CLEMSON, S.C. – In the final season of the Bowl Championship Series system, politicking is everywhere.
Across college football, coaches, commissioners and administrators are stomping for their preferred teams to earn spots in the BCS national title game or the other lucrative BCS games.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich was no different. Spurred on by word that the Orange Bowl had concerns about the Tigers following a disappointing end to 2013 and poor ticket sales for Clemson’s 2011 Orange Bowl blowout at West Virginia’s hands, Clemson’s athletic director penned an appeal to fans and took to Twitter to encourage fans to email, Tweet and Facebook Orange Bowl officials and tell them that Clemson would buy tickets directly from the bowl.
Radakovich also addressed those concerns to myorangeupdate.com:
In my conversations with Orange Bowl officials on Sunday afternoon, their primary concerns about Clemson center on ticket sales and team ranking. While the team won 10 games and remains ranked among the top in the nation, the only thing we can control now are ticket sales. It is critical that we support our team by letting the Orange Bowl know our fans are interested in attending the game and buying tickets.
Radakovich knows that No. 13 Clemson (10-2) isn’t a hands-down choice for a BCS berth.
So the question must be asked: Does Clemson deserve its second BCS bowl berth in three seasons?
Compared to its primary competition for an at-large berth, the answer is: absolutely.
Clemson’s resume isn’t perfect, but the Tigers’ slate compares favorably with that of its fellow at-large competitors. CBSSports.com, ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson and SI.com all project Clemson into the Orange Bowl against Alabama.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney believes his team is BCS-worthy as well.
“We want to be in the BCS,” he said earlier this week. “It’s a no-brainer. Not even a question. We’re still one of the best teams in the country. That’s a fact. We’ve been one of the most consistent teams in the country. This is the first time we’ve been out of the Top 10 all season.
“I wish we could win them all, but there are only a couple of undefeated teams. We’ve had tough losses (to Florida State and South Carolina) and had 10 turnovers. That’s why you hear the talk about turnover margin all the time. When we win it, we usually do well. We want the very best possible postseason game.”
Under BCS rules, teams must have at least nine wins and be ranked in the Top 14 in the final BCS standings. Barring any upsets this weekend, Clemson is on track to meet both of those requirements.
The Tigers’ resume also compares favorably with other potential competitors for a BCS at-large berth.
Clemson has 10 wins, with its only two losses to Top 10 teams in Florida State (which should lock up a title game berth with an ACC Championship Game win over Duke) and South Carolina. It is ranked No. 15 by the Sagarin computer ranking.
Its best win came in the season opener over then-No. 5 Georgia. And while the Bulldogs struggled to an 8-4 record, they are a shell of the team that started the season.
Star receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell missed much of the season with knee injuries, as did standout tailback Keith Marshall. Fellow star tailback Todd Gurley missed parts of four games with an ankle injury, and star quarterback Aaron Murray will miss the final two games of the season after suffering a torn ACL.
Michigan State is currently projected to go to the Rose Bowl, but the Spartans are among the final BCS at-large contenders. The 11-1 Spartans’ best win came against then-No. 21 Michigan; Sagarin ranks them No. 13.
10-2 Arizona State will take on 10-2 Stanford with in the Pac-12 title game with a BCS bid on the line. The Sun Devils’ best wins came over then-No.14 UCLA and then-No. 20 Washington. They are ranked third in the Sagarin rankings.
10-1 Baylor is currently ranked No. 9 in the BCS; its best win came over then-No. 10 Oklahoma. The Bears are ranked No. 6 currently in the Sagarin rankings.
9-2 Oklahoma will battle Oklahoma State, with hopes of jumping into the BCS at-large discussion with a win. The Sooners’ best wins are over then-No. 22 Notre Dame and then-No. 10 Texas Tech. They are ranked No. 23 by Sagarin.
And then you have 12-0 Northern Illinois, which is currently ranked No. 13 in the BCS poll and would likely clinch a BCS bid with a MAC title game victory. That would clinch the Huskies’ spot in the Top 16 of the final BCS standings, the threshold for a team from a non-automatic qualifying league to earn a bid.
The Huskies’ best win? A season-opening 30-27 win over unranked Iowa, which finished 8-4. Sagarin ranks the Huskies No. 38 nationally.
Of those six contenders, Clemson has the highest-ranked win at the time (Georgia) and ranks fourth among the six in the Sagarin rankings. The season-ending loss to South Carolina is a concern, as is the blowout nature of the Florida State loss.
But the Tigers have an exciting, TV-friendly offense that ranks 12th nationally in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense. If fans follow through with their commitment, a healthy orange-clad contingent will descend on Miami.
And there is no discounting the Orange Bowl’s new 12-year commitment to host the ACC champion, which begins in 2014. Clemson would be a natural replacement this season for Florida State.
With resume, television and fan appeal considered, the Tigers are a worthy BCS choice.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes in this article were obtained directly by the author.
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