CLEMSON — Early this week, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips picked up the phone and called the Atlantic Coast Conference football office in hopes of gaining more information on where his football team would spend the holiday season.
After going over several scenarios with an ACC representative, Phillips got off the phone no wiser.
“I probably knew just as much about our position as I did before I called,” Phillips said from his office Wednesday afternoon.
There is only one thing certain when it comes to where Clemson’s football team will go bowling over the Christmas holidays – it will have to wait and find out on Sunday.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl president Gary Stokan says his bowl is not going to release any team from its consideration until after the ACC and SEC Championship games are complete on Saturday night. That means Clemson or any other school being courted by the Peach Bowl cannot lock up any deals with bowls which pick after the Atlanta based bowl game.
“We have never experienced this on the ACC side before where we had to wait for the conference championship game, but fortunately we do have the experience of the SEC game and that has told us it is best for us to wait for those games to be completed before releasing any team we have on our short list,” Stokan said.
Clemson, which last week appeared headed for either the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando or the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, was placed on the Peach Bowl’s short list after last weekend’s results around the Southeast, most notably Florida’s 34-7 victory over Florida State. Before that, most of the thinking had Florida State representing the ACC in the Peach Bowl regardless of how bad the ‘Noles might be beat in the ACC Championship game.
Though Florida State still remains attractive to Peach Bowl officials, Stokan said they had to take a long look at Clemson because of the way it beat Florida State and closed out the season with five victories in the last six games.
“Clemson could be a great choice for us simply because of the way it is playing right now,” he said. “They are a very competitive team and we think they would have no problem competing against any team we choose from the SEC.
“We think a lot of Clemson, its administration and its fans and we know from past experience they will represent the ACC well.”
This is the same reason why the Champ Sports Bowl has Clemson on even a shorter list than the Peach Bowl. Where the Peach Bowl is considering Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, plus the outside possibility of Miami, the Champs Sports Bowl has narrowed its choice down to Clemson, Boston College and Florida State.
“We would love to have Clemson because we know the history they have when it comes to bowl games,” said Brett Sowell, a spokesman for the Champs Sports Bowl. “But unfortunately, our hands are tied because we have to wait and see what those bowls ahead of us do before we can make a decision.”
If Florida State or Boston College is taken in the Peach Bowl, Sowell says he cannot guarantee who the selection committee would choose to represent the ACC.
“We know about Clemson and the history they have with how well their fans travel, but we don’t know anything about Boston College,” Sowell said. “They haven’t played in an Orlando Bowl game since Doug Flutie was the quarterback there in the early 1980s.”
Many so-called experts believe if Florida State isn’t taken in the Peach Bowl than the Seminoles will definitely land in Orlando, which means Clemson will have to be taken in the Peach Bowl or it will most likely find itself in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte. The State newspaper in Columbia says if Clemson is still available the Meineke Bowl will choose Clemson to represent the ACC in their bowl game.
However, in a story reported in Wednesday’s Orlando Sentinel, the Champs Sports prefers Clemson ahead of FSU, Boston College and Georgia Tech, but both the Gator and Peach bowls pick their ACC teams before Champs Sports does, and Clemson is not expected to be around for Orlando’s selection. The most likely scenario is Clemson in the Peach Bowl against Georgia or Alabama.
So what do the other experts think? Well, cbssportsline.com, sportsillustrated.cnn.com and the Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Tony Barnhart agree with the Orlando Sentinel saying Clemson will play Georgia in the Peach Bowl. Pat Forde of espn.com has Clemson playing Colorado in the Champs Sports Bowl, while Ivan Maisel – also of espn.com – and the collegefootballnews.com has Clemson facing South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
As for Clemson itself, it isn’t picky.
“We are just happy to be considered by all those people,” said Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden. “Our players will be pleased to go anywhere after what happened to them last year.”
Phillips, who says the Music City Bowl is also looking at Clemson, has no preference when it comes to bowl destinations.
“We’re just delighted to be in this position,” said Phillips. “We will support any where we go and I know the Clemson people will too.”