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No. 5 Florida St, No. 3 Clemson features QB duel

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)

Famous Jameis versus The Tajh Mahal of Football.

Hyped freshman versus decorated senior.

Heisman hopefuls Jameis Winston and Tajh Boyd will duel in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown Saturday when No. 5 Florida State travels to Death Valley to meet No. 3 Clemson.

There's not much difference in the signal callers. At least not to a couple of former NFL executives.

''This will be a game that will match up probably the two best quarterbacks on the field at one time this season,'' said Gil Brandt, NFL Media senior analyst. ''I don't know of (another matchup) that will have two quarterbacks that are as good as these guys.''

Brandt helped build the Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys as vice president of player personnel from 1960 to 1989. He said he both of the ACC QBs have promising NFL futures.

''I don't think in the long run you can go wrong on either one. Both of them will be players on Sunday,'' Brandt said. ''Boyd is a shorter guy. When you're a little shorter, you look like you're a better athlete. But I think that they're both very, very good athletes. Both have that very good speed for the position. I think Winston just may have a little stronger arm.

''Both of those guys have got enough talent that it doesn't make any difference what offense they're running. As quarterbacks, they're athletic, they're strong-armed, they've got accuracy, they've got everything that you want.''

Boyd (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) and Winston (6-4, 228) may be on opposite ends of their collegiate careers, but have the same mission. The Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) and Seminoles (5-0, 3-0) both have national championship aspirations. Saturday's winner moves a step closer at a title shot.

Boyd, a senior, has edge in experience and was the ACC offensive player of the year in 2012. He and Winston are either No. 1 or No. 2 in the conference in total offense, total offensive touchdowns, yards passing per game, pass efficiency, completion percentage and touchdown passes.

''That doggone guy is strong, he's elusive, he makes all the throws,'' said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, gushing over Boyd. ''He's a leader. ... I mean, the guy is an outstanding player.''

Boyd has moved up to No. 4 on the ACC career yards passing list with 9,836 and is on pace to finish No. 2 behind former North Carolina State quarterback Phillip Rivers. His 88 touchdown passes are seven shy of Rivers' conference record.

Former Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Sam Wyche has watched Boyd closely while living in Pickens County, South Carolina. He's impressed by Boyd's growth into a fundamentally sound quarterback that leads with poise.

''He's on time with his throws. He carries the ball in the correct position,'' Wyche said. ''I've really been proud of him because of how he's handled his movement into stardom.''

Both QBs are mobile, but in different ways.

Brandt said Boyd has a tendency to take off more. He's three inches shorter and shiftier.

Winston's size allows him to muscle out of sacks. He uses speed to find space while keeping his eyes downfield, a trait that resulted in weekly highlight touchdowns.

Seminoles tackle Cameron Erving said Winston's directive is, ''Don't get beat inside, I won't get sacked.''

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables described Winston as Adrian Peterson playing quarterback. Teammates say his competitiveness is unmatched.

''He's going to be a ridiculous quarterback,'' Boyd said of Winston. ''He's a great player, I love watching him play. Great competitor. He just goes out there and lays it on the line, that's what it's all about. I don't like watching guys who don't go out there and compete.

''Does so much for his team, puts his team on his back and that's what it's all about.''

Both Winston and Boyd have kept tabs on the other. Boyd wants to outperform the freshman while Winston insists he's not into the head-to-head hype.

''Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Football (Manziel), Tajh, I always watch their stuff,'' said Winston, who also mentioned Peyton Manning, Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham and Joe Montana. ''Just to peep their game. People always talk about greatness. ... If you can see other things in other people that you can add to your game, that's how you get better.

''I'm looking for extraordinary things. ... Things that they do that I feel I can do. Things that no one else can do, because those guys are unique in what they do. I just like watching and learning new things.''

Everything is new for Winston.

This will be his first trip to Memorial Stadium, where the Seminoles haven't won since 2001. The Tigers scoring defense ranks No. 10 in the country and will be the most talented unit Winston has faced. National and conference championships are on the line.

''I think the biggest thing for quarterbacks to excel, they have to learn to read defenses,'' Brandt said. ''And the way to learn to read defenses is to play a lot of snaps.''

That could give Boyd a slight edge over Winston.

Everyone will have an eye on this highly anticipated matchup, including Heisman voters.

Tagged: Clemson, Florida State, Tajh Boyd

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