35 Bowls in 24 Days: Discover Orange Bowl

Can Clemson earn their first BCS bowl victory ever? (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

I don’t have to root for my own conference.

So you’ll excuse me if I don’t pull for a rival in Clemson when they play for a BCS bowl victory tonight. It’s just not something people outside the SEC do, because we understand that an Orange Bowl victory would give the Tigers a major advantage in the recruiting game. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here is what you can expect in tonight’s Discover Orange Bowl.

More: See the other bowl games

No. 23 West Virginia Mountaineers (9-3, 5-2 Big East) vs. No. 15 Clemson Tigers (10-3, 6-2 ACC), 8:30 p.m. [ESPN]

Do you want to spend four bucks to get into Sun Life Stadium for a BCS bowl game tonight? Would you like to listen to Train play the halftime show? Then boy, do I have a deal for you!

Clemson appears in the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1982 after their first ACC title in over 20 years. They will be expected to pick up the slack left behind by their ACC brethren, who have won a combined two BCS games since the inception of BCS bowls. The latest defeat was last night’s 23-20 overtime loss by Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

The BCS drought by Clemson’s conference shouldn’t be put on the Tigers, but you better believe that it has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the next ACC squad to appear in the BCS until someone wins a game, and it will continue like that until someone steps up.

No pressure, Clemson.

I’m looking forward to seeing how both teams handle the long layoff, because neither team finished all that strong in the regular season. Clemson lost three of their final five games, while West Virginia lost two of their final six to Louisville and Syracuse (although they are riding a three-game winning streak into Miami).

You’re about to see two very evenly-matched offenses that have the ability to score in bunches, so it should still be an exciting game. No Clemson team has ever gained more yards or scored more points than this bunch, and believe it or not, the Mountaineers actually average even more points per game than the Tigers (34.9 to Clemson’s 33.6).

Clemson has super-freshman Sammy Watkins, who caught 77 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. West Virginia has Stedman Bailey, who caught 67 passes for 1,197 yards and 11 touchdowns. The quarterbacks also have flashes of excellence, as Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and WVU’s Geno Smith have combined for 7,556 passing yards and 56 touchdowns on the year.

So who wins the game?

Even though Clemson is favored by three points, there’s one stat I just can’t ignore — the difference in how these two teams have played on the road. All of Clemson’s losses have come away from Death Valley, and that 2-3 road record is really bad. I know the Orange Bowl is played at a neutral site, but the fact that they have to leave their own stadium is what worries me. The Mountaineers are actually 4-1 on the road, so I think they’ll be better equipped to handle the trip. As a result, they pull off the upset tonight.

My prediction: West Virginia 37, Clemson 24

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