The Tigers are coming off a season ending win over archrival South Carolina while Texas Tech was destroyed by Oklahoma to the tune of 60-15. Think the Tigers' coaching staff reviewed that 45-point massacre to see how the Sooners had so much success? You better believe they did. They'll also take a close look at the N.C. State, Texas A&M, and Texas games to get a good idea of how to break this team down. The Red Raiders have the firepower to put up a lot of points, and they'll have to do it Monday evening if they want to win this one.
9: Whitehurst to the Rescue
Charlie Whitehurst has been a breath of fresh air for this offense. Sure, he had the luxury of pounding on two conference cream puffs in North Carolina and Duke, but he also showed a lot of maturity in the season ending win over South Carolina. The redshirt freshman will go up against one of the top gun slingers in the country in Kliff Kingsbury, and he'll have to bring his "A" game if the Tigers are going to have a chance. No matter how bad the Red Raiders' run defense looks on paper; the Tigers just don't have the firepower to expect a 100-yard performance out of one of their running backs. It's possible, but not likely. Whitehurst will ultimately hold the key to the offense next Monday. Use the short passing game to move the ball and then let Rambert and Kelly take over in the 4th quarter.
8: It's Miller Time!
How many times will we hear this during the rest of Justin Miller's career at Clemson? Probably too many, but nonetheless with the sheer number of passes that Kliff Kingsbury is likely to throw, you have to figure that the true freshman will have every opportunity to make a couple of big plays. With the Tigers likely resorting to more zone in this one, Miller will have the chance to bait Kingsbury into what may seem like the "easy pass." If Tech head coach Mike Leach and the rest of his staff have done their homework, they'll know that they might have a better chance for success going to the opposite side of the field. I still have the feeling that they'll test the true freshman, and they'll pay for it when they do.
7: Different Agendas, Different Results
One thing you'll hear college football analysts talk about during the postseason is that teams often come into their bowl game with different agendas. Some teams are happy with their postseason destination while others are disappointed. More times then not, this is what leads to a majority of upsets. Put yourself in the shoes of the Texas Tech Red Raiders for a moment. They watched the same N.C. State team that they took to overtime completely dismantle Clemson just a few weeks later. Believe it or not, players on each of these teams know how the other team responded against a similar opponent- it makes a difference. Personally, I like Clemson coming in as the slight underdog.
6: Horrible in the Postseason
Perhaps you can throw the records out the window when these two old rivals get it on (yeah right) but you can't ignore the fact that the Red Raiders are about as bad as the Gamecocks in the post season. How does 5-19-1 sound? Ouch. Winning in the postseason is never easy, and it never hurts to have lady luck on your side. Apparently, Texas Tech hasn't had the ball bounce their way.
5: Time to Finish Strong
Nothing would give the Clemson football program more of a boost then to go out in the national spotlight and put on a show. An 8-5 year would be within about a game of even the most positive preseason prognosticators. Tommy Bowden knows he came under fire earlier in the year, but he also knows that a postseason win over a quality team will go a long way in silencing some of the grumblings on the IPTAY circuit. Winning this game is of prime importance to him and the rest of the Clemson coaching staff.
4: Been There, Done That
Postseason preparation is nothing new to Tommy Bowden. After all, he uses the same game plan his father uses at Florida State during a stretch of 10 years without a postseason loss. The first two years of the Bowden era, Clemson faced two of the top teams in the country in Mississippi State and Virginia Tech. Both of those teams were a play or two away from the BCS. No matter how many points the Red Raiders plan on scoring, they don't match up with either one of those teams. Bowden will have the Tigers prepared in every faucet of the game, and this year he won't be facing a team with a considerable edge in talent.
4: It's Tricky
It's no mystery as to why we see so many trick plays during bowl season. With as many as 4 to 5 weeks of preperation, offensive coordinators and their game plans tend to get a little out of hand with so much time to kill. We didn't see as many gadget plays from Mike O'Cain and Brad Scott and company towards the later half of the season, but now might be a good time to break out one of those old fake field goal or fake punt plays that have been so successful in the past.
3: Run Bernard! Run!
The Red Raiders run defense is horrible and the Tigers now know how to game plan a team that has trouble stopping the run. (see this season's Virginia game as an example of what not to do) While the running game can't be depended on to carry this team, it should be utilized to put this game away in the 4th quarter. Keep the defense on their toes by continuing to maintain the 50-50 run/pass ratio on first down and then turn Rambert and Kelly loose in late in the game.
2: Defensively Speaking
Let's not fool ourselves here- both teams can score points. The winner of this game will come down to which defense plays better and which team makes the fewest mistakes. On paper, Clemson has the better defense and a much a better secondary. Nick Eason, Justin Miller, and Brian Mance have all made plays this year, and they'll be depended on to do the same thing against Texas Tech. It will be important for the defense to play hard, stay disciplined, and do everything possible to prevent the big play for 4 quarters. Anything short of that and the Tigers will be in trouble.
1: It's Time
That's right- it's time. It's time for Clemson to win a postseason bowl game, in Florida, against a solid opponent, from a respected conference. This isn't Louisiana Tech, but it's not the 2000 version of Virginia Tech or the 1999 version of Mississippi State either. Texas Tech is a nice match up that presents the Clemson football program with a golden opportunity to move forward. If this game would have been played before the upset loss at Virginia, the Tigers would have likely been favored, but after Tech knocked off A&M and Texas, the Red Raiders enter with the advantage. If Bowden is able to pull out a win in the Tangerine Bowl, it means that Clemson will have been victorious in 4 of the last 5 games of the year and it sets the stage for a nice run at a 10-win season next year.
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