Orange Bowl 2012: 5 Last-Minute Predictions for West Virginia vs. Clemson

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJanuary 4, 2012

Orange Bowl 2012: 5 Last-Minute Predictions for West Virginia vs. Clemson

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    Now that we have entered a new year, that means that the more appealing bowl games are ready to kick off. One of those top bowl games of the year of course is the BCS Discover Orange Bowl.

    It features the winner of the Big East and the ACC conferences.

    The Clemson Tigers are 10-3 and started the season off with an eight-game winning streak. Although they lost three of the final five games, they have one of the most explosive offenses in the country, averaging 33 points per contest.

    West Virginia finished the regular season 9-3 and won the Big East. The Mountaineers may have lost to a couple of subpar teams like Louisville and Syracuse. But they also have a great offense that averages 35 points per game. 

    As we get closer and closer to 8:30 p.m. ET game time, here are five quick predictions for the big game.

Sammy Watkins Makes an Early Heisman Push

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    Sammy Watkins had a great warm-up game against Virginia Tech with 80 receiving yards and 55 touchdowns. You can expect him to have an ever bigger game in the BCS Orange Bowl.

    Why?

    It's pretty simple. Stars shine bright on the biggest stages, and the freshman wide receiver is a star. Watkins is returning home as he is from South Florida, and I'm sure will want to make family members and friends proud with a big game.

    The Mountaineers have done a solid job defending the pass, as they allow just under 200 passing yards a game. But they have yet to face an offensive this great or a player as explosive as Watkins.

    Expect the freshman receiver to have a big game and make an early Heisman push heading into next year.

Game Will Come Down to Red-Zone Conversions

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    As much points as these teams score, you'd think they would execute a bit better in the red zone.

    West Virginia scores 87 percent of the time in the red zone but only scores a touchdown 62 percent of the time. That's not bad, in fact it's good for 46th in the country. But Clemson only scores 81 percent of the time and touchdowns a horrible 57 percent of the time when they get inside the 20-yard line.

    You can expect a lot of points in this game and it will come down to who can put up seven, not three.

Win the Turnover Battle and You Win the Game

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    Both of these teams have played well this year, but they've also showed us some sloppy play. Clemson and West Virginia both have three losses on the year, with all of them coming because they couldn't hold on to the football.

    Clemson turned the ball over a total of nine times in three losses. For West Virginia it was a total of eight, including four in the loss against the LSU Tigers.

    You can't win football games when you turn the ball over. It's really that simple.

    In a game that will likely come down to the last possession, that one turnover could very well be the difference in the game. Whoever has the fewer turnovers will have more points when this shootout is over.  

Shawne Alston Has a Big Game

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    With West Virginia's leading rusher, Dustin Garrison, out with a knee injury, junior running back Shawne Alston becomes the starter for this game. Alston has battled injuries himself in the past, but this is his chance to shine.

    He's a tough, physical runner at 5'11" and 221 pounds. He leads the Mountaineers team in rushing touchdowns with 10 on the season.

    Alston is the type of runner that can really wear a defense down with his running style. It also looks like he'll have a big game because the Tigers are allowing 176 yards on the ground a game, although they have gotten better the last few games.

    Garrison may be hurt, but Alston will have a big game and make a case for more touches next season.

Will Be a Last-Minute Finish

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    Why not?

    Every BCS game so far has come down to the wire, with two of the three needing extra time to determine a winner. I'm not saying this game will go into overtime, but it will come down to the last drive.

    These are two teams that are very high-scoring, like many of the other BCS bowls, so you can expect a game that will go back and forth.

    There's really no point in breaking the streak of incredible bowl games. It's the only game of the night; let's hope for some more fireworks and a finish that comes down to the final seconds.


    Randy Chambers is a B/R Featured Columnist that covers College Football and the NFL. You can contact him @Randy_Chambers or Randy.Chambers7@yahoo.com