Tajh Boyd's apartment was a rotten mess.
Following Clemson's 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech on Oct. 29, 2011 -- a game in which Boyd threw one touchdown and two interceptions to bring an 8-0 start to a screeching halt -- somebody egged his campus home. Boyd's roommates hastily tried to clean it up before he got back from Atlanta, but they weren't quick enough.
With one loss, the national title talk surrounding the Tigers ended, and the education of an immature Heisman hopeful began.
"It was an eye-opener because everything had come so easy, everything had just gone perfect," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. "It couldn't have gone any better and all of a sudden, instead of everybody patting him on the back, and everybody writing great things and saying great things and him being the toast of the town, now he's the goat. That was a time where his skin was thickened."
As No. 3 Clemson prepares to host No. 5 Florida State on Saturday in what is the most important game of the ACC regular season, Boyd's maturation process might be the biggest advantage the Tigers have over the Seminoles and untested rookie phenom Jameis Winston.
In a game that will feature two of the nation's most talented quarterbacks -- a rising star versus an accomplished record-setter -- Boyd has the intangible benefit of having been in this position before.
Like Winston, Boyd understands the pressure of being a young quarterback shouldering the lofty expectations of winning a national championship.
Unlike Winston, Boyd has felt the crushing disappointment of failing to realize those expectations, has learned the lessons from those losses, and has rededicated himself with the aim of finally fulfilling them.
Boyd's experience in marquee games, in both wins and losses, coupled with his desire to leave a legacy at Clemson, could be the difference between these teams Saturday night in a game that will propel the winner to the top of the ACC Atlantic standings and further validate it as a national title contender.
For Winston, the story is just beginning.
For Boyd, this season is the last chance.
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