Peach is a Sweeter Deal

The luster of a New Year's Day bowl game is steeped in tradition of decades in college football. Clemson sits at a crossroads of bowl options, one being a New Year's Day bowl game and the other being a January 2nd bowl game in Atlanta. Which do we want?

Maryland's win over N.C. State and Virginia's win over Georgia Tech helped clear up Clemson's bowl picture to some degree. What those games meant was that N.C. State and Georgia Tech now sit squarely behind Clemson in the bowl pecking order because the Tigers are now in solo command of 3rd place in the ACC. Therefore, the Continental Tire Bowl and the Tangerine Bowl can be scratched off your list of postseason possibilities.

To some degree, Maryland seems destined for the Toyota Gator Bowl assuming they beat Wake Forest next week. That would give the Terrapins sole procession of 2nd place in the ACC along with 9 regular season wins. At that point, it would seem a logical choice for the Gator Bowl to select Maryland, although they do not have to according to the by laws of the conference.

Sources have also indicated that the Gator Bowl is willing to place the Terps and the West Virginia Mountaineers in a re-match of a game already played earlier this year.

For now, the Tigers appear to be likely headed to the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta on January 2nd.

"We are fully aware of Clemson and their reputation when it comes to bowl games," said Peach Bowl scout Art Gregory in an interview before Saturday's Clemson-South Carolina game. "Obivously, Clemson has been a big hit whenever they've made the trip to Atlanta."

However, anything is still possible.

The Gator Bowl will stir the pot somewhat over whether or not they move Clemson up because the Tigers will travel so much better than Maryland. It is a tough decision for the Gator Bowl to make, especially considering the Terrapins went to the Peach Bowl last year and the Atlanta based bowl most certainly does not want Maryland again this year.

Therefore, if the Gator passes on a 9 win Maryland team, the Peach would either be forced to take the Terrapins in a return appearance or dump them off to the Tangerine. That situation won't sit well with the ACC, so expect the conference to push Maryland as the Gator Bowl invitee. Of course, if the Terrapins lose and finish in a tie with Clemson for 2nd place, you better believe the Gator Bowl will jump on Clemson regardless of what the ACC wants them to do.

So, which bowl would be better for Clemson this year?

The Gator Bowl sits slightly higher on the prestige list than that of the Peach. Jacksonville is a little more scenic than Atlanta, with many folks going to the bowl opting to stay on one of the area beaches. And, in all honesty and with no disrespect to the fine folks at the Gator Bowl, those are the only real advantages for the Gator Bowl.

The Peach Bowl actually has a higher payout than the Gator Bowl (2.15 million compared to 1.8 million) despite the fact it is 3rd in the ACC bowl pecking order. The Peach Bowl is played on January 2nd and is the only game on television at that time on that day. The Gator Bowl is being aired on NBC nationally while other bowls are being played on the other networks (Capital One Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Outback Bowl). The Peach Bowl is played inside the Georgia Dome where the weather will always be perfect.

And, maybe most importantly, the Peach Bowl would match the Tigers up with an SEC team. West Virginia appears headed to the Gator Bowl, and the Mountaineers and Tigers are an intriguing match up no doubt.

But there is something special about Clemson playing an SEC team in the Peach Bowl that makes the blood pump a little faster. Florida seems to be the frontrunner at this time for the Peach, and a Clemson/Florida match up would be a fan and television hit.

Of course, Clemson will play in the bowl game that wants the Tigers the most. And, I can live with either the Gator or Peach.

However, the advantages of the Peach may outweigh those of the Gator this year with this team. Here's one guy that hopes to be heading down I-85 in a couple of weeks.

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