The Tigers had a chance late in the season to get to Jacksonville to play for the conference title, but a dropped would-be touchdown and missed field goal against Boston College proved to be the difference between a possible BCS birth and the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Tommy Bowden's Tigers have been solid in the nine wins this season, but costly mistakes have been the deciding factors in the losses. Clemson allowed an interception, punt return and kickoff return for scores in the loss to Virginia Tech. The Tigers also missed four field goals and turned it over twice in a mid-season 13-3 loss to Georgia Tech.
"I think the only thing that I can make an opinion or guestimate on is how we've played 12 games," Bowden says of which group of Clemson Tigers will show up for the bowl game. "The 12 games, we've pretty much showed up to play. We've had breakdowns on both sides of the ball and on special teams. For the most part the games have been competitive. Based on what's happened for 12 games I'm going to say we're going to show up fairly focused and be prepared to play a pretty competitive game.
"I think if you watch a few of the bowl games that have been on," Bowden adds, "special teams are always a big factor in games like this if it's a blocked punt, returned punt, returned kickoff. There have been some of those in these games. And then turnovers. Like Tommy (Tuberville) mentioned, the four or five weeks you have off and getting into a rhythm with how you're practicing, skill level, how you're handling the ball, ball security and turnovers. I think those two things."
Statistically both Auburn and Clemson have faired well on the defensive side of the ball this year. Auburn is allowing 298.3 yards per game and Clemson is giving up 297.1 yards.
Bowden says that may indicate a low-scoring Chick-fil-A Bowl in the Georgia Dome at 7:30 Eastern on Monday.
"I think the only way you can give a realistic guess would be statistically how both teams are doing," he explains. "I think if you look at both teams, defensively that's their strength. The (high) nationally rankings, most of them are on the defensive side of the ball and that indicates a low scoring game. Like Tommy (Tuberville) says, turnovers are factor, kicking game is always a factor and how teams respond to it. I think the statistics indicate a low-scoring game, but once it's kicked off I don't know if that will have any barring or not.
"Both teams are probably ready to play," Bowden continues. "Bowls are a great experience with the 12 games down and the open date, and with the practice for the bowl game the season does drag on. I think our players are excited and ready to play. We're relatively injury free from our last game of the season."