In Orange Bowl, there's a focus on offenses
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A lot of things could happen in the Orange Bowl matchup between West Virginia and Clemson, but Tigers coach Dabo Swinney has a feeling about what fans won't see.
"I don't think it will be a 6-3 ballgame like maybe some of the other games around us," he said. " This should be an exciting game between these two teams."
No. 23 West Virginia (9-3) and No. 14 Clemson (10-3) feature high-powered offenses that should score points in bunches on Jan. 4.
"You don't know, especially when you have a month off," Swinney said. "Defenses can be ahead, especially early in the game. I'd be surprised if there's not going to be some points scored."
Clemson, under first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris, has scored 33.6 points and gained 440.6 yards per game. The Tigers set school records for passing yards, total yards and points in a season.
Under first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers ranked 19th nationally in points per game (34.9), and tied for 17th in total offense (459.6) and seventh in passing (341.8). West Virginia has topped 400 yards nine times and scored more than 30 points in eight of its 12 games. Its 419 points is fourth-most in school history.
"I like the idea of the shootout," said West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey, who has 1,197 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns this season. "I would love for it to be a great game where it comes down to the end, being a BCS game and that's what the fans want to see."
Quarterback has been the key for both offenses.
Clemson's Tajh Boyd, who originally committed to West Virginia before choosing the Tigers, had a breakout season. The redshirt sophomore threw for 3,578 yards and 31 touchdowns. He had more than 340 passing yards four times this season and added five rushing touchdowns.
West Virginia's Geno Smith turned in impressive numbers, as well. The junior quarterback completed 314 of 483 passes for 3,978 yards — setting season records in both categories — and 25 touchdowns.
Still, with the long layoff, it might take some time for the offenses to get rolling.
"I think both offenses are capable of scoring points," Holgorsen said. "Whether that happens or not, no one knows."
West Virginia and Clemson actually struggled down the stretch. The Mountaineers averaged only 25 points in its last three games, all wins.
Clemson could only mustered 18.5 points per game in its final four regular-season contests but regained its rhythm in the ACC Championship Game in a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech.
"We have been a part of a lot of 23-22 games this year," Holgorsen said. "Defensively, it looks to me that Clemson is as good as anyone we have faced this year."