Stanford's 26-20 victory over Oregon in Week 11, sent earth-shaking cheers through the college football atmosphere from myriad sources. The Cardinal fans were joyous at the dismantling of the Ducks. and Florida State fans were beside themselves at being given a clear path to the title game.
The Orange Bowl joined those two in celebration.
After a series of less-than-appetizing ballgames pitting small names, four-loss, mid-majors and exhaustively repetitive participants, this is the year the Orange Bowl gets to dance in the spotlight.
No American Athletic Conference, the artist formerly known as the Big East, muddying the water. No small private west coast school to travel—or rather not travel—to the game. No four-loss ACC team to hitch its wagon to.
This year, the Orange Bowl is set up to get Clemson and Oregon, as CBS Sports' Jerry Palm also projects, and that is a fitting way for the storied bowl to transition from the BCS era to the College Football Playoff. Barring a disaster, this is tracking to be the best non-BCS Championship Game Orange Bowl since the 2004 Miami-Florida State game, which featured two Top 10 teams.
Except this projected Oregon-Clemson game won't be a rematch.
|2006||Penn State||Florida State|
|2013||Florida State||Northern Illinois|
|* denotes BCS National Championship Game|
The Orange Bowl has lost some luster during the BCS era. A game that was once famous for hosting the likes of Nebraska, Florida State and Miami in their primes took a steep dive at the same time the ACC went into a football tailspin. Conference champions ran the gamut from over-matched against quality teams to winning while playing the same bad football that was common in the league.
Last year's Florida State team broke the cycle, and now, as the bowl game pushes into the new era, it goes out with a game that should remind people of the Orange Bowl's prestige. That is, of course, provided the Ducks and Tigers continue to take care of business with their respective schedules.
For Oregon, that means beating Utah and Oregon State at home plus Arizona on the road. Despite quarterback Marcus Mariota being hampered by an MCL sprain, according to an ESPN report, all three contests are manageable for the Ducks.
Where Clemson is concerned, the road is a bit more difficult, but still doable—although South Carolina, the No. 10 team in the latest BCS rankings, does loom quite large. The Gamecocks are riding a four-game win streak over the Tigers, something Clemson would certainly like to see end this season.
However, even with a loss, Dabo Swinney's Tiger team would be the likely first pick to replace a BCS National Championship Game-bound Florida State.
Clemson and Oregon are the lead dogs, and the Ducks sit in prime position, because if they are eligible, they will be the pick thanks to their national relevancy. Clemson has some heavy lifting to do, and they need to make sure the Seminoles take care of business as well.
A loss by Florida State in the regular season would push Clemson out of the BCS Bowl picture, keeping the Orange Bowl thrilled but making the Tigers' inclusion highly unlikely. Florida State-Oregon still draws national intrigue, and that is what the Orange Bowl is looking to gain.
Thus, barring the ultimate disaster of the ACC's Coastal Champion sinking Florida State, the world is in store for a top-shelf Orange Bowl. That means the bright lights, the big names and the excitement will descend upon Miami, Miami Gardens and Sun Life Stadium come January. The Cotton Bowl shares January 3 with the Orange Bowl, and this year, the Orange Bowl will fight back—something that could not be said about previous years.
Oregon losing sent its fans into a tizzy, but plenty of folks around the nation are celebrating. For the Orange Bowl, the Ducks' loss was the game's gain, and the gang at Sun Life is hoping to roll out the red carpet to Oregon to let them know that a date with Clemson and a week in Miami is not a bad consolation prize.