Clemson's Bowl Slot? The Experts Disagree

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - With bowl invitations set to go out this weekend, here is what we know for sure:

- Clemson must defeat Duke Saturday to become bowl eligible;

- If the Tigers win, seven - count 'em - Atlantic Coast Conference teams will be bowl eligible: Maryland (10-1, 7-1), Florida State (6-4, 5-2), North Carolina (6-5, 5-3), Georgia Tech 7-4, 4-3), N.C. State (7-4, 4-4), Clemson 6-5, 4-4 with a win), and Wake Forest (6-5, 3-5);

- Of those seven, five are assured bowl berths, one is iffy, one will be left out.

If ever any conference was a microcosm of the wackiness that has been college football this season, it would be the ACC. How else can you explain Maryland's unlikely run to the league title, or North Carolina's cold-hot-cold streaks?

How can the Tar Heels beat Florida State and Clemson handily, then blow a 24-point halftime lead and lose to visiting Wake Forest? How do you account for Georgia Tech's disappointing season, or Florida State losing twice in conference with a game yet to go?

Yet all those things took place in 2001, and it's not over yet.

Clemson has had, by most accounts, a disappointing season. Yet a win over Duke and a bowl berth would put a positive spin on the end of the year. A berth to a small bowl, against a mid-major opponent actually could be a good thing for Tommy Bowden's team.

Clemson has lost five consecutive bowl games, and such a berth might be their best chance at a victory. A win under that scenario would at least give the seniors a chance to go out winners, and the extra practice time preparing for a postseason berth could only help the young players.

But go to any major sports website on any given day, and the "experts" have Clemson's bowl possibilities as wide-ranging as any team in the country.

For instance:

- CBS Sportsline has the Tigers facing Stanford Dec. 20 in the Jeep Seattle Bowl;

- ESPN is sending Clemson to Boise, Idaho, where it would face Louisiana Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl;

- CNNSI has Bowden's team in Orlando, facing Pittsburgh in the Tangerine Bowl;

- FoxSports has Clemson going nowhere.

As previously mentioned, the ACC has five automatic bowl tie-ins. The league champion (Maryland) goes to the BCS, followed by the Gator, Peach, Seattle and Tangerine Bowls.

A wildcard in the bowl scenario could be the Silicon Valley Bowl in San Jose, Calif. Three of the four major web services above have an ACC team filling the at-large berth in the game, most likely against Fresno State.

However, one consistent thread holds true throughout all the services:

Wake Forest is unanimously picked to be the team left out.

Stay tuned. It promises to be an entertaining week.

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