ORLANDO - It's bowl time again. Well, for the first time in two years really.
But Clemson fans haven't forgotten how to go bowling after a year away. In fact, they may appreciate things more this year than any in recent memory. Somehow, being bowl eligible and having to stay home isn't nearly as much fun as trekking off to some location far away.
Spending $2 bills at the local grocery store apparently just doesn't have the same flavor.
So it is with a spring in their step that Clemson fans return to Florida, always a favorite spot for the postseason. And with them, for the first time ever, is Becky.
You remember Becky, of course. She took over picking the Clemson football games for me after eight weeks this year, and promptly went 3-0. The little rat.
Anyway, she goes for a perfect third of a season by taking on Clemson's foray into the Champs Sports Bowl, where waiting for them is a Colorado team with more internal problems than a week of Jerry Springer guests.
The Buffs, as you know, were outscored 130-22 in the final three games of the regular season. Limping across the finish line? Colorado came to the tape wearing a toe tag.
At least Gary Barnett did.
Barnett went from negotiating a contract extension to looking for a part-time job for Christmas, his team's struggles down the stretch too much for the Colorado brass to overlook (The other stuff they overlooked during Barnett's tenure? That's another story).
So not only will the Colorado players be performing for an interim head coach here in Orlando, they'll be doing so with the knowledge that Barnett's permanent replacement - Dan Hawkins - will be watching from afar while he guides his former team, Boise State, one last time before heading full bore to Boulder.
Oh, did we mention the senior offensive lineman who was suspended for helping his girlfriend send racially motivated, threatening emails to another Colorado student athlete?
Or that the starting quarterback is out, suffering from the effects of a concussion?
No, it hasn't been the best of times for the Buffs. But that's exactly what could make them the most dangerous. Sometimes, when the world turns against you, the best attitude to take is that there's nothing left to lose. It's the wounded animal theory. Clemson's Tommy Bowden has been preparing his Tigers under just such an assumption.
Bowden has his own problems, mind you.
His starting quarterback is recuperating from arthroscopic shoulder surgery. A senior tight end and a backup defensive lineman have been suspended due to academic concerns. A couple of his players have been banged and bruised during the final week-plus of practice.
But Becky? She doesn't know any of this, and likely wouldn't understand it if I told her. Not all of it, anyway.
All she knows in her 10-year old way of thinking is that Colorado is a team she's never heard of, and that the last time Clemson played a game (Nov. 19 at South Carolina), the score was close.
To that end, my little wunderkind has carefully considered factors only she can explain, and has decided that the Tigers will close the season with a victory and make everyone in orange happy and content.
But it will be close.
Becky sez Clemson 25, Colorado 20