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The winners of the Big East and the ACC lock horns in a battle of two of the least appreciated teams in the BCS, and we are ready to make our free Orange Bowl picks between the Clemson Tigers and the West Virginia Mountaineers.
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Orange Bowl Matchup: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Clemson Tigers
Orange Bowl Date/Time: Wednesday, January 4th, 8:30 ET
Orange Bowl Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL
Orange Bowl Odds: Clemson -3
Orange Bowl Total: 61.5
Orange Bowl TV Coverage: ESPN, ESPN3.com
This is going to be the very last football game ever played here at Sun Life Stadium before the Dolphins, Marlins, and all other Miami based events head to the new stadium next year. Neither one of these teams have been particularly great in bowl games in recent seasons. The Tigers have only won one game since the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, while the Mountaineers have now lost back to back bowl games, part of the reason that Head Coach Bill Stewart was thrown out the door at the outset of the season. That doesn’t mean that neither one of these teams are capable of playing well in bowls, as many of the games have been close, and this should be a great test for two teams that seem relatively evenly matched.
Both of these squads definitely had their flaws this year and lost some games that they had no business losing. West Virginia’s two conference losses came against the Louisville Cardinals at home and the Syracuse Orange on the road, and neither game should have been even remotely close. Clemson dropped three of its four games before the ACC Championship Game, and the truth of the matter is that the only reason that it is here is because it just had the number of the Virginia Tech Hokies all season long, trumping them twice, including for all of the marbles when it counted to reach this game. Looking back at both schedules, neither team really had those truly signature wins. West Virginia’s best victory came against a Cincinnati Bearcats team that had lost its starting quarterback in the game, and aside from there, that was only one win on the slate (@ Rutgers) against a team that finished the regular season with a winning record. Clemson at least had some meat on the slate, knocking off the Florida State Seminoles (albeit without QB EJ Manuel) and the Auburn Tigers, it didn’t win a game on the road in its last three tries, and it was blown away by at least two full touchdowns in both efforts.
Clemson knows that it is going to need to generate offense from the arm of QB Tajh Boyd and the hands of WR Sammy Watkins. Boyd threw for 3,578 yards and 31 TDs this year, while Watkins was clearly one of the most explosive freshmen in the country. He had 229 rushing yards, 695 return yards, and team highs in receptions (79), receiving yards (1,159), yards per catch (14.7), and TDs (11). With WR DeAndre Hopkins, the second leading receiver, battling a concussion still, Watkins is going to have to be the big man in this game.
What we are afraid of though, is just how good the WVU passing attack can be. This unit averaged 341.8 yards per game this year through the air, and now it draws a Clemson defense which ranks well, but was never really tested all that much against elite passing games like this one. QB Geno Smith was a Heisman candidate for awhile this year for a reason, as he threw for 3,978 yards and 25 TDs against seven picks. Both WRs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin had over 1,000 receiving yards this year, and both are going to be tremendous threats in this game. In the end, we just don’t think that Clemson is going to be doing enough damage with its corners to be able to stop this high octane trio. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen is running a tight ship with his boys from Morgantown right now, and that should make all of the difference for his team in what should be a great game in South Beach.
Free Orange Bowl Pick: West Virginia +3
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