Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cram Session - Bowl Edition

People may detest the BCS but it can't be denied that thus far the games have been tremendous and filled with drama. That trend continued last night with Michigan and Virginia Tech going to overtime, before the Wolverines finally prevailed. Clemson and West Virginia have a lot to live up to tonight.

Orange Bowl, Wednesday, January 4

#23 West Virginia (9-3) vs. #15 Clemson (10-3) in Miami, Florida

These teams are champions from conferences that don't get much respect in college football. It is pretty much accepted that the Big East is a joke, especially when 7 win Louisville almost was their representative in this game. The ACC has failed to live up to the expectations placed upon the conference when Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech joined. The mediocrity of the conferences has led to some less than stellar games in the recent history of the Orange Bowl, such as Wake Forest/Louisville, and Cincinnati/Virginia Tech. The merits of how good West Virginia and Clemson are can be argued but there is little doubt that this will be a highly entertaining game. Both teams feature prolific offenses, with plenty of star players at the skill positions. Both teams look to run when they have to, but live off of their passing game. For West Virginia their offense is driven by Geno Smith. Smith had 25 TDs and 7 INTs this season, almost identical to last season. The big difference was his attempts and his passing yards which were up considerably. He didn't throw many picks, but when he did, it came in bunches, as he had three games with at least 2 INTs. His receivers are Stedman Bailey, who led the team with 11 TDs, and Tavon Austin, who led the team with 89 catches. The running game is anchored by freshman Dustin Garrison, while the red zone back is Shawne Alston who finished with 10 TDs. Defensively, the Mountaineers struggled, giving up 26 points a game. The Tigers passing attack is led by Tajh Boyd. Boyd struggled a bit as the season winded down but still finished with 31 TDs and 10 INTs. Andre Ellington is their do everything running back, and he comes into the Orange Bowl with some momentum, as in his last game he shredded the Hokies defense. WR Sammy Watkins was sensational in his freshman year, compiling 11 TDs and 77 catches. Lining up on the other side is WR DeAndre Hopkins, no slouch himself with 62 catches. Much like the Mountaineers, the Tigers struggled defensively, but have shown flashes of being able to shut teams down. Both of these teams are very young and have the potential to be in BCS games for years to come. This should be a back and forth shootout, and I expect it will come down to the final minutes. I think Clemson's speed on offense will eventually overwhelm the Mountaineers and be the difference in the game.

Prediction: Clemson 38, West Virginia 35

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