Chief among the reasons why Clemson looks more formidable this week than at the same point a year ago is that quarterback Tajh Boyd has delivered the best games of his career down the stretch.
Boyd began to build his resume during the first eight games last season, throwing for 24 touchdowns and two interceptions as undefeated Clemson climbed into the polls’ top 10. The season went downhill over the final six games as Boyd completed 52.3 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.
In the past three games, Boyd has completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. He has rushed for 188 yards on 33 carries and fourtouchdowns.
He ranks No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency, No. 4 in touchdowns and No. 7 in total offense. Yet when many of the rolls are called for quarterbacks considered among the best in the nation, Boyd’s name is curiously absent.
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“I don’t know of a quarterback playing better in the country than Tajh Boyd,” coach Dabo Swinney said.
“I know I’m biased, and I know I haven’t studied every player and I know who they are, and I can’t imagine a guy that has meant more to his team. And his play — he’s got 33 touchdown passes, he’s got 41 touchdowns. It’s incredible how he’s played.
“I see some of the guys they talk about and I say, ‘Wow.’ ”
Boyd was shut out when the finalists were announced for many of the national awards for quarterbacks. E.J. Manuel was named a finalist for the Golden Arm Award, and Boyd has been more productive than Collin Klein of Kansas State, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and Braxton Miller of Ohio State. Kleine and Manziel are finalists for the Maxwell, which goes to the game’s top player.
Typically, Boyd is also omitted from conversations that include A.J. McCarron of Alabama and Matt Barkley of Southern Cal, though he was named this week one of 15 finalists for the Walter Camp Award to the player of year.
“He makes big plays. He’s made some throws we’ve just gotten used to it around here,” Swinney said. “No big deal, a 20-yard stop route to the field on a rope. Ain’t no problem.
“He makes it look easy. He’s a special player.”
On pace to become the most productive quarterback in school history, Boyd has set 11 game, season and career records this season. He has eight of the 10 biggest games for passing yardage in Clemson history. With one more victory he will tie Steve Fuller and Mike Eppley for fifth in all-time wins as a starter. Rodney Williams (1985-88) holds the record with 32, which would be within reach next season.
He climbed into the ACC record book and is challenging career records set by Philip Rivers at N.C. State and Chris Weinke.
Desmond Howard, Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan in 1991 and a member of the ESPN GameDay team, checked in this week to understand what’s contributed to Boyd’s “sick” numbers. Howard planned “to give Tajh some love” during Saturday’s show from Los Angeles.
“He’ll get his time,” Swinney said. “Sooner or later people will start paying attention. Right now, he’s having a lot of fun.
“The more he wins, the more people are going to take notice, especially when we have a stage like we’re going to have Saturday night.”