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The Orange Bowl: West Virginia vs. Clemson

Present Iteration: The Discover Orange Bowl
Past Iterations: FedEx Orange Bowl, Orange Bowl
Toasting Town: Miami Gardens, Florida
Vintage: 1935
Combatants: West Virginia (9-3) vs. Clemson (10-3)

The Orange Bowl can claim to be the bowl most screwed since hooking up with the BCS. This year is no different, toasting not one but two BCS grenades conference champions. Both teams run formidable offenses with capable quarterbacks, though it will be tough to top the Rose and Fiesta for excitement or the Sugar Bowl unbridled oddity. Whatever the result, Clemson fans plan to make a lasting financial impact.

West Virginia Mountaineers [SRS 32]

Best Wins: Cincinnati (35), Pittsburgh (50), South Florida (51), Rutgers (52)
Losses: LSU (1), Louisville (59), Syracuse (81)
Famous Alum: Jerry West

West Virginia named Dana Holgorsen (and his hair) coach a year early, after the emergence of Bill Stewart’s smear campaign. The Mountaineers won the Big East and reached a BCS bowl, which would have been their initial goal. Though, with a weak slate besides LSU, they could have done so with a bit more elegance.

The Mountaineers’ offense was productive, ranking 19th in yards per play. Geno Smith was one of the country’s better quarterbacks: smart, tough and quite accurate. He threw to two explosive receivers, his high school teammate Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin. They were hampered by a poor offensive line though, finishing 86th in rushing average and 70th in sacks allowed (even those placements inflated by play-calling and individual ingenuity from Smith and tailback Dustin Garrison. With the latter missing, expect passing.

WVU also ranked in the Top 20 in yards allowed per play on defense, but with five other Big East teams ranked in the Top 30, that may have been a product of playing feeble offenses. Expect the Mountaineers’ small, three-man front to struggle against the run and for Jeff Casteel to be aggressive with multiple blitz packages, to rattle Tajh Boyd.

Clemson Tigers [SRS 27]
Best Wins: Florida State (24), Virginia Tech (26), Virginia Tech (26)
Losses: South Carolina (20), Georgia Tech (46), N.C. State (66)
Famous Alum: Strom Thurmond

Dabo Swinney’s seat was quite warm entering 2011, with former Clemson OC Rich Rodriguez newly unemployed. There were some nervy and downright pathetic moments on the road. The state’s football power hierarchy remains clear. Though, 10 wins and an ACC Title will sponge most memories.

Clemson jumped 46 places in yards per play in 2011, largely due to new offensive coordinator Chad Morris and the arrival of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, arguably the country’s best freshman. Sophomore Tajh Boyd was better than expected, though threw seven interceptions during a horrid four-game stretch to close the season (Clemson lost three). With a top-flight receiver corps and an All-American tight end, expect West Virginia’s secondary to have an eventful evening.

The Tigers allowed just 32 yards to David Wilson, and probably aren’t concerned about the running game. They will combat West Virginia’s passing game by getting pressure through their front four. The key will be making tackles in space, as Bailey and Austin can do some damage if unchecked in the open field.

For Recreational Purposes: Clemson (-3)

[Photos via Getty]

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