ACC champion Clemson (10-3, 6-2) will face off against Big East champion West Virginia (9-3, 5-2) in the 2012 Orange Bowl. The Tigers clinched a BCS berth with a title game win over Virginia Tech while the Mountaineers got their conference's automatic bid due to a tiebreaker.
Where: Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 8 p.m. ET
Listen: WCCP 104.9 FM (Clemson) and WCHS 580 AM (West Virginia)
Live Streaming Audio: Clemson Tigers Radio Network
Betting Line: Not Available
Key Storyline: Did the Big East deserve an automatic BCS bid?
Arkansas, Boise State, Kansas State and South Carolina all finished inside the Top 10 but won't be playing in a BCS bowl. West Virginia, which came in at No. 23 in the final poll, will be. Something doesn't seem right about that.
There are so many different idiosyncrasies when it comes to the BCS that it's somewhat surprising there isn't a ranking cutoff for conference champions. If the five marquee bowl games are meant to showcase the best teams in college football, West Virginia shouldn't have even been in the conversation.
Who Won't Play for Clemson: LB Tony Steward
Steward suffered an ACL injury during an October practice and won't be available for the Orange Bowl. Prior to the injury he had played in five games and was trying to prove himself worthy of more snaps. The freshman should be ready to make a biggest impact next season.
Who Won't Play for West Virginia: WR Brad Starks
After suffering a knee injury against Louisville, Starks was ruled out for the remainder of the season. He had caught 14 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns before going down. It's a difficult way for the senior to end his Mountaineer playing career, especially since his team will be playing in a BCS bowl.
What They're Saying
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney believes the team's ACC title game triumph and subsequent BCS trip will have a lasting impact on the program. The Tigers rebounded from a tough stretch to win their most important clash of the season (via Associated Press).
“There have been a lot of walls built up around this program over the last 20 years and we knocked down them down tonight,” Swinney said. “We’ve been down in the valley and the players locked arms and they charged up that hill.”
Even though West Virginia's defense struggled mightily at times against South Florida, Jeff Casteel said his unit should be given credit for stepping up when they were needed most. They'll need to take it up a notch in the Orange Bowl, though (via Charleston Gazette-Mail).
By the time West Virginia's football team had survived another nail-biter for its third win in a row to close the regular season Thursday night in Tampa, Fla., all Jeff Casteel could do was breathe a sigh of relief.
"Give our guys credit,'' WVU's defensive coordinator said. "They hung in there and made enough plays - and made enough plays at crucial times - and won the game.''
Clemson Player to Watch: QB Tajh Boyd
Boyd's improvement was the main reason Clemson was one of college football's most surprising teams. So it's not a surprise that the Tigers struggled once Boyd's production dipped. He stepped up in a big way against Virginia Tech and will need to do so again against West Virginia.
West Virginia Player to Watch: WR Stedman Bailey
Bailey averaged an eye-popping 18 yards per catch en route to nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Mountaineers. Geno Smith will need to work in Bailey, along with Tavon Austin, early and often if they're going to keep up with Clemson.
Key Matchup: Clemson RB Andre Ellington vs. West Virginia run defense
Unlike most college teams which rely on two or even three running backs to carry the load, Clemson relies almost exclusively on Ellington. He gained over 1,000 yards on 213 carries and should be in line for another big game against a West Virginia run defense allowing more than 140 yards per game.
Prediction: Clemson 31, West Virginia 21