On the 30th anniversary of Clemson’s Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska to win the National Championship the Tigers return to Miami. In just his third season as head coach Dabo Swinney looks for his first BCS victory.
What will Clemson need to do Wednesday night to come away with the season’s 11th win.
1. Win the Turnover Battle
This is always a key factor in any game, but will be critical against West Virginia’s high-powered offense. The Tigers can’t afford to give West Virginia a short field and easy points.
West Virginia’s offense is ranked No. 19 nationally is scoring. Clemson’s defense will have their hands full with the best set of receivers they have faced all season.
Clemson’s chances of keeping West Virginia’s offense in check will increase if they can make the mountaineers drive the length of the field.
2. Early Success for Clemson Offense
Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense regained their confidence in the dominant win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game. It has been over a month since the Tigers won the Championship. The Clemson offense struggled at the end of the regular season but it only took a spark to get the momentum back in Charlotte and then the Tiger’s offense exploded.
Look for the staff to try to do some safe passes early to build Boyd’s confidence and then look for them to try to go deep for the big play. If Clemson’s offense can find success early they will regain the momentum they had in Charlotte and it could be a long night for West Virginia.
3. Contained Pressure
Andre Branch, Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore will start their final game for the Tigers. Their play could determine the outcome Wednesday night. Make no mistake West Virginia will look to beat the Tigers through the air.
Geno Smith had an oustanding season for West Virginia. Smith completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for 3,978 yards and 25 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. Smith can scramble but when he does he looks to throw, not to get yards on his own. The Clemson secondary will need to stay on their receivers much longer than normal in order to make sure someone doesn’t break open late.
If Clemson’s defensive line can get pressure on Smith that will be key. When Clemson does pressure they will need to play their assignments and contain Smith in the pocket. A number of West Virginia’s sacks this season have been on Smith for holding the ball too long, not on their offensive line.
4. Patience by Boyd
Clemson will be able to find some holes in the West Virginia defense if Tajh is able to go through his progressions. Coach Morris is very familiar with the defensive scheme that West Virginia will run because he practiced against a similar defense every day at Tulsa.
The Clemson receivers will need to find the soft spots in the zone coverage they fill face Wednesday. If the offensive line gives Tajh time and he can go through his progressions the Tigers should find some big plays through the air.
Look for Dwayne Allen to have a big game. Syracuse had great success going to the tight end earlier this year.