Gator Bowl? It's Possible

CLEMSON - I have never been one that likes to play the "what if" game, but should the Tigers beat South Carolina on Saturday their chances of playing in a better-than-average bowl game are actually pretty good.

Humor me for a second.

Thanks to the win over Virginia, Clemson finished its 2008 ACC campaign with a 4-4 record. That will be one game back of whatever team ends up in Tampa from the Atlantic division of the ACC.

Before I go any further read over the bowl selection process the ACC has in place:

1. The runner-up of the ACC Championship Game, provided it has eight wins, is guaranteed not to fall further than the Music City Bowl. Of the remaining two years in the current ACC contracts, the Music City Bowl has responsibility to protect the Championship Game runner up twice (Gator made selection in 2006, Champs Sports in 2007). If they so desire, the Chick-fil-A, Gator, and Champs Bowls can pass on the ACC championship game runner-up this year.

2. Otherwise, if the bowl does not select the team available with the best conference record, then it must choose a team that is within one conference win of the team with the best conference record (i.e. 5-3 to 6-2), or the bowl may take a team that has more than a one game difference, if the team is ranked more than five spaces above the team with the best conference record in the final BCS Standings.

3. After the Champs Sports Bowl makes its selection, the next three bowl partners—Music City, Meineke, Emerald — submit their preferences. If the three bowls and the teams involved agree on their choices, then those selections stand. Otherwise, the selection goes on financial order which is 1. Music City; 2. Meineke; 3. Emerald.

The thing that stands out to me is the fact the both the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and the Gator Bowl have the right to choose Clemson if they wish. Because the ACC was so down this year, both of these bowls are afforded a chance to take a program they know it will put fans in the seats.

In today's economic times you can bet the selection committee's of both games will give the Tigers a hard look.

If the Tigers win on Saturday and when Terry Don Phillips announces who will be the next head man of the Tiger football program, there will not be a hotter team in the ACC that will generate as much media interest.

Think about what a Clemson-Georgia or Mississippi matchup would do for the folks in Atlanta. How about what a Clemson rematch with West Virginia in Jacksonville would do for ticket sales? How about a rematch of the 1981 National Championship game against Nebraska? These games are big business and smart business leaders make smart business decisions.

Sure, should Georgia fall to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, then Atlanta won't need the Tigers to sell tickets.

Jacksonville however is a different story.

The last couple of years the New Years Day game in Alltel Stadium hasn't drawn flies. Simply put, the Gator Bowl needs to sell some tickets. Is FSU going to bring a large fan base? How about Maryland or Georgia Tech or North Carolina or Wake Forest or even Miami?

The only logical answer for Jacksonville is the Tigers, and that is if ACC commissioner John Swofford doesn't step in and force them to take someone else.

How many of us just two weeks ago thought Clemson could be playing in a New Year's Day bowl game? I am beginning to think that now, but the big piece of the puzzle is beating South Carolina on Saturday.

Certainly, a victory over Darth Visor and a trip to Florida now that is what I would call a nice end to the season.

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