons. Hocutt will again serve as committee chairman in 2017.

With Rice leaving, the CFP will consist entirely of men for the first time in its history.

“Frank, Chris and Gene will each bring a wealth of knowledge to the selection committee,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “All three played college football.  And they will continue the CFP tradition of committee members with high integrity and a passion for college football.

“We are also delighted that Kirby will return as chair. He did a tremendous job of leading and facilitating the committee’s deliberations, and he was also an excellent representative with the media and public.  Likewise, we are pleased that Bobby accepted our invitation to return. He is an excellent evaluator of teams and brings a valuable coach’s perspective.”

Smith has served as Ohio State’s AD for 12 years and served on a wealth of NCAA committees in that time, including a run on the Men’s Basketball Selection Committee.

“This is a tremendous honor and privilege to be appointed to this committee,” Smith said in a statement. “The sport of football has given so much to me and I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to be able to give back.”

Howard is a former Air Force player who was named the inaugural Campbell Trophy winner as the nation’s top scholar-athlete in 1990. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Oxford and an M.B.A. from Harvard. Howard became the president of Hampden-Sydney College in 2009 — he was among the youngest college presidents in the country at the time — and took over at Robert Morris in 2015. Also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Howard earned a Bronze Star for distinguished service in Afghanistan.

Beamer, of course, is a future College Football Hall of Fame coach who walked away from the game with 280 total victories and a 238-121-2 mark while serving as Virginia Tech’s head coach from 1987-2015. In addition to winning or sharing seven conference championships, seven top-10 finishes and an appearance in the 1999 BCS title game, Beamer shepherded the Hokies from a Division I-AA independent to the ACC.

“College football has been my life’s work, and I’m really humbled that I can still contribute to the game in this role,” Beamer said in a statement. “Hopefully the rest of the committee will be interested in my perspective. To join a group with so many great minds and such a diverse range of experience, I just want to pull my weight. The committee has an important role, and I’ll do everything asked of me to help rank the best teams in America for the right to compete for the national championship.”

Penn State DT Antoine White announces transfer to Albany

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Chris Laviano #5 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is pressured by Antoine White #93 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in the second half during the game on September 19, 2015 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Penn State defensive tackle Antoine White will plug gaps and chase passers in a new destination next season. White revealed he will leave Happy Valley to play for Albany in 2017. As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, White would lose a year of eligibility if he left for an FBS school.

White announced the transfer on his Twitter account.

“My past 3 years at Penn State have been filled with so many great experiences as a student-athlete, in school, sports, as well as in life,” White wrote.

“I am forever grateful for all of these and I have built relationships that I know will last a life time.”

White collected 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a sophomore this fall. He was a second-team tackle for Penn State’s Big Ten championship squad in 2016 and was expected to assume the same role next season.