We all know the jokes about the Big East. We all know that in reality, we'd much rather have seen Boise State, Arkansas or Kansas State play in this game than West Virginia.
But it is what it is, and the BCS was forced to pick the Mountaineers, so we'll just have to make do.
The Orange Bowl has been hosting the ACC champion for years, and the impressive Clemson Tigers were the class of the conference this season, earning a trip to Miami.
West Virginia, on the other hand, skates into the BCS by virtue of being the highest (and only) ranked team amongst the three Big East co-champions.
If you were going to compare these two teams statistically, you might be surprised to find the Mountaineers stacking up pretty well against Clemson, and in many categories (such as total defense), beating the pants off of the Tigers.
But statistics only tell part of the story.
West Virginia, for all of the efficiency, couldn't manage to beat Louisville and was absolutely destroyed by lowly Syracuse, 49-23. In fact, the Mountaineers played just two ranked teams (LSU and Cincinnati), and posted a 1-1 record. Clemson faced five ranked opponents, posting an impressive 4-1 mark.
While we may not all agree on how great Clemson is this season (as the loss to NC State certainly causes a few giggles), can we at least all get on board with the fact that West Virginia doesn't deserve to play with the likes of the other BCS participants?
While the motivation factor for the Mountaineers will certainly be high, keep in mind that Clemson is one of the Cinderella teams of 2011, and the Tigers will be just as, if not more hungry to leave their mark on the BCS.
Beyond the intagible factors, West Virginia will now have to deal with the loss of starting safety Terence Garvin, as head coach Dana Holgorsen has announced he will miss the game while recovering from knee surgery.
One of the great strengths of Clemson's offensive attack this season has been the passing game. While the loss of a single player usually won't completely hobble a team, Garvin was an important piece to the puzzle of shutting down Clemson's aerial attack.
While West Virginia will be figuring out how to cover the hole left by Garvin, Clemson's defense seems to be having the opposite issue. Safety Rashard Hall, a leading tackler for the Tigers, is contemplating knee surgery in the offseason, but is nonetheless ready to play in the Orange Bowl.
In fact, some have observed that the injury hasn't stopped Hall from making big contributions down the stretch, bulky knee brace and all.
In the end, this game could come down to the identities of the two teams. By head coach Dabo Swinney's own words “After 13 games, you are who you are.”
Who the Tigers are is a first-time BCS bowl participant, looking to rebuild some of the past glory of the program. Perhaps the biggest selling point on the Tigers this year is that they were able to do the improbable and very difficult: defeat a very good Virginia Tech team twice in the same season. If you think that's not so impressive, talk to some Michigan State fans right about now.
For WVU, their identity is a little less clear.
At times, the Mountaineers have looked like West Virginia of old, putting up big numbers and lighting up the scoreboard while falling completely flat the very next week. It's also a little concerning that Holgorsen seems to be hedging his bets a little. “You can't take two weeks off and go out there and expect to get your timing right and all that" (via MSN Sports).
While that may be true, West Virginia's timing has been off at times throughout the season. Stating the obvious won't help the Mountaineers against Clemson—a team that's not making excuses before the game even starts.