No, it's not the BCS National Championship Game. But the 2014 Orange Bowl will be the next best thing for two of college football's top programs this winter.
The top-tier bowl game is set to kick off on Friday, Jan. 3 from Sun Life Stadium in Miami. The only unknown at this point is which pair of teams will be playing for the prestigious bowl of oranges.
With the official announcement to come on Sunday night, here we'll get you set with some critical information and an early matchup prediction ahead of next month's marquee bowl game.
Date: Friday, January 3, 2014
Start Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Matchup Prediction: Clemson Tigers vs. Ohio State Buckeyes
With Florida State finishing the year a perfect 13-0 and heading to the BCS National Championship Game, the expectation is that Clemson will earn a bid to replace the Seminoles and represent the ACC in Miami.
Ohio State—one of the top-ranked teams to not earn an automatic bid—will likely be selected as well.
As pointed out by SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel, the majority opinion is that the Tigers will meet the Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl as a result of Michigan State having clinched the Big Ten and a berth in the Rose Bowl:
Expected BCS pairings. FSU Auburn. Rose: Mich St-Stanford. Fiesta: Baylor-UCF. Sugar: Bama Oklahoma. Orange: Clemson Ohio St.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 8, 2013
Clemson finished 10-2 this past season following a 6-0 start that included a win over Georgia. But a blowout loss at home to Florida State in midseason knocked Clemson out of the national championship picture and the ACC title race as the Seminoles ran the table to win the Atlantic Division.
The Tigers' season-ending loss at rival South Carolina was hardly a surprise, but troublesome as Clemson turned the ball over six times in the 14-point loss.
But while Clemson should be thrilled to earn a BCS bid after going 1-2 against ranked teams this season, Ohio State will be disappointed to wind up in South Beach. Prior to Saturday night's gut-wrenching loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes were projected to play for the national championship.
Despite the bitter ending to Ohio State's regular-season run, it'll likely be favored over Clemson, which surrendered 70 points in a 37-point loss to West Virginia its last time out in the Orange Bowl two years ago.
What to Watch For
If Clemson and Ohio State do in fact meet in the Orange Bowl next month, college football fans will want to pay close attention to the two starting quarterbacks.
Who would win an Orange Bowl matchup between Clemson and Ohio State?
Clemson's Tajh Boyd and Ohio State's Braxton Miller are two of the top signal-callers in the country and can beat defenses in a variety of ways. Boyd, who has thrown for more than 3,400 yards and 29 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, is seen as one of the top quarterbacks set to enter the NFL draft next spring.
Meanwhile, Miller is only a junior and has rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored at least 28 total touchdowns in each of the past two seasons with the Buckeyes.
So, whether it's Boyd testing Ohio State's defense though the air or Miller shredding Clemson with his legs, each possession would bring tremendous potential in this particular Orange Bowl matchup.
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