After three games against ranked opponents in primetime this season, the Tigers have one more opportunity to win in the national spotlight and prove to the rest of the college football world that Clemson is indeed a team to be reckoned with.
With six wins and four losses in the books, the bowl possibilities are endless. Most experts have pegged either the Peach Bowl or the Tangerine as likely destinations for Clemson in the 2002 postseason.
For the players, bowl games are something that have been talked about all season long.
"We always talk about which bowl game we could end up at or who we would match up against," said senior wide receiver Jackie Robinson. "Me personally, I would take any bowl right now, but of course we want to get into the best bowl possible."
Robinson is like a lot of Clemson fans in that he'd like to see the Tigers match up with somebody that they haven't faced before in the postseason.
"I like to play different teams, so I'd say that we need to play somebody from a conference we haven't played yet. We've already played an SEC team (Mississippi State) and a team from the Big East (Virginia Tech) in a bowl game since I've been here, so I'd rather play a team from the Big XII," added Robinson.
The Peach Bowl, which is played in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, actually has a higher payout than the ACC's so-called second best postseason game in Jacksonville- the Gator Bowl.
The game itself is played on New Year's Eve and would match the Tigers up against a team from the SEC. Rumors are already swirling that the Peach is dreaming of an all-orange match up featuring the Tigers against the Tennessee Volunteers.
To get to the Peach, Clemson is going to have to beat Maryland on Saturday. A loss would put the Tigers at 4-4 in the conference and completely eliminate any hopes of playing in the Georgia Dome. Clemson would then have to follow up that win with a victory over archrival South Carolina the following week and hope that the right teams ahead of the Tigers lose some of their remaining conference games.
The Tangerine Bowl, played in Orlando, would match Clemson up against a team out of the Big XII. Early candidates for opponents are Iowa State, Nebraska, and Texas A&M.
First and foremost, the Tangerine is looking for a match up that will draw attendance this year, as only 28,562 fans attended last year's Pittsburgh-N.C. State match up.
A Clemson-Nebraska, or Clemson-Texas A&M contest would certainly provide the type of national recognition that a bowl like the Tangerine needs to get and and running.
A win over either Maryland or South Carolina would likely put Clemson in position to play in Orlando on December 23rd.
The Continental Tire bowl, a brand new bowl game in Charlotte's Ericcson Stadium, will match up the ACC's 6th ranked team against a team from the Big East.
This bowl game would be the Tigers postseason destination following losses to both South Carolina and Maryland. The Tigers would likely battle former offensive coordinator, and now West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez and the Mountaineers on December 28th if this were to happen.
The Likely Destination
Tommy Bowden has led the Tigers to bowl games in each of his first three seasons as Clemson's head coach, and 2002 appears to be no different now that the Tigers reached their 6th win last week in Chapel Hill.
However, after a Humanitarian Bowl victory over Louisiana Tech last year, most Clemson fans have their sites set on a bowl game a little closer to home against a team that brings some national recognition of it's own.
These days, it seems as though every Tom, Dick, and Harry has their own set of bowl projections, but as it stands now, the Tigers have the best shot at reaching the Tangerine Bowl.
Even with if the Tigers were to end the year with two wins, the Peach Bowl could still look favorably upon either Maryland or N.C. State as the league's third best team.
The Terps still have to play Virginia and Wake Forest after Saturday's game in Clemson, and the Wolfpack has to play Virginia and Florida State before their season is finished. Virginia is also a team that could sneak up and grab the 3rd place in the conference.
Obviously, a lot is still out there on the table, and any number of teams could play in these three bowl games, but quite frankly, the Tangerine Bowl would be a great place for the Tigers to enjoy their postseason.
A nationally televised game on ESPN, in one of the top recruiting hot beds of the country, against a strong team from the Big XII, certainly sounds appealing to me. Especially when you consider where this team was just two weeks ago.
"Let's just say if we got Clemson, we wouldn't be disappointed," Tangerine Bowl representative Gerald Serio said last Saturday after the Tigers win over North Carolina.
I think I would tell Gerald that the feeling out of Clemson is mutual. The Tangerine Bowl in Orlando definitely gets my vote this year.
|Bowl Game||Quick Facts|
The Tangerine Bowl
#4 ACC vs #5/#6/#7 Big XII
December 23rd 5:30 ESPN
The Citrus Bowl
Payout: $750,000 per team
A win over either South Carolina or Maryland likely lands the Tigers in Orlando. The Tangerine Bowl would like a marquee match up and you won't find three schools that travel better than Clemson, Texas A&M, and Nebraska.
The Peach Bowl
#5 SEC vs #3 ACC
December 31st 7:30 PM ESPN
The Georgia Dome
Payout: $1.8 Million per team
Wins over Maryland and South Carolina give the Tigers a great chance at playing the Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve. The Peach Bowl would love to see Clemson battle SEC powerhouse Tennessee on New Year's Eve.
The Continental Tire Bowl
#5/#6 ACC vs. #4/5 Big East
December 28th, 11:00 AM (TBA)
Charlotte, North Carolina
Payout: $750,000 per team
The Tigers will play in Charlotte only if they fail to win another game this year. The Mountaineers of West Virginia, coached by former Clemson offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez would likely sell a lot of tickets.