Dan Scott: Tangerine Bowl Prediction
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Clemson beat writer Dan Scott correctly picked the winner 10 times in Clemson's 12 regular season games in 2002).
Get ready for a shootout at Citrus Bowl Stadium, probably a long one. Texas Tech will throw it upwards of 60 times a game. Clemson averages closer to 30, but that number is likely to rise today. The number of Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury (447-669, 4,642 yards, 42 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions) are mindboggling. And you can't overlook the fact that receiver-turned tailback Taurean Henderson has rushed for over 700 yards in what can only be described as a complimentary role in the Red Raiders' offense. As for Clemson, the Tigers' scoring average is up 8 points per game since redshirt freshman Charlie Whitehurst took over at quarterback, and he has set 26 school records in his four starts. Still, those numbers simply don't compare to Kingsbury's. At least not yet.
ADVANTAGE - Texas Tech
Clemson's run defense has been somewhat suspect this season, so perhaps its a good thing that the Red Raiders will throw so often. The Tigers hope to pull off the same type of game plan they used to shut down Luke McCown of Louisiana Tech back in Week 2, and hope cornerbacks Justin Miller and Brian Mance get plenty of help in pass coverage. Texas Tech's defense allows 33 points per game, basically hanging out on the field just long enough for Kingsbury and Co. to catch a breath. The main difference in this category? Turnovers. Clemson is plus-5 for the season. Tech is minus-13.
ADVANTAGE - Clemson
With similar advantages over opponents in categories such as punt and kick returns, this battle comes down to two factors: Tech punter Clinton Greathouse has had a much better year than Clemson's Wynn Kopp (38.7 yards per kick to 35.8), while Tiger kicker Aaron Hunt (17-of-21) has been more reliable and used more often that Tech's Robert Treece (11-of-17).
ADVANTAGE - Even
Mike Leech has done a wonderful job with Texas Tech in his three years at the helm, and Tommy Bowden is the first coach in Clemson history to lead the team to a bowl in each of his first four years at the school. Normally I look at only the head coaches in this category, but with so much offense expected, I also glance at defensive coordinators. In my estimation, Clemson's John Lovett trumps Greg McMackin.
ADVANTAGE - Clemson
So much offense is expected, and likely those expectations will come true. However, this game will be decided by which team makes the big defensive play at the most crucial point in the game. The guess here is that Clemson's Mance, having seen balls thrown at them all evening long and defended them with varying degrees of success, picks off Kingsbury in the fourth quarter and takes it the distance, giving the Tigers a two-score lead late in the game. It will prove to be the difference as Tech scores again in the final seconds.
Clemson 38, Texas Tech 35