Most of the players are just happy to be playing a bowl game in a warm environment against a team that offers decent name recogonition. The alternative was going about 150 miles up I-85 to Charlotte, N.C. to play South Florida, which was fairly unattractive match up in eyes of a lot of fans. The four losses this season were mostly during the beginning of the year, so that's really not a factor in this game. Clemson changed coordinators during the offseason, so there was an adjustment period during the early stages of this season - and that was evident in each of those losses. When you lose in triple overtime to Miami and in overtime to Boston College, there's not much to hang your head about. Road losses to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest were a little more baffling, but those seem like distant memories after beating two ranked teams to end the season in FSU and South Carolina.
BSN: Who will be the starting quarterback for Clemson?
It should be Charlie Whitehurst. He had surgery performed his injured shoulder a few weeks ago, but he's been throwing fine since then, and the injury was not serious, so he should be fine for this game. Whitehurst is your prototypical drop back passer ... has good size and a strong arm. As a fifth year senior, his decision making is sound and I know he wants to go out a winner.
BSN: What kind of offense do the Tigers run?
If you understand the term "West Coast Offense" then you immediately have a grasp on what Clemson likes to do with the football. There's a good bit of motion before the snap, a lot of different formations, and an emphasis on the short passing game and running the football. Freshman RB James Davis offered a big lift for this team towards the end of the season, and his production will likely be key again in the Champs Sports Bowl. WR Chansi Stuckey was a first team All-ACC performer that really came into his own over the last part of the season. Ulimately, Clemson wants to control the ball, not doing anything to beat itself with penalties and turnovers, then hit you with the play action passes after establishing the run.
BSN: What kind of defense do the Tigers run?
Clemson runs a conventional 4-3 scheme most of the time, with the exception of the "bandit" position on the defensive line. JR DE Gaines Adams is the bandit, and he can be utilized as a straight up pass rusher, or he can drop back into coverage almost like a linebacker. Coach Vic Koenning was more aggressive with is calls towards the end of the season, and I expect that to continue once both teams settle in for the bowl game. He's also utilized a nickel package more with five defensive backs in the game against faster teams (FSU, Miami) and has some success with that ... I wouldn't be surprised to see more of that against the Buffs. He likes to get speed on the field, and speed is something Clemson has throughout its defense.
BSN: Do you feel like anyone around the program (coaches, team, fans, etc.) is taking the Buffs lightly after CU's poor performances to end the season?
I don't think so. You have to remember, the last time Clemson made the trip to Orlando to face a team from the Big 12, it found itself on the wrong end of a 55-15 score at the hands of Texas Tech. When you look at that, and also at Colorado's thrashing of Texas A&M earlier this year, I think the this team respects the Buffs - regardless of what happened against Texas and Nebraska at the end of the season.
BSN: How do most of your fans expect the Buffs to come in and play?
I think most fans expect this to be game to be decided by about a touchdown. Clemson has been involved in so many close games this year ... many of which were decided on the last play of the game that it may be unrealistic to expect a blowout - even with the coaching changes and how Colorado ended the season. The realistic fans expect this game to be decided at some point in the second half. I tend to agree. Unless Colorado comes in and starts turning the ball over early on, I think this game stays relatively close for four quarters.
BSN: Being that there will be many more Tiger fans there than Buff fans, is Clemson known for being a good home team?
Clemson fans really enjoy facing a team they normally don't get to see. For instance, playing Texas A&M each of the last two years was a real treat for this fan base. If you know any Aggies that made the trip to Clemson, many would tell you they were never treated better on the road than when they were in Clemson this year. The same will hold true in Orlando. Clemson should bring more than 10,000 fans to the Champs Sports Bowl, and I think if you are a Colorado fan, you'll find yourself right at home with the friendliest fans on the East Coast. One piece of advice - be ready to see tailgating like you've never seen before.
BSN: What are the strengths and weaknesses of Clemson?
Strengths- Offensive Line
For the first time in a long time, Clemson has a strong running game and a physical offensive line that goes two deep at nearly every position. That's made all the difference in the world for this football program. This team can run and throw ... but all of it is predicated on the success of an offensive front that has made tremendous strides in recent years.
Senior CB Tye Hill is one of the top cover guys in the country, but on the opposite side of the field, Clemson has yet to find a quality starter. Sergio Gilliam stepped up his play near the end of the season, but I expect the Buffs to attack the side of the field he's on during the bowl game.
BSN: Who are the players to watch for on the Clemson offense and defense?
Offensively- RB James Davis. Many people around the program feel if Davis would have been healthy the entire season, Clemson would be at least 8-3. He has a nose for the endzone ... he's patient before finding the hole at the line of scrimmage, then he's agressive in hitting that hole. The best running back I've seen at Clemson since Terry Allen ... that spans 15 years.
Defensively- LB Anthony Waters. He didn't garner all the headlines this past season, but he's the heart and soul of this defense. Makes a ton of tackles and is easily the vocal leader of this team in-between snaps.
BSN: What is your game prediction?
Clemson 27 Colorado 16