For many years, New Years Day evening meant watching the Orange Bowl game from downtown Miami, Florida. A game involving big marching bands, patriotic music, green trees and a game between college football teams in the hunt for the national championship voted on by polls.
In January, I had the chance to attend the 2012 Orange Bowl live for the first time in a game played at Sun Life Stadium near Fort Lauderdale—the home of the Miami Dolphins. The game was played on a midweek night, on January 4, which made it seem a bit after the holiday, and the weather was cool until game day, when it warmed up a bit to seem more like Florida.
Clemson from the Atlantic Coast Conference came into the game ranked ranked No. 15 and holding a 10-3 record. The Tigers were 6-2 and champions of the ACC coming off a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game. The Orange Bowl holds fond memories for Clemson, having been the site of their teams' win in the 1982 Orange Bowl which clinched the 1982 National Championship.
Their opponent from the Big East was West Virginia, ranked No. 23 and sporting a 9-3 record. The game was a significant homecoming for 20 of the West Virginia players from the state of Florida.
The Mountaineers were 5-2 in the Big East, a conference which was thought of as being in decline because of the announced defections of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. So there was a rivalry line in motion of the Big East seeking to bolster its reputation despite West Virginia having announced its intentions to move to the Big 12 conference.