Champions of the Big East and ACC will square off in the Orange Bowl when West Virginia takes on Clemson.
West Virginia went 9-3 in 2011. Its 5-2 conference record was tied with Cincinnati and Louisville, but it earned the conference title with a higher BCS ranking.
Clemson was 10-3 on the season—6-2 in ACC play—and won the conference championship game 38-10 over Virginia Tech. The Tigers' two wins over the Hokies were Virginia Tech's only losses on the season.
West Virginia enters the Orange Bowl at No. 22 in the BCS, while Clemson is No. 15.
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami
When: Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 8:30 p.m. EST
Watch: ESPN, streamed at ESPN3
Listen: 1440 WAJR-AM, 101.9 WVAQ-FM in Morgantown, 104.9 WCCP-FM in Clemson
There's a lot to go on here, but ultimately it comes down to this: Year in and year out, Clemson brings high expectations, and it finds some way to falter. That happened this year, except it managed to regroup to win the ACC title game. Can Clemson win a BCS game and take the next step? A win would do wonders for the program.
Clemson (-3), according to Bodava
The Tigers may have Virginia Tech's number, but I don't trust them against any other Top 25-caliber team. The fact that West Virginia is getting three points to play with here is certainly not going to keep me away.
Who Might Not Play for West Virginia
Per USA Today
OL Josh Jenkins, WR Brad Starks, S Terence Garvin, and Vernard Roberts are out.
DL Joshua Taylor is doubtful.
DL Julian Miller is questionable.
Who Might Not Play for Clemson
Per USA Today
LB Tony Steward and PK Spencer Benton are out.
WR DeAndre Hopkins is questionable.
What it Means for West Virginia
Leaving the Big East to the Big 12, it would be huge for West Virginia to win a game like this. The Big East is not a strong conference, so winning it isn't always indicative of how great a team is. But winning a BCS bowl game goes a long way toward showing your worth.
What it Means for Clemson
This game will go a long way in determining how this season is remembered. Will this be the season that Clemson started 8-0? Or is this the season where the Tigers lost three of the final four games before regrouping to win the ACC title game? What happens here goes a long way in answering that.
What They're Saying
Scott Grayson of West Virginia Illustrated quoted linebacker Najee Goode as saying the Mountaineers are confident they will win. Part of the reason is that they are playing for Eain Smith, who is returning home to Miami.
Eain Smith always tells me, even when I dropped him off at the airport for break, "We can't lose this game." So I told him we aren't going to lose it. Hands down we aren't going to lose this, because he can't come back home for the rest of his life and hear that we lost a BCS game in the Orange Bowl.
Travis Sawchik of the Post and Courier said Clemson feels that is a big game for not only this season, but the future of the program.
Clemson players and coaches say a victory against the No. 23 Mountaineers can be a springboard for next season. The No. 14 Tigers (10-3) think a win will consolidate gains made in perception this fall and build positive momentum going forward, which could provide benefits on the field next season and on the recruiting trail this spring.
West Virginia Player to Watch
WR Tavon Austin. He had more than 1,000 yards receiving this season, but was also a big-play threat on the ground. He's the team's third-leading rusher. The Mountaineers will need to find a way to get him the ball in space.
Clemson Player to Watch
WR Sammy Watkins. He's very much the same kind of player as Austin. Clemson will need to find ways to get Watkins the ball. If the Tigers manage to do that, they have a shot to win the game.
QB Tajh Boyd vs. the West Virginia secondary. Boyd's performance began to slip when Clemson was losing. That's certainly not coincidental. If he doesn't turn the ball over, Clemson will be in good shape here.
Prediction: West Virginia 27, Clemson 23
It will be a good game, but I don't like Clemson to pull out a close one. It's not inspiring any confidence. The good news is that the Tigers are young and will have great moments in the future, but this day will belong to West Virginia.
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