By Will Vandervort
A possible Clemson vs. Alabama match up in the Discover Orange Bowl is being discussed by the bowl game’s committee members.
Larry Wahl, Vice President of Media Relations for the Discover Orange Bowl, spoke with The Clemson Insider Tuesday about where the Tigers fall in the committees’ thought process heading into the final Saturday before Selection Sunday.
Clemson is currently ranked No. 13 in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings.
“First we wait until everything is done and then we consider things like ticket sales, how well a team travels and what impact their fan base will bring to the local economy as far as tourism and things of that nature,” he said “Possible storylines, how teams ended the regular season, corporate sponsor appeal and how local ticket sales will respond to the match up are also factored in.”
What gives Clemson an edge, but not a guarantee, is the bowl’s relationship with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last year, the Orange Bowl signed a 12-year agreement that will annually feature the ACC Champion in the Discover Orange Bowl to be played on New Year’s Day at 1 p.m. beginning after the 2014 season.
“That will be a key consideration in our deliberation,” Wahl said.
If Florida State beats Duke in the ACC Championship Game this Saturday, then The Discover Orange Bowl will be able to pick any school that is eligible based on the rules of the BCS.
“Once we know there is a confirmed championship game, then we will take a look at the rankings and will look at everyone and evaluate them at that time,” Wahl said.
Looking at the latest BCS rankings, Clemson is one of five schools strongly being considered by the Orange Bowl’s selection committee, though Wahl would not confirm who those teams are.
Alabama, who sits No. 4 in the BCS, is the top candidate should Ohio State and Florida State win their championship games and stay at No. 1 and No. 2 in the rankings. The Crimson Tide, because they are in the top 4 of the rankings, will be an automatic qualifier and has to be picked by a BCS bowl.
It is unlikely in this scenario that the Orange Bowl will pass on Alabama with its first pick. Orange Bowl representatives were in Columbia for last Saturday’s South Carolina game and they told The Clemson Insider they would take Alabama if the Crimson Tide was available.
With FSU being in the national championship game and ranked No. 1, the Orange Bowl will get the first pick due to its tie-in with the ACC and more than likely will choose Alabama with that pick. That leaves Clemson fighting for the second spot with No. 9 Baylor and No. 12 Oregon, who are also in the mix for the Orange Bowl’s other at-large berth.
What makes an Alabama-Clemson match up appealing says Wahl, “They have two great brands. They are two great programs with a lot of history. And then there is the storyline with Dabo Swinney, a former Alabama player going up against his school.”
Alabama’s tough defense going against Clemson’s high-powered offense also makes this potential matchup appealing.
“Their rankings are pretty close and it doesn’t hurt that neither one of them is too far from South Florida,” Wahl said.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich made a plea to the Clemson fan base last night after the Orange Bowl told him one of their concerns regarding the Tigers.
The Orange Bowl responded with this tweet this morning, “Wow @ClemsonTigers …. We are feeling the love! Selection Sunday in 5 days!”
There are a couple of other things to watch this weekend too when it comes to the Tigers’ BCS chances.
If Ohio State was to lose to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship game then the Buckeyes would more than likely replace Alabama, who slides into the Sugar Bowl spot. If two BCS bowls lose their automatic qualifying teams to the National Championship Game, then the bowl with the first pick—in this case the Orange Bowl—must ask the bowl with the second pick—in this case the Sugar Bowl—for permission to choose a team from that bowl’s conference tie-in. The Sugar Bowl isn’t likely to give the Orange Bowl permission to take Alabama.
Again, in this scenario, Clemson will be fighting Baylor and Oregon for that second at-large bid to play Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.
Should the Orange Bowl pass over Clemson and bypass its relationship with the ACC, it does not mean that Clemson BCS hopes are dashed. The Sugar Bowl could be on the table if Northern Illinois, who is ranked No. 14 in the latest rankings, losses to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship game on Friday.
The Sugar Bowl was in Columbia last Saturday watching the Tigers and a Clemson vs. Auburn; Clemson vs. Missouri or Clemson vs. Alabama match up would be quite intriguing in their eyes.
“We want the very best possible bowl game we can get,” Swinney said. “Listen, the Chick-fil-A Bowl is great and I have no problems with that, but you have a chance to be in the BCS and I think we are one of the best teams in the country and I think we should be in the BCS.
“We were in the top 10 for 14 weeks this year, which is a school record and just out of the top 10 now and our two losses have been to two really good teams and one of them has a chance to play for the national championship.”