Fearless Picks: WVU - Clemson

It's a wide range of comments and picks in our final edition of the 2012 football season.

PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'

Patrick and Tony hold the lead heading into the Orange Bowl, but there's still plenty of intrigue left. A Clemson win means Patrick takes home the prize, but a WVU win will put Cam, Chris and Jane into the mix. Quite frankly, we're hoping for the latter.


NOSE PICKING

No one can match Bill's point differential, but Andy dropped to the cellar with a 7-5 record.


Patrick Southern Last Week: W Season: 10-2 Pt Diff: 205
Both teams have been somewhat enigmatic this season: West Virginia has been capable of putting up more than 500 yards of offense against LSU's dominant defense; it has also been capable of losing to a Syracuse team that ended the season with a losing record (and getting thumped by 26 points). Ditto for Clemson: an 8-0 start to the season and two demolitions of Virginia Tech on one hand; a period of three losses in four games (including a 24-point loss to a middling N.C. State team) on the other.

This has been billed as a game pitting powerful offenses against each other for good reason. Clemson may have the best player on the field in Sammy Watkins, and it has a coordinator calling the plays that it regards highly enough to pay $1.3 million per season moving forward. Dana Holgorsen has energized WVU's offense as well during his first season as head coach. You want playmakers? This Orange Bowl has 'em.

But the offenses may wash each other out. The keys moments will likely come on defense and special teams. Who can force a turnover or break a big return? How will field position factor in? Can kickers be reliable enough to get points on each trip into field goal range? The answers to those questions will determine the outcome.

Pick: Clemson 31-30
 
Tony Dobies Last Week: W Season: 10-2 Pt Diff: 227
West Virginia and Clemson are seemingly similar this season - both teams pass regularly on offense, struggle at times to stop the run on defense, give up a lot of sacks and have punting issues.

That's going to make a fairly even Orange Bowl.

WVU is going to have to play a nearly flawless defensive game to beat Clemson in the Orange Bowl, however. The Tigers' offense is just a bit more balanced and efficient compared to the Mountaineers' attack.

Junior running back Andre Ellington is a 1,000-yard rusher that could be the difference in this game. He has the ability to open up the passing attack led by quarterback Tahj Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins.

The Mountaineers have as much talent as Clemson, but without starting safety Terence Garvin and the chance that the defense might not be healthy even with a month off leads me to believe the Tigers will win this game in a close one.

Pick: Clemson 35-31
 
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 9-3 Pt Diff: 200
Most who follow the Mountaineers, aren't giving the Mountaineers a chance, based on what they saw from the Tigers against Virginia Tech. Based on that game, I would agree. But I have news for you Mountaineer fans; that's not the Clemson team I watched all year.

I saw one that gave up a ton of points to Maryland, N.C State, Florida State and even Wofford. I saw a Tajh Boyd who got rattled under pressure and looked as bad in some games as be looked good against the Hokies. That's the Tiger team I expect to show. I can see Bruce Irvin and company getting pressure on the quarterback, and when they do I can see Boyd making a costly mistake. I can see Geno Smith picking apart the Clemson secondary, and I can certainly see a WVU victory.

Pick: West Virginia 31-28
 
Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 9-3 Pt Diff: 204
For the third time in seven seasons, West Virginia finds itself in a BCS bowl at the end of the football year. Its just a darn shame that the old Orange Bowl in Little Havana isn't still standing so Mountaineer fans could really soak in the pageantry of that locale. Ah well.

Clemson's team speed, while not quite as scary across the board as LSU's, is my chief concern. Big plays have been a thorn in West Virginia's side all season. Jeff Casteel's defense must make Tahj Boyd and the Tiger offense sustain long drives down the field and not give up home runs. I'm confident the Mountaineers will find a way to score points, but how many will they need to come out with a W?

Haven't researched this game much, but that's ok. Even if I had, I'd still find a way to justify picking my alma mater.

Pick: West Virginia 38-35
 
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 9-3 Pt Diff: 208
The Orange Bowl figures to be a good game, interesting matchups, a little bit of interesting backstory, but the way I see it, there's only one possible way this ends.
Pick: West Virginia 38-35
 
Brian Jolliff Last Week: W Season: 9-3 Pt Diff: 220
There are plenty of reasons why I want WVU to win this bowl game badly... least of all to get some payback for the last bowl game against Clemson. There are plenty of subplots around this year's edition, including the once-committed Tajh Boyd going up against his "replacement", Geno Smith. Few are even giving the Mountaineers a reasonable chance to win this match-up, but neither were they given much chance against UGA or OU. I'm even thinking of having t-shirts made up... Boyd to Tandy. Thoughts?
Pick: West Virginia 35-24
 
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 8-4 Pt Diff: 223
Both these teams have a lot of offensive fire power, and it figures that plenty of points will be scored in Miami on Jan. 4. Since 1984, WVU is 0-10 in bowl games when it has scored less than 30 points and it is 6-3 when it has scored more than 30 points. This has a look of a game where it will take at least 30, and maybe much more, to win.
Pick: West Virginia 36-35
 
Matt Keller Last Week: L Season: 8-4 Pt Diff: 258
Since I'm hopelessly, mathmatically, embarassingly out of the race - though not as embarassingly as Bill - I'll use this final soapbox to note that I'm glad Dana Holgorsen was Dana Holgorsen and allowed the players to fully enjoy the experience. Grab a cigar, grab a jet ski, grab some rays in the sun. This should be about fun. That written, this is a difficult match-up for West Virginia. I picked against the Mountaineers in the previous two BCS games, and I'll do it again.
Pick: Clemson 31-27
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 8-4 Pt Diff: 317
Clemson has the most explosive defense West Virginia has seen since, well, practice. West Virginia has the most explosive offense Clemson has seen since, well, practice.

Here is where I think the WVU injuries on defense just prove too much to overcome.

WVU's special teams have been deplorable this season. While Tavon Austin has been spectacular in the return game, shanked punts, missed and blocked field goals, and fumbled punts have killed WVU time after time this season, not to mention returns for touchdown that doomed WVU in two games.

While the Mountaineer defense has improved over the last part of the season, I just haven't seen that same improvement from the offense, which will now be without its best tailback after Dustin Garrison suffered a knee injury in practice this week.

The key to beating Clemson this year has been turning them over. The Mountaineers just haven't been that good this year in the turnover department. I'm a big believer in the team that wins the turnover battle wins the game. I'm just not sure that WVU will force enough turnovers on Clemson to overcome its own mistakes.

Pick: Clemson 45-38
 
Andy Easton Last Week: L Season: 7-5 Pt Diff: 206
Clemson is the best team, besides LSU, that WVU has played all season, and its not even close. This WVU team does not have the overall talent or defensive team speed to beat these Tigers.
Pick: Clemson 42-17

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