Three keys to an Orange Bowl win

Though the Orange Bowl is still over a week away, CUTigers takes a look at three keys to Clemson's showdown with West Virginia.

Chad Morris will certainly need steady play out of his passing game four-some of Tajh Boyd, Dwayne Allen, Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins when Clemson takes on West Virginia next week.

But a quality performance on the ground from Boyd, Andre Ellington and the Tigers' offensive line could go a long way in helping Tigers' push for a BCS bowl win.

West Virginia ranks 51st in the country against the run with an average of 140.8 yards on the ground. Through the first six games of the season, Mountaineer opponents scored six rushing touchdowns. Since, opposing offenses have reached pay dirt 13 times on the ground.

The 3-3-5 defense, which could drop as many as eight men into coverage, might loosen up on the backend with a more effective ground game.

Much like the Clemson offense, West Virginia likes to move he ball at a fast-pace. If the Tigers fall behind schedule with minimal rushing gains, the harder it will be for Boyd to convert third-and-long situations, to stay on the field. If anything, a solid ground game has the potential to help defend Dan Holgorsen's air raid offense.

Through 12 games this season, West Virginia has 496 passing plays and 374 running plays.

That's a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Geno Smith, but so far, he's done quite well, completing 314 of 483 passes for 3,978 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Geno Smith has completed 314 of 483 passes for 3,978 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.(Getty Images)
If there's a correlation to Smith's struggles and West Virginia's, it's the four interceptions he threw in two of the three this season. He had two against LSU and another pair against Syracuse.

Smith also threw two picks in the season finale against South Florida, but West Virginia won that game, 30-27.

Fortunately Smith isn't much of a threat in the running game, which could be critical in Clemson's chances of securing the win.

Make no mistake about it, this Jan. 4 showdown has potential to be a good, old-fashioned shoot-out.

"I'll be surprised if there's not some points scored in this one," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said earlier this month. "You've got two very capable offenses, obviously. I don't think it'll be a 6-3 ballgame like some of the others around. This should be very exciting."

West Virginia is 19th in the country with 35 points per game. On the defensive side of the ball, they've allowed 26.3, which is 63rd nationally.

Meanwhile Clemson ranks No. 25 in the nation with 33.6 points per game. The Tigers' defense has allowed an average of 26.2 points, one place better than the Mountaineers.

When Clemson is able to sustain drives, it must convert those opportunties into touchdowns. The good news is Mountaineers have struggled in this department throughout the 2011 season - ranking just 83rd in the country in red zone defense. Top Stories